Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


Jehovah, the ancient name of God. No people ever pronounced it “Geova,” as the French do; they pronounced it “Iëvo”; you find it so written in Sanchoniathon, cited by Eusebius, Prep., book x.; in Diodorus, book ii.; and in Macrobius, Sat., book i. All nations have pronounced it ie and not g. This sacred name was formed out of the vowels i, e, o, u, in the east. Some pronounced ïe, oh, with an aspirate, i, e, o, va. The word was always to be constituted of four letters, although we have here used five, for want of power to express these four characters.

We have already observed that, according to Clement of Alexandria, by seizing on the correct pronunciation of this name a person had it in his power to produce the death of any man. Clement gives an instance of it.

Long before the time of Moses, Seth had pronounced the name of “Jehovah,” as is related in the fourth chapter of Genesis; and, according to the Hebrew, Seth was even called “Jehovah.” Abraham swore to the king of Sodom by Jehovah, chap. xiv. 22.

From the word “Jehovah,” the Latins derived “Jove,” “Jovis,” “Jovispeter,” “Jupiter.” In the bush, the Almighty says to Moses, “My name is Jehovah.” In the orders which he gave Him for the court of Pharaoh, he says to him: “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as the mighty God, only by my name, ‘Adonai,’ I was not known to them, and I made a covenant with them.”

The Jews did not for a long time pronounce this name. It was common to the Phœnicians and Egyptians. It signified, that which is; and hence, probably, is derived the inscription of Isis: “I am all that is.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01