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This section is a bit difficult, since it relies heavily on what is happening in the minutiae of the Hebrew vowels in specific words and how this applies to the Tetragrammaton. For more information about the specific rules, you can see “The Rule of Šĕwāʾ ” (Seow §5.3) and “The Preposition מִן” (Seow §5.5). Full bibliographic information about Seow’s grammar appears on the main page of this article.

There is a set of four prepositions in Hebrew that are attached to the word or phrase that they govern. Three of these together form the acronym כָּלֵב “Caleb,” and the fourth is the preposition מִן. Those that form the acronym are: כְּ־ “like, as, according to,” לְ־ “to, for,” and בְּ־ “in, on, at, against.” Of course, when מִן “from, out of” attaches to a word, it drops the ן (nun), which assimilates into the following letter as a dagesh (a doubling dot).

Form Process Gloss
כְּשֶׁ֫מֶן כְּ + שֶׁ֫מֶן > “like oil”
לְשֶׁ֫מֶן לְ + שֶׁ֫מֶן > “to oil”
בְּשֶׁ֫מֶן בְּ + שֶׁ֫מֶן > “in oil”
מִשֶּׁ֫מֶן מִן + שֶׁ֫מֶן > *מִנְשֶׁ֫מֶן > *מִשְׁשֶׁ֫מֶן > “from oil”

If the noun is definite, the article is swallowed up under the preposition, thus:

Form Process Gloss
לַשֶּׁ֫מֶן לְ + הַשֶּׁ֫מֶן > *לְהַשֶּׁ֫מֶן > “to the oil”
כַּשֶּׁ֫מֶן כְּ + הַשֶּׁמֶן > *כְּהַשֶּׁ֫מֶן > “like the oil”
בַּשֶּׁ֫מֶן בְּ + הַשֶּׁ֫מֶן > *בְּהַשֶּׁ֫מֶן > “in the oil”
מֵהַשֶּׁ֫מֶן מִן + הַשֶּׁ֫מֶן > *מִנְהַשֶּׁ֫מֶן > *מִהַּשֶּׁ֫מֶן > “in the oil”
מֵהַשֶּׁ֫מֶן מִן + הַשֶּׁ֫מֶן > *מִנְהַשֶּׁ֫מֶן > *מִהַּשֶּׁ֫מֶן > “in the oil”

The first three prepositions are not found separate from a word. So, we will not see לְ־בֵית הָאֱלֹהִים as “to the house of God.” Rather, it will always be לְבֵית הָאֱלֹהִים – such that it is attached to whatever word or expression it governs. However, מִן can be separated from its noun, so that מֵהַשָּׁמַ֫יִם “from heaven” has the same meaning as מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֫יִם “from heaven.”

Now, the proposal that יהוה should be pointed and pronounced as יְהוָֹה has a few major issues, one of which is how it behaves when one of these prepositions is attached to it. We will look at what happens to words that begin with יְ [yod-sheva], what happens with composite sheva (אֲ אֱ אֳ), what happens with אֲדֹנָי and then at what happens with יהוה (which begins with יְ according to the proposed pronunciation יְהוָֹה).

Attaching Prepositions and Vocalic Changes

The prepositions have their own vowels, which often come into conflict with the vowels of the nouns themselves. Thus, if a word begins with a sheva in the first syllable, that would put two vocal shevas one after the other – and Hebrew doesn’t like that. It puts the word in the position of needing to resolve the combination. It does it by turning the first sheva into chirik. So, *לְזְמַן *ləzəman becomes לִזְמַן lizman “for time.” This is a regular rule of Hebrew vocalization.

When the vowel at the beginning of the word is a composite sheva (which means that the word begins with a guttural with a reduced vowel, for whatever reason), the sheva of the preposition will match the vowel class and take the full short version of the vowel. So, *לְאֲרוֹן הַבְּרִית becomes לַאֲרוֹן הַבְּרִית “in the ark of the covenant.” This works for all of the gutturals and each of the vowels:

Form Transliteration Gloss
בַּאֲרוֹן baʾărôn “in an ark”
בֶּאֱמֹר beʾĕmō “in saying”
בָּאֳנִיָּה boʾŏnîyâ “in a boat”
בַּעֲמֹרָה baʿămōrâ “in Gomorrah”

When we have a word that begins with vocal sheva under yod, we see a two-step resolution. First, the vocal sheva under the preposition resolves to chirik, then the sheva under the yod disappears and the yod becomes a full vowel.

Form Process Transliteration Gloss
בִּיהוּדָה בְּ + יְהוּדָה > *בְּיְהוּדָה > *בִּיְהוּדָה > bîhûḏâ “in Judah”
בִּירוּשָׁלִַם בְּ + יְרוּשָׁלִַ֫ם > *בְּיְרוּשָׁלִַם > *בִּיְרוּשָׁלִַם > bîrûšāláyim “in Jerusalem”
לִיהוֹנָתָן לְ + יְהוֹנָתָן > *לְיְהוֹנָתָן > *לִיְהוֹנָתָן > lîhônāṯān “to Jonathan”
מִירוּשָׁלִַם מִן + יְרוּשָׁלִַם > *מִנְיְרוּשָׁלִַם > *מִיְּרוּשָׁלִַם > *מִיְרוּשָׁלִַם mîrûšāláyim “from Jerusalem”
מִיהוֹאָב מִן + יְהוֹאָב > *מִנְיְהוֹאָב > *מִיְּהוֹאָב > *מִיְהוֹאָב mîhôʾāḇ “from Joab”

Adding Prepositions to אדני and אלהים

Something special happens with three words in Hebrew that begin with alef (א) when they are attached to one of these prepositions. First, the word אֱמֹר “saying” can be found with the prefixed prepositions. When it is attached to בְּ־ or כְּ־, nothing special happens with it. The normal rules apply, and we see בֶּאֱמֹר and כֶּאֱמֹר. However, when it is attached to לְ־, something special happens. The two eʾĕ vowels combine to one long ēʾ, and the alef quiesces (becomes unpronounced). So, we actually find לֵאמֹר lēʾmōr instead of the expected *לֶאֱמֹר *leʾĕmōr in the Bible.

So it is when adding the prepositions to the words אֲדֹנָי “the Lord” (which is one of the names of God in the Bible, used over 400 times) and אֱלֹהִים “God.” According to the “Rule of Šĕwāʾ” (Seow §5.3), we would expect to see *בַּאֲדֹנָי and *בֶּאֱלֹהִים. However, with all of the prefixed prepositions, we see the following:

Form Transliteration Gloss
כַּאדֹנָי kaʾḏōnāy “like the Lord”
לַאדֹנָי laʾḏōnāy “to the Lord”
בַּאדֹנָי baʾḏōnāy “in the Lord”
מֵאֲדֹנָי mēʾăḏōnāy “from the Lord”
Form Transliteration Gloss
כֵּאלֹהִים kēʾlōhîm “like God”
לֵאלֹהִים lēʾlōhîm “to God”
בֵּאלֹהִים bēʾlōhîm “in God”
מֵאֱלֹהִים mēʾĕlōhîm “from God”

It is significant that: (1) each of the attached prepositions adopts the vowel from the alef of אֲדֹנָי while dropping the vowel itself (there is no vowel on the alef), and (2) the attached preposition מִן behaves regularly, as it always does with gutturals, and leaves the vowel on the alef untouched. One other peculiarity of the pointing of אֲדֹנָי will need to be addressed on a separate page regarding the omission of its cholam in the Aleppo Codex (we see the unpronounceable אֲדנָי rather than אֲדֹנָי). For now, let’s look at the forms of יְהוָֹה when it is attached to prepositions.

The Attached Prepositions on the Divine Name

When we deal with the appearance of the Divine Name (הַשֵּׁם הָאֱלֹהִי), we need to think of what we expect to see of a name that begins with יְ and what we see with the word אֲדֹנָי and אֱלֹהִים. Here’s a comparison of the forms:

Expected Yəhônāṯān Real ʾĂḏōnāy
כִּיהוָֹה כִּיהוֹנָתָן כַּיהוָֹה כַּאדֹנָי
לִיהוָֹה לִיהוֹנָתָן לַיהוָֹה לַאדֹנָי
בִּיהוָֹה בִּיהוֹנָתָן בַּיהוָֹה בַּאדֹנָי
מִיהוָֹה מִיהוֹנָתָן מֵיְהוָֹה מֵאֲדֹנָי

If the name were supposed to be pronounced as Yəhōvâ, we should expect to see לִיהוָֹה in the same way that we see לִיהוֹנָתָן and לִיהוֹשָׁפָט. Instead, we see לַיהוָֹה (and so with all of the prepositions), following the exact vocalization pattern of אֲדֹנָי, despite the fact that all theophoric names follow the regular pattern completely. There is no explanation for this distinction except that the vowels written on יְהוָֹה actually belong to אֲדֹנָי, as per the traditional explanation of the vowels.

An objection has been raised that the composite sheva on the alef of אֲדֹנָי is not the same as the sheva on the yod of יְהוָֹה, and this objection is aimed at saying that the lack of exactitude rules out the claim that the vowels have been copied over. This objection does not take place with regard to the use of the vowels of אֱלֹהִים on the Tetragrammaton as יְהוִֹה, which appears nearly a hundred times in the combination אֲדֹנָי יְהוִֹה, read ʾăḏōnāy ʾĕlōhîm. No one disagrees that יְהוִֹה is carrying the vowels of אֱלֹהִים. Even Nehemia Gordon admits that this is the case:

Another point worth noting is that in the Aleppo Codex, the most precise manuscript of the biblical text, the name YHVH gets the vowels Yᵉhovih when it is juxtaposed to the word Adonai. It seems that the “i” (chiriq) in Yᵉhovih is a reminder to the reader to read this word as Elohim (God), since reading it Adonai would result in Adonai twice in a row. (Gordon, 2003, p. 9)

We see that יהוה can appear with vowels that are not its own, as Gordon (who argues that יהוה appears with its own vowels as יְהוָֹה) confirms. If the vowels יְהוִֹה are actually a signal to the reader to pronounce it as אֱלֹהִים, then the position can easily be argued that the vowels of יְהוָֹה are a signal to the reader to pronounce it as אֲדֹנָי, which I will go on to do.

The conclusion that can be drawn on this specific part of the article is that when it appears with the attached prepositions, the name YHWH does not behave like other words with similar pointing. The most obvious reason for this is that the vowels written on YHWH do not belong to the name itself. We should now turn to where the vowels come from and how we know.

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