Theophoric names are names which combine the name of God with another word to create a name. In Hebrew theoporic names we find the name of God, Yehovah, combined with many Hebrew root words to create names. The form in which these names appear depends on their meaning.
Where Yehovah is directly acting, we find Yehovah incorporated into the beginning of the name. Where the name has the prepositional meaning “of Yehovah” or “to Yehovah”, Yehovah is incorporated into the end of the name.
For example, Yehonatan means “Yehovah has given” whereas Nethanyahu means “given of Yehovah”
Because Hebrew grammar likes to emphasize the last, or next to last, syllable, where Yehovah is incorporated into the end of the name, it takes a different vowel to show that emphasis. However, for the point of this blog, let’s look at how theophoric names are vocalized where the vowels of Yehovah are not altered.
The following charts lists the names we find in the Tanakh which are theophoric. There was never a ban on speaking these names nor was there was ever a discrepancy in how their vowels were marked. If you look at any Hebrew manuscript which records the pronunciation of these names, the vowel markings are consistent.
I have pulled examples of vowel markings from the Aleppo Codex online at http://aleppocodex.org/newsite/index.html (this site requires Adobe Flash Player to function properly). I have also included the verses in which these names appear if you would like to go check them out for yourself.
Every theophoric name is marked with a sheva as its first vowel. The second vowel is a cholem for every name except Yehudah and Yehukhal (Yeho- combines with -odah and the double oo becomes u, same reasoning for Yehukhal).
For the other 19 names the vowel marking is consistently sheva, cholam for the Yeho part of the name.
After viewing the vowel pointing of the names, it is also apparent that kamatz is a frequent third vowel. So the complete vowels – Sheva Cholam Kamatz – as Rabbi Jacob Bachrach testifies in his book Ishtadalut Im Shadal, 1890 – are completely consistent with the vowels of theophoric Hebrew names.
Rabbi Jacob Bachrach:
“…the vowels Sheva Cholam Kamatz [=Yehovah] are not the vowels of the title Adonai, but they specifically belong to the Unique Name alone. There is not a single vowel here that comes from, or remains from, a reference to the title Adonai, [or even hints at it]. With these vowels, the priests in the Temple used to call on the Unique and Explicit Name the way it is written…”
Ishtadalut Im Shadal, 1890, Jewish Theological Seminary, Manuscript 2883, Page 178, Section 134 [Page 127, Section 136 in the 1896 printed edition]
Please feel free to share this image.