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Jah or Yah (Hebrew: יהּYahu) is a short form of Yahweh (in consonantal spelling YHWH; Hebrew: יהוה‎), the proper name of the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible.[1] This short form of the name occurs 50 times in the text of the Hebrew Bible, of which 24 form part of the phrase Hallelu-jah.

In an English-language context, the name Jah is now most commonly associated with the Rastafari. It is otherwise mostly limited to the phrase Hallelujah and theophoric names such as Elijah. In the Authorized King James Version (1611) there is only a single instance of JAH (capitalised) in only one instance, in Psalm 68:4. An American Translation (1939) follows KJV in using Yah in this verse. The conventional English pronunciation of Jah is /ˈɑː/, even though the letter J here transliterates the palatal approximant (Hebrew Yodh). The spelling Yah is designed to make the pronunciation /ˈjɑː/ explicit in an English-language context (see also romanization of Hebrew).

Hebrew names of God Yahweh and Yahu[edit]

Main article: Yahweh

Yahweh is a name of God in the Hebrew language. Yahu is a well-attested short form of the full or extended name Yahweh. The short form is preserved primarily in theophoric names such as Elijah ("my god is Jah"), Malchijah ("my king is Jah"), and (Adonijah) "my lord is Jah", etc. as well as in the phrase Hallelujah.

The name is also recorded in sources predating the Hebrew Bible; thus, it is a name of El, the head of the Canaanite pantheon (el dū yahwī ṣaba’ôt, "El who creates the hosts", meaning the heavenly army accompanying El as he marched beside the earthly armies of Israel), and in Egyptian references to the "Shasu of Yhw" in a list of place names found in the temple of Amon at Soleb from the time of Amenhotep III (conventional chronology 1388/86–1351/49 BCE).[2] A later mention from the era of Ramesses II (r. 1279–1213 BCE) associates Yahu with Mount Seir. From this, it is generally supposed that this Yahu refers to a place in the area of Moab and Edom.[3] Whether the god was named after the place, or the place named after the god, is undecided.[4]

Rastafari usage[edit]

Rastafari use the terms "Jah" or sometimes "Jah Jah" as a term for God and/or Haile Selassie I, who is also known by the Amharic title Janhoy (literally "Your Majesty").[5]

Christian Bible[edit]

In the King James Version of the Christian Bible the Hebrew יהּ [1] is transliterated as "JAH" (capitalised) in only one instance: "Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him". (Psalm 68:4) An American Translation renders the Hebrew word as "Yah" in this verse.

With the rise of the Reformation, reconstructions of the Tetragrammaton became popular. The Tyndale Bible was the first English translation to use the anglicized reconstruction. The modern letter "J" settled on its current English pronunciation only around 500 years ago; in Ancient Hebrew, the first consonant of the Tetragrammaton always represents a "Y" sound.

Rotherham's Emphasised Bible includes 49 uses of Jah. In the Sacred Scriptures Bethel Edition Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, and the New Jerusalem Bible (prior to 1998) the Name "YHWH" and its abbreviated form "Yah" is found. The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, used primarily by Jehovah's Witnesses, employs "Jah" in the Hebrew Scriptures, and translates Hallelujah as "Praise Jah" in the Greek Scriptures. The Divine Name King James Bible employs "JAH" in 50 instances within the Old Testament according to the Divine Name Concordance of the Divine Name King James Bible, Second Edition. The Spanish language Reina Valera Bible employs "JAH" in 21 instances within the Old Testament according to the Nueva Concordancia Strong Exhaustiva . The Darby Bible, Young's Literal Translation, The Jubilee Bible 2000, Lexham English Bible, The Complete Jewish Bible, Names of God Bible and the World English Bible includes "Jah" (Yah in the Lexham English Bible, Complete Jewish Bible and the World English Bible) numerous times within the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament as "Hallelujah!" or "Alleluia!" (Praise Jah or Yah in either instance) which is also employed throughout the Old Testament of these Bible versions. "Hallelujah" is also used in other Bible versions such as the Recovery Version, The Tree of Life Version, Amplified Bible, God's Word Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, International Standard Version, The Message, New American Bible Revised Edition, and several others varying from once to numerous times depending on the Bible version.

In music[edit]

Jah is referenced in many reggae songs. The popularity of this music form associated with the Rastafari has spread the name "Jah" (derived from the KJV Psalms 68:4) beyond the West Indies.

For example, it is referenced in Bob Marley's "Is this Love", in the line: We'll share the same room, for Jah provide the bread. It appears in the title of Third World's hit song "Try Jah Love." The Mighty Diamonds song "Pass the Koutchie" has the following lyric: Cause the spirit of Jah, you know he leads you on. Similarly, Mystic Roots "Pass The Marijuana" contains the words: Pass the marijuana, give Jah thanks and praise today. Also Stevie Wonder's ode to Marley, "Master Blaster (Jammin')", contains the following verse lyric: We've agreed to get together, joined as children in Jah. P.O.D.'s Song, "Strength Of My Life" contains the words: If Jah is for me, tell me whom I gon' fear? (no I won't fear), And Jah of Jacob, deserving of my love. Also, Jah is referenced many times in Damian Marley's song Road to Zion and in the songs of Costa Rican singer, Noah, such as "If you don't believe in Jah, we can not be together" Additionally, Jah has been linked to acid-reggae music. For example, the name can be heard in Thievery Corporation's song "The Outernationalist". Hardcore Punk/ Reggae band Bad Brains' first album contains the songs 'Jah Calling' and 'I Luv I Jah'. The use of Jah in music is also evident in the reggae band, Soldiers of Jah Army, also known as SOJA. Jah also appears in The Lonely Island's Ras Trent as well as being the subject of "Mount Zion" by the MC Young Zeus. Jah also appears in a Massive Attack's song, "A Prayer for England": 'Jah forgive us for forgetting, Oh Jah help us to be forgiving'.

"Jah" sometimes appears in other Christian music genres as well. P.O.D. recorded the song, "Without Jah, Nothing", and the first line of Camper Van Beethoven's song "Take the Skinheads Bowling" is "Every day, I get up and pray to Jah." Major Lazer released a song in 2012 called 'Jah No Partial'


  1. ^ a b Abbreviated Tetragrammaton in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ Theological dictionary of the Old Testament, 5 :G. Johannes Botterweck,Helmer Ringgren "Of the Egyptian evidence, a list of toponyms from the temple of Amon at Soleb (Amenhotep III, 1402-1363) is the earliest; here we find an entry t3 slsw yhw[3], "the land of Shasu-y/iw". Similar references occur in a block from Soleb"
  3. ^ DDD (1999:911), citing Weippert (1974:271), Axelsson (1987:60)
  4. ^ R. Giveon (1964) suggests that this Egyptian reference to yhw might be short for a *beth-yahweh, i.e. an early Canaanite cult center of Yahweh.
  5. ^ Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari Reader - Page 333, Nathaniel Samuel Murrell, William David Spencer, Adrian Anthony McFarlane - 1998

See also[edit]