(I am; the eternal living one). The Scripture appellation of the supreme Being, usually interpreted as signifying self-derived and permanent existence. The Jews scrupulously avoided every mention of this name of God, substituting in its stead one or other of the words with whose proper vowel-points it may happen to be written. This custom, which had its origin in reverence, was founded upon an erroneous rendering of Leviticus 24:16, from which it was inferred that the mere utterance of the name constituted a capital offence. According to Jewish tradition it was pronounced but once a year, by the high priest on the day of atonement when he entered the holy of holies, but on this point there is some doubt. When Moses received his commission to be the deliverer of Israel, the Almighty, who appeared in the burning bush, communicated to him the name which he should give as the credentials of his mission: “And God said unto Moses, “I AM THAT I AM (ehyea asher ehyeh); and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” That this passage is intended to indicate the etymology of Jehovah, as understood by the Hebrews, no one has ventured to doubt. While Elohim exhibits God displayed in his power as the creator and governor of the physical universe, the name Jehovah designates his nature as he stands in relation to man, as the only almighty, true, personal, holy Being, a spirit and “the father of spirits” (Numbers 16:22, comp. John 4:24), who revealed himself to his people, made a covenant with them, and became their lawgiver, and to whom all honor and worship are due. See also Jehovah.
Smith's Bible Names Dictionary (1866).