Jah

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Jah (/ˈɑː/; Hebrew: יהּ‎ = Yah) is the shortened form of the divine name YHWH (also spelled Jehovah or Yahweh), an anglicized version of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH, Latin JHVH). The name is most commonly associated with the Rastafari movement, or in the word "hallelujah", although Christian groups may use the name to varying degrees. The name is used in some English Bible translations which reconstruct the Tetragrammaton. Other versions sometimes use the academic Hebrew reconstruction "Yah". Some languages use the letter "I" instead of "Y" or "J": Other languages use "CH" (Choctaw), "S" (Tongan), and "Z" (Chin).

Bible and Rastafari usage[edit]

Jah is often used as a shortened form of the reconstructed Tetragrammaton.[1][2] The Tetragrammaton is often represented (especially in older English versions of the Bible) by the word "LORD" and the expression Hallelujah by the phrase "Praise ye the LORD" (Psalm 104:35 KJV and footnote). The form also appears in the transcription of certain biblical Hebrew names such as Adonijah. In the King James Version of the Bible it 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. The complete Tetragrammaton was sometimes rendered differently, for example as "Yahweh" or "Yahuah".

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.

In the original text of the Hebrew Bible, the Hebrew letters for Jah (YH) occurs 50 times - 26 times alone and 24 times in the term Hallelu'yah. 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 Old Testament, and translates Hallelujah as "Praise Jah, you people" in the New Testament.

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").

Music[edit]

Jah is referenced in many reggae songs. The popularity of this music form associated with the Rastafari movement 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 Dutchie" 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", from their album Testify, 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 up and rising 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, from their album 100th Window: 'Jah forgive us for forgetting, Oh Jah help us to be forgiving'.

"Jah" appears in other genres as well. The Christian band P.O.D. recorded the song, "Without Jah, Nothing" on its 2001 album, Satellite. 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'

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari Reader - Page 333, Nathaniel Samuel Murrell, William David Spencer, Adrian Anthony McFarlane - 1998
  2. ^ Abbreviated Tetragrammaton in the Jewish Encyclopedia.