Most of us have several names or titles. In my work, I'm called Dr. Hemphill. In most social settings, I'm called Ken. My wife calls me Honey. My mother refers to me as Son. My three daughters use Dad or Daddy, which melts my heart.
Names are important. They tell people something fundamental about us. When we meet a person, we ask their name, the prelude for building a relationship.
Throughout the Old Testament, God reveals himself to his chosen people through various names or titles—both those he gave himself and those his servants ascribed to him. These names identified and described God, but they also exhorted God's people to holy living, gave them hope, reminded them of their heritage, and challenged them to continue their pilgrimage of faith.
His names are one way God speaks to us. They're an invitation to know intimately and fully the God of creation and redemption.
All biblical names of God are built around two core names. El means "first" and indicates that God is the strong and mighty one, such as El Shaddai (God Almighty) or El Elyon (God Most High). And Yahweh—a more personal and covenantal moniker—is the closest thing we have to a proper, personal name for God.
Yahweh comes from the Hebrew verb "to be" (to have life). The name Yahweh implies that God is self-existent. He is the one who in himself possesses life and permanent existence. When God spoke to Moses through the burning bush in Exodus 3, he revealed himself as "Yahweh," or I AM WHO I AM—to convey the idea that God was, is, and always will be. He is the uncaused cause. He is the first cause and before him there was no other and after him there will be no other. Life is found in him.1