Why Is “LORD” All Caps in the Old Testament?

If you’ve ever read sections of the Old Testament, you might have realized that “LORD” is sometimes written with all capital letters. The translators are trying to indicate something essential to us within that distinguishing formatting.

Throughout my life, I’ve been called by many names. Depending upon which one you might use when referring to me tells me a great deal about our relationship. I’m called Dr., Rev., or Mr. by those who don’t know me so well. Those who use my first name know me on a more personal level. Only a few individuals call me “Dad.” My identity is consistent, but the name someone uses indicates our relationship’s proximity.

When God wanted to be known by His people, He would not settle for a generic title. Others might call Him “God,” but He intentionally revealed His first name for His people to use.

While it is referred to in Genesis, we first discover its initial delivery in Exodus. As Moses converses with the voice from the burning bush, this shepherd receives instructions to confront Pharaoh and demands that he set the Israelites free. 

Raised in that land where countless gods were worshiped, Moses asked what name he should use when questioned about the identity of this God. “God replied to Moses, “‘I AM WHO I AM’” (Exodus 3:14).

Moses, a creation, received the name “Yahweh” to be on a more personal level with the Creator. Throughout the remainder of Exodus, Yahweh draws His people close so they can know Him better.

In most English translations, you don’t see the name “Yahweh” written out, but you will discover “LORD” in all capital letters. Whenever you see that specific name, it distinguishes God’s covenantal name He delivered to His people.

LORD, who is like you among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, revered with praises, performing wonders?

Exodus 15:11

Whenever you see “LORD” in the Old Testament, the Scripture is using His covenantal name of Yahweh. If you read “Lord,” it is a more generic Adonai.

God has given us His name because He wants us to know Him personally. And within His name, we remember that He is not the God who was or hopefully, one day will be, He is I AM.