Why did the Massorites alter selected verses in the Hebrew text by substituting Adonay for Jehovah? It has been claimed that these pious Levites revered the name Jehovah so greatly that they could not speak it, and therefore they changed Jehovah to Adonay. If this be true, why did they not change every occurrence of the name Jehovah in the Old Testament? Why did they select only 134 places, including verses which reveal the existence of two Jehovahs?
The motive behind this alteration of selected references to Jehovah by the Levitical guardians of the Old Testament is highly questionable. Is it possible that the influence of pagan philosophical concepts of God’s nature led to rejection of the Scriptural truth that there were two Jehovahs? The selection of the passages which were altered indicates that the Massorites were unwilling to acknowledge the existence of more than one Jehovah!
In analyzing the 134 places where the name Jehovah was altered, another reason for changing the Hebrew text becomes obvious: the Levites could not accept the Scriptural revelation that one of the two Jehovahs would become the Messiah and would replace their existing priesthood. In their rejection of God’s plan, they modified passages in the Psalms which referred to both Jehovahs and which prophesied that one of these Jehovahs would become the Messiah and the High Priest of the New Covenant. Because the record of this tampering has been preserved, we can know the truth that God has revealed to us in His Word!
Codified in the Massorah—marginal writings in the old manuscripts—is the record of the 134 alterations made in the original Hebrew text. While these alterations are generally known as the "134 Emendations of the Sopherim," we will see that it was actually the Massorites who inserted these changes into the text. Let us briefly review the history of the Old Testament text, and we will learn how and when these alterations were introduced.
In The Christian Passover by Fred R. Coulter we are given a detailed account of the codification of the Old Testament by Ezra the priest. Chapter Fifteen reveals that this codification took place under the most difficult of circumstances! A remnant of the exiled Jewish people had returned to Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon and other parts of the Medo-Persian Empire. Among these restored exiles were a large number of Levites and priests, whose duty it was to restore the temple service and to teach their brethren the laws of God, lest they fall into idolatry and once more be cast out of their own land. But Manasseh, a Levite and the legitimate heir to the high priesthood, had married the daughter of Governor Sanballat of neighboring Chaldean Samaria. In the sixth century B.C., Manasseh defected to Samaria, taking with him a major contingent of Levites, including many who were of the Aaronic priesthood.
Under the auspices of governor Sanballat, Manasseh and his fellow Levites set up a counterfeit priesthood in their own temple in Samaria. Not only was there a competing "Mosaic" religion in Samaria at this time, but there was also a competing "Mosaic" religion and temple at Elephantine, Egypt, as well as a third temple in the Tran Jordan region, where sacrifices were already being offered to God. To stem this tide of apostasy, Ezra and Nehemiah acted under God’s direction and inspiration to preserve the true worship of God as commanded in the Holy Scriptures.
Because Manasseh and his heretical followers also laid claim to the Scriptures, it was with the greatest urgency that Ezra and Nehemiah acted to safeguard the integrity of the Old Testament text. Levitical Sopherim were placed in charge of standardizing, updating and translating the Old Testament. It was this group of Levites who compiled the Old Testament as we now know it. The Torah (the first five books) was translated, with special emphasis upon the commands in the book of Deuteronomy, which was updated, copied and sent throughout the Persian Empire. A true chronology of this period places these events between 539 and 512 B.C.
The Jehovah who later became the Christ guided the Sopherim in their work on the Old Testament. At the beginning of His ministry on earth, He placed His seal of approval on the Old Testament text, saying,
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:17-18).
God will not allow any of His words to be lost. Although changes were later introduced into the Old Testament text after the original work of the Sopherim was completed, those alterations were carefully recorded, and the records were preserved and passed down to us today so that we can know the true and authentic words of God.
When the work on the Old Testament text was completed by the Sopherim, the text was passed on to the Massorites. Bullinger states,
"The Text itself had been fixed before the Massorites were put in charge of it. This had been the work of the Sopherim (from saphar, to count, or number). Their work, under Ezra and Nehemiah, was to set the Text in order after the return from Babylon; and we read of it in Nehemiah 8:8 (cp. Ezra 7:6,11). The men of ‘the Great Synagogue’ completed the work" (The Companion Bible, Appendix 30).
The newly compiled text was placed in the hands of the Massorites for preservation and duplication. To safeguard the authorized text from being corrupted, the Massorites used an ingenious system which enabled them to keep track of every letter and every word in the books of the Old Testament. Bullinger explains the methodical system used by the Massorites:
"The Sopherim [appointed by Ezra and Nehemiah] were the authorised revisers of the Sacred Text; and, their work being completed, the Massorites were the authorised custodians of it. Their work was to preserve it. The Massorah is called ‘A Fence to the Scriptures,’ because it locked all words and letters in their places. It does not contain notes or comments as such, but facts and phenomena. It records the number of times the several letters occur in the various books of the Bible; the number of words, and the middle word; the number of verses, and the middle verse; the number of expressions and combinations of words, etc. All this, not from a perverted ingenuity, but for the set purpose of safeguarding the Sacred Text, and preventing the loss or misplacement of a single letter or word" (Ibid.).
The faithful preservation of God’s Sacred Word by the Levitical Massorites did not last long, however. Shortly after the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Levitical priesthood fell into a state of corruption. It was during this period in Jewish history that changes were introduced into the Old Testament text.
The seeds of corruption had already been sown in the days of Nehemiah by the high priest Eliashib. (See the story of Eliashib, Nehemiah and Tobiah the Ammonite [an ancestor of Josephus] in Nehemiah 13.) When Eliashib died, Joiada, son of Eliashib and great-grandson of Joshua (Ezra’s nephew), inherited the office of high priest. Joiada’s "reign" as high priest must have run through a good part of the 400’s B.C. Corruption of the priesthood begun by his father Eliashib continued with Joiada and increased with the son who succeeded him as high priest.
Joiada (or Judah, as he was also known) had three sons: Manasseh, who was next in line to become high priest at the death of his father Joiada; Jonathan, who actually became the next high priest; and Jesus, who was slain in the temple by his brother Jonathan while he (Jonathan) was high priest. Manasseh did not become the high priest because he apostatized to Samaria after he had married the daughter of Sanballat, governor of Samaria.  Since Manasseh, the rightful heir to the office of high priest, had apostatized to Samaria, the office passed to Manasseh’s younger brother Jonathan when Joida died. This transfer of priestly power must have taken place sometime during the late 400’s or early 300’s B.C.
Jonathan (also called John) was a very wicked high priest. So evil was Jonathan that his wickedness was not so much as even heard of among the Gentiles! Notice Josephus’ testimony:
"...and when he [Joiada or Judas] was dead, his son John [Jonathan] took that dignity; on whose account it was also that Bagoses, the general of another of Artaxerxes’ [Artaxerxes II Mnemon 404-358 B.C.) army, polluted the temple, and imposed tributes on the Jews, that out of the public stock, before they offered the daily sacrifices, they should pay for every lamb fifty shekels.
Now Jesus was the brother of John [Jonathan], and was a friend of Bagoses, who had promised to procure him the high priesthood. In confidence of whose support, Jesus quarreled with John in the temple, and so provoked his brother [Jonathan], that in his anger his brother [Jonathan] slew him [Jesus]. Now it was a horrible thing for John [Jonathan], when he was high priest, to perpetrate so great a crime, and so much the more horrible, that there never was so cruel and impious a thing done, neither by the Greeks nor Barbarians" (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter VII, Paragraph 1).
The high priest, spiritual leader of all priests and Levites, whose duty it was to uphold the law of God, had committed murder in the temple of God! Under Jonathan’s influence, the Levitical priesthood became more and more corrupt. By the late 400’s B.C., the priesthood was so corrupt that God inspired Malachi to write,
"A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a Father [Hebrew av, meaning lord, master, teacher, advisor, counselor], where is Mine honour? and if I be a Master, where is My fear? saith the LORD [Hebrew Jehovah] of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise My name. And ye say, ‘Wherein have we despised Thy name?’ Ye offer polluted bread upon Mine altar; and ye say, ‘Wherein have we polluted Thee?’ In that ye say, ‘The table of the LORD [Hebrew Jehovah] is contemptible’ "(Malachi 1:6-7).
The priests had such little regard for God’s name that they "snivelled" at the importance of God’s altar.
"But ye have profaned it [Me], in that ye say, ‘The table [altar] of the LORD [Hebrew Jehovah] is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even His meat, is contemptible.’ Ye said also, ‘Behold, what a weariness is it!’ and ye have snuffed [an archaism for sniffed or puffed, meaning to show disdain and scorn by snivelling or pooh-poohing] at it [God’s altar], saith the LORD [Hebrew Jehovah] of hosts..." (Malachi 1:12-13).
So perverse was the attitude of the Levitical priesthood at this time that God began to resist and fight against them. Their rebelliousness might be phrased in modern English as an attitude of, "God, what difference does it make how we worship You as long as we love You? If we observe Sunday, Christmas and Easter; and believe in the Trinity, we are only doing so to glorify Your name." God’s response was not one of acceptance:
"And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto My name, saith the LORD [Hebrew Jehovah] of hosts, I will even send a curse [Hebrew arar, to bind, to hem in with obstacles; to render powerless, to resist] upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will corrupt [Hebrew ghaar, scold, rebuke, reprove, threaten] your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it" (Malachi 2:1-3).
God was so angry at their insolence that He proclaimed,
"The LORD [Hebrew Jehovah] will cut off the man that doeth this, the master [the watchman that waketh] and the scholar [the watchman that answereth], out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD [Hebrew Jehovah] of hosts" (Malachi 2:12).
These temple watchmen were the very Levites placed in charge of protecting the temple and its contents, the most important part of which was the Word of God!
The guardians of the temple service, the guardians of the Word of God, so despised God’s name and His Word that they robbed God of His temple tithe (Malachi 3:8). The result was that the wages of the hireling were being taxed, the widow and fatherless received no support, and the needy stranger was being turned aside (Malachi 3:5). As the history of the period attests, the Levites were using the tithe to finance real estate deals, businesses, building projects and cultural events (Wacholder, Eupolemus: A Study of Judaeo-Greek Literature, pp. 1-21). These Levites had made themselves ambassadors to the nations of the ancient world. As ambassadors, they were using the tithe to sponsor cultural events! They presided over one of the greatest "tithing and loan" scandals ever known. I am sure they justified this misuse of God’s tithe as "doing the Lord’s work."
Their departure from the true worship of God did not stop here. The priests openly committed adultery and corrupted their seed by divorcing their wives and intermarrying with Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, Edomites and Samaritans (Josephus was descended from one of these bastard lines). The priests also dabbled in sorcery (consorting with evil spirits and their perverse doctrines). They even began to create pseudo-scriptures, rewriting the Old Testament and falsely reconstructing the history of Israel. The Levites, who were the appointed teachers of the Word of God, had forsaken the true teachings of God and were swearing to falsehoods as though they were God’s truth. God warned them,
"And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers [or "them that swear to a falsehood"], and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages [taxing a hireling’s wages was forbidden by God’s law], the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not Me, saith the LORD [Hebrew Jehovah] of hosts" (Malachi 3:5).
Within a little more than one hundred years after the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Levitical priesthood was guilty of the grossest of spiritual offenses. It was at this time in history that Alexander the Great advanced with his army against the land of Palestine. Jaddua, son of the wicked Jonathan, was high priest when Alexander the Great conquered Palestine. Here is Josephus’ account of the meeting of this influential high priest with Alexander:
"Now when John [Jonathan] had departed this life, his son Jaddua succeeded in the high priesthood" (Book XI, Chapter VII, Paragraph 2).... Now Alexander [the Great], when he had taken Gaza [332/331 B.C.], made haste to go up to Jerusalem; and Jaddua the high priest, when he heard that, was in an agony, and under terror, as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased at his foregoing disobedience.... And when he [Jaddua] understood that he [Alexander] was not far from the city, he [Jaddua] went out in procession, with the priests and the multitude of the citizens. The procession was venerable, and the manner of it different from that of other nations.... And when the Book of Daniel was showed him [Alexander], wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he [Alexander] supposed that himself was the person intended" (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter VIII, Paragraphs 4 and 5).
Alexander the Great was a young man of twenty-three years at this time. He had seen the high priest and his procession in a dream, and the high priest Jaddua had seen Alexander in a dream. When the two met for the first time, Alexander knelt before the high priest. Then Alexander and his army accompanied the high priest and his procession to the temple, where Alexander offered sacrifices to the God Who had foretold his conquests.
When Alexander captured the land of Palestine in 332/331 B.C., the people of Judah accepted the Greeks with open arms. The Jews were already well acquainted with Greek culture. Many Jews and Levites had for years been living in the cities of Greece. It was common practice for Levites and others of Judah to participate in the culture, commerce and literature of the world around. Judah was not a closed society, as is pictured by many scholars today.
About fifty years later, when Ptolemy of Egypt asked that the Hebrew Old Testament be translated into Greek, the Levites were able to complete the entire work in only seventy days. The Hebrew Old Testament was translated into the Greek Septuagint about 285-250 B.C.
Scholars are puzzled by the fact that the Hebrew Old Testament was so quickly translated into the Greek Septuagint. The translators certainly had to be fluent both in Hebrew and in the Greek of that age. What is even more puzzling is the fact that the Septuagint is written in the distinct dialect of Alexandrian Greek. But Alexandria was not founded until the conquest of Alexander the Great in 332/331 B.C., and the Septuagint was translated by the Levites at Alexandria only fifty to eighty years later. How was this possible?
The answer lies in the fact that many Levites who had been living in Greece moved to Alexandria at or shortly after its founding in 332/331 B.C. These Levites, who were gifted in literature and language, could speak and write fluently in Greek long before Ptolemy every dreamed of translating the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek language. They had lived in the Greek culture. They spoke the same dialect as those Greeks who moved to the new city of Alexandria! That is how they were able to translate the Septuagint in the dialect of the Alexandrian Greeks.
When Alexander conquered Palestine, the Hebrew Old Testament had not yet been translated into the Greek Septuagint. How then could Alexander have read the prophecy in the book of Daniel? It is doubtful that Alexander could read Hebrew. It is more likely that by 332/331 B.C. the Jerusalem Levites, the Massorites in charge of the Old Testament, had already translated all or parts of the book of Daniel into Greek. It is not difficult to understand how the Septuagint could be completed in only seventy days, if parts of the Old Testament had already been translated before the Septuagint was commissioned by Ptolemy.
The Septuagint translation is significant in that it gives us a clue to the time period in which the Massorites altered the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. When the Septuagint was first translated, the names of God in Psalm 110 were left untranslated as Yhvh, showing that the Massorites had not yet changed Jehovah to Adonay. This fact indicates that the Massorites did not begin to tamper with the text until some time after 250 B.C. It is highly probable that the Massoritic Levites began tampering with the Old Testament text during the period from 250 to 200 B.C., provoking God’s anger and precipitating the invasion of Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 B.C.
So evil were the Levites by this time that God began to scatter them, turning the priesthood over to Levitical impostors, the Maccabees,  and fulfilling His prophecy in Malachi by "smearing dung all over their faces." They hated His name and defiled His altar so much that God brought the Seleucidae of Syria against the temple and allowed pigs to be sacrificed on the altar!
The records of both history and the Scriptures show that the Levitical priesthood had become totally corrupted by the time the Massoritic changes were introduced into the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. Rather than revering the name Jehovah, the priests despised it, as the Spirit of God inspired the prophet Malachi to proclaim. This degenerate condition of the priesthood is the true historical setting in which the name Jehovah was changed to Adonay.
Could it be that the Levitical priesthood was so corrupt that they had turned from the worship of the true Jehovah/Adon of Israel to the false Chaldean Adon, who was worshipped by the people of Israel and Judah during the time period just before the captivity of Israel? The prophet Isaiah was inspired to record the Babylonish worship of Israel and Judah:
"I have spread out My hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; a people that provoketh Me to anger continually to My face; that sacrificeth in gardens [asherah groves of fir trees], and burneth incense upon altars of brick [the eternal fire of Baal]; which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments [consulting with the spirits of the dead], which eat swine’s flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels; which say, ‘Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.’ These are a smoke in My nose, a fire that burneth all the day" (Isaiah 65:2-5).
In the following chapter, Isaiah describes these abominations in more detail:
"They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens [asherah groves of fir trees] behind [after] one tree [the word tree is not in the Hebrew text] in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD [Hebrew Jehovah]" (Isaiah 66:17).
Hislop states the following concerning this verse:
"The words in our translation are, ‘behind one tree,’ but there is no word in the original for ‘tree’; and it is admitted by Lowth, and the best orientalists, that the rendering should be, ‘after the rites of Achad,’ i.e., ‘The Only One...’ " (The Two Babylons, footnote, p. 16).
Several leading authorities support this translation of Isaiah 66:17. W. Robertson Nicoll states: "...in literal translation of the text, the One..." (The Expositor’s Bible, Isaiah, p. 463). Adam Clarke translates "behind one tree—", as "after the rites of Achad [One]" and goes on to explain that the Massorites tampered with Isaiah 66:17 by changing Achad to the feminine "achath," or moon (A Commentary and Critical Notes, Isaiah to Malachi, Vol. IV, p. 246). Matthew Henry states, "... as we read it, behind one tree in the midst, behind Ahad or Ehad, some idol that they worshipped by that name and in honour of which they ate swine’s flesh" (Commentary on the Whole Bible, Isaiah to Malachi, Vol. IV, p. 394).
As we can readily determine in our own Bibles, the word "tree" in Isaiah 66:17 is italicized, showing that it is not in the Hebrew text. The phrase in question thus reads, "...in the gardens behind one in the midst...." The word "garden" is the Hebrew gannah and is referring to the asherah groves of fir trees in which this worship was conducted. The word "behind" is the Hebrew ah-ghar and should be translated "after," as it is in Judges 8:33: "went a whoring after Baalim." These Israelite devotees ritualistically sanctified and purified themselves and ate swine’s flesh, the abomination and the mouse because they were honoring and seeking the presence of the One, the Achad.
This "Achad" or "One" of the Babylonians was none other than Nimrod of old, also known as Adon or Adonis (Hislop, The Two Babylons, p. 312). The Greeks knew Nimrod, or Adon, as Athan and so worshipped him in the district of Laodicea of Asia Minor. Hislop shows a possible link with the worship of Athan in the pronunciation of the Hebrew Adon. He states, "The Hebrew Adon, ‘The Lord,’ is, with the points, pronounced Athon" (Ibid., p. 20).
When we understand God’s condemnation of Israel’s pagan practices in Isaiah 66:17, it is clear that His people were worshipping a false Adon, the "Holy One" of the Chaldeans—also called Atun or Aton, the "Holy One" of the Egyptians, and Athan, the "Holy One" of the Greeks—not the true Jehovah/Adon of the Old Testament!
Hislop shows how greatly this worship of the "One" provoked God’s wrath:
"So utterly idolatrous was the Babylonian recognition of the Divine unity [the three in "One"], that Jehovah, the Living God, severely condemned His own people for giving any countenance to it: ‘They that sanctify themselves in the gardens, after the rites of the ONLY ONE, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together’ (Isaiah 66:17)" (Ibid., p. 16).
The fact that God inspired Isaiah to pronounce His coming judgment upon His people for this Babylonish worship indicates that it had corrupted the entire nation. As in the days of Ezra, it is likely that many priests and Levites were leaders in this grievous sin. If the Levitical priesthood itself was corrupted by the worship of the false Chaldean Adon, or "One," this apostasy would clearly explain the alterations made in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament—especially in those passages which refer to two divine Beings! These passages provided a ready opportunity to justify mingling the worship of Adon, the universal God of Babylon, with the worship of Jehovah, the national God of Israel.
In the book of Psalms, the Massorites altered several such passages. These passages reveal the existence of two divine Beings and show that both divine Beings were named Jehovah. In all but one of these passages, the name Adonay was substituted for Jehovah in one or more verses. Originally, all of these verses added to the evidence that there were two Jehovahs and that these Jehovahs would someday establish a Father/Son relationship.
In spite of the alterations in these passages in the Psalms, the truth of Scripture has been preserved. Evidence of the existence of two Jehovahs can be found in Psalms 2, 16, 22, 89, 90, 110 and 118. As Psalm 110 contains the most obvious reference to two Jehovahs, let us first examine this psalm.
Josephus confuses this Manasseh, son of Joiada and brother
to Jonathan (Josephus XI.8.3), with a later Manasseh (Josephus XI.7.1) who was the son
of Jonathan. The latter Manasseh, who was the son
of Jonathan, was the brother of Jaddua the high priest who greeted Alexander in 332/31 B.C. Notice that the Manasseh in Josephus XI.8.3 is associated with the time of a Darius (Darius Hystaspes, 521-486 B.C.), while the Manasseh of Josephus XI.7.1 is associated with the time of Alexander the Great. Josephus has confused the Manasseh of Darius Hystaspes’ era, 521-486 B.C. (Josephus XI.8.3), with the Manasseh of Darius III Codomannus’ era, 336-330 B.C. (Josephus XI.7.1).
As a reaction to the Levitical line of the Hasmoneans (the Maccabees) assuming control over the priesthood, the legitimate line of priests (under Onias III) fled to Egypt (see Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, pp. 185-186), where some of their Levitical cousins had been since the Assyrian conquests of the 700’s B.C. Descendants of these Levitical priests formed the community of ascetics that later became known as the Therapeutae.
The bastard line of Josephus, the line of Tobiah the Ammonite, fled toward their ancient homeland, the desert regions of Judea along the Ammon/Moabite border by the Dead Sea. This line of Levites formed the sect that later became known as the Qumran or Essene community.