El Shaddai. I confess, this is the name which originally sent me on my current journey to fathoming God. I’m dating myself to admit that I sang the Amy Grant version of the song “El Shaddai” when I was in college. It contained the names El Elyon and Adonai as well. Funny how, 29 years later, the names drive me to learn what they mean about the God I serve.
El Shaddai has been translated as God Almighty. Notes from Bible.org suggest that theologians are of two minds on this name. Either it denotes “God’s loving supply and comfort,” or displays him like a disciplinarian standing on a mountain. Hmm. The first idea sure isn’t the picture I have of God Almighty. But the uses of the name, El Shaddai, don’t connect with the second.
Scholars look at two possible root word for Shaddai, but they can’t agree on which (if either) of the words is indicated. Shad meaning breast in Hebrew is the root that indicates the first suggestion, focusing on how God provides for all that we need. Šadu is the other option. It is an Akkadian word, a language common in Mesopotamia during the era, meaning mountain.
I tend to think that God would use Hebrew in an instruction to Abram – a Hebrew man. The first mention of this name comes from Genesis 17:1. God comes to him and says, “I am God Almighty. Walk before me and be blameless.”
First impression of this verse would tend to favor the second description of the term. Sort of like a “Be blameless because I’m keeping an eye on you.”
I know that Abram had followed the Lord’s leading for many years already. He’d left his home and traveled to what would become Israel. This event occurs after Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God, came and anointed Abram. And after the war between the kings when Abram’s nephew, Lot, was taken captive.
Abram had already been steadfast in his service to God. So I don’t think that God was like the teacher holding a ruler saying, “I’m watching you.”
In fact, this is just before God favors Abram in an amazing way. God is about to change the man’s name and make a covenant with him and his descendants FOREVER.
So in effect, I’m leaning back in the direction of Shad as the root word. Taking out the English name (which makes me think of a great king atop a mountain), I can see God claiming His characteristic of sustainer and nurturer in all that He had done before an all that He is about to do.
Like the Father that He is, stepping through life with His precious child. Promising to coddle and care for him and his descendants. I love this picture of the delight that we bring to the Father!
That description continues in the second mention of this name of God. Isaac is sending Jacob off for a wife and prays, “May El Shaddai bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you …” He’s praying for the care of his son and for the carrying on of his family.
Again in Genesis 35:11, God uses this name as he changes Jacob’s name to Israel. God also said to him,
“I am El Shaddai;
Be fruitful and multiply;
A nation and a company of nations shall come from you,
And kings shall come forth from you.”
Interesting how the “be fruitful and multiply” comes at both of these times. Sort of like, Jacob’s discussion with Joseph when he includes Joseph’s boys as heirs. He tells his son of God Almighty’s promise to make Jacob fruitful and increase his number. So I think the best name for El Shaddai would be All Sufficient God. Do you agree?
If you missed any of the pieces, you can find links to all of the articles HERE!
Your Turn: Do you ever consider yourself a toddler with God? In what way is He still teaching you to walk?