El Shaddai

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El Shaddai (Hebrew: אל שדי‎) is one of the Judaic names of God. El Shaddai is translated as God Almighty.

Geographical meanings

The term may mean "God of the mountains," referring to the Mesopotamian divine mountain.[1] The term was one of the patriarchal names for the tribal god of the Mesopotamians[1] In Exodus 6:3, El Shaddai is identified with Yahweh.[1] The term appears chiefly in the Torah. This could also refer to the Israelite camp's stay at Mount Sinai where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

Shaddai was a late Bronze Age Amorite city on the banks of the Euphrates river, in northern Syria. The site of its ruin-mound is called Tel eth-Thadyen: "Thadyen" being the modern Arabic rendering of the original West Semitic "Shaddai". It has been conjectured that El Shaddai was therefore the "God of Shaddai" and associated in tradition with Abraham, and the inclusion of the Abrahamic stories into the Hebrew Bible may have brought the northern name with them (see Documentary hypothesis).

Shaddai in the Hebrew Bible

Balaam's vision described in the Book of Numbers 24:4 and 16, is explained as coming from Shaddai along with El. In the fragmentary inscriptions at Deir Alla, though Shaddai is not, or not fully, present,[6] shaddayin, lesser representations of Shaddai.[7] These have been tentatively identified with the ŝedim of Deuteronomy 34:17 and Psalm 106:37-38,[8], which are Canaanite deities.

According to Exodus 6:2, 3, Shaddai (Hebrew: שַׁדַּי) is the name by which God was known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The name Shaddai is again used as a name of God later in the Book of Job.

The root word "shadad" (שדד) means "to overpower" or "to destroy". This would give Shaddai the meaning of "destroyer", representing one of the aspects of God, and in this context it is essentially an epithet.

Another theory is that Shaddai is a derivation of a Semitic stem that appears in the Akkadian shadû ("mountain") and shaddā`û or shaddû`a ("mountain-dweller"), one of the names of Amurru. This theory was popularized by W. F. Albright[citation needed] but was somewhat weakened when it was noticed[by whom?] that the doubling of the medial d is first documented only in the Neo-Assyrian period. However, the doubling in Hebrew might possibly be secondary. According to this theory, God is seen as inhabiting a mythical holy mountain, a concept not unknown in ancient West Asian mythology (see El), and also evident in the Syriac Christian writings of Ephrem the Syrian, who places Eden on an inaccessible mountaintop. [edit] Translating Shaddai

The Septuagint and other early translations usually translate El Shaddai as "God Almighty". However in the Greek of the Septuagint translation of Psalm 91.1, Shaddai is translated as "the God of heaven"[2].

'God Almighty' is the translation followed by most modern English translations of the Hebrew scriptures, including the popular New International Version[3] and Good News Bible.

The translation team behind the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) however maintain that the meaning is uncertain, and that translating El Shaddai as 'Almighty God' is inaccurate. The NJB leaves it untranslated as Shaddai, and makes footnote suggestions that it should perhaps be understood as 'God of the Mountain' from the Accadian shadu, or 'God of the open wastes' from the Hebrew sadeh and the secondary meaning of the Accadian word.[2]

Shaddai meaning fertility

Harriet Lutzky, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology at John Jay College, City University of New York, has presented evidence that Shaddai was an attribute of a Semitic goddess, linking the epithet Shaddai with the Hebrew šad meaning "breast", giving the meaning "the one of the Breast", as Asherah at Ugarit is "the one of the Womb".[9] A similar theory proposed by Albright is that the name Shaddai is connected to shadayim, the Hebrew word for "breasts". It may thus be connected to the notion of God's gifts of fertility to the human race. In several instances in the Torah the name is connected with fruitfulness: "May God Almighty [El Shaddai] bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers…" (Gen. 28:3). "I am God Almighty [El Shaddai]: be fruitful and increase in number" (Gen. 35:11). "By the Almighty [El Shaddai] who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts [shadayim] and of the womb [racham]" (Gen. 49:25). [edit] Shaddai in the Midrash

There is a Midrashic interpretation as an acronym standing for "Guardian of the Doors of Israel" (Hebrew: שׁוֹמֶר דְלָתוֹת יִשְׂרָאֶל). This acronym, which is commonly found as carvings or writings on the mezuzah, which is placed on the doorposts of Jewish homes and other dwellings.

Still another view is that "El Shaddai" is composed of the Hebrew relative pronoun She (Shin plus vowel segol), or, as in this case, as Sha (Shin plus vowel patach followed by a dagesh, cf. A Beginner's Handbook to Biblical Hebrew, John Marks and Virgil Roger, Nashville:Abingdon, 1978 "Relative Pronoun, p.60, par.45) The noun containing the dagesh is the Hebrew word Dai meaning "enough,sufficient, sufficiency" (cf. Ben Yehudah's Pocket English-Hebrew/Hebrew-English,New York, NY:Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster Inc.,1964,p. 44). This is the same word used in the Passover Haggadah, Dayeinu, which means "It would have been enough for us." The song Dayeinu celebrates the various miracles God performed while liberating the Hebrews from Egyptian servitude. It is understood as such by The Stone Edition of the Chumash (Torah) published by the Orthodox Jewish publisher Art Scroll, editors Rabbi Nosson Scherman/Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications,Ltd. 2nd edition, 1994, cf. Exodus 6:3 commentary p. 319. The Talmud explains it this way, but says that "Shaddai" stands for "Mi she'Amar Dai L'olamo" - "He who said 'Enough' to His world." When God was creating the world, He stopped the process at a certain point, holding back creation from reaching its full completion, and thus the name embodies God's power to stop creation.

It is often paraphrased in English translations as "Almighty" although this is an interpretive element. The name then refers to the pre-Mosaic patriarchal understanding of deity as "God who is sufficient." God is sufficient, that is, to supply all of one's needs, and therefore by derivation "almighty". It may also be understood as an allusion to the singularity of deity, "El", as opposed to "Elohim" (plural), being sufficient or enough for the early patriarchs of Judaism. To this was latter added the Mosaic conception of the tetragrammaton YHWH, meaning a God who is sufficient in Himself, that is, a self-determined eternal Being qua Being, for whom limited descriptive names cannot apply. This may have been the meaning the Hebrew phrase "ehyeh asher ehyeh" (which translates roughly as "I will be that which I will be") and which is how God describes himself to Moses cf. Exodus 3:13-15. This phrase can be applied to the tetragrammaton YHWH, which can be understood as an anagram for the three States of Being: past, present and future, conjoined with the conjunctive Hebrew letter vav.


Text document with red question mark.svg This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations where appropriate. (January 2009)

  1. Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
  2. New Jerusalem Bible Standard Edition. London: Dartman, Longman & Todd. 1985. pp. 908. ISBN 0232516502.
  3. Goodrick, Kohlenberger (1990). The NIV Exhaustive Concordance. London: Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 1631. ISBN 0340537779.