The Hebrew name El Shaddai, often translated as ‘God Almighty’, is an intriguing name used for God numerous times throughout the Old Testament. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: El Shaddai appears 7 times in the Bible.
In this comprehensive article, we will analyze the meaning, significance, and usage of this powerful name of God. We will examine each passage where El Shaddai appears, looking at the Hebrew terminology, contextual meaning, and theological implications.
Understanding the Meaning and Significance of El Shaddai
The Etymology and Definition of El Shaddai
The name El Shaddai first appears in the book of Genesis when God reveals Himself to Abraham (Genesis 17:1). The etymology and exact meaning of El Shaddai is debated, but most scholars believe it comes from the word “shad” meaning “mountain” or “field”.
Thus, El Shaddai can be understood as “God Almighty” or “God of the mountain/field”. It emphasizes God’s sovereign power and authority over all creation.
El Shaddai as a Descriptor of God’s Power and Provision
In Scripture, El Shaddai is uniquely used to highlight God’s power to fulfill His promises and bless His people beyond natural means. For example, when God promises that 90-year old Abraham will have a son and become a great nation (Genesis 17:1-8), it seems impossible.
The name El Shaddai underscores that God has supernatural power to provide and be faithful.
Similarly, the description of God providing manna from heaven to sustain the wandering Israelites emphasizes His power as El Shaddai (Exodus 16:1-36). The name recalls God’s covenant faithfulness and care for His people despite dire circumstances.
Key Themes and Attributes Associated with El Shaddai
Some key themes connected to the name El Shaddai in Scripture include:
- God’s sovereign power over all things
- His supernatural ability to fulfill promises and bless His people
- His gracious provision for His children
- His covenant love and faithfulness
El Shaddai beautifully conveys God’s almighty power, faithful care and abundant grace. Recognizing this can deepen love for God and trust in His character.
Passages Using the Name El Shaddai
Genesis 17:1 – God’s Covenant with Abram
In Genesis 17:1, God appears to Abram and says, “I am God Almighty (El Shaddai); walk before me faithfully and be blameless.” This passage records God establishing his covenant with Abram, changing his name to Abraham, and promising that he will be the father of many nations.
God reveals himself as El Shaddai, emphasizing his power and might in fulfilling his promise to Abraham. As El Shaddai, God has the authority and ability to transform Abram’s life and make him fruitful even in his old age.
Genesis 28:3 – Isaac’s Blessing to Jacob
Before Jacob departs for Haran, his father Isaac blesses him, saying, “May God Almighty (El Shaddai) bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples” (Gen 28:3).
Isaac invokes the name El Shaddai, asking God to watch over Jacob, be with him, and cause him to prosper during his sojourn in Haran. The repetition of El Shaddai connects back to God’s covenant with Abraham, reminding that God remains powerful and faithful across generations.
Genesis 35:11 – God Blesses and Renames Jacob
After Jacob returns from Haran, God appears to him again and says, “I am God Almighty (El Shaddai); be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen 35:11). God reaffirms his covenant by repeating his promise to make Jacob fruitful and blessing him with a new name, Israel.
The name El Shaddai reminds that the covenant promise relies fully on God’s power and sufficiency rather than human ability. As El Shaddai, God sovereignly works to build Jacob’s family into a great nation.
Genesis 43:14 – Jacob Seeks God’s Mercy
When a famine forces Jacob’s sons to return to Egypt for food, Jacob prays, “May God Almighty (El Shaddai) grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you” (Gen 43:14).
Even in desperate circumstances, Jacob appeals to El Shaddai, recognizing God’s supreme power and trusting in his mercy and provision. The name reflects Jacob’s confidence that God can change even a leader’s heart to show compassion.
Genesis 48:3 – Jacob Blesses Joseph’s Sons
When Joseph brings his two sons to Jacob to receive a blessing, Jacob says, “God Almighty (El Shaddai) appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me” (Gen 48:3). As Jacob bestows the covenant blessing upon his grandsons, he harkens back to when God first established the covenant with him as El Shaddai.
The blessing comes full circle as Jacob passes on the covenant to the next generation, grounded in El Shaddai’s ongoing power and faithfulness.
Exodus 6:3 – God Reaffirms the Covenant
When Moses is called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God tells him, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty (El Shaddai), but by my name the LORD I did not make myself fully known to them” (Ex 6:3).
God reveals that he related to the patriarchs primarily through the name El Shaddai. Now, in delivering Israel from slavery, the LORD (Yahweh) will demonstrate his eternal, unchanging character, bringing the covenant promises to completion.
Ezekiel 10:5 – Vision of God’s Glory Departing
The prophet Ezekiel records a vision of God’s glory departing from the temple in Jerusalem because of the people’s sin. The sound of the wings of the living creatures brushing the threshold is described as “like the voice of God Almighty (El Shaddai)” (Ezek 10:5).
Even in judgment, God’s sovereignty and power as El Shaddai are evident. His supreme authority establishes the significance of his glory departing – it foreshadows his people’s coming exile because they broke covenant.
Theological Significance of El Shaddai
El Shaddai Demonstrates God’s Sovereignty and Grace
The name El Shaddai highlights God’s sovereign power and authority over all creation (Genesis 17:1). As the almighty God, He has full control and supremacy. This is seen in His miraculous blessings and provisions for His people despite difficult circumstances.
For example, God enabled Sarah to conceive in her old age, demonstrating His grace and power as El Shaddai (Genesis 21:1-3). The name affirms that nothing is too difficult for God and He is able to accomplish His good purposes.
The Name Conveys Intimacy in God’s Relationships
El Shaddai also conveys the intimacy of God’s relationships. Though almighty, God interacts tenderly with His children. For instance, in promising offspring to Abraham, God reveals Himself as El Shaddai, underscoring a close fatherly bond (Genesis 17:1-8).
The name affirms God’s might but also His willingness to enter into deep personal connections. El Shaddai cares deeply and is emotively invested in His people.
El Shaddai Connects God’s Work Across Scripture
The thread of El Shaddai ties together God’s unfolding covenant plan in Scripture. It links God’s work in the Abrahamic covenant with later biblical events. The name builds continuity as God powerfully keeps His promises to His people.
For example, God confirms the name to Jacob, the next generation after Abraham (Genesis 35:11). Centuries later, the prophets echo El Shaddai as they anticipate restoration from exile (Isaiah 13:6). The name thus connects the dots of God’s faithfulness across biblical history.
In summary, the name El Shaddai appears 7 times in the Old Testament, communicating God’s supreme power, covenant faithfulness, and tender care. Studying this name provides deeper theological insight and brings us closer to the Almighty loving Father revealed throughout Scripture.