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Names of God #3

El-Shaddai

        
THE NAMES OF GOD #3

EL-SHADDAI


by Nathan Stone (1944)


     IN OUR DISCUSSION of the name Jehovah it was discovered that
the first great revelation of the significance of that name was
given to Israel in Egypt. They were the people of His covenant
with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, a separated people through
whom a righteous and holy God would work out His purpose of
redemption for mankind. In Exodus 3:14,15, He thus revealed
Himself: "I am that I am ... Thus shalt thou say unto the
children of Israel, Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of
Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me
unto you: this is my name forever and ever, and this is my
memorial unto all generations." Then in Exodus 6:2,3 it is
written: "And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am
Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob,
as God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah, I was not known [or was
not made known] to them." It was suggested that by this it was
meant that the Patriarchs had not understood the full
significance of that name. Naturally the full significance of a
name which means the ever-existent One, the eternal, the
everbecoming One - that is, the One continually revealing Himself
and His ways and purposes could not be under stood except after
centuries and centuries of unfolding of events and experiences.
The point here is, however, that God was known especially to the
Patriarchs by this name God Almighty, or in the Hebrew,
EI-Shaddai.

(Note Stone uses the word "suggested" and tries to explain away
the clear teaching of Ex.6:3. Of course God reveals more and more
of Himself to His children over time, that is why Paul wrote
"grow in grace and knowledger of out Lord Jeuss Christ." But by
the name JHVH, God did not use in His relationship with Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob or others before the time of Moses and the
children of Israel. But that does not mean they did not know God
was the Eteranl One, the creator of the universe, or any of His
many other attributes. I grew up in a Church of England school
and the Bible I was given at age 6 was the KJV Bible. It was the
one I used throughout all my childhood, and the Hebrew letters
JHVH I did not know. But I sure knew that God existed and that He
was Eternal, that He was Love, that He was Merciful, that he was
Almighty, that nothing was impossible for Him, that He was also
the Judge, that He was the Revenger. I also learned through those
first 18 years of my life that He was teaching and guiding me
into more knowledge of Himself. At age 18 when I came to Canada I
sure found out He was still teaching me and leading me into more
of Himself and His truths. All before the time of Moses who had a
relationship with God would have been as I was in my early life.
Knowing the letters JHVH does not give you some "special link" to
the Eternal that others do not have. Such teaching is what the
"sacred namers" would like you to believe, but it is just not so
- Keith Hunt)


     The name appears first in connection with Abraham. In
Genesis 17:1,2, we read, "And when Abram was ninety years old and
nine, Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God
Almighty [EI-Shaddai]; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I
will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee
exceedingly." The occasion was the confirmation of a promise
already made to Abram to make him a great nation (Gen. 12:2), to
make his seed as the dust of the earth innumerable (Gen. 13:16),
and (Gen. 15:5), like the stars of heaven, referring perhaps to a
spiritual seed, also innumerable. (It was referring to Abraham's
physical seed pure and simple - Keith Hunt). Then we are told
that Abram believed Jehovah, who reckoned it to him for
righteousness. But the years passed, and Abram had no child. He
was getting to be an old man and Sarai an old woman. Still there
was no seed. That faith which God had reckoned to him for
righteousness was beginning to dim a little. Then it lapsed for a
while, and they adopted that fleshly and unfortunate expedient
which brought Ishmael and Mohammedanism into the world, but did
not bring the fulfillment of the promise. Again the years went by
and Abraham was ninety-nine years old, and the promise, by human
reckoning, was now impossible of fulfillment. But is anything too
hard for Jehovah? Nothing is impossible with Him! And it is
precisely at this point and in this connection, as we shall see
later, that the promise of a seed is confirmed, and he name of
Abram changed to Abraham with the revelation of God as
El-Shaddai, or God Almighty.

DERIVATION AND MEANING OF THE NAME

     Now what does the term God Almighty mean? 

     We might begin by saying what it does not mean, and by
ridding ourselves of a common misconception. True, the word
almighty does suggest the all-powerful, the mighty, the power to
be able to do anything and everything at any time. Certainly
there cannot be anything beyond God's power. But this is
indicated in the word God in this name, and not so much in the
word we translate "almighty." The word for God here is
El-El-Shaddai -- God Almighty. In our first study, we discovered
that the name Elohim is derived primarily from this word "el,"
and that it stood for might, power, omnipotence, transcendence,
the name connected especially with Creation. We learned that the
word "el" itself is translated "God" over 200 times in the Bible
with that general significance. "Thou art the El that doest
wonders: thou hast made known thy strength among the peoples"
(Ps. 77:14). He is "the El of Israel who giveth strength and
might to the people" (Ps. 68:35). And Moses says of Him: "What El
is there in the heavens or in the earth who can do according to
thy works. and according to thy might?" (Deut. 3:24). It is the
word Isaiah uses in the wonderful fortieth chapter of his
prophecy of the mighty, incomparable God. It is the word often
used to denote God's power to interpose or intervene. So Nehemiah
calls upon the great, the mighty, and the terrible El to
intervene in behalf of His people (9:32).
     This word "el" is also translated by such words as "might"
and "power," with regard to men. Laban says to Jacob: "It is in
the power of my hand to do you hurt" (Gen. 31:29). The word for
power is "el." In Proverbs 3:27 we read: "Withhold not good from
them to whom it is due, when it is in the power [the el] of thine
hand to do it." "They practice evil," says Micah (2: 1), "because
it is in the power of their hand." The psalmist speaks of Him as
"the El that girdeth me with strength" (18:32).
     It seems clear, then, with regard to this name God
Alinighty, or EL-Shaddai, that the idea of all might and all
power is abundantly expressed in the term God or El. How, then,
shall we understand that part of the name called Almighty or
Shaddai?

     In the first place, it is true that there is some difference
of opinion as to the root meaning of this word. The translation
of it as "almighty" is due to the influence of that ancient Latin
version of the Bible called the Vulgate, which dates back to the
fourth century A.D., and was written by Jerome. There are some
scholars who simply dismiss the matter by saying its derivation
is doubtful. Other modern scholars believe it comes from a root
meaning strong, powerful, or to do violence, especially in the
sense of one who is so powerful as to be able to set aside or do
violence to the laws of nature or the ordinary course of nature.
It is true that this is what happened in connection with the
revelation of this name to Abraham, for the deadness of their
bodies was overcome, and Isaac was born in fulfillment of the
promise after their bodies were considered dead. Thus one scholar
writes that "Elohim is the God who creates nature so that it is
and supports it so that it continues, El-Shaddai the God who
compels nature to do what is contrary to itself." And so another
says that as El-Shaddai He reveals Himself by special deeds of
power.
     It is quite likely that there is some connection between
the name Shaddai and the root from which some modern scholars
think it is derived, but in view of the circumstances under which
it is often used and in view of the translation of another word
almost exactly like it, we believe it has another derivation and
a more significant meaning than that of special power.
     Shaddai itself occurs forty-eight times in the Old Testament
and is translated "almighty." The other word so like it, and from
which we believe it to be derived, occurs twenty-four times and
is translated "breast." As connected with the word breast, the
title Shaddai signifies one who nourishes, supplies, satisfies.
Connected with the word for God, El, it then becomes the "One
mighty to nourish, satisfy, supply." Naturally with God the idea
would be intensified, and it comes to mean the One who "sheds
forth" and "pours" out sustenance and blessing. In this sense,
then, God is the all-sufficient, the all-bountiful. For example,
Jacob upon his deathbed, blessing his sons and forecasting their
future, says in Genesis 49:24, 25, concerning Joseph: "... the
arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God
of Jacob ... even by the God [El] of thy father, who shall help
thee; and by the Almighty [Shad-dai], who shall bless thee with
blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth
under, blessings of the breasts and of the womb." The distinction
and significance of names here is quite striking and obvious. It
is God as El who helps, but it is God as Shaddai who abundantly
blesses with all manner of blessings, and blessings of the
breast.
     This derivation as related to God is even more strikingly
brought out in two passages in the Book of Isaiah. In 60:15,16,
speaking of the restoration of the people Israel in the future,
Isaiah says: "Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated ... I
will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.
Thou shalt also suck the milk of the nations, and shalt suck the
breast of kings: and [thus] thou shalt know that I Jehovah am thy
Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob." Here the idea
of bounty under the figure of blessings of the breast is directly
associated with God. In Isaiah 66:10-13, one of the most
beautiful passages of Scripture, it is even more directly
expressed. In verses 10 and 11 the prophet calls upon all who
love Jerusalem and mourn over her to rejoice and be glad in her
redemption and restoration. "That ye may suck and be satisfied
with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and
be delighted with the abundance of her glory." In verse 12 he
continues: "For thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will extend peace
to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like a flowing
stream: then shall ye suck..." and in verse 13: "as one whom his
mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be
comforted in Jerusalem." The point is that the word translated
"breast" in these passages is the Hebrew shad from which is
derived Shaddai, the name of God translated "almighty" in our
Bibles.

     In that ancient version of the Bible we call the Septuagint,
translated by Jewish scholars from the Hebrew into Greek more
than 250 years B.C., this name Shaddai is rendered a number of
times by a Greek word "ikanos" which can be translated
"all-sufficient." The ancient rabbis also said that the word
shaddai was made up of two particles which, put together, meant
"sufficient" or "self-sufficient."
     Such a conception of a god or deity was not uncommon to the
ancients. The idols of the ancient heathen are sometimes termed
"sheddim" in the Bible. It is no doubt because they were regarded
as the great agents of nature or the heavens, in giving rain, in
causing the earth to send forth its springs, to yield its
increase, its fruits to maintain and to nourish life. There were
many-breasted idols worshiped among the heathen. One historian
points out that "the whole body of the Egyptian goddess Isis was
clustered over with breasts because all things are sustained or
nourished by the earth or nature." The same was true of the idol
of the Ephesian goddess Diana in Acts 19, for Diana signified
nature and the world with all its products. Ancient inscriptions
on some of these idols of Diana read: "All-various nature, mother
of all things." 1  It is interesting to observe here that the
common Hebrew word for field (sadeh)--that is, a cultivated field
- is simply another form of the word "shaddai." It is the field
as cultivated earth which nourishes and sustains life.
     Thus in this name God is seen to be the power or
shedder-forth of blessings, the all-sufficient and the
allbountiful One. Of course, the idea of One who is all powerful
and all mighty is implied in this; for only an all-powerful One
could be all sufficient and all bountiful. He is almighty because
He is able to carry out His purposes and plans to their fullest
and most glorious and triumphant completion. He is able to
triumph over every obstacle and over all opposition; that is, He
is sufficient for all these things. He is able, we are told, to
subdue all things to Himself. But the word able applied to God
refers more than anything else to what He wants
......

I Parkhurst, Hebrew Lexicon (see Sheddim).
......


to be and to do for man. So He is able to save to the uttermost.
And He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can
ask or think. From all this it is felt that the name El-Shaddai
or God Almighty is much better understood as that El who is all
sufficient and all bountiful, the source of all blessing and
fullness and fruitfulness. This leads us to our next
consideration.

THE USE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NAME

     Let us look again for a moment at the circumstances under
which this name was first revealed. To a man who apparently had
some measure of understanding about the one true God and who gave
some promise of faith; who left a settled and assured abode,
comfortable circumstances, and family and friends to go on a long
hazardous journey he knew not whither, God made certain promises:
the promise of a land, a large posterity, and a spiritual
mission. He was fairly well advanced in years when the promise
was first made. For many years his faith stood the test of
waiting while God repeatedly assured him of the promise. When it
appeared, however, that soon it would be too late, humanly
speaking, for such a promise to be fulfilled, he took matters
into his own hands, and Ishmael was born of Hagar, of the will of
man, of the will of the flesh and not of God.
     God allowed thirteen years more to pass, till it was no
longer possible according to the flesh that the child of promise
should be born. Then when God appears to him again to repeat the
promise of a seed Abraham can only think in terms of Ishmael and
begs that he might be allowed to live and the promise made sure
in him. Yet he laughs with a mixture of both doubt and hope
within that it may yet be true. Perhaps faith predominates as he
says in heart: "Shall a child be born to him that is a hundred
years old? And shall Sarah that is ninety years old, bear?" (Gen.
17:17). It was to this faith in God's promise that Paul refers in
Romans 4:19-21 that Abraham "staggered not at the promise of
God," and did not consider his own body as good as dead or
Sarah's, and was fully persuaded that what God promised He was
able to perform. And the Epistle to the Hebrews refers to Sarah's
faith, who received strength to give birth when past age (11:11).
     It is then that God reveals Himself to Abraham as
El-Shaddai, mighty in sufficiency and dispensing of His bounty.
He is, first of all, sufficient to revive the deadness of the
human body in order to show His great power and bounty.
     It was a staggering promise by the time it was finally
repeated, but they did not stagger at it. It is by this new name,
in this connection, that God now reveals Himself as the Mighty
Promiser and Giver of gifts. Abraham and Sarah had to learn that
what God promises only God can give, that the promise was not to
be made sure by the works of the flesh. So the bodies of both of
them must die first to make them realize that it was all of God.
     Jacob had to be made lame and halt before he could finally
reenter the land of promise, lest he should claim it as acquired
by his own hand and cunning, and boast of his own sufficiency.
So, too, God's salvation in Christ is His gift to us and not to
be earned by anything we may do "not of works lest any man should
boast."
     Thus this name also taught Abraham his own insufficiency,
the futility of relying upon his own efforts and the folly of
impatiently running ahead of God. Numberless Christian people
have been guilty of just this, often to their sorrow and loss.
The birth of Ishmael proved to be a sore trial, not only in
Abraham's household, but to Abraham's descendants, both physical
and spiritual, all through the ages. God as El-Shaddai is
sufficient for all things. Man's meddling only mars His working.
It is significant that with the revelation of this name Abraham
is enjoined to "walk before me, and be thou perfect." Instead of
perfect, the word complete or wholehearted would much better
express what is meant. The point is that Abraham's faith had been
marred by the fleshly and self-sufficient expedient to which he
had resorted. The mighty all-sufficient One demands and deserves
our complete faith-a wholehearted faith.

     Then this name introduces God to us as the allbountiful in
the fullness and fruitfulness He imparts to all who trust Him and
wait patiently upon Him. This is most clearly set forth and
illustrated in the first few occasions of the use of this name.
     As God Almighty or El-Shaddai, God changes the name Abram,
which means "exalted father," to Abraham, which means "father of
a multitude," many nations. "I will make thee exceeding fruitful,
and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of
thee" (Gen. 17:6). In blessing Jacob, Isaac says (Gen. 28:3):
"El-Shaddai bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply
thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people." In Genesis
35:11, God Himself says to Jacob: "I am El-Shaddai: be fruitful
and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee,
and kings shall come out of thy loins." Jacob upon his deathbed
repeats the promise of a great posterity made in the name of
El-Shaddai (Gen. 48:3,4), and in that name pronounces the same
blessing upon Joseph, the blessings of Heaven and earth and of
the breasts and of the womb (Gen. 49:25).
     It is the name used by Balaam, who, being hired to curse
Israel, was compelled to turn it into a blessing. It is the
"vision of the Almighty" (Num. 24:4,16) which makes him see
Israel a goodly people, spread out, with its seed in many waters,
and as final victor over all its enemies through that Star of
Jacob and the Scepter of Israel, its Messiah. Certainly this
significance of the name may be gathered from the Book of Job,
where it occurs thirty-one out of the forty-eight times it
appears in the Old Testament, for the end of Job was even more
blessed and abundantly fruitful than his beginning.
     It is in, this connection that another aspect of the name
El-Shaddai, as the One who fills and makes fruitful, appears. We
have already seen that to experience God's sufficiency one must
realize one's own insufficiency. To experience God's fullness one
must empty self. It is not easy to empty self. It was never easy
to do that. The less empty of self we are, the less of blessing
God can pour into us; the more of pride and selfsufficiency, the
less fruit we can bear. Sometimes only chastening can make us
realize this. Thus it is that the name Almighty God or El-Shaddai
is used in connection with judging, chastening, purging. Is it
not significant that it is in connection with the loss of her
home, her husband and her two sons, the fruit of her womb, that
Naomi says: "The Almighty [Shaddai] hath dealt very bitterly with
me"? "I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again
empty ... the Almighty [again Shaddai] hath afflicted me" (Ruth
1:20,21). And as in the case of Naomi is it not also true of Job
that even this "perfect and upright" man was made more upright or
whole through sufferings; that he was purged, through chastening,
of some imperfections which hindered his fullest blessing and
fruitfulness; that this chastening emptied him so completely of
self that he could be "filled with all the fullness of God"?
(Eph. 3:19). He understood this in the day when he said: "But now
mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust
and ashes" (Job 42:5,6). Then be received power with God to
intercede for his friends, and he was filled with double
blessings.

     The same El-Shaddai of the Old Testament is the One who in
the New chastens whom He loves that, being exercised thereby,
they may yield the peaceable fruit of holiness or righteousness.
He is the same One who has chosen us to bring forth fruit, much
fruit, and that this fruit should remain (John 15:16). As the
allsufficient One He says, "Without me ye can do nothing" (John
15:5). As the all-abounding One who makes us fruitful with His
gifts, He finds it necessary to purge us that we may bring forth
more fruit (John 15:2).
     In the Book of Revelation the name Almighty appears in
connection with the pouring out of judgments. Of the Lord God
Almighty it is said, "True and righteous are thy judgments"
(16:7). We read of "the war of the great day of God, the
Almighty" (16:14), and 19:15 speaks of "the fierceness of the
wrath of God the Almighty." May it not be that this is simply the
opposite aspect of that name which signifies the pouring forth of
blessings! Of the new heavens and new earth in chapter 21 we are
told that the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple (v.
22), and its glory and light (v.23). But the Lamb which was the
last word and full manifestation of God's outpouring of love and
life upon man is the Lamb slain - rejected and slain of man. It
is from the wrath of the Lamb that men hide. It is the Lamb, too,
who opens the seals and pours out judgment. If man will not
receive fullness of love and life from God, he must receive
judgment. For He who poured out His blood that men might have
life and have it more abundantly must pour out the judgment of
sin and death upon all who will not receive it.

     But even here the ultimate purpose is of love and mercy. The
judgment of some is to turn to the mercy of many, that He may see
of the travail of His soul and be satisfied, that ten thousand
times ten thousand may gather about the throne and sing the song
of the allbountiful, all-merciful God and of the Lamb.

     So we see that the name Almighty God speaks to us of the
inexhaustible stores of His bounty, of the riches and fulness of
His grace in self-sacrificing love pouring itself out for others.
It tells us that from God comes every good and perfect gift, that
He never wearies of pouring His mercies and blessings upon His
people. But we must not forget that His strength is made perfect
in our weakness; His sufficiency is most manifest in our
insufficiency; His fullness in our emptiness, that being filled,
from us may flow rivers of living water to a thirsty and needy
humanity.

..........

To be continued


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