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Bible Question and Answer

What does El Shaddai mean?

Bob Prichard

Topic(s): Bible Study

El Shaddai is one of many different Hebrew names for God in the Bible. It is a compound name, first found in the Bible in Genesis 17:1, where God identified Himself as He renewed His covenant with Abram. And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God <[El Shaddai]; walk before me, and be thou perfect. El is a general Hebrew word for God, and is used many times in scripture. It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God [El] of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad (Genesis 31:29). Shaddai is a more specific descriptive name, usually translated as Almighty, or All-powerful. El Shaddai occurs in Genesis 28:3; 35:11; 43:14: and 49:25, and in several other books of the Old Testament.

It is difficult for any descriptive name to be all-inclusive. I am a man, a son, a father, a brother, a husband, and a preacher all at the same time. No one of those descriptive names would completely describe me. Even these do not fully describe me! In the same way, the scriptures describe God in many different ways, so that all the titles and names may begin to convey some of His qualities.

In several passages He is called El Elyon, meaning the Most High God, or the Exalted One. This title is first found in Genesis 14:18-20, when Abram met Melchizedek. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. This title points to the fact that God is and should be exalted, because none of the man-made gods compare with Him. God is called El Olam, the Everlasting God, in Genesis 21:33: And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.

Elohim, which is plural in form, is another general word for God. It is used not only of God, but also of the gods of the nations. It is used over 2,000 times in the Old Testament to speak of God. Its use in Genesis 1:26 is an early indication of the trinity. And God said, Let us [Elohim] make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Elohim Sabaoth is a compound form of the title, found in passages such as 1 Samuel 4:4 and 2 Samuel 6:2 that refer to the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts. The Lord of hosts speaks of God's dominion over all His creation.

Yahweh, considered a personal name of God, is used often in scripture, indicated in the text by LORD in all capital letters, or sometimes translated as Jehovah. These and several other names and titles of God point to His glory, power, and love for those who obey Him.

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Verse of the Day
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Galatians 6:7
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