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Encyclopedia of The Bible – El Shaddai, El Shadday
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El Shaddai, El Shadday

EL SHADDAI, EL SHADDAY ĕl shăd’ ī (אֵ֣ל שַׁדַּ֔י, God of the mountain(s) or God Almighty). An epithet of God in the patriarchal narratives and as an archaism in many poetic passages of the OT.

The term is tr. “God Almighty” in the RSV (Gen 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; Exod 6:3). These are prose passages and the full term El Shaddai is used. In many other passages (Num 24:4, 16; Ruth 1:20, 21; Ps 68:15; 91:1; Joel 1:15 [cf. Isa 13:6], Ezek 1:24; Job 5:17, and thirty times more in Job) the single element Shaddai is used and tr. “the Almighty.” This tr. is somewhat dubious since it is based on a Heb. root (šādad) which does not exactly mean “Almighty” but “to deal violently with.” This meaning was first used in the LXX which frequently uses παντοκρατωρ (“almighty”) to render El Shaddai. Some critics believe it refers to a tribal deity, a high god worshiped by the patriarchs, who were not true monotheists. They usually point to Deuteronomy 32:17 or Joshua 24:2 which recorded the fact that the Israelite ancestors served other gods “beyond the Euphrates.” While this is allowed for in the Genesis account, it emphatically states that Abraham turned from this false religion to worship the true and only God. One of his many descriptive epithets was El Shaddai, a meaning of which one cannot be absolutely sure, although W. F. Albright makes a strong case for its meaning, “God of the mountain(s)” (JBL, LIV [1935], 180-193). The name Shaddai is sometimes used as a divine element in proper names (Num 7:36, Zurishaddai) and is attested in Egyp. documents in the name Shaḏai-’ammi, etc. (infra p. 243, Albright).

See Names of God.

Bibliography W. F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, 2nd ed. (1957), 15, 243, 244n., 247, 271, 300.