Yahweh and Jesus – The Name of El Shaddai

Yahweh and Jesus – The Name of El Shaddai

Yahweh and Jesus – The Name of El Shaddai.

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Yahweh appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am El-Shaddai; walk before me and be blameless.’” (Genesis 17:1).

El-Shaddai is a compound name. El is easy to figure out, but the meaning of Shaddai is uncertain. El simply means God, a shortened form of Elohim. But scholars differ on how to translate Shaddai. God’s power and might are implied in the different translations, but almighty may not be the primary meaning. Many believe that El-Shaddai is the most ancient of all the names of God. Shaddai could mean the following:

  1. Mighty Sustainer. A root word for Shaddai is shad, which means “breast.” The idea is that like a nursing mother, God will sustain, nourish, satisfy His people’s needs. This name could mean God the Breasted One. Dai in Hebrew means “enough.” God’s attribute here is that He will sustain to the degree that all His people will have enough to not only survive but flourish. God is mighty enough to offer sufficient provision to all in need. This is God with a maternal instinct.
  2. God of the Mountain. Shaddai may come from another root word in an Eastern dialect, “shadu,” which means mountain. So Shaddai may refer to God’s unshakeable power to provide an immovable shelter for His people. At the same time, Shaddai maybe refers to God’s dwelling place on the sacred mountain Mt. Sinai, where so many monumental events took place. So it could be here that God called Himself the God of the Mountain. This is God as Mountain King.
  3. God of Abundance. Many times Shaddai in Scripture is named in the context of God providing an abundance, the super-blessings of fertility and fruitfulness, of making sure there is more than enough. God might be saying here that He contains the might and power needed to meet the task of making a great nation or even a godly life. God is up to the task of bringing abundance out of emptiness, children out of barrenness. He is telling Abram that His power is sufficient to fulfill this claim. He will simply overpower any obstacles in the way. Shaddai appears 48 times in the Hebrew Bible, and 31 times in Job alone. The first time Shaddai appears is in a conversation with Abram in Genesis 17:1, noted above.

In the gospels, Jesus fulfilled all three meanings of El Shaddai. He provided living proof that since Yahweh was El Shaddai in the Hebrew Bible, Jesus fleshed out those same qualities in the New Testament and was thus Yahweh incarnate.

  1. Mighty Sustainer. In the poetic and inspired imagination of Isaiah, Yahweh had no trouble comparing Himself to a loving mother. “For thus says the Lord Yahweh, ‘As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Is. 66:13). Jesus didn’t have any qualms about the  mother image either as He lamented over the spiritual plight of Jerusalem. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matt. 23:37). Jesus gives us an interesting picture of one of God’s attributes… He reflects the maternal instinct of the mighty God. The Son of God as a mother hen! Nobody really likes a mother hen unless you are a chick in need of protection. Mother hens are bossy, interfering, overbearing, and usually overprotective. They are always picking and bossing around. They are inclined to tend to her chicks whether they want her attention or not. But when the chicks need a safe shelter from danger, watch them run to her side. Mother hens have been known to give up her life to protect her chicks from danger. A recent study has revealed that mother hens are hard-wired for empathy. “In experiments done with mother hens and her brood, the hen showed clear signs of anxiety when their chicks were in distress.” Jesus chose a wonderful image of His desire to remain a refuge for those in trouble, a fortress of protection for the people of Jerusalem who were unwilling to go to His side for spiritual protection. Jesus, the mother hen of Jerusalem, and our mother hen as well.
  2. God of the Mountain. Jesus loved mountains, and seemed to spend a lot of time enjoying any opportunity he could find to go to a mountaintop somewhere. So much so, that He seemed spiritually connected to mountains throughout His ministry. He offered the nucleus of His entire message on His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). He prayed all night on a mountain as He consulted with the Father on the choice of His twelve disciples (Luke 6:12). He made His Grand Entrance from the top of the Mount of Olives, a full 100 feet above Jerusalem, on Palm Sunday (Matt 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12). The understanding among Jewish scholars and rabbis was, according to Ezekiel 11:23, the Messiah would enter the world by arriving at Jerusalem from the top of Mount of Olives. So, that’s what Jesus did. The Transfiguration of Jesus was on what was probably Mt. Tabor (Mark 9:1-13). He often went to a mountain to pray, for some privacy, for time to decompress from the stresses of His ministry (John 6:15). He fed the 5,000 on a mountain (John 6:3).  And Jesus chose the high spot of the Mount of Olives for His Grand Exit, the Ascension (Acts 1:9-12). There is no doubt that, like Yahweh, Jesus was King of the Mountain.
  3. God of Abundance. The Greek word used in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and they may have it more abundantly!” is ‘perissos’, and it means superabundance, more than enough, far beyond what is needed, superior in quantity and quality. This kingdom principle of “divine extravagance” was on full display during Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding at Cana. This is the term often used for the overflowing grace and blessing offered in Christ. Jesus’ turning water into wine in all these stone jars is a powerful picture of the superabundance of grace and truth in Jesus. Providing this much wine went far beyond more than enough. It was extravagant. It was abundantly generous. All the pots were reportedly full to the brim with water, which means 120-180 gallons of wine was produced by Jesus. That amount is equivalent to 600-900 standard-sized bottles of wine today! This was insanely more than was needed. God is not economical when it comes to grace. It  is immeasurable, it surpasses all forms of measurement. God is not stingy with His blessings. He has an endless supply of grace and joy and forgiveness. Cana wine is like crucifixion blood… more than enough. Enough for the whole world. Beyond measurement. A flood of wine in Cana, a flood of blood at Golgotha. Cana wine is like the showers of blessing coming from the hand of a merciful God. He provides more blessings than we need, He seems to almost waste precious blessings in His generosity, spiritual riches without measure. And it wasn’t just quantity of wine, it was the quality as well. Jesus made first-class, expensive wine for the end of the feast. Jesus continued to work in creation as He rearranged the atomic elements, created the crushed juice, and totally bypassed the time of fermentation, producing a vintage wine without touching a thing. All it took was a word to work this amazing miracle. He didn’t need to touch or do anything, a word was all that was needed.

There are many ways one could understand El Shaddai, but any way we look at God’s name here, Jesus fulfilled it and then some. Whether Mighty Sustainer, God of the Mountain, or God of Abundance, Jesus proved Himself to be the living embodiment of El Shaddai. Yahweh is El Shaddai, and so is His perfect physical image Jesus Christ.