When combined we have the name “Almighty God.” The translation of Shaddai as “Almighty”, though, does not fully cover the complexity of the word. Traditionally the root of the word has been assumed to be shadad which means to “destroy.” But others have pointed to the word shad which means “breasts”, figuratively representing fertility, and others to an Akkadian word Sadu, which means “mountain.”
That gives us three possible ways to understand the name:
- Almighty God – the God who has the power to do whatever He wishes. The traditional interpretation.
- All-Sufficient One – as in the God who provides all our needs – as the mother provides for her infant child – the God of fertility.
- God of the Mountain – as in the the King who reigns supreme from His holy mountain. Canaanite cultures viewed their god’s as living in the high places. The sovereign God.
So, how should we understand this name? Probably the best way is to look at it in context.
El Shaddai occurs seven times in the Bible and the word Shaddai by itself occurs another 41 times. The first time is in Genesis 17:1
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD (YHWH) appeared to him and said, “I am El Shaddai; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
This passage seems to be connected with fertility – “will greatly increase your numbers.” Remember, this promise is to a 99 year old man who’s wife is barren. Obviously that means that the God who is making the promise must be “Almighty”, but the emphasis is still on fertility.
Here is another example from Genesis 28:3:
May El Shaddai bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.
Once again we can see that there is clearly a fertility aspect to this name.
When used alone, though, the name seems to point more towards God’s power and sovereignty:
Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;
it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Isaiah 13:6
So, in summary, I think it is best to understand the name to be somewhat flexible. It appears to have originally, in Genesis, been connected with fertility, but also clearly points to His power to accomplish whatever He wishes. I personally like the term All-Sufficient One since it seems to cover both aspects of the name.
The application of this name is much simpler than the definition. We have a God who is powerful enough (Almighty) to supply all of our needs (fertility). He is the sovereign ruler of creation (God of the Mountain) and can accomplish whatever He desires.
So how do I apply this name of God to my life and worship?
- God is Sufficient. God is all I need. He is able to supply all my needs and has promised to do so. I should not waste my time worrying about my needs. Worry accomplishes nothing, but God can accomplish anything!
- God is Almighty. God is not only bountiful and generous enough to supply all my needs, but He is powerful enough to accomplish anything He desires. I should trust Him to do what is best in my life.
- God is Sovereign. God is the true King of all creation. I should not only trust Him, but also obey Him. God’s sovereignty can be either a blessing or a curse in my life. As in the Isaiah 13:6 passage quoted above, God can bring disaster on those who rebel, but He can also bless those who are faithful.
Trust God and look to Him. He is the All-Sufficient One. Whatever you need He can supply!