(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
As a pastor for the last fifty years, I have made a lot of visits to hospitals to encourage those who are admitted because of sickness, disease, or surgery. More often than not, the folks I visit are elderly. I have tried at times to add a bit of humor to the visit by telling an elderly woman (for instance) “You may be up in years but there is still hope for you. Don’t forget, Sarah had a baby at 90!” The patient may be in pain or in a weakened condition, but I almost always get a big smile or a laugh – and a comment something like, “Oh no! Not me! God forbid! I’m done with that!” If it is an old man whom I am visiting, I just change the application! “You may be up in years but there is still hope for you. Don’t forget, Abraham fathered a baby at 99!”
It sounds totally beyond human possibility! But we are talking about God, who proclaimed in Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? ”
This is what God told Abram in Genesis 17:1 through 5:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be call- ed Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.”
This is the first instance of God referring to Himself as El Shaddai, almost universally translated as Almighty God or God Almighty.
- El (copied from the Gem of June 12th) in Hebrew is אֵל )pronounced ale – in one syllable( and meaning, “…strength….” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary). In the Old Testament, El refers to the One True God! However, the word can be used of any deity, even false pagan gods; angels; mighty men )military heroes(; and even demons.
- Shaddai in Hebrew is שַ דַּי (pronounced shad-dah’ee) and according to the generally held meaning, “…the Almighty….” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary).
However, researching the meaning of Shaddai, I came across this website of The Jerusalem Prayer Team, Word of the Day: hebrew.jerusalemprayerteam.org/almighty-el-shaddai/. I found a very interesting interpretation of El Shaddai:
Rule: all body parts that come in pairs (or more than 2) are feminine nouns. Hands, ears, legs, shins, fingers, teeth and more are all feminine nouns. All, except for one pair – breasts! Breasts, the most feminine paired organ in the human body happens to be a masculine noun....Shaddai in Hebrew is the word for breasts. Every English Bible translates El Shaddai as The Almighty. The Almighty is a great name for God but it has nothing to do with El Shaddai. It was superimposed on [the] innocent Bible reader....If you check carefully the...[following] three references to El Shaddai in the Bible you’ll be more than surprised.... These are...three cases when God speaks in first person. Each verse is about fertility and the name Shaddai is stressed. Here is how El Shaddai is connected with fruit- fulness: ✡ Genesis 28:3 – “May God Almighty [El Shaddai] bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you…” ✡ Genesis 35:11 – “I am God Almighty [El Shaddai]. Be fruitful and muliply....” ✡ Genesis 49:25 – “...by the Almighty [El Shaddai] who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, bless- ings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts [shadayim] and of the womb....”
On the website for the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, israelbiblicalstudies.com/jewish-studies/he-is-our-el-shadai/, Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg writes:
In our Bibles, אֵל שָ דַּי “El Shadai” is most often (mistakenly) translated as “God Almighty”....El Shadai אֵל שָ דַּי does have another meaning though. The word שָ ד ShaD has a much closer grammatical connection to ShaDai and it means – “breast.” Moreover, when a word ends with an “i”or “ai” it is almost always means “my”. So, literally, “El Shadai” could very well mean “God (is) my Breast/s. If we consider this intriguing imagery as [an] interpretive possibility we may see that the breast is one of the key symbols of sustenance and parental love passed on from God, the parent, to humanity, God’s child. So instead of “God Almighty”, El Shadai should probably be translated as “God All-sufficient” instead.
Holding with this idea of breasts and being fruitful, I began looking at our featured Scripture in a new way! Does Genesis 17:1 through 5 have to do with human frutifulness – “…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…” (Genesis 49:25)?
- The next verse (Genesis 17:2) after “…the LORD appeared to Abram and said…‘I am Almighty God…” (Genesis 17:1), the first part of His covenant with the patriarch mentioned is, “…I…will multiply you exceedingly.” This certainly involves “…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…”!
- In Genesis 17:4 God told him, “…you shall be a father of many nations.” This certainly involves “…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…”!
- How about Abram’s name change in Genesis 17:5? “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.” This certainly involves “…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…”!
Continuing beyond our featured Scripture, in…
- Genesis 17:6 – “I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.” This certainly involves “…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…”!
- I will not reproduce here the next eight verses, but in Genesis 17:7 through 14, God speaks to Abraham concerning the patriarch’s succeeding generations, and the covenant sign each of those male descendants must carry in their bodies – circumcision! And, by the way, this sign involves the reproductive organ of the male! And this too certainly involves “…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…”!
- In Genesis 17:15 and 16, the LORD changes the emphasis from Abraham to Sarai:
As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.
This certainly involves “…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…”!
• Genesis 17:18, 19, and 21 concerns Abraham’s next generation, Isaac:
And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael [his son by Hagar, his wife’s maid] might live before You!” Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you will call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him....My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.”
This certainly involves “…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…”!
- The last part of the dialogue between God and Abraham concerning the LORD introducing Himself as El Shaddai involves Ishmael:
And as for Ishmael, I have heard you [Abraham’s plea in verse 17 above]. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.
Ishmael is considered the father of the multitudenous Arab peoples! This certainly involves “…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…”!
In the quotation from The Jerusalem Prayer Team above, we are told, “Breasts, the most feminine pair organ in the human body happens to be a masculine noun….Shaddai in Hebrew is the word for breasts.” Why is a masculine noun referring to God and breasts? God is often pictured as our Heavenly Father – a masculine designation! But He also is depicted with feminine qualities!
- Genesis 1:27 – “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
- Deuteronomy 32:11 – God is like a mother eagle hovering over her young!
- Ps 22:9-10, Ps 71:6; Isa 66:9 – God cares for his people like a midwife that cares for the child she just delivered!
- Isaiah 49:15 – “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.”
- Hosea 13:8 – “I will meet them [Israelite sinners] like a bear deprived of her cubs.”
- Luke 13:34 – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! …How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!”
- Luke 15:8-10 – God seeks the lost like a housekeeper, trying to find her lost coin!
So while God is Almighty, I agree with Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg: “…instead of “God Almighty”, El Shadai should probably be translated as “God All-sufficient.”
When it is all said and done…
Thank God for His multifaceted attributes!