El Shaddai

By Nathan House

In Genesis 12 the Patriarch Abraham, who was seventy-five years old, was given a promise by God, that He will make of him a great nation. Abraham’s wife Sarah was barren and though she and Abraham would try to conceive they were unable. In chapter 15, Abraham questioned God because he remained childless. God brought Abraham outside and directed him to count the stars and then again uttered the promise- your offsprings shall be like the stars.

When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the LORD again promised that he would be the father of nations and that Sarah would have a son. God called for Abraham to trust him. Genesis 17:1 says, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless”.

The name of God used in this passage is El Shaddai and according to Coffman (224), the Hebrew name is used six times in Genesis and it is of interest to note that three of those times (17:1, 28:3, 35:11) it is used in connection with multiplying the offspring and of making a nation.

Why is it used here in connection with Abraham, and what is the intent of God in calling himself God Almighty (El Shaddai)? It had been several years since God had spoke to Abraham. He knew that God had promised a nation would come from him. In this text, God was revealing Himself to Abraham as El Shaddai to remind Abraham that he can know that God is mighty over all things.  The name itself is a call for trust since He is Almighty. As El Shaddai He can make the barren fruitful. As  El Shaddai He can make young the old. As El Shaddai nothing is impossible for Him. Lockyer records the writings of an unnamed scholar as saying, “El Shaddai the God who compels nature to do what is contrary to itself” (14). Here, the intent of the name, El Shaddai, is to reassure Abraham of God’s sufficiency to fulfill his promise.

Works Cited

Coffman, James. Commentary on Genesis. Abilene: A.C.U. Press, 1985. Print.

Lockyer, Herbert. All the divine names and titles in the Bible: a unique classification of all scriptural designations of the three persons of the Trinity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1975. Print.