What does the word Shaddai mean in the Old Testament? There are some differences of opinion surrounding God’s name, Shaddai. Dawn Wilson, founder and director of Heart Choices Today, has an interesting view on the differing interpretations. She writes, “the various possibilities are shades of meaning that give us greater understanding of who God is and what He does.”
The most common perception of shaddai among Christians today is “mighty”. So El Shaddai would render “God Almighty.” This root meaning would go along with El Shaddai being “The Overpowerer.” God overpowers every opposition against Him. Whatever He purposes, He will bring forth. But the primary meaning of God’s power in this name denotes all-bountifulness, The “Pourer-forth” of blessings that are both temporal and spiritual.
Some Christians also interpret shaddai as “sufficient”, which is also an accurate description of God. For He is the “All-sufficient One.”
Wilson explains yet another possible meaning of El Shaddai: “The God of the Mountain. Some Messianic teachers say shaddai comes from the Akkadian word shaddu, meaning ‘mountain.’ God lives in heaven, but He also inhabited a mountain top—Mount Sinai. It was on this mountain Moses met with God and received the Ten Commandments. It might be argued God’s presence on that mountain reminded the Israelites of His power and provision. The God of the Mountain was the same God who mightily led His people from Egypt and appeared to them as a cloud by day and a fire at night. He is the God who expected obedience to His commands, and swiftly and powerfully took action against those who rebelled and ignored His will.”
God is definitely both mighty and sufficient. He is the Almighty One who is more than enough! Although I grew up going to church and knew God as my Savior, I didn’t know Him as El Shaddai, the all-sufficient One, until I went to college. When I hit rock bottom, El Shaddai became more than words on a page to me. (You may read my story here: My Lifeboat). But before that time, and since, He has been both protector and lover of my soul.
People in the Old Testament who came to know El Shaddai include Abraham and Job. Even though God had promised Abram and Sarah a child at the ripe age of ninety-nine and eighty-nine, the baby had yet to make his entrance.
As God reveals Himself to Abram by this name, He also adds something to Abram’s name. He adds the chief letter of His own name “Jehovah”, the letter ‘He’. This sound can only be uttered by an out-breathing, giving something of His own nature. Genesis 17:1-3 tells us that when Abram comes to know God as El Shaddai, he falls on his face and immediately submits to God in everything.
Although Job argued with God at first, the Almighty’s show of wisdom and power resulted in changing this Patriarch’s attitude to quiet reverence before the Lord’s authority and sovereignty.
This same mighty God, embodied in Jesus Christ, worked mighty miracles to help people, rescue them, and prove He is God. He fed thousands from small provisions, healed people, and cast out tormenting demons. Yet, what blows my mind the most, is that El Shaddai would humble Himself to become a servant, “becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8) in order that we might have salvation through His Son.
We serve a mighty God who deserves all of our thanks and praise. In His mighty power, He never grows weary. He is our all-in-all who compassionately sustains, nourishes and protects. In His sufficiency, He can take our weaknesses and inadequate resources and use them for His great purposes. He alone is more than able! No need is too difficult for El Shaddai. He wants us to come to Him through prayer. For He knows His power and provision will lead to peace, hope, and praise. As with Abraham, God desires to work mightily in our lives and use us as a channel of His blessing to others.
Do you know God as El Shaddai?