Seven Prime Names: 3. El Shaddai

We continue our look at some of the names of the LORD. Any name works, if used with reverence and as a means to draw closer to God. But the various names reflect different aspects of His holy character. El Shaddai may be known to some as the title of a 1980s praise song, and it highlights a particular strength of God.

El Shaddai means ‘God Almighty’ and shows His ultimate power over everyone and everything. To those of us who can be a bit overfriendly (after all, He’s our dad; He loves us; He’s our mate!), this is a good reminder that He has such power and strength that it’s just as well He loves us for who we are; filled with compassion as well as justice. We would not stand a chance if we attempted to argue our way against God, for:

“And the LORD said to Job: ‘Shall a faultfinder contend with the El Shaddai? He who argues with God, let him answer it’” (Job 40:1-2).

El Shaddai is one of the most frequently occurring names for God in the Bible. One of its strengths is that it shows God’s strength: God is described according to who He is: He IS Almighty (I AM who I AM); mere pagan gods are described by things they create – Thunderer etc. Scripture does not limit God’s description to His creation simply because He is more powerful than all creation. Mysterious lightning bolts can kill a pagan god or two, but God is not subject to such things. He is the overpowerer – His power achieves anything, and He does not need a prop to do it. The first occurrence of this name is:

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

He speaks His name and, in the power of who He is, He both commands and enables Abram to walk before Him; to be blameless, and says that He will then make His covenant with Abram and will greatly increase his numbers. Through the simple power of who God is, it happens. Later, God says to Jacob:

“I am El Shaddai: be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants “. (Genesis 35:11)

How reassuring that He has the power of command because He is so powerful; not just a bit powerful, nor even merely ‘powerful enough.’ But almighty. El Shaddai is used most in the Book of Job and after questioning God’s purposes and reasons, Job says:

“Then Job answered the LORD: ‘I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more’” (Job 40:3-5).

You can almost hear the screech of mental brakes, the penny dropping as Job realises the enormity (and the consequences) of God being ‘almighty.’

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of El Shaddai. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’(Psalm 91:1)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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