The alternative Meaning of El-Shaddai

Apparently “El-Shaddai”, which is commonly translated as, “the Almighty” might actually have a different – or at least an additional – meaning, namely, “the God of the mountain”. This is the view of liberal scholar John Day who writes:

<<El-Shaddai. The most likely interpretation of the divine name ElShaddai is ‘El, the mountain one’, with reference to El’s dwelling place on a mountain. This is P’s preferred term for God in the period between Abraham and the revelation of the name Yahweh to Moses (cf. Gen. 17.1, 28.3, 35.11; Exod. 6.3). However, the name Shaddai is already present in what appear to be early, perhaps tenth-century, texts such as Gen. 49.25, Num. 24.4, 16, and Ps. 68.15 (ET 14). Traditionally, ElShaddai has been rendered ‘God Almighty’, following the LXX’s TcavtoKpdxcop and the Vulgate’s omnipotens, but it is widely accepted that this is a later misunderstanding, possibly arising through association with Hebrew Sdd ‘to destroy’ (cf. Isa. 13.6; Joel 1.15, JfSdd miSSadday ‘as destruction from Shaddai’). A rabbinic view understanding the name as meaning ‘who suffices’ (Se + day) is clearly fanciful and has no support. A standpoint occasionally supported by modern scholars connects it with the Hebrew word Sad ‘breast’,[1] but since Shaddai was a masculine deity this is far-fetched.”[2] Day goes on to explain why “God of the field” as another alternative translation for “El-Shaddai” does not really make sense.[3] He personally seems to connect the God El as mountain God only up to His appearance at mount Sinai,[4] but, as Day admits this goes back to Genesis texts,[5] and with my personal acceptance of the Genesis chronology over against modern liberal JEPD revisionism, I would speculate that it also makes sense to connect this idea of God being a mountain God back to Noach who probably was known as the righteous man who walked with God living on mount Ararat in the eyes of the postdiluvian people. To them it would then have made sense to connect the true God with the idea of Him being a mountain God. This same mountain God has revealed Himself to Moses on a mountain as Yahweh. That God ruled on a mountain as a mountain God does not exclude Him from being God in heaven, for “It may be noted that Zaphon was the name of both Yahweh’s heavenly dwelling place (Isa. 14.13; Job 26.7) and his earthly dwelling place on Mt Zion (Ps. 48.3 [ET 2]).[6]“>>

footnotes:

[1] E.g. D. Biale, ‘The God of the Breasts: El Shaddai in the Bible’, HR 21 (1981-82), pp. 240-56.

[2] John Day, Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan, p. 32. Kindle edition.

[3] Ibid., p. 32-33.

[4] As cited above: “ElShaddai is ‘El, the mountain one’, with reference to El’s dwelling place on a mountain. This is P’s preferred term for God in the period between Abraham and the revelation of the name Yahweh to Moses (cf. Gen. 17.1, 28.3, 35.11; Exod. 6.3).” Ibid., 32.

[5] As cited above: “However, the name Shaddai is already present in what appear to be early, perhaps tenth-century, texts such as Gen. 49.25, Num. 24.4, 16, and Ps. 68.15 (ET 14).” Ibid., 32

[6] Ibid., 183.

yahweh and the gods and goddesses of canaan

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