Shaddai – reflections

The study of Shaddai has completely taken me by surprise. I had thought when I began that Shaddai meant Almighty. In fact, this is the meaning and translation that I have found most frequently on the internet and in other resources. However, now I see that “Almighty” comes from Lord of Hosts.

I have also found that the traditional lexical etymology attributed it to shadad, destruction or overwhelming power. It is in reaction to this that many have pointed out that it could just as well be from shad, breast. I have no insight into the etymology of Shaddai, none whatsoever. I am fascinated, however, by the indelible influence of the traditional translation “Almighty”. This is neither a transliteration, nor a translation, but comes from Pantocrator, the original LXX translation of “Lord of Hosts” or “Lord of Armies”.

There should be a name for a translational equivalence such as “Almighty” for Shaddai. Possibly we could call this a “traditional corresponding term” or simply a “traditional translational equivalent.” The truth is that we don’t want to devalue these terms. “The Almighty” has become the name of God for many people. I don’t want to imply that this is not valid, it is a traditional equivalent. It may have become the name of God for many people, but it is not a literal translation.

So the other path that some follow is that of looking for a contrasting etymology. As some have insisted on finding a masculine and “power full” etymology in Shaddai, others have looked for the nurturing God, the God of the womb. These people have argued vociferously for “breast” as the origin of the name Shaddai.

We need to understand this “seeking for the feminine” etymology within the context of an equally fictitiously constructed masculine etymology.

For me, God is neither masculine nor feminine, nor do I scour the Bible trying to find matching feminine and masculine images for God. For me, God is imaged in the Good Shepherd of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, He is to us as the shepherd is to sheep and gender is irrelevant. He is creator to creature, and maker to made, “Sufficient” to Naomi and Job alike.

5 thoughts on “Shaddai – reflections

  1. ElShaddai Edwards says:

    Bravo, Suzanne. I think your conclusion ties very appropriately to Genesis 1:27 —

    “God created human beings in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.” (REB)

    This has been a great series to follow for me personally – thank you for all your work!

  2. mike aubrey says:

    Thank you Suzanne, I appreciate your conclusions.

    I think you’re ended this little series quite aptly.

    He is our God, who goes before us in battle and shelters us safely in his wings.

  3. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    That is what I was thinking Mike, You put it very nicely,

    He is our God, who goes before us in battle and shelters us safely in his wings.

    The worrisome part is that I haven’t quite finished with Shaddai. Almost but not quite.

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