El Shaddai: The Almighty God
One of the most popular Christian songs of recent years is entitled “El Shaddai.” El Shaddai is one of the compound names for God. It occurs seven times in the Bible. The King James Version translates El Shaddai as “the Almighty God” (Gen. 17:1) and Shaddai simply as “the Almighty” (Ruth 1:20). Some Bible teachers believe that Shaddai comes from the Hebrew word shad, which refers to a woman’s breast. If that is indeed the case, then this name for God would be very tender and intimate, suggesting, as it does, that Shaddai is to His people all that a mother is to a babe at her breast. He is the lifegiver, sustainer and satisfier. He pours His life into the frail, weak life of the child who trusts in Him.
The late, godly Dr. William Allen Dean, who, for many years, taught a course on the Names of God at Philadelphia College of Bible, suggested that El Shaddai would better be translated “the all-sufficient God,” rather than “the Almighty God.” While scholars might debate that contention, there can be no question but that the El Shaddai is the One who blesses and makes fruitful.
The Patriarch Abraham and EL SHADDAI
When God appeared to Abraham in Genesis, chapter seventeen, the man who would father the Jewish nation was ninety-nine years old. Thirteen years had passed since the birth of Ishmael through Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar. And now Abraham and Sarah were, in the vernacular of the Bible, well-stricken in years. They were past the time of natural child bearing (Gen. 17:17). It was only then that the Lord appeared to Abram and said unto him, ”. . . I am the Almighty God [El Shaddai]; walk before me, and be thou perfect”’ (Gen. 17:1). The use of this name for God at this point in time is both striking and significant. Centuries later God would say to Moses, “And I appeared unto Abraham . . . by the name of God Almighty [El Shaddai], but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them” (Ex. 6:3). God had promised to Abraham a seed (Gen. 12:1). God had promised universal blessing through that seed (Gen. 12:2-3). God had promised Abraham that his seed would be ”. . . as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered” (Gen. 13:16). But in Genesis seventeen, conception through Abraham and Sarah was unthinkable because it was humanly impossible. There was no longer life in his loins and her womb. And so, at this precise moment, God revealed Himself as El Shaddai – the breasted One – the One who blesses and makes fruitful – the lifegiver, nourisher and sustainer – the One who would keep His word and empower a woman past childbearing capability to supernaturally conceive. From her womb a new nation would arise into which, ultimately, Christ would be born and universal blessing would flow to mankind.
Concerning this supernatural birth of Isaac, the author of Hebrews wrote, “Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised” (Heb. 11:11). That is, she had faith that God would keep His word concerning an heir even though, humanly, conception was impossible. “Therefore sprang there even of one [Abraham], and him as good as dead, as many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the seashore innumerable” (Heb. 11:12).
To mark this occasion, He changed the name of Abram, meaning exalted father, to Abraham, meaning father of a great number. The very name Abraham was intended by God to remind men that He was El Shaddai, and He alone can bless and make fruitful.
Many years later, Abraham’s son Isaac said to his son Jacob, “Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel, thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from there of the daughters of Laban, thy mother’s brother. And God Almighty [El Shaddai] bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people” (Gen. 28:2-3). And another twenty years later, “. . . God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Paddan-aram, and blessed him . . . And God said unto him, I am God Almighty [El Shaddai]: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins” (Gen. 35:9, 11).
Mark it down, it’s an inviolable law: whenever God blesses, there will be fruit (life).
Following the creation of the first man and woman, the Bible says, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth . . .” (Gen. 1:28). And after the flood and destruction of all flesh except those in the ark of safety, the Bible states, “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). The very existence of man on the earth is a testimony to the truth that when God blesses, there is always fruit.
In Psalm one, which is introductory and basic to the one hundred and forty-nine psalms that follow it, the inspired penman wrote, “Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2). And then the psalmist explains what the spiritually blessed man will be like: “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Ps. 1:3). The blessed of God are spiritually alive and capable of begetting spiritual fruit.
Those who are not spiritually blessed are also described by the psalmist: “The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away” (Ps. 1:4). The ungodly are the cursed. And, biblically, to be cursed is to be spiritually dead and unable to beget spiritual fruit.
Reproduction is always after its kind. Physical life begets physical life. Spiritual life begets spiritual life. And only El Shaddai, the breasted One – the lifegiver, nourisher and provider – can bless and make fruitful.
A Woman Named Naomi and EL SHADDAI
About twelve hundred years before Christ, a small Jewish family resided in a little village called Bethlehem. The father’s name was Elimelech, the mother’s name was Naomi, and they had two sons, Mahlon and Chilion (Ruth 1:1-3). Bethlehem means house of bread – but there was no bread in the house of bread – there was a famine in the land. They chose, and evidently without divine sanction, to descend the Judean wilderness, cross the Jordan River and take up temporary residence in the land of Moab (modem day Jordan). In the course of time, Elimelech died, and Naomi was left in a strange land with her two sons. The young men, in due course, married Moabite women. The name of the one was Orpah and the other Ruth. Shortly hereafter, Naomi’s sons both died, and she was now in a foreign land left with two Gentile daughters-in law. One day Naomi heard that the famine was over – that the Lord had visited her people, and once again there was bread in the house of bread (Ruth 1:6). She determined to return home and reluctantly suggested that her daughters-in-law return to the homes of their fathers. The persistence of her daughters-in-law to continue on prompted her to say, “… Turn again, my daughters. Why will ye go with me? Are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope; if I should have an husband also tonight, and should also bear sons, Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? Would ye refrain from marrying? Nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me” (Ruth 1:11-13).
With these words, Orpah returned to the home of her father. But Ruth – wonderful, courageous Ruth – refused to waver in her commitment to follow her mother-in-law to a strange land, a unique people and a new God. Her statement of faith, which has echoed through the corridor of more than three thousand years of history, continues to reverberate, “. . . Entreat me not to leave thee, or to turn away from following after thee; for where thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God, Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:16-17). And so, these two women, Naomi and Ruth, made the difficult and dangerous trip across the Jordan River, up the Jericho Road to Jerusalem, and then south to Bethlehem. The Word of God records it this way, “So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, ls this Naomi?” (Ruth 1:19). The years, the hardships, the death of her husband and sons – all had taken their toll. The young woman who had left was now a prematurely old woman,. and despair was etched in her face. “And she said unto them,, Call me not Naomi [meaning pleasant ], call me Mara [meaning bitter]; for the Almighty [Shaddai] hath dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20). Her husband was dead, her sons were dead, and she could only say the Shaddai – the One who blesses and makes fruitful – “. . . hath dealt very bitterly with me.” But had He, in reality, dealt very bitterly with her, or was the Shaddai, who makes fruitful, simply pruning to maximize the fruit production?
Centuries earlier God, in His infinite wisdom, had given to Israel a law which stated that if a man died having no heir, his brother or nearest relative was to marry the deceased brother’s wife and raise up seed (Dt. 25:5-6). This was done that the family inheritance be not lost and the name not perish in Israel. This became known as the law of the “goel” meaning kinsman redeemer. There were three requirements for being a kinsman redeemer in ancient Israel: (1) the redeemer had to be a kinsman (Ruth 2:20); (2) the redeemer had to have the redemption price (Ruth 4:3-4); (3) the redeemer had to be willing to redeem, even if it meant his own inheritance was marred in the process (Dt. 25:7; Ruth 4:6).
And there was such a man in Bethlehem. His name was Boaz. He was kinsman to deceased Elimelech (Ruth 4:4). He had the redemption price (Ruth 4:9). And he was willing to redeem:
“So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife; and when he went in unto her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the Lord, who hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age . . .” (Ruth 4:13-15).
The Book of Ruth is certainly a lovely story – but it’s far more. It’s clearly a beautiful tale of courage and love – but that’s by no means all that it is.
From the union of Boaz and Ruth would be born a man by the name of Obed. And through Obed would come a man by the name of Jesse. And through Jesse would come Israel’s greatest king – David (Ruth 4:21-22). And amazingly through the lineage of King David, Jesus the Messiah would be born (Mt. 1:17; Rom. 1:3). For what purpose? you ask To be our Redeemer, that the name man not perish in the earth and that our inheritance be not lost. To do that, Jesus became a man. He became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, so that He became, in truth, our Kinsman. He had the redemption price. The Apostle Peter put it this way, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver and gold… But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”’ (1 Pet. 1:18-19). The imprints of the nails and spear will testify of the cost of His redeeming work throughout eternity.
No, Naomi the Shaddai was not dealing bitterly with you – in love, He was pruning that you bear fruit, more fruit, much fruit (Jn. 15:1-5).* In John 8:58, the Lord Jesus identifies Himself as the Jehovah of the Old Testament by applying to Himself the designation, “I am,” suggesting being and self-existence and the root word from which Jehovah comes. In John 15:1, Jesus now identifies Himself as El Shaddai, the all-sufficient God, the One who blesses and makes fruitful, by use of the designation, “I am the true vine,” and, in context, the source of all fruit bearing (Jn. 15:2).
When El Shaddai appeared to Abraham, He blessed him and said, “. . . in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Jesus Christ, the Kinsman-Redeemer, is the ultimate fulfillment of that divine promise. And so, I commend to you El Shaddai the all-sufficient God, the One who blesses and makes fruitful.
*For additional study on this concept of divine pruning for much fruit, consider the Book of Job, where God’s name Shaddai is used some forty one times. Job lost his flocks, herds, children and health – he lost everything. Then you come to the end of the book and read these words, “So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning. . . So Job died, being old and full of days” (Job 42:12, 17).