El Shaddai

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El Shaddai (Hebrew : אֵל שַׁדַּי, IPA:  [el ʃadˈdaj] ) or just Shaddai is one of the names of the God of Israel. El Shaddai is conventionally translated as God Almighty (Deus Omnipotens in Latin) but the construction of the phrase fits the pattern of the divine appellations in the Ancient Near East and as such can convey various types of semantic relations between these two words: El of a place known as Shaddai, El possessing the quality of shaddai, or El who is also known as Shaddai – exactly as is the case with the names like "’El Olam", "’El Elyon" or "’El Betel". [1] [2] Moreover, while the translation of El as "God" or "Lord" in the Ugaritic/Canaanite language is straightforward, the literal meaning of Shaddai is the subject of debate. The name appears 48 times in the Bible, seven times as "El Shaddai" (five times in Genesis, once in Exodus, and once in Ezekiel).

Hebrew language Semitic language native to Israel

Hebrew is a Northwest Semitic language native to Israel, the modern version of which is spoken by over nine million people worldwide. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name "Hebrew" in the Tanakh itself. The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Hebrew belongs to the West Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Hebrew is the only Canaanite language still spoken, and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language.

The name of God most often used in the Hebrew Bible is the Tetragrammaton. It is frequently anglicized as Jehovah and Yahweh and written in most English editions of the Bible as "the Lord" owing to the Jewish tradition increasingly viewing the divine name as too sacred to be uttered. It was thus replaced vocally in the synagogue ritual by the Hebrew word Adonai, which was translated as Kyrios (“Lord”) in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures.

The religions of the ancient Near East were mostly polytheistic, with some examples of monolatry. Some scholars believe that the similarities between these religions indicate that the religions are related, a belief known as patternism.

Contents

The first occurrence of the name is in Genesis 17:1, "And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am El Shaddai; walk before me, and be thou perfect." Similarly, in Genesis 35:11 God says to Jacob, "I am 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". According to Exodus 6:23, Shaddai was the name by which God was known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Shaddai thus being associated in tradition with Abraham, the inclusion of the Abraham stories into the Hebrew Bible may have brought the northern name with them, according to the Documentary hypothesis of the origins of the Hebrew Bible.

Lech-Lecha Torah portion; Genesis 12–17

Lech-Lecha, Lekh-Lekha, or Lech-L'cha is the third weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. It constitutes Genesis 12:1–17:27. The parashah tells the stories of God's calling of Abram, Abram's passing off his wife Sarai as his sister, Abram's dividing the land with his nephew Lot, the war between the four kings and the five, the covenant between the pieces, Sarai's tensions with her maid Hagar and Hagar's son Ishmael, and the covenant of circumcision.

Vayishlach Torah portion, Genesis 32–36

Vayishlach or Vayishlah is the eighth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. In the parashah, Jacob reconciles with Esau after wrestling with a "man". The prince Shechem rapes Dinah, whose brothers sack the city of Shechem in revenge. In the family's subsequent flight, Rachel gives birth to Benjamin and dies in childbirth.

Jacob Regarded as a Patriarch of the Israelites, later given the name Israel

Jacob, later given the name Israel, is regarded as a Patriarch of the Israelites. According to the Book of Genesis, Jacob was the third Hebrew progenitor with whom God made a covenant. He is the son of Isaac and Rebecca, the grandson of Abraham, Sarah and Bethuel, the nephew of Ishmael, and the younger twin brother of Esau. Jacob had twelve sons and at least one daughter, by his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and by their handmaidens Bilhah and Zilpah.

In the vision of Balaam recorded in the Book of Numbers 24:4 and 16, the vision comes from Shaddai along with El. In the fragmentary inscriptions at Deir Alla, though "Shaddai" is not, or not fully present, [3] shaddayin [4] appear (שדין, the vowels are uncertain, as is the gemination of the "d"), perhaps lesser figurations of Shaddai. [5] These have been tentatively identified with the ŝedim (שדים) of Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37-38, [6] who are Canaanite deities.

Balaam Biblical prophet

Balaam is a diviner in the Torah whose story begins in Chapter 22 of the Book of Numbers. Every ancient reference to Balaam considers him a non-Israelite, a prophet, and the son of Beor, though Beor is not clearly identified. Though some sources may only describe the positive blessings he delivers upon the Israelites, he is reviled as a "wicked man" in both the Torah and the New Testament. Balaam refused to speak what God did not speak and would not curse the Israelites, even though King Balak of Moab offered him money to do so. But Balaam's error and the source of his wickedness came from sabotaging the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land. According to Revelation, Balaam told King Balak how to get the Israelites to commit sin by enticing them with sexual immorality and food sacrificed to idols. The Israelites fell into transgression due to these traps and God sent a deadly plague to them as a result.

Book of Numbers Fourth book of the Bible

The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah. The book has a long and complex history, but its final form is probably due to a Priestly redaction of a Yahwistic source made some time in the early Persian period. The name of the book comes from the two censuses taken of the Israelites.

The Deir 'Alla Inscription was discovered during a 1967 excavation in Deir 'Alla, Jordan. The excavation revealed a multiple-chamber structure that had been destroyed by an earthquake during the Persian period, on the wall of which was written a story relating visions of Bal'am, son of Be'or, a "seer of the gods", who may be the same Balaam mentioned in Numbers 22–24 and in other passages of the Bible. However, the Deir Alla inscription describes Bal'am in a manner which differs from that given in the Book of Numbers. Rather than being a prophet of YHWH, this god is associated with the goddess Ashtar, a god named Shgr, and "Shaddayin". It also features the word "Elohin", taken to mean "gods" in the plural rather than the Hebrew deity.

The name Shaddai (Hebrew: שַׁדַּי) is often used in parallel to El later in the Book of Job.

Book of Job book of the Bible

The Book of Job is a book in the Ketuvim ("Writings") section of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), and the first poetic book in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Addressing the problem of theodicy – the vindication of the justice of God in the light of humanity's suffering – it is a rich theological work setting out a variety of perspectives. It has been widely praised for its literary qualities, with Alfred Lord Tennyson calling it "the greatest poem of ancient and modern times".

In the Septuagint Shaddai or El Shaddai was often translated just as "God" or "my God", and in at least one passage (Ezekiel 10:5) it is transliterated ("θεὸς σαδδαΐ"). In other places (such as Job 5:17) it is translated "Almighty" ("παντοκράτωρ"), and this word is used in other translations as well (such as the King James Bible).

Septuagint Greek translation of Hebrew scriptures

The Septuagint is the earliest extant Koine Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. It is estimated that the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah or Pentateuch, were translated in the mid-3rd century BCE and the remaining texts were translated in the 2nd century BCE. The Septuagint was the Koine Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament and was in wide use by the time of Jesus and Paul of Tarsus because most Jews could no longer read Hebrew. For this reason it is quoted more often than the Hebrew Old Testament in the New Testament, particularly in the Pauline epistles, by the Apostolic Fathers, and later by the Greek Church Fathers.

Etymology

The origin and meaning of "Shaddai" are obscure, and a variety of hypotheses have been put forward.

According to Ernst Knauf, "El Shaddai" means "God of the Wilderness" and originally would not have had a doubled "d". He argues that it is a loan-word from "Israelian Hebrew, where the word had a "sh", into "Judaen (and hence, Biblical) Hebrew", where it would have been "śaday" with the sound śin. In this theory, the word is related to the word "śadé" meaning "the (uncultivated) field", the area of hunting (as in the distinction between beasts of the field, חיות השדה, and cattle, בהמות). He points out that the name is found in Thamudic inscriptions (as 'lšdy), in a personal name Śaday`ammī used in Egypt from the Late Bronze Age till Achaemenid times, and even in the Punic name `bdšd' (Servant of Shadé or Shada). [7]

Israelian Hebrew form of BIblical Hebrew proposed to have been spoken in the Kingdom of Israel

Israelian Hebrew is a proposed northern dialect of biblical Hebrew (BH). It is proposed as an explanation for various irregular linguistic features of the Masoretic Text (MT) of the Hebrew Bible. It competes with the alternative explanation that such features are Aramaisms, indicative either of late dates of composition, or of editorial emendations. Although IH is not a new proposal, it only started gaining ground as a challenge to older arguments to late dates for some biblical texts since about a decade before the turn of the 21st century: linguistic variation in the Hebrew Bible might be better explained by synchronic rather than diachronic linguistics, meaning various biblical texts could be significantly older than many 20th century scholars supposed.

Thamudic dialect

Thamudic is a name invented by nineteenth-century scholars for large numbers of inscriptions in Ancient North Arabian (ANA) alphabets which have not yet been properly studied. It does not imply that they were carved by members of the ancient tribe of Thamud. These texts are found over a huge area from southern Syria to Yemen. In 1937, Fred V. Winnett divided those known at the time into five rough categories A, B, C, D, E. In 1951, some 9000 more inscriptions were recorded in south-west Saudi Arabia which have been given the name Southern Thamudic.

Another theory is that Shaddai is a derivation of a Semitic stem that appears in the Akkadian shadû ("mountain") and shaddā`û or shaddû`a ("mountain-dweller"), one of the names of Amurru. This theory was popularized by W. F. Albright [ citation needed ] but was somewhat weakened when it was noticed [ by whom? ] that the doubling of the medial ‘d ’ is first documented only in the Neo-Assyrian period. However, the doubling in Hebrew might possibly be secondary. According to this theory, God is seen as inhabiting a holy mountain, a concept not unknown in ancient West Asian mythology (see El), and also evident in the Syriac Christian writings of Ephrem the Syrian, who places Eden on an inaccessible mountain-top.

The term "El Shaddai" may mean "god of the mountains", referring to the Mesopotamian divine mountain. [8] This could also refer to the Israelite camp's stay at biblical Mount Sinai where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. According to Stephen L. Harris, the term was "one of the patriarchal names for the Mesopotamian tribal god", [8] presumably meaning of the tribe of Abram, although there seems to be no evidence for this outside the Bible. In Exodus 6:3, El Shaddai is identified explicitly with the God of Abraham and with YHWH. [8] The term "El Shaddai" appears chiefly in Genesis.

Shaddai meaning destroyer

The root word "shadad" (שדד) means to plunder, overpower, or make desolate. This would give Shaddai the meaning of "destroyer", representing one of the aspects of God, and in this context it is essentially an epithet. The meaning may go back to an original sense which was "to be strong" as in the Arabic "shadiid" (شديد) "strong", [9] although normally the Arabic letter pronounced "sh" corresponds to the Hebrew letter sin, not to shin. The termination "ai", typically signifying the first person possessive plural, functions as a pluralis excellentiae like other titles for the Hebrew deity, Elohim ("gods") and Adonai ("my lords"). The possessive quality of the termination had lost its sense and become the lexical form of both Shaddai and Adonai, similar to how the connotation of the French word Monsieur changed from "my lord" to being an honorific title. [9] There are a couple verses in the Bible where there seems to be word play with "Shadday" and this root meaning to destroy (the day of Yhwh will come as destruction from Shadday, כשד משדי יבוא, Is. 13:6 and Joel 1:15), but Knauf maintains that this is re-etymologization. [7]

Shaddai as a toponym

It has been speculated that the tell in Syria called Tell eth-Thadeyn ("tell of the two breasts") was called Shaddai in the Amorite language. There was a Bronze-Age city in the region called Tuttul, which means "two breasts" in the Sumerian language. [10] It has been conjectured that El Shaddai was therefore the "God of Shaddai" and that the inclusion of the Abrahamic stories into the Hebrew Bible may have brought the northern name with them (see Documentary hypothesis).

Shaddai in the later Jewish tradition

God that said "enough"

A popular interpretation of the name Shaddai is that it is composed of the Hebrew relative particle she- (Shin plus vowel segol followed by dagesh), or, as in this case, as sha- (Shin plus vowel patach followed by a dagesh). [11] The noun containing the dagesh is the Hebrew word dai meaning "enough, sufficient, sufficiency". [12] This is the same word used in the Passover Haggadah, Dayeinu, which means "It would have been enough for us." The song Dayeinu celebrates the various miracles God performed while liberating the Israelites from Egyptian servitude. [13] The Talmud explains it this way, but says that "Shaddai" stands for "Mi she'Amar Dai L'olamo" (Hebrew: מי שאמר די לעולמו) —"He who said 'Enough' to His world." When he was forming the earth, he stopped the process at a certain point, withholding creation from reaching its full completion, and thus the name embodies God's power to stop creation. The passage appears in the tractate Hagigah 12a [14] and reads:

Resh Laqish said: what is it that is written: I am El Shaddai (Genesis 35:11)? I am he who said to the world “enough!”. Resh Laqish [also] said: in the hour that the Holy, blessed be he, created the sea, it started to expand – until the Holy, blessed be he, reproached it. [Then] it dried out as it was said: He reproaches the sea and makes it dry; and all the rivers makes desolate (Nahum 1:4).

This account has two parallel variants with some minute changes. One appears in Bereshit Rabbah 5:8, where Shaddai stops the world from expanding and in 46:3 where he limits the earth and heavens. What is common to all these instances is the cosmogonic context and the exposition provided by Resh Laqish, who explains the appellation as a compound form consisting of she- and day. These passages have often been exposed in a sophisticated way as indicating the divine plan of drawing the borders between mind and matter, keeping the balance between his right and left hand or as an early manifestation of the kabbalistic idea of tzimtzum . [15] It seems however, that they should rather be approached in their immediate context and in relation to another parallel narrative which comes in BT Sukkah 53 a-b and reads:

When David dug the Pits, the {watery chasm} arose and threatened to submerge the world. David asked: «is there anyone who knows whether it is allowed to inscribe the [divine] name upon a {piece of clay}, and cast it into the {watery chasm} that its waves would subside?" (…) He thereupon inscribed the name upon a {piece of clay}, cast (Aram. שדי) it into the {watery chasm} and it subsided sixteen thousand cubits.

This story has its variants: in Makkot 11a David sees the tehom rising and stops it by means of the name inscribed upon a stone while Bereshit Rabbah 23:7 conveys the tradition that this was the abuse of the tetragram which brought about the flood. [16] If to approach these passages from the structural perspective, it is possible to discern two basic essences engaged in the opposition: the active, dividing agent and passive amorphous matter. Moreover, each of the recalled accounts has strong cosmological undertones, what suggests assuming the comparative perspective. Accordingly, Shaddai limiting the expansionist outburst of the world fits well the pattern of the so-called chaoskampf – an initial divine battle followed by the triumph of the young and vivacious deity, subjugating the hostile, usually aquatic monster and building the palace or creating the cosmos.The mythological traditions of the ancient Near East are full of parallels: Babylonian Marduk and Tiamat, Ugaritic Baal and Yam, Egyptian Ra and Apep, etc. In fact, this rabbinic reiteration should not be surprising at all, given the semantic capacity of this myth. Not only does the Hebrew Bible recall the cosmic battle numerous times, especially in Psalms (e.g. 77:16-17; 89:10) and Prophets (e.g. Isaiah 51:9-10; Ezekiel 32:13) but also plays with this ancient motif reiterating it to convey a specific meaning. Yahveh blowing the waters of the flood in Genesis 8:1 to make place for the new creation or dividing the Sea of Reeds in Exodus 14-15 to let the Hebrews walk to the other side and start a new national existence – all of these may be read as the retellings of the initial cosmogonic conflict. [17]

"El Shaddai" may also be understood as an allusion to the singularity of deity, "El", as opposed to "Elohim" (plural), being sufficient or enough for the early patriarchs of Judaism. To this was later added the Mosaic conception of the tetragrammaton Yhwh, meaning a god who is sufficient in himself, that is, a self-determined eternal being qua being, for whom limited descriptive names cannot apply. This may have been the meaning the Hebrew phrase "ehyeh asher ehyeh" (which translates as "I will be that which I will be") and which is how God describes himself to Moses in Exodus 3:13–15. This phrase can be applied to the tetragrammaton Yhwh, which can be understood as an anagram for the three states of being: past, present and future, conjoined with the conjunctive Hebrew letter vav.[ citation needed ]

There is early support for this interpretation, in that the Septuagint translates "Shadday" in several places as "ὁ ἱκανός", the Sufficient One (for example, Ruth 1:20, 21).

Apotropaic usage of the name "Shaddai"

The name "Shaddai" often appears on the devices such as amulets or dedicatory plaques. [18] [19] [20] More importantly, however, it is associated with the traditional Jewish customs which could be understood as apotropaic: male circumcision, mezuzah and tefillin. The connections of the first one with the name Shaddai are twofold. According to the biblical chronology it is El Shaddai who ordains the custom of circumcision in Genesis 17:1 and, as is apparent in midrash Tanhuma Tzav 14 (cf. a parallel passages in Tazri‘a 5 and Shemini 5) the brit milah itself is the inscription of the part of the name on the body:

The Holy, blessed be he, has put his name on so they would enter the garden of Eden. And what is the name and the seal that he had put on them? It is "Shaddai". [The letter] shin he put in the nose, dalet – on the hand, whereas yod on the {circumcised} [membrum]. Accordingly, {when} goes to {his eternal home} (Ecclesiastes 12:5), there is an angel {appointed} in the garden of Eden who picks up every son of which is circumcised and brings him {there}. And those who are not circumcised? Although there are two letters of the name "Shaddai" present on them, {namely} shin from the nose and dalet from the hand, the yod (…) is {missing}. Therefore it hints at a demon (Heb. shed), which brings him down to Gehenna.

Analogous is the case with mezuzah – a piece of parchment with two passages from the Book of Deuteronomy, curled up in a small encasement and affixed to a doorframe. At least since the Geonic times, the name "Shaddai" is often written on the back of the parchment containing the shema‘ and sometimes also on the casing itself. The name is traditionally interpreted as being an acronym of shomer daltot Yisrael ("the guardian of the doors of Israel") or shomer dirot Yisrael ("the guardian of the dwellings of Israel"). [17] However, this notarikon itself has its source most probably in Zohar Va’ethanan where it explains the meaning of the word Shaddai and connects it to mezuzah. [21]

The name "Shadday" can also be found on tefillin – a set of two black leather boxes strapped to head and arm during the prayers. The binding of particular knots of tefillin is supposed to resemble the shape of the letters: the leather strap of the tefillah shel rosh is knotted at the back of the head thus forming the letter dalet whereas the one that is passed through the tefillah shel yad forms a yod-shaped knot. In addition to this, the box itself is inscribed with the letter shin on two of its sides. [17]

Biblical translations

The Septuagint [22] (and other early translations) sometimes translate "Shaddai" as "(the) Almighty". It is often translated as "God", "my God", or "Lord". However, in the Greek of the Septuagint translation of Psalm 91.1, "Shaddai" is translated as "the god of heaven". [23]

"Almighty" is the translation of "Shaddai" followed by most modern English translations of the Hebrew scriptures, including the popular New International Version [24] and Good News Bible.

The translation team behind the New Jerusalem Bible (N.J.B.) however, maintains that the meaning is uncertain, and that translating "El Shaddai" as "Almighty God" is inaccurate. The N.J.B. leaves it untranslated as "Shaddai", and makes footnote suggestions that it should perhaps be understood as "God of the Mountain" from the Akkadian "shadu", or "God of the open wastes" from the Hebrew "sadeh" and the secondary meaning of the Akkadian word. [25] The translation in the Concordant Old Testament is 'El Who-Suffices' (Genesis 17:1).

Use by Bunyan

God is referred to as "Shaddai" throughout the 1682 Christian allegorical book, The Holy War by John Bunyan.

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References

  1. Albright, William (1935). "The Names Shaddai and Abram". Journal of Biblical Literature. 54: 180.
  2. Biale, David (1982). "The God with Breasts: El Shaddai in the Bible". History of Religions. 21: 244.
  3. The inscription offers only a fragmentary Sh..., Harriet Lutzky, "Ambivalence toward Balaam". Vetus Testamentum 49.3 [July 1999, pp. 421-425] pp 421f.
  4. The word "שדין" appears in the ketiv of Job 19:29, where it is somewhat obscure ("גורו לכם מפני־חרב כי־חמה עונות חרב למען תדעון שדין"). Knauf suggests that this may mean "revenger gods" in his article on Shadday, see reference later.
  5. Harriet Lutzky, "Ambivalence toward Balaam" Vetus Testamentum 49.3 [July 1999, pp. 421-425] p. 421.
  6. J.A. Hackett, "Some observations on the Balaam tradition at Deir 'Alla'" Biblical Archaeology49 (1986), p. 220.
  7. 1 2 Article on Shadday by E.A. Knauf in Karel van der Toorn; Bob Becking; Pieter van der Horst, eds. (1999). Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (2 ed.). pp. 749–753. ASIN   B00RWRAWY8.
  8. 1 2 3 Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
  9. 1 2 "Gesenius' Lexicon (Tregelles' translation)". Blue Letter Bible. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  10. George E. Mendenhall (2001). Ancient Israel's Faith and History: An Introduction to the Bible in Context. p. 264. ISBN   978-0664223137.
  11. A Beginner's Handbook to Biblical Hebrew, John Marks and Virgil Roger, Nashville: Abingdon, 1978 "Relative Pronoun, p.60, par.45
  12. Ben Yehudah's Pocket English-Hebrew/Hebrew-English, New York, NY: Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster Inc., 1964, p. 44
  13. It is understood as such by The Stone Edition of the Chumash (Torah) published by the Orthodox Jewish publisher Art Scroll, editors Rabbi Nosson Scherman/Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications, Ltd. 2nd edition, 1994, cf. Exodus 6:3 commentary p. 319
  14. Talmud , b. Chagigah 12a.1-36
  15. Altshuler, Moshe. "Nishmat Shadday Tvinem".
  16. Isaacson, Moshe. "The Name of God and the Arava".
  17. 1 2 3 Kosior, Wojciech (2016). The Apotropaic Potential of the Name "Shadday" in the Hebrew Bible and the Early Rabbinic Literature. Word in the Cultures of the East sound, language, book. Cracow: Wydawnictwo Libron. pp. 33–51. ISBN   978-83-65705-21-1.
  18. Sabar, Shalom (2009). "Torah and Magic: The Torah Scroll and Its Appurtenances as Magical Objects in Traditional Jewish Culture". European Journal of Jewish Studies. 3: 154–156.
  19. Schniedewind, William Michael (2009). Calling God Names: An Inner-Biblical Approach to the Tetragrammaton. Scriptural Exegesis. The Shapes of Culture and the Religious Imagination. Essays in Honour of Michael Fishbane. Oxford University Press. p. 76.
  20. Trachtenberg, Joshua (1939). Jewish Magic and Superstition. A Study in Folk Religion. New York. p. 148.
  21. Aviezer, Hillel (1997). "Ha-Mezuzah – beyn Mitzvah le-Qamiya". Ma‘aliyot. 19: 229.
  22. Job 5:17, 22:25 (παντοκράτωρ) and 15:25 (Κύριος παντοκράτωρ)
  23. New Jerusalem Bible Standard Edition. London: Dartman, Longman & Todd. 1985. p. 908. ISBN   0-232-51650-2.
  24. Goodrick, Kohlenberger (1990). The NIV Exhaustive Concordance. London: Hodder & Stoughton. p. 1631. ISBN   0-340-53777-9.
  25. New Jerusalem Bible Standard Edition. London: Dartman, Longman & Todd. 1985. p. 35. ISBN   0-232-51650-2.