De Moor IV:5: Hebrew Names for God: שַׁדַּי/Shaddai

s שַׁדַּי/Shaddai, either from an Arabic word meaning robustness; or from שדד, to lay waste; or from אשד/effusion; or from שד/breast; or rather from די/sufficiency, proceeding from a prefix, denoting either Omnipotence, or Omni-sufficiency. 1. That God is rather thus called from power, others think, who judge that שַׁדַּי/Shaddai is to be derived from שָׁדַד, on account of the Dagesh (ּ) in the ד; not indeed in the sense of laying waste, as used in the Sacred Codex, in favor of which one might believe the paronomasia in Isaiah 13:6[1] and Joel 1:15,[2] שֹׁד מִשַׁדַּי, devastation from Shaddai; but which notion does not sufficiently agree with a great many places in which שַׁדַּי/Shaddai is found: but from the Arabic notion of this Root according to Bochart and Pococke, with MARCKIUS observing in his Commentario in Prophetas minors on Joel 1:15, § XXI, pages 36, 37, in which this or a cognate Root denotes to be powerful, to be strengthened with power, or to give strength, which MICHAELIS[3] also observes in his notes on Joel 1:15; see BOCHART’S Canaan, book II, chapter II, column 706 at the end, and chapter XII, column 743 at the beginning; from which primary notion the secondary notion of laying waste is also able to be derived, because the powerful often abuse their power unto destruction. Thus Ibn Ezra[4] on Genesis 17:1 expounds שַׁדַּי/Shaddai by תַּקִּיף/powerful, and מְנַצֵּחַ/victor, rejecting other explanations. The Dutch Translators also translate it by Omnipotent, but in their Notes they conjoin the notions of Omnipotence and Omni-sufficiency. 2. Just as others prefer to hold this word as a composite of the relative prefix שֶׁ/who, in the place of אֲשֶׁר/who, after which a Dagesh (ּ) is wont to follow, and which is written with a Patach (ַ) in the place of the Segol (ֶ); and of the word דַּי/sufficiency, one sufficient, so that it might denote Him who is sufficient. Thus the Talmudists in Chagiga, folio 12, column 1, in a passage cited by BUXTORF in his Lexico Hebraico and Dissertatione de Nominibus Dei Hebraicis, § 48, מַאי דִּכְתִיב אֲנִי אֵל שַׁדַּי אֲנִי הוּא שֶׁאָמַרְתִּי לְעוֹלַם דַּי, What is this which was written, I am El Shaddai? I am He who said, I am sufficient forever. So also Rabbi Salomon Jarchi on Genesis 17:1,אֲנִי אֵל שַׁדַּי אֲנִי הוּא שֶׁיֵּשׁ דַי בֵּאלָהוּתִי לְכֺל בְּרִיָה, I am El Shaddai, I am He in whom there is a sufficiency through my Deity for every creature. Which Maimonides,[5] More Nebochim, part I, chapter LXIII, and others of the Hebrews also follow; with our LEUSDEN approving, Philologo Hebræo-Græco, Dissertation XXXI, § 12, and also GUSSETIUS, Commentario Linguæ Hebraicæ, page 185b. In which manner Omni-sufficiency, as the broader term, comprehends Omnipotence under itself; yet it is not of altogether the same signification with אֵל/El, with which it is wont to be joined, as it indeed would be, according to the more common derivation of the Name אֵל/ El, if שַׁדַּי/Shaddai also denotes one powerful: but thus אֵל שַׁדַּי, El Shaddai, shall denote the Powerful, and altogether Sufficient God. Over against his derivation DEYLING, Observationibus Sacris, part I, Observation X, § 7, sets among other things that thus the relative would not be needed, because all by itself the little word דַּי signifies the sufficient one: as God is called יְהוָה/Jehovah, not שֶׁיְּהוָֹה, who is Jehovah; גִּבּוֹר, the Mighty, simply, but not שֶׁגִּבּוֹר, who is mighty. 3. We return to the same sense of sufficiency, if, a. we derive שַׁדַּי/Shaddai from שַׁד/breast, sending forth milk, which is the first and principal nourishment in earliest infancy; in view of which שַׁדַּי/ Shaddai shall denote God as nourishing and sustaining all His creatures: in which manner among the Gentiles they were wont to call Ceres the Full-breasted one,[6]


Both double, and full-breasted, is Ceres on account of Iacchus,[7]


in LUCRETIUS’[8] De Rerum Natura, book IV, page m. 552, and to depict her with great breasts, according to ARNOBIUS, book VI adversus Gentes, page 209; because as a nourishing mother she was believed to feed mortals with grain, and to supply food for the same. Or, b. even if we do not trace שַׁדַּי/Shaddai from שַׁד/breast, but from a common root, whence also שַׁד/breast is derived, namely, שָׁדָה, to pour out, to pour out abundantly, which opinion in the Most Illustrious SCHULTENS’ Institutionibus ad Fundamenta Linguæ Hebrææ ad regulam LXXXV, page 201, stands: from the Piel form of which word, more frequently occurring in the writings of the Chaldeans and Syrians, the Name שַׁדַּי/Shaddai will then be formed, and will represent God as the super-abounding fountain of all good: of which the Most Illustrious VRIEMOET does not disapprove, unless there is to be a return to the notion of strength: but the derivation of this name from שַׁד/breast, or די, to be sufficient, with the prefix שֶׁ/who, he judges to be altogether worthless, in his Adnotationibus ad Dicta classica Veteris Testamenti, part 1, chapter III, page 133. Thus BUXTORF had already previously advised, Dissertatione de Nominibus Dei Hebraicis, § 48, Finally, it is able to be derived from שְׁדָא, which is the same as אָשַׁד, to pour, to send forth; because God abundantly pours out strength, virtue, abilities, and influences upon His creatures. From the same Root, but with a different signification, DEYLING, Observationibus Sacris, part I, Observation X, § 10, derives the Name שַׁדַּי/Shaddai, in which passage you will find, “If a determination must be made, I would prefer above the others to lend my support to SEBASTIAN SCHMIDT, who, following Grammatical rules in this Grammatical dispute, derives the word from the root שדה, indeed, an unusual word among the Hebrews, but very well known to the Chaldeo-Syrians, whence also שַׁד/breast has its origin. That root signifies to pour, to pour out, to project, to hurl. In this manner of form it would be דָוַי, and elegantly denote GOD the JAVELIN-THROWER and LIGHTNING-CASTER, in a manner of addressing God not unusual, but long-established, used by the nations of old, no less than the Doctors of the Ancient Church. To this I refer Job 6:4, חִצֵּ֪י שַׁדַּ֡י, the arrows of SHADDAI, of the javelin-throwing GOD, are with me.” I approve the root שדה, but with the signification of a copious effusion, from which also is שַׁד/breast.


But IKEN,[9] in Dissertation I of Dissertationum philologico-theologicarum, which is de Nomine שדי on Genesis 17:1, from a consideration of the context of the passage of Sacred Scripture in which the Name שַׁדַּי/Shaddai occurs, set is opposition that, as the derivation of this Name from שדד, the notion of laying waste, destroying, or from שדה, the notion of pouring, throwing, and the signification of the Name thence derived of Destroyer, or Javelin-thrower, Lightning-caster, does not square with all these passages on the one hand; so also the sense of Sufficiency, or of a bountiful Effusion of Goodness, in the same name does not altogether agree with a fair number of these passages: hence he, following Bochart and others, acquiesces in the derivation of this name from the word שדד in the more common sense, in which it occurs among the Arabs, and signifies to be strong in power and might, whence by a more particular determination the notion of laying waste descends: and he believes that that more general signification of Power is easily accommodated to all the passages in which שַׁדַּי/Shaddai is found, since the infinite Power of God is able to turn unto the hurt, as well as unto the advantage, of His creatures, and He makes use of it to act calamitously, to chasten, to strike with poisonous darts, to disperse, to bring in destructions, as well as to bless, to bring creatures to life or to make them intelligent. Those reasons of IKEN, which almost persuade me, are certainly worthy of serious attention, to learn on this side from SCHULTENS: namely, if any other than the notion of Power could stand in the Name אֵל/El, I supplied such more than the one above, from SCHULTENS himself also: while otherwise, as I advised, the conjunction of these two Names, אֵל שַׁדַּי, El Shaddai, in the Sacred Books appears to hinder, lest both be taken with the same notion of Power.

[1] Isaiah 13:6: “Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty (כְּשֹׁ֖ד מִשַּׁדַּ֥י).”


[2] Joel 1:15: “Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty (וּכְשֹׁ֖ד מִשַׁדַּ֥י) shall it come.”


[3] Johann David Michaelis (1717-1791) was a German biblical scholar and orientalist. He served as Professor at Gottingen from 1746 to 1791.


[4] Abraham Ibn Ezra (c. 1089-1164) was a renowned Spanish Rabbi. Although a universal scholar, at the heart of his work is his commentary on the Hebrew Bible. He commented on the entirety of the Old Testament, and his exegesis manifests a commitment to the literal sense of the text.


[5] Moses Maimonides, or Rambam (1135-1204), is reckoned by many to be the greatest Jewish scholar of his age. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Rabbinic tradition, natural science, and Aristotelian philosophy, Maimonides demonstrates great command and almost equal facility.


[6] Ceres, or Demeter (to the Greeks), is a goddess of agriculture.


[7] Iacchus is variously represented as the son or husband of Ceres.


[8] Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99-c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and Epicurean philosopher. He was a proponent of a materialistic atomism, and thus a critic of religions.


[9] Conrad Iken (1689-1753) was a Reformed theologian and philologist. He served as Professor of Theology at Bremen from 1723 to 1753.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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