I monitor a Facebook group called Hebrew Learn E-Vreet. It’s always good when members participate. We had one member talk about the meaning of El-Shaddai. Well, there have been many discussions on this name of God by many scholars and rabbis for hundreds of years.
But you want to know the best way to define a Hebrew word in Biblical Hebrew? See how the Hebrew word is used in the Bible. First, see how it is used in Genesis. Then, in the Torah, and finally, in the Tanakh.
But the most important thing is to let the whole verse, the whole chapter speak to you. The reason we learn Biblical Hebrew is to understand what God is trying to tell us in the Bible. So let’s look at El-Shaddai אל שדי in the first-mention, Genesis 17:1 in the JPS translation:
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine,
the LORD appeared to Abram,
and said unto him:
‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou wholehearted.
El אל is the short for for Elohim אלהים . We cover this in our course, Learn Hebrew from the Bible.
The root verb of El-Shaddai is SDD שדד
The verb is not used in Genesis. It’s not used in the Torah. We don’t see it until Judges. It is used in its negative sense–to destroy. Hebrew verbs can be used negatively or positively. You can use strength for good or bad. Obviously, God uses it for good.
There are no easy answers for the meaning of Shaddai. So let’s focus on what God is trying to tell us in the verse. He’s talking to Abram, before the name change to Abraham. He’s directing Abram to follow Him, follow in His ways, His manner. He asked Abram to be wholehearted. What does that mean? The word in Hebrew is תמים T’MIM and it means integrity, not to be of two minds–be fully engaged.
This is just a quick blog to stir your heart. Read the whole chapter; read the chapters surrounding Genesis 17, giving you context. And that will give you the meaning of אל שדי
By the way feel free to join our Facebook group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/evreet/