Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hebraic Concepts #4: God Almighty ('El Shadday)

(Gen 17:1-2 KJV) And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. (2) And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

'el [H410] (noun) Strong, mighty, a mighty one, a hero; (2) might, strength, properly, that which is strong; (3) God. In prose, it is scarcely ever applied to God without some dependent word (or phrase), attribute or name. (see Psalm 50:1 and note below). Whatever things are most excellent, surpassing in their kind, are said to be "of God", as it was customary for men anciently to refer whatever is excellent to God Himself.

(Psa 50:1 KJV) A Psalm of Asaph. The mighty God [el' 'elohiym], even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.

elohiym [H430] (noun) "God, His majesties" (always used in plural form.) The picture behind this word is of a finely cut and many faceted stone. As the stone is rotated, each facet catches the light, revealing previously unseen and beautiful qualities of the stone. When applied to Yahveh, it is a description of the beauty of His infinitely facteted nature that is revealed to us as we live in intimacy with Him. It is the beauty of His Holiness, Righteousness, Mercy, Love, Peace, etc... that we discover as we grow in our relationship with Him.

Because 'El is a noun in Hebrew, and thus its usage should not include the "flower" used in the definition of Hebrew verbs (although some scholars have determined that nouns used to describe Yahveh can include flower because He is perfect and thus every aspect of describing nouns applies), a good English translation of "'El" is "Mighty Hero."

Shadday [H7706] (verb) Most powerful, Almighty (an epithet of Yahweh)

In the Gesenius lexicon, Shadday is connected to the root shadad [H7703] (verb), which means: (1) TO BE STRONG, POWERFUL, used as a verb only in the bad (negative) sense; (2) to act violently with anyone, to oppress, to destroy him, especially by hostile invasion; (3) to lay waste, as a country or cities.

This would make the meaning of 'El Shadday as used in Genesis 17 to be "the violent and oppressive mighty Hero" (conveyed in a negative sense)

However, in the context of Genesis 17, and in other references, including Psalm 91:1, this definition doesn't make sense. Many other notable scholars have investigated the root of Shadday and have connected it to the Hebrew root shad [H7699] (noun), which means "the (female) breast".

The graphic picture behind this root of Shadday is the reason that many scholars have shied away from using it in reference to God (as well as reluctance to connect Him to the female deity of fertility in many cultures in which the breast, or many of such, plays a significant role in its identity and worship.) The picture behind shad is that of a child nursing at its mother's breast securely supported in her arms, receiving nourishment, fruitfulness, strength and life from its very source.

Using this root would render Shadday as "the Almighty" (Giver of strength and life, the Nourisher), which would better fit the context of Abram's life in Genesis 17:1-2, of a 99 year old man to whom Yahveh promised to multiply exceedingly.

The author of Hebrews, referred to Abram in this manner: (Heb 11:12 KJV) Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable., underscoring the value of Abram having intimate understanding of God being the One Who gives life and possesses the power to give offspring to a couple long after the years of childbearing ability have passed.

Compare this definition to the usage of Shadday in Psalm 91:

(Psa 91:1 KJV) He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

Firstly, the "secret place" of the most High refers to "hidden, private, within the vail (as referring to the Most Holy Place within the Tabernacle or Temple), also referring to protection or defense as used in Psalm 91:1" This denotes a place of extreme intimacy with Yahveh, the chamber of consummation shared by a groom and His bride, where the vail was removed and intimate (face to face with no restriction) access enjoyed.

For those who dwell--(1) TO SIT, TO SIT DOWN (used in various applications); (2) to remain, abide (followed by the dative of a person, "to remain for someone" i.q. to expect him; (3) to dwell (in), to inhabit in the secret place of Yahveh also abide beneath the shadow (a roof which affords shade and protection, hence spoken of protection and defense) of Shadday...

If we use the first root of Shadday, this would mean that those who dwell in the intimate place of Yahveh dwell under the shadow of the negatively violent and oppressive God. Again, the context of Psalm 91 doesn't support this definition at all. However, if you include the intimacy of Shadday used in connection to the concept of "the breast", the picture is altogether different. Then, it would be understood that we are to abide under the shade and protection of the nourishing and sustaining breast of Yahveh. To be in that position means that we are safely cradled to His chest, receiving strength and life from the very source.

May you find your strength and nourishment at the breast of Yahveh, 'El Shadday.
Shalom v' shalom!