God Almighty

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Yahweh appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty. Walk before me, and be blameless.

Genesis 17:1

Although the name shaddai occurs frequently in Scripture, and the name el or elohim even more so, the phrase el shaddai or ‘God Almighty’ occurs only seven times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Nevertheless, it is a name with great significance for the people of God, because it marks a new chapter in the story of God’s dealings with his people. Five of the seven occurences of El Shaddai are found in the book of Genesis, and every time it is used, it is in reference to the blessings that God promised to the family of Abraham:

Gen 28:[3] May God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, that you may be a company of peoples,

Gen 35:[11] God said to him, “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations will be from you, and kings will come out of your body.

Gen 43:[14] May God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release to you your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

Gen 48:[3] Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me,

Note how even God twice refers to himself, in Gen 17:1 and Gen 35:11, as ‘God Almighty’. Evidently, this compund name was now to have a special meaning for the people of God, for the word el appears earlier in Scripture, but the word shaddai is never used in the book of Genesis, apart from the phrase el shaddai.

In the book of Job, the name shaddai, ‘the Almighty’, appears frequently, and often in parallel with the name el, but never together as a phrase. It is not clear from the text exactly when the events in the book of Job take place, but it seems likely that they happened before the calling of Abraham. If so, then the book of Job is a witness that the words el and shaddai were both applied to God from a very early age, but never both words together as a compound title.

Thus, the use of the phrase el shaddai, as a name for God, marks a change in the manifestation of God’s relationship with his people. El Shaddai is the name that God assumed in order to signify his entering into a covenant relationship with Abraham. What is a covenant?

In the ancient world, a covenant was considered to be similar to a contract, but more binding, and also more intimate. Covenants were often enacted with the swearing of an oath:

Gen 26:[28] They said, “We saw plainly that Yahweh was with you. We said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, even between us and you, and let us make a covenant with you,

Eze 17:[13] and he took of the seed royal, and made a covenant with him; he also brought him under an oath, and took away the mighty of the land;

The intimacy of the idea of a covenant is conveyed by the phrase, ‘a covenant of salt’:

Num 18:[19] All the wave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to Yahweh, have I given you, and your sons and your daughters with you, as a portion forever. It is a covenant of salt forever before Yahweh to you and to your seed with you.”

2Ch 13:[5] Ought you not to know that Yahweh, the God of Israel, gave the kingdom over Israel to David forever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?

Salt is a preservative, and so signifies the enduring nature of the covenant. But in the ancient world, it was also considered an important part of a meal, especially a meal that is shared (Mar 9:50). So salt came to signify the fellowship and friendship that comes from sharing a meal:

Ezr 4:[14] Now because we eat the salt of the palace, and it is not appropriate for us to see the king’s dishonor, therefore have we sent and informed the king;

When used in a religious sense, however, a covenant also differs from a contract in that a contract is enacted between two parties by mutual consent, while a covenant is enacted by one party on behalf of the other:

When Scripture speaks of God’s covenant, it does not mean a conditional agreement or contract between two parties; rather, it means a bond of friendship and fellowship that is unilaterally enacted by God. [Gen 15:12-21; Lev 26:44-45; Deu 4:31; Deu 7:6-8; Jdg 2:1; 2Ch 13:5; Psa 89:3; Isa 54:10; Isa 55:5; Heb 6:17-18; Heb 8:10]

Christian Confession of Faith, II.D.1.d

Here are some of the verses that the Confession refers to:

Gen 15:[18] In that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates:

Deu 7:[7] Yahweh didn’t set his love on you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all peoples: [8] but because Yahweh loves you, and because he desires to keep the oath which he swore to your fathers, Yahweh has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Isa 54:[10] For the mountains may depart, and the hills be removed; but my loving kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall my covenant of peace be removed,” says Yahweh who has mercy on you.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated as ‘covenant’ is berith (בּרית – H1285). In the Septuagint, the word berith is almost always translated by the Greek word diatheke (διαθήκη – G1242), and the New Testament continues the usage of diatheke to describe a ‘covenant’. However, the word diatheke also carries the connotation of the word ‘will’ (as in the phrase ‘last will and testament’), and it is in this sense that the author of Hebrews writes that a diatheke must be enacted by the death of the author of it (Heb 9:16-18). In the case of God’s covenant with Man, God enacted it on Man’s behalf, and ratified it by the death of Jesus Christ:

In covenanting with Jesus Christ, God the Father covenanted with all the elect in Jesus Christ, to be their God and to reveal His divine love, mercy, grace, and wisdom to them by saving them through the work of Jesus Christ their Redeemer. [Gen 13:14-16; Gen 17:4-8,19; Deu 4:35; Deu 7:9; 2Sa 23:5; Psa 65:4; Psa 67:2; Psa 105:8-10; Psa 111:9; Psa 132:11; Isa 43:10-12; Isa 55:3-4; Isa 61:6-9; Mat 13:11; Mat 24:22,24,31; Mar 13:20,22,27; Luk 1:68-75; Luk 18:7; Joh 17:2-3; Act 13:48; Rom 8:28-30,33; Rom 9:11-16,23; Rom 11:26-27; Eph 1:4-14; Col 3:12; 2Th 2:13; 2Ti 2:10; Tit 1:1; Heb 6:13-14; Heb 8:6-12; 1Pe 1:1; 1Pe 2:9]

Christian Confession of Faith II.D.1.b

The death of Jesus Christ was so sure and certain to happen, that it sealed and ratified a covenant that had been cut over a thousand years earlier.

In eternity past, God the Father covenanted with God the Son, Jesus Christ, to glorify Himself by saving a particular, elect people, and those only, from the guilt and defilement of sin, by the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. [Psa 89:19-37; Isa 49:5-6; Isa 53:11-12; Luk 22:29; Joh 6:37-40; Joh 10:29; Joh 17:2,9; Gal 3:16-18; 2Ti 1:9]

Christian Confession of Faith II.D.1.a

God’s covenant with Abraham, including the promised blessings and protections (Gen 15:1, Psa 105:8-15), as well as the land and the many descendants God promised to him (Gen 17:6-8, Gen 22:16-18), are all a part of the one covenant God has enacted with his people in the person and work of Jesus Christ. His suffering and death on the Cross ensures and guarantees the infinite, eternal blessings and favor of God towards all of his people (2Sa 23:5, Isa 55:3-4, 2Co 1:20, Eph 1:14).

9 He sent redemption to his folk;
his covenant for aye
He did command: holy his name
and rev’rend is alway.
(Psalm 111, The Psalms of David in Metre)


See Also:

What Did the Work of Christ Accomplish?

IV. Christology – The Doctrine of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ

Election

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