The Name God BEFORE The Age Of Moses…
We are about to embark on a study that is full of ramifications for our day and time. A study that is going to explore some areas of Scripture that many of you have never before heard, let alone considered prophetic. And, it is contained within the final 3 chapters of Genesis.
Joseph received an urgent message that his aged father was very ill; so this ruler of Egypt took his 2 children, born to his Egyptian wife Asenath, and went to see Jacob, Israel. As Jacob, with great effort, props himself up in bed (out of respect for the office his son, Joseph, held as Vizier of Egypt), he recites the Abrahamic covenant (in paraphrase) to Joseph; the terms of this covenant having been taught to him by HIS father Isaac, just as Isaac was taught by HIS father Abraham. And, it is this: the Hebrews will become very numerous; and they will become a “kahal ammim”, a holy convocation of fellow countrymen. And, they will be given the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession.
Verse 3 is the beginning of the recitation of the covenant, and Jacob recounts an earlier part of his life when he speaks of meeting El Shaddai (God) at Luz. Luz is an alternate name for Beth-el…they are one in the same place. Jacob did not call God by the name YHWH…Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh…because as we find out much later, in Exodus, at Mt. Sinai, God had not yet REVEALED His personal name.
Let’s talk about the name God went by BEFORE the age of Moses…El Shaddai. First of all, the meaning of this name has only recently come into better focus. I was taught, as probably most of you were as well, that El Shaddai meant “God Almighty”. Let me emphasize the word TRADITION. There is absolutely no linguistic basis whatsoever to translate El Shaddai as God Almighty.
In fact, the OLDER traditions for exactly what that mysterious name might have meant was generally based on the era and the particular language it was translated into. For instance, the earliest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, called the Septuagint, variously translates El Shaddai as “God”, “All-powerful”, “Heavenly One”, even “Lord”. The first Latin translation makes it to be “Omnipotent”. The Syriac version uses “The Highest” and “the Strong One”.
So, it’s pretty obvious that all of these were primarily guesses. However, more recent scholarship in the field of paleo-linguistics…the study of ancient and/or extinct languages…has started to give us a much more accurate picture of the meaning of some of these obscure words. And, since Hebrew is an offshoot of the Akkadian language, we find that by studying language cognates, we can zero in on some of these definitions.
Shaddai is almost certainly a language cognate of the Akkadian word Shaddu. And, Shaddu means “mountain”. So, El Shaddai likely means “God of the Mountain”. This, of course, fits hand in glove with both the general mindset of men in that ancient era, by which gods generally lived high up in mountains; and with the understanding of the early Hebrews that God did indeed live on a mountain top…Mt. Sinai to be precise.
Then Jacob does something rather astounding; he takes possession of Joseph’s two sons. Israel adopts Joseph’s children. Now, I’ve heard some Christian speakers argue that Jacob adopting these children was nothing unusual; he was simply officially making these Egyptian children into Israelites, by accepting them into the tribe of Israel. That this sort of thing happened among tribes of this time is true; a declaration was usually all that was needed to change the nationality or tribal affiliation of a person.
But, the difference is this: Jacob didn’t just make these children Israelites; he didn’t simply make these boys as equals to the other of his many grandchildren, he put them on par with his 12 sons. Jacob made Ephraim and Manasseh sons, as he says in V5, “…and now your two sons…are mine…. as Reuben and Simeon are”. He made these two Egyptian children not adopted GRANDchildren; he made them as his own children. If we wanted to get technical, starting at this moment, and for a time, it would be fair to say that there were now 14 tribes of Israel: the original 12 plus, now, Ephraim and Manasseh. But, things aren’t always as they appear.
To Be Continued…