Does the Biblical term, El Shadai, mean mountaintop god, or perhaps, The Many Breasted God? I have seen both answers presented as truth claims!

Gen 17:1 (NLT) - When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.

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    It would be helpful if you would give us the source of the claims that El Shadai could mean "mountaintop god" or "the many breasted god".
    – Lesley
    Commented Jan 7 at 16:35
  • I sure wish I had specific sources for these explanations of the deity mosses went to visit on Mount Hebron! Wikipedia, or similar, is my thought, but I have viewed many,many, Jewish reference pages online, also! I will dig into this soon!
    – user61972
    Commented Jan 7 at 17:45
  • The thought of, a many breasted god, appears to be a god whom provides for his clan!
    – user61972
    Commented Jan 7 at 17:49

7 Answers 7



Concerning the name, אֵ֣ל שַׁדַּ֔י, the BHQ gives the following commentary:

17:1 אֵ֣ל שַׁדַּ֔י The etymology and meaning of ‏אל שדי‎ has been a matter of dispute from the very beginning of biblical exegesis (on the many attempts, see Westermann, Genesis, 2:255–56). Ancient Jewish exegesis divides ‏שדי into two parts, ש-די, the latter meaning “enough” (Gen. Rab. 46:3, which quotes Aquila’s translation ἱκανός). This may be the tradition according to which G translates שדי as ἱκανός in some passages (Ruth 1:20, 21; Job 21:15; 31:2; etc.). This is also Rashi’s interpretation of the present passage. In the same spirit, several manuscripts of TSmr render the word as ספוקה, “the provider” (Tal, “Samaritan Targum,” 214–15; DSA, 606). An ancient etymology associates the word with the root šdd, “strength,” producing the rendering omnipotens of V, as well as the explanation given by medieval exegetes: “strong” (Ibn Ezra, Qimḥi). In many cases, G does not translate שדי. Instead, the translator uses a pronoun whose form depends on the speaker. In the present passage it is the first person singular, as it is in 28:3; 43:14; 48:3; and 49:25. In 35:11 the second person pronoun appears, according to the context. See Wevers, Notes on Genesis, 229; Rösel, “Übersetzung der Gottesnamen,” 373–74.

This is, perhaps, both the best and shortest commentary that one could hope for.

We note that the etymology of the word has been debated from the very beginning.

As options for meaning the BHQ commentary gives us:

  • ⲓⲕⲁⲛⲟⲥ = sufficient
  • omnipotens (Vulgate)
  • Strong

So, where does this idea of breasts come into play? Hamilton gives us this commentary:

The one who gives this directive to Abram is El Shaddai. This divine name appears forty-eight times in the OT, most often in Job (31) times, but without the accompanying “El”). On the basis of the LXX translation of this term in Job (always pantokrátōr) and the most frequent Vulg. translation (omnipotens), many modern versions render El Shaddai as “God Almighty.” There have been several attempts to ascertain the etymology of Shaddai. An ancient suggestion sees in šadday the relative particle šᵉ and the adjective day, “sufficient,” thus, “he who is sufficient.” This is reflected in Aquila and Symm. (hikanós). A second suggestion links Shaddai with the verb šāḏaḏ, “to destroy, overpower”; thus “he who destroys, overpowers.” This etymology is surely the source of LXX pantokrátōr. It is also suggested by the wordplay in Isa. 13:6, “the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from Shaddai [šōḏ miššadday] it will come.” Some proposals have geographical features. One connects šadday with śāḏeh, “El of the plain (or the fields, the steppe).”7 Another connects it with a Semitic root ṯdw/y, whose original meaning was “breast” but which later evolved into “mountain.”8 Thus El Shaddai is “El of the mountain” or “the mountain one.” A third, more recent attempt links El Shaddai with bêl sadê, the most common title given to the god Amurru in early Babylonian texts.9 For bêl sadê the most accurate meaning is “Lord of the steppe,” and if the connection with Heb. šadday is sustained, then El Shaddai is “El of the steppe.”10

(Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 462-463.)

Evidently, the so-called "breasts" definition comes a repointing of the word. Cf BDB:

7699 † [שַׁד] n. m. Ho 9:14 female breast;—abs. ‏שָׁ֑ד‎ La 4:3; elsewhere du. ‏שָׁדַיִם‎ Ho 9:14 +, cstr. ‏שְׁדֵי‎ Ez 23:21 +, sf. ‏שָׁדַי‎ Ct 1:13, 8:10, ‏שָׁדַיִךְ 4:5 +, etc.;—breast:

(BDB, s.v. “שׁדה,” 994.)

The inclusion of the yod at the end would then make the word a construct.

Possibilities for proper meaning

How one translates the word largely depends on one's view of the overall coherence of the bible (hence, a hermeneutical decision).

Those who have a high view of the bible take the words as they are used in context throughout the Tanack, concluding that the books within the Hebrew canon have a precedence over those outside the bible.

Those who have a low view of the bible's inspiration and integrity look to how the word is used outside of the bible, concluding that extrabiblical usage is more authoritative.

Probabilities for proper meaning

Even if one did not conclude that the bible had much internal coherence, concluding that שַׁד, "breasts" is the meaning has exceedingly little evidence.

Having said that, though, that does not help us pin down with certainty what the word precisely means. Look at the wide variance in the Versions for this verse:

  • “καὶ ὤφθη κύριος τῷ Αβραμ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεός σου·” (Genesis 17:1 LXX1) (The LXX translates the name as "your God" with no added description)
  • “et dixit illi, Ego sum Deus.” (Genesis 17:1 V-LATINA) (The VL follows the LXX here)
  • “dixitque ad eum ego Deus omnipotens” (Genesis 17:1 VULG-T) (Jerome takes a stab and concludes that it is a name referring to God's omnipotence)
  • ”ܘܐܡ݂ܪ ܠܗ. ܐܢܐ ܐܢܐ ܐܠܫܕܝ ܐܠܗܐ.“ (Genesis 17:1 PESHOT-T) (The Syriac takes a somewhat fascinating choice: "And he said to him, I, I, El-Shadai [am] God." Evidently, they were so reverent and cautious, they didn't even dare to translate it. There are many other examples, when it comes to other names of God, that they have no hesitation to go in a more functional direction. This too makes us wonder about the lexical certainty of the word)

With all of this in mind, it would be wise to be cautious both in arriving at an all-too-cavalier conclusion as to the meaning. Likewise, some leniency should be granted to English translations, who, at the end of the day, have to actually decide to print a word on the page as a translation.

A concluding cautious assertion

The word doesn't appear too much in the OT. But there are a couple of places where its usage might help:

  • ”וָאֵרָ֗א אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֖ב בְּאֵ֣ל שַׁדָּ֑י וּשְׁמִ֣י יְהוָ֔ה לֹ֥א נוֹדַ֖עְתִּי לָהֶֽם׃“ (Exodus 6:3 HMT-W4)

In Exodus 6 there seems to be a connection between this name and the tetragrammaton.

Another useful passage is outside of the Torah:

  • ”וְקוֹל֙ כַּנְפֵ֣י הַכְּרוּבִ֔ים נִשְׁמַ֕ע עַד־הֶחָצֵ֖ר הַחִיצֹנָ֑ה כְּק֥וֹל אֵל־שַׁדַּ֖י בְּדַבְּרֽוֹ׃“ (Ezekiel 10:5 HMT-W4)

Here we have the vision of the Lord's might and splendor.

There are other passages one could make use of. But this should be at least enough here that the passages refer to the Lord in a rarer, more special way. they give emphasis to the Lord's aseity and splendor. While we can clearly say that "breasts" is the least likely option, pressing it too far, saying that "ⲡⲁⲛⲧⲟⲕⲣⲁⲧⲱⲣ" is the only option would be too far as well.

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    Love this and really appreciate you assisting growth in my hermeneutic surrounding the passages about El Shadai! Guess it's just best to listen to Amy Grant sing her pretty tune, about this fascinating character of the ancient texts, and chill some! Thats what I ultimately have decided to do! It's not worth stressing about biblical minutia! Again thanks!
    – user61972
    Commented Jan 9 at 4:29

The name "El-Shaddai" consists of two parts

  • "El" is an abbreviation of Elohim, meaning "God"
  • "Shaddai" means (from BDB) "Almighty" see Gen 49:25, Num 24:16, Ruth 1:20, 21, Job 5:17, 6:14, 8:3, 11:7, 13:3, 21:15, 20, 22:23, 25, 26, 23:16, 24:1, 27:2, 10, 11, etc.

Thus, this title is simply God-Almighty as per, Gen 17:1, 28:3, 35:11, 43:14, 48:3, 49:25, Ex 6:3, etc. That is, this title is used to describe the omnipotence of the LORD God.

Ellicott says this about Gen 17:1 -

El Shaddai. The word is Archaic, but there is no doubt that it means strong so as to overpower. Besides its use in Genesis we find it employed as the name of Deity by Balaam (Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16); by Naomi (Ruth 1:20); and in the Book of Job, where it occurs thirty-one times.


Most Hebrew commentators assume the key word is "Dai" - "די" which means enough, sufficient. "Sh" just means that/which.

For example, Rashi in Genesis quotes the midrash which says that G-d is describing Himself as One whose Godship suffices for all living beings. (No other gods necessary)

Another example is a discussion the Talmud where Reish Lakish says G-d said "Dai!" to tell the world when to stop expanding


Shaddai as a female deity is suggested by the fact that the word for "breast" is the first syllable of Shaddai and Canaanite mythology speaks of twin mountains as holding up the heavens.

As other answers have mentioned, "el" means "god," both in Hebrew and various Canaanite languages. The primary supreme deity of Canaan was called simply "El" often with various epithets such as elyon (on high) or shaddai. Whether these were always merely descriptors of El or also the names of lesser deities is not known. In Jewish and Christian tradition he is God Almighty, the supreme and only deity who manifested in power to His people from Mount Sinai.

The idea that El Shaddai was a female deity is based on the fact that word שַׁד (shad) means breast (Strong's 7699). The Akkadian shadû (mountain) accounts for the association with mountains and possibly breasts as well. In Canaanite mythology, the twin mountains Targhizizi and Tharumagi held the heavenly firmament up above primordial ocean. However, the hypothesis that Shaddai was "She of the Breast/s" is based on linguistics and has no known basis in surviving Canaanite or Mesopotamian literature. El as the supreme male deity of the Canaanite pantheon, however, is well-attested. Finally it should be mentioned that a deity with a practically identical name, bel sad-e, 'lord of the mountain' is known as alternative way of referring to the Amorite high god Amurru.

Shaddai can also mean 'power' (the traditional understanding) and is related as well to 'destruction' (Strong's 7703).

Conclusion: Shaddai is a title implying awesome power applied to the Canaanite high god El and adopted as a way of referring to the God of Israel -"God Almighty." The hypothesis that Shaddai could refer to a female deity is not completely out of the question, but it is speculative with no apparent basis in surviving written records.


After being intrigued by the name אל שדי for a while now I’ve come to think of it in terms of the letters. The Shaddai part, in particular, I think of as Dalet ד, the “poor” person, or one who is in need or ignorant in some way (a “person”) is flanked by Shin ש, the Shekinah, living presence of God on Earth (or world of matter, etc…), and the Yod י, the Heavenly point of creation, God beyond form, thought and feeling. So it’s essential meaning is that Adonai is all around us in every possible way, even when we believe that we are “poor”, alone or needy, etc…

It appears 48 times in the Hebrew Bible, from Genesis to Ezekiel. The Bible refers to “wells” using the term be’er 48 times. There are 48 prophets (wells of Gods wisdom, so to speak). The Hebrew word for Star כוכ, appearing in Bible, has a gematria of 48 as well, which is sort of like a well of heavenly light; so you have “Wells” emanating from above and below!

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    Commented Apr 12 at 13:42

you are identifying things and not correlating, like blooms taxonomy. Let us assume we know not whether EL Shaddai is male or female. We assume EloHim is male, though not relevant yet. If El Shaddai is indeed female, wisely, then a correlation HAD BETTER reference HER, El Shaddai! also in relation: She will be elusive, never seeing her face, holds time in her hand, moves mountains in realty we must find. I assume you can read aloud rev 1.3 and not or do comprehend. if you do not compre3hend it you have read it aloud falsely and go to the lake of fire as a false teacher.

we realize Greeks lost capitalization 1500 years ago and king James a woman hater translated. remember women did not go to heaven then nor now according to some sects like original Mormons (church of christ). Here are examples of finding Her: 1 Third commandment states Honor the father and mother. a. It can be your parent tho not fully because they are fallible Righteously: if we select gods, elohim and elshaddai, it is absolutely correct 2. Proverbs 1 says search for Her, more than anything valuable on earth b. its not wisdom, as wisdom is neither male of female. c. it is not exactly your wife or daughter or mother or ex mother in law (lol) Righteously: choose El Shaddai and she will give wisdom

why this. because a woman stays home and teaches the kids. a baby wisely seeks the breast. the finds dad and family with only knowing the love of mother as nourishing. then baby finds objects to put in its mouth and no nourishment. so this development leads to wisdom and can lead to incorrect values in the babies environment. Mother Mary is an excellent mother. [1] Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. [2] Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) [3] That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

a. a person cannot always honor their earthly parents righteous: solved by 3rd commandment

Rev 12. Mother Mary is not god tho the Catholics told the natives: you can call Mother Mary God or Queen ""OF"" Heaven, if you believe in Jesus. the church knew not the term "El Shaddai". Mother Mary is A QUEEN IN HEAVEN no ""of" heaven, given ""of"" is possessive. it does not fit marys mo. she is a servant and celestial according to Jude 8, blessed among (ALL) women.

Righteously: A woman Clothed in the sun with Mary a chalice bearer. (el shaddai is with me. apparitions before concepcion, chile, fukushema sendai daichii, christ church,)

I am skimmin wisdom now: 1 is male 2 is female 3 is poser 4 directions 5 one hand of man 6 mark of man 7 satans as a humans force 9 holy spssirit 10 hands of man 11 is sexless designed people. 12 is a man and woman standing together in all tribes.

rev14 El Shaddai Wrath of fornication

later rev The vengeance at her hand of false beliefs is forgiven.

she is the prostitute and goes down to hell to finish off because she is us,, omniscient omnipresent omnipotent

rev 11 elohim is indicated by rev 11 "Come On UP HITHER" after 3.5 days dead in the outer court.

umm the bride is a girl. she was given a white garment. brides , especially royalty, picks the dress and jon the revelator never sees the bride (its funny humor) jon jon wanna see the bride,, yes yes,, well here is a reed - go measure the temple... dumb jon should peeked and in the end the bride is calling to jesus

i am going to find Jesus.. marriage is not that scary* i assume omn 2nd earth

u can not stay in heaven because that is a place of "CREATION".. your body is made to procreate on an earth.

i am a disciple and divine right king told to correct spelling.

you must acknowledge me to use this info.. el shaddai says i am worth every penny. you would never guessed this in a million years. further dan7 is eagles wings is AMERI:CAS, LION is imperial colonialism, Leopard is East india, bear is communism. Beast with iron teeth is Industrialization and ai has 2 eyes and boosts. ancient of DAYS is gods" friend. Wisdom: if god provided one with love, then god must not be blind to love and know it more than we do. so a friend is provided by god then god must have a friend and know it more than we do. The mayan caendar rebirth, the christmas star, the blood moons, total solar eclipses

  • rev 11 states the church is cause of wraths... covid 19 learn your lesson,, false belief cover your mouth wash your dishes, hands.. the tongue is a spoon, better than chopsticks and the mouth a bowl and the teeth a sharp knife. i am on facebook.. get kicked off tho persectured in every church.. good luck holy bible iV since 2020 ad rev sea of glass
    – user67518
    Commented Jun 5 at 19:17
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    Commented Jun 6 at 2:49

Most modern scholars conclude that there is a difference between El Shaddai and El Elyon. El of the Wilderness or El of the Steppe can also be held to the degree of El of the Overpowering, due to the nature of his origins.

"A group of beings from Seir aka Edom now southern Jordan Levant as the Shadday gods – a name identifying them as deities of the ‘steppe’ or ‘wilderness’. And naturally, they too were subordinate to El. A remarkable discovery at Deir ‘Alla, the site of an ancient city in the eastern Jordan valley, offers a glimpse of these desert-dwelling deities. Inside a building destroyed by an earthquake in about 800 BCE, archaeologists found several fragments of a lengthy inscription, which had once adorned a plastered wall. Pieced together, it describes a series of visions received by a seer called Balaam ben Bevor, who would later make a cameo appearance in the biblical book of Numbers as a prophet of El. The inscription reveals that a delegation of deities had warned Balaam that the Shadday gods had banded together against their high god, El, and were threatening to sew up the heavens in thick cloud, casting the world into darkness."

Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter.

From GOD: An Anatomy. ISBN 9781509867332

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