The 1st reading on the third Sunday in Lent is Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15. It contains the best definition/description/summary of God in the Judeo/Christian tradition—I AM. God also says in this passage, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” But the name of God for these patriarchs was El Shaddai, the Breasted God (Exodus 6:3).
Unfortunately, Bible translations commonly render El Shaddai as "God Almighty," following early influential translations. But "God Almighty" subverts the original meaning, as shown by David Biale in a February 1982 article for the journaal, History of Religions.
blessings of the heavens above,
blessings of the abyss below,
blessings of breasts [shadayim] and womb [rehem]
blessings of fresh grain and blossoms,
blessings of the everlasting mountains,
delights of the eternal hills.
The entire process of birthing has been attributed to the deity. In various passages,
God conceives, is pregnant, writhes in labor pains, brings forth a child, and nurses it.
understandable that the Septuagint and the Vulgate [two influential translations] should render Shaddai as the ‘Almighty.’
October 3, 2013
To speak of God (Ifray) with such terms as “he” and “Father” was totally inconsistent with their grammar and went against their whole notion of the creation (after all had a man ever given birth to a child?).
the blessings of the heavens above,the blessings of the abyss below,the blessings of breasts [shadayim] and womb[rahem]the blessings of fresh grain and blossoms,the blessings of the everlasting mountains,the delights of the eternal hills.**As I research this, I find variant spellings of the Hebrew words.
Yes, El is masculine and the texts suggest a masculine god was envisaged.I cannot find a Hebrew word for goddess, which is not to say there is no such word.El Shaddai might mean ‘breasted god’ and have originally been a name of a female deity, but there is no clear evidence that Israel understood the word in that way. The Hebrew Bible uses it exclusively in the sense of a powerful ‘almighty god’ with no hint of feminine overtones, as far as I can tell.All of this goes along with the fact that even when a distinctly feminine IMAGE of God is present in Hebrew texts, the pronouns and verbs (verbs are ‘gendered’ in Hebrew) are always masculine.It all just makes clear the rock hard androcentrism of the culture and language of the Bible. The better news is in texts like Luke 15:8-10, the woman who images God in Jesus’ parable.
He thinks it possible that Shaddai as “remote, mysterious, and destructive” may have been adopted “because it so thoroughly contradicted the fertility interpretation.” He refers to El Shaddai “as a fertility god—a god with breasts” and writes that Israel must “return to the ‘breast’ of the true God. Apparently he understands well the malign influence of patriarchy because he writes about “a surreptitious sex change.”
This tetragrammaton (four letters) was used because the Israelites avoided saying aloud the holy name out of “superstitious fear,” according to Biale. We do not know what YHWH stands for because ancient Hebrew was written without vowels.