Genesis 17:1 El Shaddai, Almighty God, The LORD.
Once again we are introduced to Abram, and what is emphasized yet again is his age, which in fact becomes a marker here for Moses’ account. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, I am Almighty God” (v. 1ab). However, one can tell a lot about what might follow in a given context by the name and change of names for God. This is the first occurrence that we find the phrase and name-“I am Almighty God,” or in the Hebrew “El Shaddai.” “This divine name may signify God’s universal dominion. It occurs frequently in Job, and in the patriarchal narratives, often when the covenant promise of progeny is stressed (28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25).” (NGSB p. 36) However, what is unique here is it’s combination with “I am” to form one of the many ‘I am’ statements in scripture. El Shaddai is speaking for Himself here! Later on Abraham’s seed, Jacob, would also hear an address regarding the promise of nations from the great ‘I am’ ‘El Shaddai’(35:11). The next time we find the LORD addressing anyone as the great ‘I am, El Shaddai’ is in His encounter with Moses (Ex. 6:3).
This encounter with Moses indeed stands out uniquely for the deliberate combination with the typical covenant name for God, that being Yahweh or Jehovah, what the NKJV renders as LORD. In the context of the promises of a mighty deliverance of His people from Pharaoh and the Egyptians to the promised land, God speaks to Moses and first identifies Himself by another ‘I am’ statement, saying “I am the LORD” (6:2a). The LORD then explains to Moses some covenantal salvation history. “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them” (6:3). David would later encourage praise to this One who inhabits the Glory-Cloud (Ps. 68:4, 33-34; 83:18; 91:1). When the LORD says that the Patriarchs did not know Him by the name ‘the LORD’ it does not mean they were not aware of this name, but that to ‘know’ here takes on a unique covenantal significance (v. 3). However, this does not mean that Moses was entering a different covenantal relationship for the LORD says, “I have also established my covenant with them” (v. 4).
The word ‘established’ actually means ‘ratified’, meaning that even before Abram the very same covenant was already in effect, in that case through Noah, and before him Adam, for Noah also had this covenant ‘ratified’ with him (Gen. 9:11). Incidentally, this is another proof that God did in fact initiate the covenant of grace in it’s first administration with Adam after the fall. Furthermore as with the previous administrations, they all have as their focus the redemption not only of a godly seed, but also their task of dominion stewardship in the earth as God’s image bearers, seen here once again in the promise of land (v. 4). That the covenant the LORD would ratify with the people through Moses was the very same covenant is also borne out by the fact that the LORD says that He heard their groaning and “remembered” His covenant (v. 5). So there is a uniqueness in the Mosaic covenant, in that the names of Yahweh and El Shaddai are brought together in it’s administration, but it nevertheless remains essentially an administration of the same covenant of grace, with the very same God as appeared to the patriarchs.
As we go on in covenantal salvation history we even find Balaam moved by God’s Spirit to confess that he had a vision of Shaddai, the Almighty, as he heard the words of El, God, and testified to His special relationship with Israel (Nu. 24:4, 16). It is also remarkable that Naomi also refers to the LORD as the Almighty, making one wonder as to the possible date of the events in the book of Ruth (1:20-21). The numerous occurrences of Shaddai in Job is also remarkable. Then, after the occurrences in the Psalms above, we find the next occurrence of Shaddai with Isaiah 13:6, combined again with the name Yahweh. “Wail, for the day of the LORD is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty.” Ezekial also will hear “the voice of the Almighty” in that unforgettable vision of the Glory-Presence of the very throne of heaven (1:24). Remarkable also is the only other occurrence of the name Shaddai in Ezekial when we come to the infamous occurrence of the glory departing from the temple precincts (10:5). The last of the OT occurrences of Shaddai is found in Joel when he also speaks of “the day of the LORD” (1:15)
Abram was in effect in the Glory-Presence hearing the words of Shaddai from the heavenly throne. When we come to the NT we find Paul declaring that the heart of the covenant, that He would be our God and we His people, finds it’s fulfillment in Christ, following sequentially in line with the last of the OT administrations in the Davidic (II Cor. 6:16-18). There are a number of verses which Paul pulls together here, but the only reference that hearkens back to the themes he addresses and the name of “the LORD Almighty” is the encounter with Moses in Exodus 6. The other occurrences of the Almighty in the NT are found, not surprisingly, it the vision of the Glory-Presence of the throne in heaven, starting with the great ‘I am’ statement of 1:8. “I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” In the book of Revelation we find many of the above themes finally coming together as one. Before the throne the living creatures praise “God Almighty,” echoing the words of 1:8, the Beginning and End of covenantal salvation history.
In 11:17-19 we find the 24 elders, representative of the 12 tribal leaders of the OT and the 12 apostles of the NT, before the throne where the judgment spoken of by Isaiah, Ezekial, and Joel is about to take place. Then we find at 15:3-4 an echo of the song of Moses (Ex. 15; Dt. 32), of the nations of the earth glorifying His name, also just prior to the judgment to come from His heavenly throne room (vv. 5 ff.). At 16:7 a voice also associates His Almighty name with His judgments, and with “that great day” (v. 14). Then the same One who spoke at 1:8 says, “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” (v. 15). This Almighty One is also called “The Word of God” who will come with the armies of heaven from the Glory-Presence of the throne of heaven, also called the “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (19”11-16). It is in fact a name which the Son shares with the Father, a name uniquely associated with the Glory-Presence of the throne of heaven (22:22-23), and it is to this place that all the nations of the earth shall come to give them glory and honour (vv. 24-26).