The word “Almighty” is translated from the Hebrew word Shad·daiʹ and the Greek word Pan·to·kraʹtor. Both words evidently convey the idea of strength or power.
The Hebrew Term. In the Hebrew text Shad·daiʹ is used seven times along with ʼEl (God), forming the title “God Almighty.” (Ge 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; Ex 6:3; Eze 10:5) In the other 41 occurrences it stands alone and is translated “the Almighty” or “the Almighty One.” Similar to ʼAdho·naiʹ (Sovereign Lord) and ʼElo·himʹ (God), Shad·daiʹ is in the plural to denote excellence.
The exact derivation of the word Shad·daiʹ is a matter of discussion. The translators of the Septuagint used several Greek words in translating it, but in the book of Job they did employ the word Pan·to·kraʹtor (All Powerful) 16 times for Shad·daiʹ. In a few cases they rendered it by a Greek term (hi·ka·nosʹ) meaning “sufficient” or “fit” (Ru 1:20, 21; Job 21:15; 31:2; 40:2), and later Greek translators such as Aquila and Symmachus followed this interpretation, thereby presenting Shad·daiʹ as the “Sufficient (Fit) One.”
The view of some modern critics is expressed in the comment on Genesis 17:1 in the Catholic translation known as The Jerusalem Bible (ftn b), which states: “The usual translation ‘Almighty God’ is inaccurate; ‘Mou[n]tain God’ is the probable meaning.” Such extreme view, however, is based on an imagined linkage of Shad·daiʹ with the Akkadian term shadu (mountain). Unger’s Bible Dictionary (1965, p. 1000) comments: “This view, however, is unacceptable and Shaddai is best taken from the root shadad [sha·dhadhʹ], ‘to be strong or powerful,’ as in Arabic.”
Sha·dhadhʹ in the Bible text commonly implies violent power, as used in despoiling. (Compare Ps 17:9; Pr 11:3.) Isaiah 13:6 states: “Howl, you people, for the day of Jehovah is near! As a despoiling [keshodhʹ] from the Almighty [mish·Shad·daiʹ] it will come.” While the idea of violent action is basic in the Biblical use of this root word, some scholars suggest that its original sense or primary meaning was simply “be strong” or “act strongly.” The Jewish Encyclopedia (1976, Vol. IX, p. 162) states: “It is possible, however, that the original significance was that of ‘overmastering’ or ‘overpowering strength,’ and that this meaning persists in the divine [title].”
Jehovah used the title “God Almighty” (ʼEl Shad·daiʹ) when making his promise to Abraham concerning the birth of Isaac, a promise requiring that Abraham have great faith in God’s power to carry out that promise. It was thereafter used when God was spoken of as the one who would bless Isaac and Jacob as heirs of the Abrahamic covenant.
In harmony with this, Jehovah could later say to Moses: “I used to appear to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty [beʼElʹ Shad·daiʹ], but as respects my name Jehovah I did not make myself known to them.” (Ex 6:3) This could not mean that the name Jehovah was unknown to these patriarchs, since it was frequently used by them as well as by others before them. (Ge 4:1, 26; 14:22; 27:27; 28:16) In fact, in the book of Genesis, which relates the lives of the patriarchs, the word “Almighty” occurs only 6 times, whereas the personal name Jehovah was written 172 times in the original Hebrew text. Yet, while these patriarchs had come to appreciate by personal experience God’s right to and qualifications for the title of “the Almighty One,” they had not had opportunity to appreciate the full meaning and implications of his personal name, Jehovah. In this regard, The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Vol. 1, p. 572) comments: “The former revelation, to the Patriarchs, concerned promises belonging to a distant future; it supposed that they should be assured that He, Yahweh, was such a God (ʼel) as was competent (one possible meaning of sadday) to fulfill them. The revelation at the bush was greater and more intimate, God’s power and immediate and continuing presence with them being all wrapped up in the familiar name of Yahweh.”
Might implies strength or power to perform and to accomplish a thing purposed, as well as to overcome obstacles or opposition, and Jehovah’s almightiness manifests his irresistible power to accomplish his purpose. At times violent action is presented in connection with God’s title of “the Almighty One,” as at Psalm 68:14, when he ‘scatters abroad the kings’; at Joel 1:15, which describes the “despoiling [shodh] from the Almighty One [mi·Shad·daiʹ]” to come in “the day of Jehovah”; and at Isaiah 13:6, quoted earlier. It also gives assurance of his ability to bless (Ge 49:25) and is a guarantee of security to those trusting in him: “Anyone dwelling in the secret place of the Most High will procure himself lodging under the very shadow of the Almighty One.”
In the book of Job, Shad·daiʹ occurs 31 times, being used by all the characters in the drama there presented. Jehovah’s power to punish or to afflict are set forth (Job 6:4; 27:13-23), so that the ones who say, “What does the Almighty amount to, that we should serve him, and how do we benefit ourselves in that we have come in touch with him?” and who therefore trust in their own power, can expect to drink of “the rage of the Almighty.” (Job 21:15, 16, 20) The Almighty, therefore, merits awe, even dread, since his will cannot be ignored nor his law violated with impunity (Job 6:14; 23:15, 16; 31:1-3), even though the expression of his might is not immediately seen. (Job 24:1-3, 24; compare Ex 9:14-16; Ec 8:11-13.) Yet his power and might are always used in strict accord with justice and righteousness, never in an uncontrolled, wanton, erratic, or irresponsible manner. (Job 34:10, 12; 35:13; 37:23, 24) Hence, there is no just cause for men to contend or find fault with him. (Job 40:2-5) Those practicing righteousness can confidently approach him and enjoy a personal relationship with him. (Job 13:3; 29:4, 5; 31:35-37) As the Creator, he is the Source of life and wisdom.
In the prophecy at Isaiah 9:6 concerning the Messiah, the title “Mighty God” is applied to the promised Prince of Peace. This expression, however, translates the Hebrew ʼEl Gib·bohrʹ, not ʼEl Shad·daiʹ, as in the above scriptures.
The Greek Term. In the Christian Greek Scriptures the word Pan·to·kraʹtor occurs ten times, nine of them in the book of Revelation. The word basically means “Almighty,” or “All Powerful.” Its use in the Christian Greek Scriptures lends weight to the understanding of the Hebrew term Shad·daiʹ as meaning “Almighty One,” since otherwise there would be no corresponding term for Pan·to·kraʹtor in the Hebrew Scriptures.
At 2 Corinthians 6:18 Paul quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures in urging Christians to avoid false worship and the use of lifeless, powerless idols, thus qualifying as children of “the Almighty [Pan·to·kraʹtor].” In view of the apostle’s quotations, it is obvious that the title here applies to Jehovah God.
Similarly, throughout Revelation the title Pan·to·kraʹtor is applied to the Creator and King of Eternity, Jehovah, as in “the song of Moses the slave of God and the song of the Lamb [Jesus Christ],” which acclaims Jehovah God as the one worthy of worship and fear by all nations. (Re 15:3; compare Re 21:22.) The title’s application to Jehovah God is made obvious at Revelation 19:6 by the use of the expression Hallelujah (Praise Jah, you people!). Likewise, the expression “the One who is and who was and who is coming” (Re 1:8; 4:8) clearly points to the God of eternity (Ps 90:2), who not only “was” the Almighty in ancient times but continues to be so and “is coming” as such with an expression of his all-powerfulness. Again violent action is indicated, following his ‘taking his great power’ to rule as king, by the expression of his wrath against the opposing nations at “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Re 11:17, 18; 16:14) His Son, Christ Jesus, “The Word of God,” is shown as expressing this “wrath of God the Almighty” against the nations in his position as king anointed by God. (Re 19:13-16) Yet such mighty expressions of God’s judicial decisions continue to be in full accord with his standards of truth and righteousness.