About the Author(s)

Margaretha J. Kruger Email symbol
School of Ancient Languages, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Kruger, M.J., 2023, ‘Preliminary ideas on a substratum text of Job and the depiction of Šaddāy’, In die Skriflig 57(1), a2967. https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v57i1.2967

Note: Special Collection: Nicholas Allen Festschrift.

Original Research

Preliminary ideas on a substratum text of Job and the depiction of Šaddāy

Margaretha J. Kruger

Received: 10 Apr. 2023; Accepted: 02 Aug. 2023; Published: 02 Nov. 2023

Copyright: © 2023. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The meaning or derivation of the lexeme Šaddāy remains a topic with little to no consensus in modern scholarship. Most studies done on Šaddāy lean strongly on etymological arguments to support whatever derivative is argued for. The result is that the pragmatic role of Šaddāy, in whichever biblical book, is often neglected. In particular, the pragmatic role of Šaddāy in the book of Job has not been adequately examined. With a pragmatic analysis in mind, this article hopes to achieve the following: Firstly, for a review of gaps in the relevant literature, a short overview of studies related to the lexeme Šaddāy will be given, which includes etymological studies, philological studies, religious-historical studies, as well as contextual, and comparative studies. Secondly, a description of substratum text studies will be given, and an analysis of the pragmatic role of Šaddāy in the book of Job. The methods involved for this analysis include linguistic and literary-critical. Lastly, this study will look at how this approach can change our understanding of the possible conceptualisations of Šaddāy.

Contribution: Firstly, this article contributes to the discussion of the pragmatic roles of Šaddāy and other deities that appear in the book of Job. Secondly, this article is also particularly applicable to the interpretation of the nature of the godhead or early pantheon in the substratum text of Job.

Keywords: Conceptualisations of deities; Šaddāy; Material representation; Book of Job; Nature of the godhead; pragmatic roles of Šaddāy.


The name Šaddāy occurs only 48 times in the entire Old Testament (OT). It appears nine times in the Pentateuch, six of which occur in Genesis, 1 once in Exodus, 2 and twice in Numbers. 3 Of the occurrences in the Pentateuch, six are in the compound form אֵל שַׁדָּי,4 and three in the simple or canonical form שַׁדָּי.5 Šaddāy appears 35 times in the writings, all of which are in the simple form, 31 of which is in Job,6 twice in the Psalms,7 and twice in Ruth.8 Lastly, the name occurs four times in the Prophets, twice in Ezekiel,9 once in Isaiah,10 and once more in Joel. All the occurrences in the Prophets are in the simple form, except for one in Ezekiel.11 Although the meaning of the name Šaddāy has been thoroughly researched and debated, as can be seen below, most reputable translations continue to translate Šaddāy as ‘the Almighty’.

Literature review

The ‘Almighty’ translation likely stems from the Septuagint (LXX) Pantocrator (παντοκράτωρ), which refers to ‘all-powerful/ruler over all’ (Job 5:17; 8:5; 11:7; 15:25; 22:15, 17; 23:16; 27:2, 11, 13; 32:8; 33:4; 34:10, 12; 35:13). This translation of the LXX was echoed by the use of omnipotens (‘all-powerful’) in the Vulgate, translated by St. Jerome. Certain passages (Rt 1:21-22; Job 21:15; 31:2; 40:2) of the LXX, along with Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, also translate the lexeme Šaddāy as ἱκανός [‘the sufficient one’]; (Albright, 1935:180). While most forms of Ēl-Šaddāy in the Hebrew Bible are translated in the LXX as θεός or even κύριος, in the cases where Šaddāy is found without Ēl/Ĕlôah (Gn 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; Ex 6:3; Ezk 10:5). The Peshitta also varies in how Šaddāy is translated. Mushayabasa (2010:20) counts seven to nine different ways in which the divine name is rendered. Often the Peshitta translator simply transliterates the divine name or translates the name as ‘the one who is sufficient’, or ‘the strong or mighty one’, as well as several other forms that can be simply translated as ‘God’. In many cases, these translations are theologically motivated, where the translators specifically wished to distance themselves from mysticism spirituality that existed around the name Šaddāy.12

Biblical commentaries do not always mention the difficulties surrounding the etymology of Šaddāy, but the few that do, will be discussed together with the leading hypotheses related to etymology, contextual studies, et cetera.13 Some notable contributors to the history of interpretation limited themselves to comparative analysis within biblical Hebrew only. Calvin (1852:126), for instance, mentions the controversy around the meaning of Šaddāy and concludes that the name appears to be a compound word from אֲשֶר (ʾăšer), the relative pronoun in Hebrew, which is often shortened to שׁ (š) (BDB:253), and די (d̲y) (BDB:523), meaning ‘sufficiency’ or ‘He who abounds with all good things’.

Oehler (1883:90–91) believes that Šaddāy should not be understood as a compound word; rather he suggests the translation ‘to be strong’ or ‘to show oneself superior’, from the root שד (šd̲). From this derives the root שדד (š-d̲-d̲), meaning ‘to destroy’ or ‘to terrify’. This hypothesis of Oehler (1883) is considered one of the oldest interpretations, and is defended by, for instance, König (1895:118–119) in his Lehrgebäude. This view is still supported by Mack (1995) in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, because the god is characterised by his acts of terrible destruction.

It became standard practice to discuss possible comparative Semitic philological counterparts. One popular perspective relates the etymology to Akkadian roots. The most prominent view in this regard suggests that Šaddāy originated from the Akkadian (AKK) root šd, also šadu/šaddu, which has the semantic potential of ‘mountain’, thus making Šaddāy ‘the One of the mountains’ (Albright 1935). This view is also supported by Cross (1997:55) and Day (2002:32–34).

Others, with reference to Ugaritic, as in the well-known commentary of Habel (1985), note that the etymology of the deity was probably not essential to the author of Job. Instead, the author purposefully employs the names Ēl and Šaddāy because these names are typical of the patriarchal era. This is also the opinion of Hartley (1988:123), who suggests it is utilised to contribute to the patriarchal milieu in which the literary piece is set.14 Šaddāy is compared by Walton et al. (2012:498) to the ‘reverser of fortunes’, the Canaanite deity Resheph. This analogy is made for a number of reasons; the most prominent of which is the similarity between Šaddāy (Job 6:4) and Resheph in their associations with arrows and with harm doing. This is demonstrated repeatedly in the case of Šaddāy in the book of Job, and the Amarna letters bear witness to Resheph’s propensity for dispersing diseases with his arrows (Van der Toorn et al. 1999:701).

Combining Akkadian and Ugaritic frameworks, Lutzky (1998:24–25) suggests that Šaddāy could be an epithet for the goddess Asherah. This hypothesis builds on the ‘god of the mountain’ theory put forth and supported by Albright (1935:180), but emphasises that the word šad also refers to the female breast, which is also from where the Hebrew root שדה (š-d̲-h), meaning ‘to pour out/forth’, derives.15 The connotation with breasts probably developed only later in Hebrew, because of obvious reasons, since the connotation with breasts are not found in The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (CAD) either. In any case, Lutzky (1998:24-25) introduces the deity named ‘one of the breasts’, which she then theorises to be an epithet of the goddess Asherah. Her argument for this seems to be that the terms šadayim and reḥem ‘breast-and-womb’ form a fixed pair,16 that read ‘as a mythologized allusion to one goddess’ (Lutzky, 1998:24–25).

Lewis (2020:101) agrees that when focusing on etymology, scholars rarely give attention to the deity itself. He concludes that Job’s Šaddāy is not a fictitious literary character from the exilic period, but that the character should rather be seen as a remnant of ancient lore (Lewis 2020:107–108). This is possibly a start in the right direction, but it is still clear that there is a gap in the research regarding Šaddāy and the pragmatic role of the deity in the book of Job.

The research assumptions and design of the present study

A composite text with a history

This article builds forth on the view that the Job narrative developed from oral tradition into a text. There are a number of arguments that support this, or at least argue that there are a few redactional layers to the text. The most prominent on the topic of editorial and redaction history being the work of Witte (1994) and Nõmmik (2010). Witte (1994) was able to demonstrate in the so-called third cycle of speeches that, within the composition, a distinction can be made between a version emphasising lowliness, majesty, and justice. His decisive finding shows that Job 4:12–21; 15:11–16, and 25:1–6 belong to the version emphasising lowliness, and after chapter 22, there are no traces of the original friend’s speeches. His work was later used and adapted by Kaiser (1994) for a redactional historical outline. The most important work being done on the editorial history of the book of Job, is by Nõmmik (2010) who use a colometric method, which follows form-critical principles and can be meaningfully employed together with redaction criticism, in order to look at the original form of the friend’s speeches in Job.

There is a well-established understanding that the prologue (Job 1–2), the Elihu speeches (Job 32–37), as well as the epilogue (Job 42:7–17) were later additions to the text that serve as commentary on the existing chapters.17 This is, however, not to create the impression that the other chapters did not continue to experience editorial growth. The prologue is also written in classical Hebrew, while the dialogues are filled with archaisms and Aramaic roots. The prologue mostly uses the names of YHWH and Satan, while the dialogues prefer the names of Ēl, Ĕlôah, and Šaddāy. Satan is also solely responsible for Job’s disasters. It is also widely accepted that what was long understood to be only different names used for God (YHWH, Ēl, Ĕlôah, Šaddāy), probably refer to an early pantheon that over time developed into a ‘monotheistic-ish’ Israelite religion.

A similar idea is also argued for by Spiegel (1945:323) that remnants of a variant story of an older version of the legend can still be found in Job, specifically in the last chapter. Spiegel (1945:325) suggests that in older versions of the tale, Satan was not yet considered to be responsible for the havoc wreaked on Job and his family, as is seen in Job 42:11: ‘all the evil the Lord brought upon Job’. A similar case is found in Job 1:5 and Job 1:13; these two verses seem to follow each other, whereas if Job 1:12 and Job 1:13 are read together, one might think that the sons and daughters of Satan were having a feast. The ambiguity even warrants a clarification by the Septuagint translator of Job 1:13: ‘Job’s sons and daughters’ (οἱ υἱοὶ Ιωβ καὶ αἱ θυγατέρες αὐτοῦ). Another scholar, Alt (1937:265), argues that Job 42:12–17 originally followed Job 1. The main reason for his argument is simply that it does not make sense for Job’s friends to bring ‘a coin and an earring’ after God reinstated the position of Job and doubled his wealth. Then there is also the contentious case of different narratives in Job 42:7–8, where God reprimands Eliphaz and his friends for not speaking the truth about him or Job. He reprimands the friends for their misguided conceptions, and praises Job for his correct theology. This seems to be inconsistent with the whirlwind speeches, where God reprimands Job for speaking untruthfully of God. It should be noted that some scholars, like Frankel (2012:22–29), argue for literary and theological coherence throughout Job, even though the textual evidence on its own makes his argument seem like a far reach.

The personality of the character of Job differs between the prologue and the speeches (Hoffman 1981:162–163). At first, he is obedient, submissive, and almost stoic, as he accepts his lot. In the latter, he criticises God and openly disapproves of God’s judgement as righteous and moral creator. There is also the problem of the representation of God in the prologues and in the dialogues. The prologue depicts God as anthropomorphic and even earthly in the way they are tempted by Satan, even gambling with him, bargaining for the piety of his servant. The speeches portray a more abstract being, transcendental and mystic.

Based on an overview of the different perspectives, it would seem that most scholars on the topic of how the Masoretic Job text should be understood, follow one of five views, most of which hold that the Masoretic Job text we have today had been somewhat edited. The most prominent views are laid out by Cho (2014:231): (1) The dialogues and the prose were written by one author and the entire book is a coherent whole. (2) The speeches were composed before the prose, and the prose was moulded to fit the former. (3) The speeches and the prose were written independently and were later put together by an editor. (4) The prose frame is an ancient folktale which was the point of departure for the author to use in his more poetic speeches on the topic of suffering. (5) The author of the poetic speeches separated and then expanded on the older prose tale (1:1–22; 42:11–17) to better frame the dialogue.

A possible Akkadian substratum

This article is explorative in nature and will refrain from making judgements not ready to be made but will rather present some ideas necessary to reflect on, if this study were ever to be continued, if more or new information were ever made available. The next paragraph will expand on how a more nuanced substratum text theory can clarify how Šaddāy is conceptualised in biblical texts.

Even though numbers (2) to (5) laid out by Cho (2014:231) propose a text in development, they do not fully explore to what extent the text is probably the remains of layers upon layers of a patchwork text. Suggesting that the Masoretic Job text could be, for example an ancient Near Eastern folktale substratum text, wrapped in an Israelite cloth. It is already famously difficult to identify divine characters from iconographic sources, and to link them to deities only known through written sources. This is going to be made even more difficult with the conclusion of this article, which is that the deity in Job might be different conceptualisations of Šaddāy that could have been amalgamated with the editing and composing of the Job text. Even if it is not three different Šaddāyiem, at least we know it is not the already amalgamated Šaddāy found in the rest of the Old Testament. At a certain point, Šaddāy was considered to be the Pursuer, the Reprover, or the Blessing Mother, as some have suggested. This analysis is made easier, as Šaddāy is represented much more anthropomorphically than Ēl or Ĕlôah.

The contribution of the present study

In short, the research question presented is as follows: How might a novel description of the pragmatic role of Šaddāy look?

In order to answer the research question, the methods involved, include linguistic, literary-critical. The above methods will be employed to look at, with which Hebrew words (verbs, name, adjective, etc.) is Šaddāy explicitly found in Job (and what translation challenges does this present). Some of the differences between Šaddāy and Ēl will be discussed. What is implied about Šaddāy in the verse following the name in which the name appeared, is also investigated. Lastly, it is analysed in which ways Šaddāy in Job correlates and contrasts with itself, and whether Šaddāy is coherent and with certain concepts such as ṣed̲eq and mišpāṭ, which is also important for this study. The following section will include the following topics: The depiction of Šaddāy in the book of Job, and its possible influence on interpretations of material representations.

The many dimensions of Šaddāy in Job

Šaddāy who reproves

The first representation of Šaddāy is associated with upholding judgement; this seems to include the following cluster of concepts or semantic frame: Chastening, judging, and disregard for the wicked. The role of the reprover can be seen summarised in the following verses: Šaddāy chastens מוֹסָר (môsār) in Job 5:17; Šaddāy does not pervert √עות (ʿ-w-t̲) justice in Job 8:3 and 35:13, Šaddāy does not do anything for √פעל (p̲-ʿ-l) and disregards √שׁור (š-w-r) the wicked in Job 22:17 and 35:13; oppressors inherit a heritage נַחֲלָה (naḥălāh) from Šaddāy in Job 27:13 and 31:2; Šaddāy is great in power כֹּחַ (kōaḥ) and judgement מִשְׁפָּט (mišpāṭ) in Job 37:23; Šaddāy will not violate √ענה (ʿ-n-h) justice צְדָקָה (ṣəd̲āqāh) in Job 37:23; and lastly, Šaddāy is the reprover יִסּוֹר (yissôr) in Job 40:2.

The first mention of Šaddāy, Job 5:17, shows the role of the deity in chastening by the use of מוֹסָר (môsār), from the root √יסר (y-s-r) meaning ‘to discipline, chasten, admonish’.18 This is echoed again in the last verse, where Šaddāy is mentioned in Job 40:2 when Šaddāy asks Job if a reprover יִסּוֹר (yissôr)19 shall contend with Šaddāy. This rhetorical question implies that Šaddāy fulfils the role of the reprover or faultfinder and cannot be competed within this domain. This is echoed again in Job 37:23, with the saying that Šaddāy is great in power כֹּחַ (kōaḥ)20 and judgement מִשְׁפָּ֑ט (mišpāṭ). The rhetorical question in Job 21:15 suggests that a person can profit √יעל (y-ʿ-l)21 by serving √עבד (ʿ-b̲-d̲)22 Šaddāy. Again, as in Job 8:3, Šaddāy is associated with wanting justice צֶֽדֶק (ṣed̲eq). The wicked asks Ēl to turn away from them in Job 22:17, because they do not want his wisdom and, in turn, Šaddāy cannot do √פעל (p̲-ʿ-l)23 anything for them and he disregards √שׁור (š-w-r)24 them, because he does not protect the wicked. Šaddāy does not regard √שׁור (š-w-r)25 the calls of the wicked. Lastly, in Job 27:13, it is seen that Ēl assigns the portion or tract חֵ֫לֶק (ḥēleq)26 of a person, but it is Šaddāy who hands the heritage נַחֲלָה (naḥălāh)27 out or gives it out √לקח (l-q-ḥ)28 to oppressors.

Šaddāy who blesses

Almost as often as Šaddāy chastens or pursues, Šaddāy also blesses. In the book of Job, the following verses and words are associated with Šaddāy that blesses: Šaddāy builds up √בנה (b̲-n-h) the righteous in Job 22:23; the righteous delight √ענג (ʿ-n-g̲) in Šaddāy in Job 22:26 and Job 27:10; Šaddāy is silver כֶּ֫סֶף (kesep̲) and precious ore בֶּ֫צֶר (beṣer) to the righteous in Job 22:25; Šaddāy gives a child נַ֫עַר (naʿar) in Job 29:5; Šaddāy gives life חָיָה (ḥāyāh) in Job 33:4; and lastly, serving √עבד (ʿ-b̲-d̲) Šaddāy profits √יעל (y-ʿ-l) a person in Job 21:15.

When Ēl is used together with Šaddāy, it shows the difference in the function of the deities: while Šaddāy reaches into the human realm and blesses, Ēl advises and gives instruction. In Job 22:23, Šaddāy builds up √בנה (b̲-n-h)29 those who return to him; in other words, those who turn from evil. On the other hand, Ēl/Ĕlôah gives peace √שׁלם (š-l-m)30 and his words teach the law תּוֹרָ֑ה (twōrāh). Ĕlôah is used with Šaddāy again in Job 22:25-26, the blessings of Šaddāy are again material, as seen in the use of words like precious ore בֶּ֫צֶר (beṣer)31 and silver כֶּ֫סֶף (kesep̲)32, while the blessing of Ĕlôah is insight, which is implied by lifting √נשׂא (n-ś-ʾ)33 one’s face up to him. Šaddāy’s association with blessing man with life חָיָה (ḥāyāh)34 and children נַ֫עַר (naʿar)35 can be seen in Job 29:5 and 33:4b. But Ĕlôah’s blessings are again of a more abstract nature, as seen in Job 29:4.

Šaddāy as the pursuer or hunter has been noted by a few scholars. In the book of Job, the following verses and words are associated with Šaddāy as the pursuer: Šaddāy attacks with poisonous חֵמָה (ḥēmāh) arrows חֵ֫צִי (ḥēṣî) in Job 6:4; Šaddāy causes destruction כִּיד (kîd̲) in Job 21:20; Šaddāy is wrathful חֵמָה (ḥēmāh) in Job 27:2; Šaddāy makes the soul נֶ֫פֶשׁ (nep̲eš) bitter √מרר (m-r-r) in Job 27:2; Šaddāy should be feared יִרְאָה (yirʾāh); Šaddāy terrifies √בהל (b̲-h-l) in Job 23:16 and Job 6:14; oppressors inherit an awful heritage נַחֲלָה (naḥălāh) from Šaddāy in Job 27:13 and Job 31:2.

Šaddāy who pursues

All the verses under this category were classified as such because they show the act of Šaddāy as the pursuer but are not connected to the immediate context of justice, as seen in the category of Šaddāy who chastens. The present category shows how Šaddāy attacks not only with weapons (the poisonous arrows), but attacks also directly the נֶ֫פֶשׁ (nep̲eš)36 of man. It is suggested that the fear of Šaddāy is something that should not be forsaken, specifically because of previous verses describing the wrath of Šaddāy. On the other hand, Šaddāy attacks directly, it is clear that Ĕlôah rather arranges terrors or decides a person’s lot, but it is left to Šaddāy to do the actual work of punishing. This can be seen where the terms Ēl/Ĕlôah is used with Šaddāy in Job 6:4, Job 21:19–20, Job 23:16, and Job 27:2. Job 6:4 gives the idea that it is Ĕlôah whose terrors בִּעוּתִים (biʿût̲îm) are arranged or set in order √ערך (ʿ-r-k̲)37 against Job, but it is the poisonous arrows חֵ֫צִי (ḥēṣî)38 of Šaddāy that pierces him. Ēl is far removed: this is reiterated in Job 21:19–20 where Ĕlôah stores up √צפן (ṣ-p̲-n)39 iniquity, while the wrath and destruction of Šaddāy can be known √ידע (y-d̲- ʿ)40 and the fear יִרְאָה (yirʾāh)41 can be felt. In Job 27:2, Ēl assigns the portion or tract חֵ֫לֶק (ḥēleq)42 of a person, and it is Šaddāy who hands it out or gives it √לקח (l-q-ḥ). Ēl makes man’s heart soft or penetrable √רכך (r-k̲-k̲)43 and again Šaddāy is the one who disturbs the heart or hastens √בהל (b̲-h-l) the heartbeat.44 Many of the above statements were often reiterated throughout the different categories, but this strengthens the argument, showing where conceptual blending or semantic harmonisation could have taken place.

Šaddāy in material representations

Lastly, this study suggests that the above categories could help us to rethink the role of the deity Šaddāy and specifically how the Šaddāy of the book of Job gives clues on how Šaddāy could have been represented in material culture.

This article recognises that there could be significant synchronic and diachronic differences between the conceptualisations used by the various textual units in Job, as the Masoretic text underwent through multiple hands, to reach its current state. Thus, it should be noted that this article bases the final pragmatic base not merely on a collection of features that look similar, but on underlying conceptual structures that link to cognitive foundations. The echoes of an early substratum text can still be seen in the Masoretic Job when analysing the pragmatic role of Šaddāy. To adequately understand the concept of ‘Šaddāy’ as it was used in the book of Job, it is essential to be able to distinguish the main domains that could be activated by the use of the term, as well as to understand the less prototypical configurations of those domains.

At this point, it might be argued that Šaddāy is associated with upholding מִשְׁפָּט (mišpāṭ). This is seen in Job directly from the text itself. The relationship is best described in Job 22:3:

Job 22:3

הַחֵפֶץ לְשַׁדַּי כִּי תִצְדָּק וְאִם בֶּצַע כִּי תַתֵּם דְּרָכֶיךָ

Haḥēp̲eṣ ləŠaddāy kî t̲iṣdāq wəʾim beṣaʿ kî t̲attēm dərāk̲êk̲ā

[Does Šaddāy want that you will be just, or does he gain something that you make your ways blameless?]

Šaddāy is concerned with the ways of people מִשְׁפָּט (mišpāṭ) and not with צֶדֶק (ṣed̲eq).45 It seems as if צֶדֶק (ṣed̲eq) is the principle to which מִשְׁפָּט (mišpāṭ) conduct should adhere (as seen in Psalm 119:160); for this reason, it is mentioned a few times in Job that Šaddāy will not violate or mishandle √ענה (ʿ-n-h) צֶדֶק (ṣed̲eq), but he is great in judgement מִשְׁפָּט (mišpāṭ), as is seen in Job 37:23. Again in Job 8:3, it is asked if Šaddāy would subvert צֶדֶק (ṣed̲eq), or if Ēl/Ĕlôah would subvert מִשְׁפָּט (mišpāṭ); this implies that מִשְׁפָּט (mišpāṭ) is the domain of Šaddāy and צֶדֶק (ṣed̲eq) is the domain of Ēl/Ĕlôah, showing that they do not interfere with the other’s role. It can be argued that Ēl/Ĕlôah perpetuates צֶדֶק (ṣed̲eq), but Šaddāy upholds מִשְׁפָּט (mišpāṭ).

The argument made above is important for understanding the depiction of Šaddāy in material representation for two reasons: Firstly, the association of Šaddāy with the concept of mišpāṭ immediately connects Šaddāy to what is known as cultic objects that are inherently connected to the domain of mišpāṭ and the execution thereof. McClellan (2022:2) worked on the cultic objects of YHWH and shows how these objects can prompt the viewer’s mind to think of that deity as well as other deeds, qualities, or relationships linked with them. Secondly, the above analysis can also be a useful tool determining the literary use of the name Šaddāy, when used in other biblical books. The next paragraph will offer a few preliminary ideas on the literary usage of Šaddāy in the other biblical books.

An excursion on Šaddāy in the rest of the Old Testament, is an important addition to the argument made. It seems as if Šaddāy is used in other biblical books in four ways: (1) The compound Ēl-Šaddāy is used by an editor of the text to merge existing deities. (2) The author is just representing the deity as they were seen after already merging, as in Exodus 6:3; Ezekiel 10:5; and Genesis 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3. (3) Šaddāy is used in the Pentateuch by the author or authors for their fertility blessings, well represented in most of Genesis as well as in Numbers 24:4, 16. (4) Šaddāy is used by an author because of the deity’s association with the God of the wilderness (lack of order, absence of society), which is seen in the Psalms as well as in the paronomasia in Joel 1:5 and Isaiah 13:6.


Despite all the valuable research on Šaddāy, and specifically Šaddāy in Job, there are still certain questions that are not nearly investigated enough. This article gives an overview of how Šaddāy has been translated and how the leading etymological studies, biblical commentators over the years, and other comparative and philological studies, have attempted to explain the word and deity. It was argued that by viewing the book of Job as a composite text with a history of development, it can be useful when trying to understand the pragmatic role of Šaddāy.

Along with a substratum text theory of how the Šaddāy of Job could have come to be, and how the pragmatic role of Šaddāy is represented in the text, there are quite a few things to be kept in mind when analysing material representations of Šaddāy. The first would be how Šaddāy is depicted in Job when it comes to their pragmatic role. The connection with Šaddāy to the concept of mišpāṭ, has not been made up until now. Therefore, this could have a reasonable impact on the identification of the deity in material culture. Secondly, how Šaddāy is depicted in the Old Testament vs. how Šaddāy is depicted in the book of Job, can offer valuable insights on the literary use of the character of Šaddāy and their role in a text, considering the pragmatic domains connected to them in a substratum text of Job.

Only about 65% of all cases of Šaddāy in the Hebrew Bible were discussed in this study. There are still contextual-literary studies to be done on Šaddāy in the Pentateuch (Gn, Ex, Nm), other writings (Rt and Ps), and in the Prophets (Ezk, Is, Jl). It is also necessary to consider what Akkadian literature can offer scholars when considering the questions above. The questions posed above, can also be useful when trying to piece together a substratum version of the book of Job. Ultimately, this research should be understood as experimenting with different possibilities, which can lead to interesting findings, corroborating a particular perspective on the assumption that the possible background might be correct.


The commentary of Prof. Jaco Gericke as well as Dr At Lamprecht should be acknowledged.

Competing interests

The author declares that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced her in writing this article.

Author’s contributions

The author, M.J.K., declared sole authorship of this article.

Ethical considerations

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the author.

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, M.J.K., and are the product of professional research. It does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated institution, funder, agency, or that of the publisher. The author, M.J.K. is responsible for this article’s findings, and content.


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1. Genesis 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25.

2. Exodus 6:3.

3. Numbers 24:4,16.

4. Genesis 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; Exodus 6:3.

5. Numbers 24:4,16; Genesis 49:25.

6. Job 5:17; 6:4, 14; 8:3, 5; 11:7; 13:3; 15:25; 21:15, 20; 22:3, 17, 23, 25, 26; 23:16; 24:1; 27:2, 10, 11, 13; 29:5; 31:2, 35; 32:8; 33:4; 34:10, 12; 35:13; 37:23; 40:2.

7. Psalms 68:14; 91:1.

8. Ruth 1:20, 21.

9. Ezekiel 1:24; 10:5.

10. Isaiah 13:6.

11. Joel 1:15.

12. Cf. Wolfson (1987) for a fascinating read on circumcision, the name Šaddāy, and cutting divine names into infant boys.

13. Newsom (2009) and Fokkelman (2012) reflect the several names of god in all of their translations.

14. Clines (1989:276–277) is unsure about the meaning of Šaddāy and prefers to translate it as ‘the Almighty’, because he did not believe that etymology alone can point us to the meaning of the name, despite agreeing that the author of Job hoped ‘to preserve the patriarchal atmosphere’.

15. Cf. Layton (1990:28); Canney (1922).

16. Cf. O’Connor (1980:178).

17. Cf. Sarna (1957) and McCabe (1997).

18. ‘To discipline, chasten, admonish’ (BDB:1026).

19. ‘One who reproves, fault-finder’ (BDB:1026).

20. ‘Strength, power’ (BDB:1146).

21. ‘To gain profit, benefit’ (BDB:1032).

22. ‘To work, serve’ (BDB:1720).

23. ‘To do, make’ (BDB:1983).

24. ‘To behold, regard’ (BDB:2439).

25. ‘To behold, regards’ (BDB:2439).

26. ‘Portion, tract’ (BDB:813). Also associated with the territory or share assigned to a person.

27. ‘Possession, property, inheritance’ (BDB:1536).

28. ‘To give, take’ (BDB:1299).

29. ‘To build’ (BDB:356).

30. ‘To be complete, sound’ (BDB:2481).

31. ‘Ore, ring of gold’ (BDB:373).

32. ‘Money, silver’ (BDB:1196).

33. ‘To lift, take, carry’ (BDB:1617).

34. ‘To live’ (BDB:785).

35. ‘Boy, youth, lad’ (BDB:1582).

36. ‘Soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, appetite, emotion, and passion’ (BDB:1593).

37. ‘To arrange, set in order, arrange in order’ (BDB:1900).

38. ‘Wrath’, ‘poison’ (BDB:822, 999).

39. ‘To hide, treasure up’ (BDB:2089).

40. ‘To know’ (BDB:973).

41. ‘To fear’ (BDB:1061).

42. ‘Portion, tract’ (BDB:813). Also associated with the territory or share assigned to man.

43. ‘To be tender, weak, soft’ (BDB:2284).

44. ‘To dismay, hasten, disquiet’ (BDB:218).

45. Janzen (2009:98) does something similar when he associates the name Yahweh in Job with the ‘domain of law and order’ established on Mount Sinai, when he suggests that Šaddāy acts in the domain of ‘cosmic and human blessing’.

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