“And Jacob said to Joseph, “El Shaddai appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and He blessed me, and said to me, ‘I will make you fertile and numerous…’ And Shaddai who blesses you…blessings of the breast and womb.” Genesis 48:3-4; 49:25
“God also spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by my name Yahweh.” Exodus 6:3
God of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs
Rooted in a very old poetic tradition, the divine name Shaddai occurs 48 times in the Hebrew Bible and has traditionally been translated as Almighty. The early Hebrew ancestors of Israel “worshipped the supreme god under various appellations, such as El (as among the North Canaanites of Ugarit), (El-) ‘Elyon, (El-) Saddai” (Albright, p.191). Perhaps the deity’s name is related to Shaddai, a late Bronze Age Amorite city on the banks of the Euphrates River (in what is now northern Syria). It has been surmised that Shaddai was the god worshipped in this area, an area associated with Abraham’s home. It is “quite reasonable to suppose that the ancestors of the Hebrew brought it [Shaddai] with them from northwestern Mesopotamia to Palestine” (Albright, p.193). The early patriarchs and matriarchs then would have perceived Shaddai as their chief god. Continue reading
I have climbed the steps that lead to the Gates of Huldah on the Temple mount and I have asked permission to visit the traditional place of her burial, a holy shrine maintained by Muslims, revered by Christians and a place of pilgrimage for Jews in the know. Perhaps her grave is the most peaceful place in Jerusalem, if not the Middle East. At least I can say that her grave is a model of interfaith cooperation, a worthy symbol for a great woman. Continue reading
In the beginning of Leviticus, God tells Moses to speak to all the Israelite people and instruct each person in the laws of ritual sacrifice. Lev. 1:5 specifically uses the gender neutral nepes (person) when discussing those responsible for slaughtering the sacrificial animals. “Traditional translations … obscure the fact that both women and men are given instructions about offerings to YHWH.” (Meyers, p.203). Let’s explore how Elisheba, Aaron’s wife and the sister-in-law of Moses, participated in the rites of ancient Israel.
The limited knowledge we have of Elisheba provides us with a glimpse into the world of priest’s wives in the Bible. She came from a prominent family; her brother Naashon was a prince of the tribe of Judah (Ex. 6:23). By marrying Aaron she united the tribe of Judah with the tribe of Levi. Through her sons Eleazar and Ithamar she became the ancestress of the entire Levitical priesthood. While the Temple stood the the wives and mothers of High Priests were particularly wealthy and socially influential. “Females in high Priestly families [held] a special status in Temple society and the power to determine Temple procedures and even regulations.” (Safrai, pp.259-60) Continue reading