I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob [(that is, to the Patriarchs)] as El Shaddai, and with my name yhvh, I was not known to them. (Exodus 6:2-3.)
Hebrew scripture sometimes uses the Canaanite name El Shaddai for God, particularly to indicate God’s fierce or punitive aspect. (See Isaiah 13:6, Joel 1:15, Job (passim), Ruth 1:20-21) El was the name of the chief god of the Canaanite pantheon, and Shaddai was one manifestation of the Canaanite storm god Ba‘al. In other places, Hebrew scripture uses the name yhvh for God, often in a context that invokes God’s mercy. (See Exodus 34:5-7; Numbers 14:18-20; Deuteronomy 5:9-10) Significantly, however, the Torah tells us that the Israelite Patriarchs worshiped god as El Shaddai, and that Moses, who was reared in the Egyptian religion, introduced the name yhvh.
Later, Hebrew scripture relates the history of two rival kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom (called “Israel”) and the Southern Kingdom (called “Judah”). Scripture tells us that Israel rebelled against Judah, and that a bitter civil war raged between these rival kingdoms for centuries. (See 1 Kings 11:26-39, 12:1-24; Ezekiel 37:15-28) The secret of the name El Shaddai — the name the Patriarchs used for God — is that it is an anagram of the name Israel, the name of the Northern Kingdom. By contrast, the name yhvh — the name of God that Moses introduced — is embedded in the name Judah (yhvdh), the name of the Southern Kingdom.
To see that El Shaddai is an anagram of Israel, we must recognize that the Hebrew letter dalet and the letter reish are almost identical in form.
The Zohar asserts that a reish is the same as a dalet, and in fact the letters reish and dalet — whose names both mean “poor” — are interchangeable in Hebrew scripture. (See Numbers 1:14 [Deuel] and 2:14 [Reuel]; Genesis 10:4 [Dodanim] and 1 Chronicles 1:7 [Rodanim].) When we see that a dalet is no different from a reish, and that a reish is no different from a dalet, then we realize that the name Israel expressly invokes the fierce Patriarchal aspect of God called El Shaddai.
Likewise, when we see that the Hebrew name for Judah (yhvdh) contains all the letters of yhvh, we realize that the name Judah (Hebrew: Yehudah) expressly invokes the merciful Mosaic aspect of God called yhvh.
Thus, the rivalry between these two kingdoms (Israel and Judah) is, at its root, a spiritual rivalry, not a political rivalry. In Israel (the Northern Kingdom), personal names often included the element “el” or “ba‘al,” and the name Israel invokes the deity of the Patriarchal religion (El Shaddai). In Judah (the Southern Kingdom), personal names often included the element “yahu,” and the name Judah invokes the deity of Moses’ Egyptian upbringing (yhvh). Thus, beneath the surface of the Torah (and beneath the surface of Judaism), we find two religions, not one. We find the Canaanite religion of the Patriarchs, and we find the Egyptian religion that Moses later introduced to the descendants of the Patriarchs. Moreover, it is only after Moses introduced the god named yhvh that we can really use the word “Jew” — a word that derives from the name of the Southern Kingdom (yhvdh), a kingdom that especially cherished yhvh.
And [if] they say [to you]: “Become Jews or Christians, [and] then you shall be rightly guided.” . . .
Say [to them]: “ . . . Do you claim that Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob . . . were Jews or Christians?” (Qur’an 2:135-140.)
For more about the names El Shaddai and yhvh and many other secrets of the Torah, you are invited to read Torah Nondualism: Diversity, Conflict, and Synthesis in the Pentateuch.
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Copyright © 2011 James H. Cumming