The word Almighty appears 57 times in the New King James Version of the Bible, and every time it refers to God. What does this name tell us about God?
Abram fell to the ground, lying prostrate before God. Only moments before, this man who would later be called Abraham had heard the words, “I am Almighty God” (Genesis 17:1).
This passage, the first in the Bible to tell us that God is almighty, describes a moment of intense emotion and significance for the patriarch. Ultimately, it has significance for all of humanity.
What, then, is the Bible telling us by saying that God is almighty?
The Hebrew behind the English “Almighty”
The Hebrew word translated “Almighty” in the New King James Version of the Old Testament is transliterated as shaddai or sadday. It is used 48 times in the Old Testament to refer to God. “Seven times it is connected with God (’el), and forty-one times it appears alone” (Zondervan Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, “Almighty”).
This name of God points to His unmatched power.
How the Old Testament uses Almighty
The manner in which the writers who composed the books of the Hebrew Bible used Almighty sheds light on its significance. Sometimes the word was used as part of God’s name (El Shaddai or El Sadday), being translated as “God Almighty,” “Almighty God” or “Lord God Almighty.”
It’s striking that the name more often appears as “the Almighty” without being paired with “God” or “Lord.” In fact, “the Almighty” accounts for three-quarters of the occurrences of the word throughout the entire Bible.
For the Christian, the absolute power of God expressed in the name Almighty is critical to our faith.Use of the definite article the with “Almighty” emphasizes the uniqueness of this power. Only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is almighty. That’s why the word is never used of anyone other than God. Only God is the Almighty!
Note that “almighty” appears many more times in the New International Version. That’s because the NIV translates the Hebrew sabaoth and tsaba as “Almighty” when they are connected to the name of God. The words, which refer to armies, are better rendered “hosts” in the NKJV. (“Hosts” refers to the angelic armies that are under God’s command.) A handful of other Bible versions also translate sabaoth as “Almighty.”
The Greek behind the English “Almighty”
Only nine verses in the NKJV New Testament describe God as Almighty. All of these occurrences are translations of the Greek pantokratōr. Like the Hebrew shaddai, the Greek pantokratōr is used only in reference to God.
The Greek word appears in one more verse, where the NKJV translates it as “Omnipotent”—a word with the same basic meaning as Almighty (Revelation 19:6; see “The Lord God Omnipotent Reigns!”).
According to Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, this Greek word is a compound of pas, meaning “all,” and krateō, meaning “to hold” or “to have strength.” This combination then means “almighty,” or “ruler of all.”
The NIV also renders sabaōth, a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew sabaoth, as “Almighty” in the two passages where it appears (Romans 9:29; James 5:4).
The Almighty in Job and Revelation
Where “Almighty” occurs in Scripture also hints at its significance. Nearly two-thirds of the Old Testament occurrences, 31 out of 48, are in the book of Job. The distribution is even more startling in the New Testament, where all but one of the uses of the word are in the book of Revelation.
Some of the themes covered in these books are actually similar.
Job was a righteous man (Job 1:1, 8, 22; 2:3, 10), yet he endured a series of catastrophes without understanding why. Job and his three friends carried on a dialogue regarding the reasons for Job’s suffering. His friends insisted that Job’s troubles were the result of a secret sin or sins, but Job maintained his innocence.
Their conversation focused on suffering, sin and divine justice.
Each of these four men—and Elihu, who spoke only after Job and his three friends were done—always took God’s sovereignty for granted. It’s not surprising, then, that God is referred to as “the Almighty” in the book of Job.
Similarly, the book of Revelation addresses the themes of suffering, sin and divine justice in the context of God’s absolute sovereignty. It looks forward to a time of judgment for the entire world. The end times will be marked by horrific suffering, but that will change after Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
The sobering prophecies of Revelation are punctuated with declarations of God’s righteousness, sovereign power and justice. Here are a few:
- In the beginning of the book, the Lord identifies Himself as “the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).
- The four living creatures before the throne of God perpetually praise Him, calling Him “Lord God Almighty” (Revelation 4:8).
- At the seventh trump, announcing the imminent reign of God on earth, the 24 elders will fall prostrate to worship God as Abram did, calling Him “Lord God Almighty” (Revelation 11:15-17).
- Near the end of the book, John writes that “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb” are the temple of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:22).
Believing that God is the Almighty
Scripture assures us that God is the Almighty. There is no power in heaven or on earth that can defy God. (Of course, God the Father and Jesus Christ are both God (John 1:1)—both are referred to as Almighty (Revelation 1:8; 21:22). God can be compared to a family name. See our article “Names of God.”)
Christ taught His disciples about God’s unmatched power after a young man asked Him what he needed to do to have eternal life.
At the conclusion of their conversation, Jesus told this rich young man to sell everything he owned, to give the money to the poor and to follow Him. The young man left Jesus, disappointed because he did not want to part with his wealth (Matthew 19:16-22).
Jesus turned to His disciples and told them that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (verse 24). The disciples were alarmed because wealth was often viewed as a sign of God’s approval and blessing. That’s why they asked, “Who then can be saved?” (verse 25).
It was at this moment that Jesus spoke of the power of God, saying, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (verse 26). What is interesting is the connection of the concepts of power and possibility in this word translated “possible.” The Greek is dynatos, variations of which are translated elsewhere in the New Testament as “mighty” or “able.”
For individuals who have power, much is possible. For God, who has no limits to His power, all things are possible. And for the Christian, the absolute power of God expressed in the name Almighty is critical to our faith. If God were not able to keep His promises, if He could not provide for us, if He could not protect us, and if He could not defeat evil, then we would have no hope.
But the absolute assurance that He has all power gives us a sure hope.
Abram and Almighty God
When God declared to Abram, “I am Almighty God” (Genesis 17:1), it was a pivotal moment in their relationship. Years before, the patriarch had left his father’s house in obedience to God (Genesis 12:1, 4). He had long waited for an heir to fulfill God’s promise: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great” (verse 2).
He had questioned God about having no heir (Genesis 15:2), and as time dragged on, he took matters into his own hands (Genesis 16), fathering a son (Ishmael) through a surrogate mother (Hagar).
Yet, God affirmed to Abram that he would have a son through Sarai (Genesis 17:15-16). Abram was 99 years old; 24 years had gone by since he left Haran. So much time had passed that it seemed impossible for God’s promises to be fulfilled. But that’s when the Almighty God fulfilled them.
This moment was important to the whole world and to all generations. It is through Abraham’s Seed, Jesus Christ, and only through Him, that we can be saved (Acts 4:8-12). It is because God is the Almighty that a woman of 90 could bear a son to a man of 100 (Genesis 17:17).
The moment is important to us for another reason. It helps us understand that, regardless of the trials we face, we have a God for whom the impossible is possible.
How should we respond to the Almighty God?
By looking at Abram’s example, we can see several important ways we should respond to the Almighty God.
- In humility. Just as Abram “fell on his face” before God (Genesis 17:3), showing his humility and deep respect for God, we, too, should humble ourselves before Him. This is the first step to a proper relationship with God. As James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
- In obedience. Just as Abram obeyed God’s instructions to him (Genesis 17:10-11, 23-27), we should obey God, even when it is difficult. The apostle John wrote that to know God truly means to obey His commandments (1 John 2:3).
- In trust/faith. Just as Abram trusted the Almighty God, we should too. Abram knew God could fulfill His promise of a son through the as yet unborn Isaac (Romans 4:19-21), but he also trusted God enough to reveal his own heartfelt desire “that Ishmael might live before You!” (Genesis 17:18). God listened, but He did not change His plans for Isaac. He did, however, bless Ishmael (verses 19-20). In the same way, we should trust God enough to put before Him our hopes and dreams, but also be willing to let go when God makes it clear that He has other plans.
Responding to the Almighty in these ways is part of building the even deeper relationship that God desires to have with us. The God who reveals Himself as Almighty also lovingly said:
“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18).
Study more about the many facets of God in our guided Bible study “Journey 1: Knowing God.”