So when Jacob names the site of his altar, he declares “El Elohe Isra’el”. I understand the most common translation of this phrase is said to be something along the lines of “God is the God of Israel”. But I have some questions about this.
Now I realize that the word ‘el’ is a Hebraic Semitic word that means ‘god’, so the vast majority of the usage of the word ‘el’ in the Hebrew manuscripts can be explained as such.
However there is supposedly a bit of a catch, so to speak, and I have seen several scholars and skeptics use said catch to fuel their theories that Judaism evolved from Canaanite Polytheism. In ancient Canaan, the head deity of their pantheon, also considered their most high god and creator god, father of all the other gods, has the name El.
Now going back to the specific phrase; “El Elohe Isra’el” is the only place I can recall in scripture where it is difficult to translate El as simply the word ‘god’ as in ‘a deity’, rather than a proper name of God, simply because “God is the God of Israel” is a very redundant and broad statement that doesn’t really make sense. One might ask, which god? So my questions are best split up as follows;
Is it possible that Jacob, not yet fully knowing the covenant name of God as revealed to Moses, simply used the name of what he knew to be the closest idea or identity of an all powerful divine being in his culture (being Canaanite El) and apply that title to the one true God after his wrestling encounter?
Or is it more likely that El in this instance is simply a short form of El Shaddai and therefore has absolutely no connection to the Canaanite head deity?
Does anybody know of any good apologetics sources on this subject as it is fascinating to me and reaching out to the skeptics has long been a calling on my life. Any advice on how to engage on the topic is helpful.