Saturday, August 25, 2012


Shalom is one of the most frequently used words in the Hebrew Bible. To most of us, Shalom means ‘peace’; and in both ancient and modern Hebrew language, ‘Shalom’ is spoken as a greeting. It is also cited as a state of peace between parties (biblically such as in Joshua 19:15, 1 Sam 20:42).

The concept of Shalom, however, encompasses much more than these applications. The biblical application of the term extends to concepts of safety, wellness/welfare, blessing; and perhaps an all encompassing application of Shalom is wholeness or completeness. Let’s look at how it all fits together.
Starting at the end, Shalom is cited often at the end of the journey of life. ‘For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace (shalom) when they die.’ (Is 57:2) God spoke to Abraham and said ‘As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.’(Gen 15:15), and to Zedekiah, king of Judah: ‘you will die peacefully. As people made a funeral fire in honour of your fathers, the former kings who preceded you, so they will make a fire in your honour and lament, "Alas, O master!" I myself make this promise, declares the LORD.'" (Jer 34:5)1 The use of shalom in this context implies that shalom is a goal to be reached, the ultimate fulfilled promise.

In the Psalms, Shalom is often equated with blessing ‘The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace.’ (Ps 29:11); ‘Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “May you have peace.” (Ps 122:7-8).

Peace is something we need and continuously seek. This primary human need for safety and peace is portrayed vividly in the struggle of Jacob. Early in his journey Jacob barters with God for shalom: ‘and if I return safely (state of shalom) to my father's home, then the LORD will certainly be my God.’ (Gen 28:21).

The scriptures teach that peace originates from God: ‘I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear.(Lev 26:6) ‘The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace.’ (Ps 29:11). Indeed, after his encounter with the angel of the LORD, Gideon builds an altar and calls it ‘the LORD is peace’. We can’t attain shalom apart from God granting it. False peace is no peace.2
Historically we see that God establishes a covenant of peace with those who act in accordance with his purposes. Shalom is conditional on an expected action. For instance, to Phinehas, son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the priest who had turned God’s anger away from the Israelites, God promised: ‘Now tell him that I am making my special covenant of peace with him’ (Num 25:12). And of the covenant with the Levites: "The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered me and stood in awe of my name.’ (Mal 2:5/6) ‘But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.’ (Ps 37:11) – the words of Jesus echoing the promise ‘Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth’ (Mat 5:5). ‘Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace.’ (Ps 37:37).
The covenant of peace between God and His people Israel is spoken of in Isaiah. ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you’ (Is 54:10). I will teach all your children, and they will enjoy great peace (v 13). ‘You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!’ (55:12) ‘bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far," says the LORD, who heals them.’ (Is 57:19)
In the scriptures, peace and righteousness are intertwined. ‘Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed!’ (Ps 85:10) ‘And this righteousness will bring peace. Yes, it will bring quietness and confidence forever.’ (Is 32:17) Similarly, truth is believed to be leading to a restoration of peace; ‘But this is what you must do: Tell the truth to each other. Render verdicts in your courts that are just and that lead to peace’…so love truth and peace’ (Zec 8:16/19)

Shalom does not signal simply a state of being but an activity, a movement towards a goal or a state. The Hebrew root of the word is ‘sh’-‘l’-‘m’ also carries the meaning of payment or a restored state. The scriptures speak of a new covenant of shalom made by God through the Messiah. ‘The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ ‘His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven's Armies will make this happen!’ (Is 9:6b/7) ‘But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole (derived from shalom). He was whipped so we could be healed.’ (Is 53:5)

The writers of the New Testament understood shalom in this context of restoration and establishing restitution through action and payment. The Apostle Paul wrote of the work of the Messiah on the cross: ‘and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ's blood on the cross.’ (Col 1:2). Shalom extends to peace between Jew and Gentile: ‘For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us’ (Eph 2:14). Shalom is core to relationship; conditional on a price, established by God himself.



1 (see also 2 Ki 22:20).

2 The scriptures distinguish between a true peace of God is to be distinguished and a false peace. Let’s regard a few instances where false peace is described and warned against. ‘Those who hear the warnings of this curse should not congratulate themselves, thinking, 'I am safe’ even though I am following the desires of my own stubborn heart.' This would lead to utter ruin!’ (the word used for safe here is derived from ‘shalom’), (Deut 29:19). In the book of Ezekiel, God speaks of false prophets who declare a false peace: "This will happen because these evil prophets deceive my people by saying, 'All is peaceful' when there is no peace at all! It's as if the people have built a flimsy wall, and these prophets are trying to reinforce it by covering it with whitewash! (Ezek 13:10) and v. 16 ‘They were lying prophets who claimed peace would come to Jerusalem when there was no peace. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!'; and in Micah 3:5 ‘This is what the LORD says: "You false prophets are leading my people astray! You promise peace for those who give you food, but you declare war on those who refuse to feed you.’



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    1. Thank you for your comment and encouragement!
      Yes, the statement in Judges 6:23-24 is beautiful - Gideon was honouring God and the statement speaks a wonderful truth about God's character - Baruch Hu veBaruch Shmo!

      have a blessed day!