What is Shalom?

Shalom is extremely important to God.

Readership: Christians

Ed Hurst uses the word shalom frequently because this is an important concept which has no English translation.  After studying this word/concept for a time, I too have found a deep appreciation of it, and I have used it in my writings.

Because shalom is extremely important to God, it would benefit the reader to become more familiar with this concept.  It’s necessary for spiritual growth and peace!

Infogalactic gives a fairly complete picture of the concept of Shalom.

The Hebrew term shalom is roughly translated to other languages as peace [En.] (i.e. paz [Sp. and Pr.], paix [Fr.], pace [It.]), from the Latin pax. Pax, in Latin, means peace, but it was also used to mean truce or treaty.  So, deriving from the definition and use in Latin, most Romance terms simply use the word peace to mean such, and also provides a relational application (be it personal, social or political) – a state of mind and affairs.  Peace is an important word in the Christian sacred scriptures and liturgy.  Eirene, the Greek term translated to peace, also means quietness and rest.

Shalom, in the liturgy and in the transcendent message of the Christian scriptures, means more than a state of mind, of being or of affairs.  Derived from the Hebrew root shalam – meaning to be safe or complete, and by implication, to be friendly or to reciprocate.  Shalom, as term and message, seems to encapsulate a reality and hope of wholeness for the individual, within societal relations, and for the whole world.  To say joy and peace, meaning a state of affairs where there is no dispute or war, does not begin to describe the sense of the term.  Completeness seems to be at the center of shalom as we will see in the meaning of the term itself, in some derivatives from its root, shalam, in some examples of its uses in Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and in some homophone terms from other Semitic languages.

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The noun shalom means safe, for example, well and happy.  On a more abstract application, its use points to welfare, for example, health, prosperity, and, peace.  It is the verb form shalam, though, that provides a deeper understanding of this term in theology, doctrine, and liturgy.  Literally translated, shalam signals to a state of safety, but figuratively it points to completeness.  In its use in Scripture, shalom describes the actions that lead to a state of soundness, or better yet wholeness.  So to say, shalom seems not to merely speak of a state of affairs, but describes a process, an activity, a movement towards fullness.  Using the King James Version as reference, James Strong lists the rendering of shalom and shalam, among others, as:

  • To make amends
  • To make good
  • To be (or to make) peace
  • To restore
  • Peace
  • Prosperity
  • Wellness

The use of shalom in the Scriptures always points towards that transcendent action of wholeness.  Shalom is seen in reference to the wellbeing of others (Genesis 43:27, Exodus 4:18), to treaties (I Kings 5:12), and in prayer for the wellbeing of cities or nations (Psalm 122:6, Jeremiah 29:7).  Coincidentally, the root shalem, means peaceful – though it is sometimes posited that this root is found in the name of the city Jerusalem (combined with yara, meaning to lay or found), this is likely a re-etymologization.  Yet, its transcendence lies in its relationship to truth and justice (Psalm 85:10, Isaiah 48:18, 22, 57:19–21).  The wholeness of shalom, through justice and truth, inspires the words of hope for the work expected by the messiah, and to refer to its revelation as the time of peace (Haggai 2:7–9, Isaiah 2:2–4, 11:1–9), and to even grant this anointed one the title Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:4–5a).

Fun Activities For Quarantine – Eyes of the Hawk

In the Christian Scriptures, the term eirene is employed to mean peace, but in its application, seeking for it the transcendence of its Hebrew counterpart, peace is better understood in relation to terms like grace (Romans 1:7), righteousness (Romans 14:17), and life (Romans 8:6).  It is also employed in benedictions, like that in I Thessalonians 5:23 and Hebrews 13:20–21, perhaps making echo to prayers of peace common throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish benedictions (Numbers 6:22–27).

This sense of completeness, central to the term shalom could also be confirmed in homophonic terms found in other Semitic languages.  The term shelam, of Chaldean origin, seems to mean both peace and restoration.  Aramaic derivations of the terms shalom and shalam are said to mean peace, safety, completeness and welfare.  The Assyrian term salamu means to be complete, unharmed, paid/atoned.  Sulmu, another Assyrian term, means welfare.  A closer relation to the idea of shalom as concept and action is seen in the Arabic root salaam.  Meaning to be safe, secure, and forgiven, among other things.  It also proposes a personal commitment to the concept, action, and transcendence of peace – Salaam is also the root for the terms Muslim and Islam, literally translated, he/she who submits to God and submission to God, respectively.

The Calling of Samuel the Prophet, by Harry Anderson (1975).

I might describe shalom in my own words as a state of belonging; being a part of something important, something larger than one’s self.  It includes a spatial environment in which everyone and everything has a structured, ordered place.  Acceptance, encompassing disciplinary mentorship and unconditional love, are available (ideally from one’s immediate family) within shalom.

Even though the external world may be far from being perfect, shalom can be experienced discreetly in one’s subjective life experiences, thereby yielding the impression that the people, and space, and everything within one’s immediate proximity can be relatively meaningful, joyful, and peaceful.  Shalom is also the intended reward of spiritual obedience.

Those who have crawled through the hood of hard knocks may scoff at the above description of shalom.  But those who have, even once, had a glimpse of eternal glory will believe in the Truth of it, and may even hope to achieve the experience on a daily basis.  So believe it if you can!

Clicking on a few of the scriptures hyperlinked above just might get you started!

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About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
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3 Responses to What is Shalom?

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