Shalom is a Hebrew word with a meaning that encompasses so much life, goodness and promise. In a nutshell, it’s universal flourishing.
If you travel to or live in Israel, shalom means both hello and good-bye. It’s been used in Jewish and Christian blessings for millennia.
What does shalom mean? While it’s usually translated peace, its full meaning goes far beyond the mere absence of conflict. It includes all of these, too:
Can you see why it’s such a powerful greeting, blessing and farewell? When you speak peace to someone, when you’re a peacemaker, these are the things it means.
Shalom in the Bible
According to Blue Letter Bible, the word shalom occurs 237 times in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, which was written in Greek, the word is eirḗnē, which pretty much covers the same ground. It’s used 92 times from Matthew to Revelation.
Here are a few of those places:
This is the famous Aaronic Blessing. God told Moses to have Aaron and the priests speak this blessing over the Children of Israel regularly (Yahweh is the Hebrew name for God):
“Yahweh bless you, and keep you.
Yahweh make His face to shine on you,
and be gracious to you.
Yahweh lift up His face toward you,
and give you peace.“
When God blesses His people with peace, it includes all those things listed above: wholeness, health, completeness, prosperity, peace and the rest.
Isn’t that amazing? THAT is a blessing.
Isaiah 55 is a wonderful chapter of invitation and promise. Towards the end is verse 12, saying:
“For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace.
The mountains and the hills will break out before you into singing;
And all the trees of the fields will clap their hands.”
What a picture of joy and celebration! You’ll go out with joy, be led with peace—that shalom of God. That fruitfulness and wholeness and tranquility.
And all of nature will celebrate right along, too! The mountains, the hills, the trees…
This short passage in the short book of Philippians gives us one of the most powerful promises in the Bible (and did you know it was written by a man who was in prison at the time?):
“In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”
The peace of God. The eirḗnē of God. The shalom of God. It surpasses our understanding—we just don’t get how it works. But it does.
This shalom will guard our hearts and thoughts IN Jesus. The Greek word for guard there is phroureō. It’s like setting a military guard. That’s how strong God’s shalom is. Isn’t that cool?
(All these scriptures are from the World English Bible, public domain)
Shalom and Nature
We can see shalom in nature in many ways:
A lovely waterfall flowing over moss-covered rocks, surrounded by trees that flourish with their roots in the river. Or the reflection of a tree-lined shore on a calm lake.
The brilliant colors of a sunrise or sunset in the clouds, reflecting and changing as the minutes move on.
Wildflowers blooming in alpine meadows, or tropical jungles. The fruitfulness of fruit trees and berry bushes.
The Absence of Shalom
But just like in our own lives, the natural world is a combination of shalom and conflict, shalom and ugliness, shalom and barrenness.
The Bible says that’s because of the sin in the world…and the sin in our own hearts. We each contribute to it.
Creation suffers because of sin, too. There are droughts, floods and wildfires. Animals are killed for food and die of disease. People dumb toxins in waterways and trash on roadsides.
Creation Waits, Too
There’s a section in Romans 8 that gives us such hope:
“For all creation is waiting patiently and hopefully for that future day when God will resurrect his children. For on that day thorns and thistles, sin, death, and decay—the things that overcame the world against its will at God’s command—will all disappear, and the world around us will share in the glorious freedom from sin which God’s children enjoy.
“For we know that even the things of nature, like animals and plants, suffer in sickness and death as they await this great event. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us—bodies that will never be sick again and will never die.” (Romans 8:19-23 TLB)
(The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.)
What Shalom Means for Followers of Jesus
There are so many promises of shalom for those of us who follow, obey and love Jesus.
Here are a few of more to leave you with:
“You will keep whoever’s mind is steadfast in perfect peace (shalom), because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)
“The work of righteousness will be peace (shalom), and the effect of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in a peaceful habitation, in safe dwellings, and in quiet resting places…” (Isaiah 32:17-18)
“Oh that you had listened to My commandments! Then your peace (shalom) would have been like a river and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:18)
“All your children will be taught by Yahweh; and your children’s peace (shalom) will be great.” (Isaiah 54:13)
“My covenant was with him of life and peace (shalom); and I gave them to him that he might be reverent toward Me; and he was reverent toward Me, and stood in awe of My name.” (Malachi 2:5)
May the Lord lift up His face toward you and give you peace!