The Meaning Of Shalom In The Bible And How To Practice It

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Published by Kimberly Wall

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Co-Founder, Disciple Group Leader, Author

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In the Bible, “shalom” is an old Hebrew word that was used to refer to a state of wholeness, completion, soundness, health, safety, and prosperity, with an implication of permanence. This concept of peace, or
“Shalom,” is deeply rooted in the divine, as it is believed that God alone sets the standard for true peace. Shalom encompasses both an internal sense of peace within an individual and an external sense of harmony between entities, such as people or nations.

The understanding of peace begins with the belief in a Creator who has set a standard for us. This belief necessitates the acknowledgment that God has chosen to reveal Himself to humanity through the Bible. Therefore, God is recognized as the sole source of true peace.

Key Takeaways

  • In the Bible, “shalom” encompasses wholeness, health, safety, and prosperity and implies permanence. It’s not just peace, but a deep sense of internal and external harmony.
  • Shalom in the Old Testament aligns with the ideal of human flourishing, involving justice, prosperity, and thriving in harmony with God and creation.
  • Embracing shalom involves extending mercy, appreciating others, promoting virtues, focusing on personal and communal well-being, and aligning actions with God’s teachings.

What Is Shalom Meaning In The Bible?

The state in the Garden of Eden[1] is the earliest instance of peace in the Bible. According to the Genesis account of creation, “Adam and Eve disobeyed, and the shalom of God was lost for them.” With God and everything He made, Adam and Eve lived in harmony.

Their requirements were met. They didn’t experience any pain, illness, or hunger. They were surrounded by beauty, so they could take it in and appreciate it. They had each other and, more crucially, a close relationship with their Creator, so they weren’t alone.

Adam and Eve were the first people to ever live in harmony. Only while they followed God’s instructions was there tranquility in the garden. Sadly, because they disobeyed, they no longer experienced God’s shalom.

Old Testament References To Peace

While through Adam and Eve, we observe that peace was lost, through Abraham, we follow the polar opposite. Then God commanded Abraham to take his only son Isaac to the Moriah location.

He brought his son Isaac and two servants with him, telling them to sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains. He started towards the location God had instructed him about once he had cut enough wood for the burning offering (Genesis 22:2–3).

Most people appear unable to comprehend how somebody could even attempt to follow such directions, much less do so without feeling rage, worry, or despair. Abraham, however, followed God’s instructions.

He acknowledged God’s authority to demand Isaac’s life if He so desired. Abraham maintained his peace of mind even though his natural senses must have been telling him otherwise because of his confidence and dependence on the One who created him.

Achieving Peace

Because it doesn’t originate from us, true serenity transcends the circumstances and defects of our own individual lives. It is a gift from God. The prophet Isaiah declared, “You will keep him whose mind is solid because he believes in you in complete serenity. Put your complete trust in the Lord because He is the Everlasting Rock” (Isaiah 26:3–4).

tranquil mountain lake scene at sunrise, with mist hovering over the water with sky filled with vibrant hues of pink and orange with a lone swan

What Kind Of Peace Does Shalom Describe?

According to the Bible, this peace is characterized by relationships being repaired and reconciled, people enjoying prosperity and justice, abundant thriving, and God and all creation existing in perfect harmony.

Because it speaks to what is most fundamental and inherent to all of humankind, regardless of differences in race, culture, and values, this idea has lasting power and a universal voice. It is a notion that serves as the driving force and ultimate aim of what people do and think.

Human flourishing can be used to describe this concept or theme. Everything humans undertake is driven by the desire for human flourishing. When human conduct is sufficiently examined, it becomes clear that the passion for personal and collective well-being guides all actions.

The prophets of the Old Testament were aware of this concept. They felt how God intended things to be. Therefore, they knew how many ways human life had gone wrong. They anticipated the day when God would make everything right.

The Hebrew word shalom from the Old Testament captures this notion of human flourishing. Most English Bibles render the word shalom as peace, as we’ve previously explained, but this is a much too flimsy reading. According to biblical scholars, shalom can refer to various concepts, including salvation, completeness, integrity, soundness, community, connectivity, righteousness, and well-being.

When Was The Loss Of Shalom?

We are all fallen creatures with sinful natures because our first parents revolted against God, according to Genesis 3:1–19. This nature shows itself in selfishness, greed, and exploitation (Romans 3:12). The current state of affairs is not what should exist.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve rebelled against God, breaking the command He had given them and bringing sin into the world (Genesis 2:16–17). Every aspect of human life and the created order has been tainted by sin (Genesis 3:7–24). 

Shalom, the harmony and tranquility God had weaved into his universe, started falling apart. Damage was done to every aspect of the constructed order, even the environment (Romans 8:18–23). Everything was damaged, even our connection to God.

The Effects Of Shalom’s Loss

In every aspect of our lives today, we still feel the impacts of the fall. We want autonomy from God and turn to other things to satiate our desires. We feel desperation, hurt, agony, sadness, anger, and envy in shattered relationships. We struggle with depression, pride, insecurity, and self-doubt. Due to the fall’s physical impacts, the earth groans under starvation, drought, floods, and other natural catastrophes.

Our brokenness primarily causes these damaged relationships. We reject the reality that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and is thus worthy of all honor, glory, and acclaim. Instead, we put other things—especially ourselves—before God.

We put more faith, trust, and love in ourselves than in God. We adhere to lies and reject God’s truth. All relationships suffer as a result of the way we choose to live, which elevates “me.” Our interactions are tainted by our wildly erroneous understanding of what is authentic and valuable—our sin.

Where Was Shalom Mentioned In The Bible?

The word shalom refers to an entire or completely fulfilled condition and is derived from the word “shalem,” which means “whole.” It may be political or universal, such as peace for the land or the nation, but it may also be personal, such as a person’s well-being or safety. God claims to be the one who “forms light and creates darkness, causes shalom, and creates tragedy” (Isaiah 45:7).

In a broader or political sense, God promises and would bless Israel in Leviticus 26:6 that if the people obey His commands, He will provide peace to the land, and no sword shall pass through your land.

God will bless His people with shalom, according to Psalm 29:11, and there are military instructions in Deuteronomy 20:10 on how to offer an adversary city terms of shalom. Numerous additional places in the Bible use the phrase as a term for political peace.

In the Bible, an angel uses the word “shalom” as both a greeting and a welcome for the first time. In 1 Samuel 16:4–5, when Samuel arrives in Bethlehem to anoint David as king, the elders approach him nervously and ask, “Do you come in shalom? “We can see how the word “peace” came to be welcome. To which Samuel responds, “Shalom” (peace).

When David questions Uriah the Hittite about the war in 2 Samuel 11:7, shalom in the meaning of “state of well-being” almost seems ludicrous and contradictory. “When Uriah came to him, David questioned him concerning the shalom of Joab, the shalom of the people, and the shalom of the fight,” it says.

Why Is God Called The “God Of Shalom”?

In the Old Testament, shalom refers to perfect peace. It is a far more complex word than “peace” in English, which denotes a condition of tranquility and quiet without conflict or antagonism. The concept of completion and fulfillment, as well as achieving wholeness and harmony and repairing relationships, lies at the core of religion.

While the word shalom in the Bible can be translated as the absence of conflict, its true meaning is more accurately described as “completeness, harmony, and fulfillment, with the idea of unhampered relationships with others and fulfillment in one’s endeavors implicit in the word.” By the blood of an eternal covenant, the God of shalom raised our Lord, the great Shepherd of the flock (Hebrews 13:20).

The final word of the priesthood benediction, which can be found in the earliest known biblical text fragment, is shalom. May the Lord bless and keep you. You will experience the kindness and glory of the Lord. The Lord will lift His countenance toward you; thus, you will experience world peace (Numbers 6:24–26).

The New Testament has the same kind of comprehensive, multifaceted meaning. Paul often begins his letters by wishing his readers grace and peace. The standard greeting among Greek speakers was “grace.” The traditional greeting among Hebrew speakers has been and continues to be “peace” (or “shalom”).

How Do We Practice Shalom?

When God speaks, miracles occur, mountains shift, seas divide, and men’s hearts are permanently altered. His words deliver unshakeable calm, deep forgiveness, unending grace, everlasting salvation, and unfailing love. God’s shalom is a benefit. To His offspring, it is freely given. We only need to extend our hands and accept it.

1. Extend Mercy And Appreciation

Choose blessings above browbeating. Be kind to those who are in your sphere of influence. A melodic phrase nourishes the soul. Live as a notice rather than a critic. Express gratitude to those you interact with daily for their ongoing efforts. Simple words of appreciation can ease a worn-out spirit.

The presence of shalom in our lives is a sign or fruit of the Holy Spirit. We can obey and surrender by keeping our attention focused on God and His Word. In our journey of faith, prayer and action work well together.

2. Highlight Virtues And Promote Development

Dress as a supporter rather than a critic. Confirm the integrity of those who are traveling with you. Support their inclinations and talents by standing by them. Decide to encourage rather than harm. Salute those brave enough to face their fears and follow their callings. Celebrate the excellent work of redemption shown in lives raised from the dead.

serene meadow bathed in the soft glow of a setting sun, golden light casting long shadows from a lone tree

Summary

Based on our basic definition, peace is the absence of disturbance. Words in modern Hebrew have much more profound implications than our translations can convey. Shalom, which means “peace,” defies our conceptions of peace. True Shalom is not primarily about peace 

Let us trust in Jesus, the Victor, who is more powerful than our sins. Let’s accept that Jesus died in our place, absolving us of punishment. Let us live in response to Jesus’ love by following Him, who has shown us grace.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Real Meaning Of Shalom?

The real meaning of shalom in the Bible is a comprehensive term for peace, wholeness, health, safety, prosperity, and a sense of completeness and fulfillment that originates from God.

Why Did Jesus Say Shalom?

Jesus said shalom to convey a deep sense of peace, well-being, and reconciliation, emphasizing the restorative and harmonious relationship between individuals, God, and creation.

Why Is God Called Shalom?

God is called shalom in the Bible because He is viewed as the source and provider of peace, completeness, and well-being, both internally and externally, for His creation.

How Do I Respond To Shalom?

To respond to shalom, one can reciprocate with the same greeting, reflecting the wish for peace and well-being, or simply acknowledge and appreciate the sentiment of harmony and completeness being conveyed.

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