- Major Word Studies
- Perry B. Yoder, Shalom: The Bible's
Word for Salvation, Justice, and Peace (Newton, Kansas: Faith
and Life Press, 1987.
- 1. material well being and prosperity (most prevalent usage)
- Gen 37: Jacob sends Joseph to check on the shalom of his
- Psalm 38:3 describes the lack of shalom -- health and bodily
strength -- brought by God's judgment
- 2. justice; positive or good relationships between nations,
groups, close friends etc.
- Isaiah 60:17 Shalom is treated as a synonym for righteousness.
- Joshua 9:15 When Joshua makes a treaty with the Gibeonites,
he makes shalom with them.
- Jeremiah 20:10 Jeremiah's friends are called "men of
- 3. morality, straightforward, ethical integrity; the opposite
- Zech 8:16 Judgments made on the basis of truth, make for
- 2 Kings 5:19 Elisha indicates that Naaman will not incur
guilt for worshipping foreign gods by saying, "Go in shalom."
- Eirene (similar meanings to
- 1. good accord; absence of conflict
- Acts 24:2 High Priest Ananias describes the relationship
between Judea and Rome as one of peace.
- Matt 10:34 Peace is described as an absence of conflict between
- Rom 8:6 Peace is the virtue of thinking of spiritual rather
than fleshly things.
- 1 Peter 3:11 Peace is doing good rather than evil
- 3. theological attribute: God of peace, peace of God, gospel
- 4. greeting
- Rom 1:7 and 1 Cor 1:3 use eirene as an opening greeting
- Eph 6:23; 1 Peter 5:14; 3 John 1:15 use it as a closing
- Claus Westermann, Peace (Shalom) in the Old Testament," The
Meaning of Peace: Biblical Studies, Perry B. Yoder and Willard
M. Swartley, editors (Louisville, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992)
- In contrast with Yoder, Westermann tries to determine what
the earliest or original meaning of shalom is, as though this
is a purer meaning of the word.
- The following are quotations
- The Hebrew word shalom is formed from a verb that means to
make something complete, to make something whole or holistic.
- 1. Since shalom means the wholeness of a community, it is
not really possible to speak of peace between A and B. Shalom
can never represent something that exists between two entities,
such as between two groups, two parties, two persons, and so
forth. In each case, the relationship between the two units could
be described as an agreement, a contract, a covenant, or something
similar, but shalom should not be used to describe the relationship.
- 2. "Shalom" should also not be used when what we
have in mind is inner peace or the peace of the soul.... Shalom
can only be present when the totality of existence, both inner
and outer if you will, is whole or complete.
- 3. In all those cases where "shalom is used in its essential
meaning, one can also not speak of peace with God, for this presumes,
that peace is something that can come about between two things.
The expression "peace with God (Rom 5:1) does not appear
in the Old Testament ....
- 4. Finally, shalom was originally not intended to serve as
a contrast to war or as the opposite of conflict.... The word
"shalom' is used in the Old Testament occasionally to mean
peace in contrast to war, but this is a secondary development
which does not accord with the original usage of the word. (p.
- [Westermann identifies the following meanings:}
- WHOLENESS (WELL-BEING) AFFIRMED
- In the Old Testament, shalom is something that belongs to
the living. Since human beings were created to be social beings,
shalom becomes a prerequisite for societal existence. The fact
that it belongs to life does not mean, however, that it is automatically
present wherever there is human life. This health of society
is just as susceptible to illness or injury as is the health
of the body, Indeed, health in the sense of physical health and
health in the sense of human society are so closely liked that
in one case shalom means physical health (Ps. 38:3...). (p. 21)
- WHOLENESS (WELL-BEING) EXPERIENCED IN AN ENCOUNTER AND PROCLAIMED
- [as a greeting]
- Asking about shalom, finding out
- Gen. 43:27 "And he inquired about their welfare, and
said, 'Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke?"
- Acceptance into shalom, granting shalom
- Gen 43:23 "Rest assured, do not be afraid."
- Judge. 6:23 "Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall
- Wholeness or well-being that goes with you
- 1 Sam 25:35 "Go up in peace to your house."
- The group of usages dealt with so far have shown that the
word "shalom" is centered in a small, easily encompassed
- This can be shown even more clearly through the three main
groups of usage:
- 1. In inquiring about well being.... To share in the state
of the other person is an expression of belonging together or
of knowing about such belongingness....
- 2. In the process of refusing peace to someone, or of receiving
someone into peace, that person is offered a basic trust.. The
one to whom peace is offered can rest assured that he or she
need not expect anything unfriendly or evil from the other person.
He or she may trust the person. That too is possible only within
a small circle.
- 3. The one who departs in peace or is conducted in peace
finds a security within the shalom space, allowing that person
to travel calmly without fear. This security of being encircled
by shalom can also be experienced only as a personal event within
a limited circle. Responsibility, trust, and security are the
life elements of shalom....
- WHOLENESS RESTRICTED TO A GIVEN SITUATION: PEACE INSTEAD
OF WAR (BATTLE)
- 1 Sam. 7:14 "There was peace also between Israel and
- "This is the very same usage of the word as we know it.....
If we assume wholeness, health, well-being as the basic meaning
of shalom, then the shift in meaning to peace as the opposite of
war points to the fact that, within this linguistic realm war
had developed into an ever-increasing disturbance of this wholeness.
It had not been that way from the beginning. The shalom concept
had been formed at a time when war did not have this impact.
Only over the course of a long history did it come to mean the
opposite of peace. The concept of shalom stems from a time when
a battle did not destroy the shalom of a community, nor even
disturb it. It was possible, for example, to inquire about the
shalom of the battle. In 2 Sam. 11:17, David asked Uriah "how
Joab was doing, and how the people fared, and how the war prospered."
- "A conceptual alternative to war was not possible in ancient
Israel, because neither war nor its alternative was understood
or experienced as a state. War was understood not as a condition
but always in terms of the events. It was seen as a series of
battles, not as war in our use of the term. The battles were
temporal and local. The condition of war only developed with
the invasion or the great powers, when military measures were
extended beyond the actual battles into the peace itself....
It grew out of long periods of suffering, and through it came
a longing for real peace and a guaranteed peaceful condition."
- Wholeness or Wellness in the Future (The Promised Peace)
- "The dominate emphasis in the use of the word "shalom"
is on the present. A community cannot exist without shalom. Wholeness
or wellness is the normal state of a community. Shalom, therefore,
does not signify some ideal of a peace, a condition to be longed
for but rarely or never attained. Whenever these is talk of future
peace, or the peace of the future, this always presumes a disturbance
or threat to peace in the present. Whenever peace in the future
was announced in a word of prophecy, it meant a restoration or
what had been destroyed or a securing of the peace now threatened.
It was not intended that such a peace for the future would transcend
the present or become a superelevated reality." (p. 33)
- THE SALVATION ORACLE
- Shalom seems to belong particularly to the salvation oracle
for the king as in Psalm 72:
- v. 3 "Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!"
- v. 7 "In his [the king's] days may righteousness flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!"
- The promise of a future king grew out of the king's oracle.
A part of the promise of the king is that the coming king will
be a bringer of peace:
- Zech. 9:10 "He shall command peace to the nations."
- THE PROPHECY OF SALVATION
- [Westermann cites false prophets proclamations of peace (Jer
6:14; 14:13; 28:9; Ezek 13:10; Micah 3:5) in which shalom seems
to refer to the future well-being of the state. In Jer 4:10,
Jeremiah laments, "Surely you have utterly deceived this
people and Jerusalem, saying, It shall be well with you."
- [According to Westermann, the word Shalom does not appear
in the writings of the early prophets and in the later prophets
the usage is dominated by the meaning, well-being and the restoration
of the wholeness of the people. Westermann argues that peace
does not mean peace with God, something that entails forgiveness.
Cf. Is 5410, 13: "and my covenant of peace shall not be
removed.... Great shall be the prosperity of your children."]
- YAHWEH GIVES PEACE
- [Westermann finds that peace is something that God gives
and is something tied to blessing. "The Lord lift up his
countenance upon you and give you peace" (Num 6:26).]
- [Westermann concludes that three usages prevail of which
wellness, the well-being of the individual in community including
health and material wealth, dominates. Shalom as a greeting is
an application of this meaning in that one welcomes a person
into the wellness of the community. Shalom is an opposite to
war only insofar as war threatens the well-being of a community.
The absence of war is not necessarily shalom. Westermann finds
a development in later use of the word shalom in which the word
becomes a theological concept. God's saving acts are shalom.]
- Erich Dinkler "Eirene -- The Early Christian Concept
of Peace" The Meaning of Peace: Biblical Studies, Perry B.
Yoder and Willard M. Swartley, editors (Louisville, Westminster/John
Knox Press, 1992) 164-212.
- Dinkler argues that the association of eirene with
concord (homonoia) enters Christian literature after the
New Testament period through Clement of Rome. Before that peace
is not to be understood as the opposite of war.
- Dinkler's examination of Greek usage shows a clear association
of the word eirene with the notion of the victory of a king.
Odysseus brings peace to his kingdom when he destroys his enemies.
He also examines the traditions surrounding the goddess Eirene
and her cult but finds that her importance is marginal.
- The Early Christian Concept of Peace
- Eirene is a virtue, a fruit of the spirit, connected with
- Eirene is connected with reconciliation:
- "1. Peace and reconciliation are tied to Jesus Christ
in such a way that the cause for peace is anchored in the blood
of Christ, in his crucifixion. Peace is constituted through the
cross, and at the same time the crucifixion with its offensive
character as skandalon is interpreted as peace.
- 2. Peace as the abolition of enmity carries two dimensions
of meaning, though with no clear separation between them: the
reconciliation affects the God-human relation,
giving the reconciled person free access to God; and it leads
to the unity of the church of those separated, thus tearing down
the walls of enmity. This joining together of peace as gift of
God in Jesus Christ to the believers, which grants them access
to god, with peace as humanity'[s unity of racially separated
peoples in the body of Christ, is constitutive, that is foundational
to the understanding of eirene." (180).