Rev. Biju Eapen Faculty India Bible College & Seminary Kumbanad
In ancient times, especially in the context of the nation of Israel, a name was never given to someone simply as a title rather a name was given to an individual to express the kind of person he or she is or hoped to become. God has been revealing himself to us in scripture by His various names. Many names were given to Himself in the scripture. Each name that God uses for himself reveals to us an aspect of His character that helps us to know Him better.
Jehovah – Shalom is one of the compound names of God. Compound names are names that are given in conjunction with the name Yahweh or Jehovah. Jehovah is translated as ‘the existing one’ or Lord. This denotes a God who reveals himself unceasingly.
Shalom is a derivate of shâlêm which means ‘to be complete’ or sound. Shalom is translated in most of the occasions as peace or absence from strife.
The Meaning of Jehovah-Shalom
The basic definition of the word “shalom” is a harmony or reconciliation of relationship based upon the completion of a transaction, the payment of a debt, the giving of satisfaction.
Peace expresses the deepest desire and need of the human heart. It represents the greatest measure of contentment and satisfaction in life.‘Shalom’ is translated as peace, 170 times in the Bible. Peace signifies a sense of well- being and harmony both within and without, health, wholeness, happiness, quietness of soul, prosperity, tranquility, security, safety and includes all that makes life worth while.
The general meaning behind the root term is that of completion and fulfillment entering into a state of wholeness and unity signified by restored relationships, especially wholeness of the relationship between a person and God.
The Significance of the Term Shalom
In Israel the term shalom is used as greeting and also as a way of enquiring after someone’s state of being and conveys the very best for him in life. The idea of wishing shalom is to be happy, to be whole and to be right with God and creation. Shalom always means everything which makes for a man’s highest good. Therefore the biblical concept of peace means to be complete or to be sound.
1. Shalom as wholeness of life.
The term shalom describes the meaning to be safe, to be sound, healthy, unscathed (Job 9:4) to be completed, uninjured in mind or body. It signifies a sense of well- being, health and happiness or quietness of soul. In the physical and mental sense of wholeness or completeness is translated as ‘welfare’ and ‘well’. In Gen. 43:27 Joseph inquiries concerning the welfare of his brothers where he is using the same word.
2. Shalom as right relationship with God.
After establishing by a covenant, when related to Yahweh, the covenant was maintained with peace offering.The basic idea underlying all the translations of shalom is a harmony of relationship of a reconciliation based up on the completion of a transaction, the payment of debt.Here shalom indicates a total fulfillment that comes when individuals experience God’s presence.
3. Shalom as absence of war
One of the great names of God is the prince of peace (Isa. 9:6). The city of Jerusalem was known as city of peace or possession of peace. Shalom can describe a peace that focuses on security or sense of safety. In narrative books, shalom typically is used to describe an absence of hostility or strife.
Shalom is the word used in peace offering. The peace offering was one of the blood sacrifice of which the shed blood was the atonement on which reconciliation and peace were based (Lev. 3; 7:11–21). In the peace offering their restoration of fellowship between God and man broken by sin is now restored by the shed blood. The various meanings contained in this word all indicate that every blessing is included in restoring man to that peace with God which was lost by the fall.
The New Testament Perspective
In the New Testament, the Greek word ‘eirene’ is the word most often translated by the word peace. The New Testament gives vivid account of peace and God’s initiative in establishing the peace on earth.“Grace and peace be, multiplied to you in the knowledge of God… (2 Pet. 1:2,3). Peter teaches that God’s peace comes from true experiential knowledge of the source of peace that is Jesus our Lord.Obedience is the key to His blessing, His peace and His presence. The secret of genuine peace with God is found in trusting Christ. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).
What Paul tells us to experience peace in Philippian 4:6–9.“…the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your heart and minds in Christ”.
The New Testament portrays Jesus as the prince of peace promised in the Old Testament (Isa. 9:6). Jesus’ birth was announced to guide our feet in to the way of peace (Luk. 1:78,79). During the time of His birth the heavenly host sang peace on earth (Luk. 2:14). In Jesus’teaching he promised peace on earth (Luk. 7:50; 8:48). Peter’s message to gentiles was the preaching of peace through Jesus Christ (Act 10:36). Paul adds in his epistle that, Jesus came and preached peace to you which were far off and to them that were nigh (Eph. 2:17).
Jesus is the supplier of peace. He said: “peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you…” (Jn. 14:27). Jesus himself provided peace for us by His own death. (Rom. 5:10) God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:19). “… having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colo. 1:20). And we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ may enter there with boldness in full assurance of a perfect peace (Heb. 10:19–23).
Peace is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). There is no peace besides that which can come by way of Christ. There is no other way to achieve real peace. When we have a real relationship with God through Christ He becomes our Jehovah Shalom – the one who brings the peace that passeth all understanding. In reality know Jesus – know peace. in other words, knowing Jesus is really knowing peace.
Shalom: A Missional Need
In the Old Testament passage God reveal himself to Gideon and said, “peace be unto you; fear not: thou shall not die”. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord and called it Jehovah Shalom (The Lord is peace) ( Jud 6.24). To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. This incident of the Old Testament took place in a context where Israel was under opposition by the Midianites. The Midianites took all their food, tools, and livestock. Due to the lack of unity and leadership the nation fell in to restless situation. In such a context by faith Gideon erected an altar to Jehovah- shalom in expectation of peace to be established in the land. It is because the Lord’s peace is so profound that it overcomes every other hostile environment.
In the present scenario shalom has been challenged by communalism, fundamental and religious intolerance. In our multi religious, multi- cultural and multi linguistic context of India the term shalom has greater significance. It is the task of the mission to establish peace. Through Jesus our Jehovah Shalom, we have peace with him. There is no hope of peace apart from him either for individuals or nations. Peace was the real thing that Gideon expected when he named the altar Jehovah Shalom. Peace is the real thing each of us need in the socio-religious and cultural context of our nation. The sermon on the mount echoes that “Blessed are the peace makers who will be called as sons of God. (Mt. 5:9).