One of the most enormous words in Hebrew is the word ‘shalom’.
It’s usually translated as ‘peace’ but its meaning has far more depth and richness than our English word ‘peace’ provides.
Here’s a quote from the Chumash, a Jewish commentary:
“The Midrash says, “Peace when you enter, peace when you leave, and peaceful relations with everyone.”
This alludes to three levels of peace: within the family, in the country where one lives and throughout the world.
Peace is not simply the absence of war. It is a harmony between conflicting forces. Within man, it is the proper balance between the needs of the body and his higher duty to the soul. In the universe, it is a balance between the infinite elements as well as between the holy and the mundane. When Israel is sinful, it disrupts this balance because it is not making proper use of the human and physical resources which God gives the world. This creates a barrier between God and His people, a barrier that God, with compassion, removes so that we can repent and return to the blessed condition of peace and harmony.
The translation of Numbers 6:26 in the Chumash says,
“May Yahweh lift up His countenance to you and establish peace for you.”
If we understand peace to be harmony between all the different elements listed in the quote above, for God Himself to establish peace for us is a mighty undertaking, and one which will effect every area of our lives. Peace does not insist on things being the same, but goes further by bringing harmony from dis-similar things. Isn’t this the redemptive work of God?
The word ‘shalom’ is used 239 times in the Bible (Old Testament only obvs!).
In Genesis 29:6 the word shalom is used to mean ‘it is well’, so next time you are singing / hearing the song ‘It is well with my soul’, remember that you are singing about Shalom being present in your life. It is this same concept that we find in this famous quote by Julian of Norwich in her Revelations of Divine Love
“All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
What might shalom look like your life?