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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words


A. Nouns.

Shâlôm (שָׁלֹם, Strong's #7965), “peace; completeness; welfare; health.” The root is a common Semitic root with the meaning “peace” in Akkadian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic.

Shâlôm is a very important term in the Old Testament and has maintained its place in Mishnaic, rabbinic, and modern Hebrew. In Israel today, people greet the newcomer and each other with the words mah shlomka, (“what is your peace,” “how are you doing,”) and they ask about the “peace” (“well-being”) of one’s family. The use of shâlôm is frequent (237 times) and varied in its semantic range. The first two occurrences in Genesis already indicate the changes in meaning: “And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace [shâlôm in the sense of “in tranquility,” “at ease,” “unconcerned”]; thou shalt be buried in a good old age” (Gen. 15:15); and “that thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace [shâlôm with the meaning of “unharmed” and “unhurt”] …” (Gen. 26:29). Yet, both uses are essentially the same, as they express the root meaning of “to be whole.” The phrase |ish shelomi(“friend of my peace”) in Ps. 41:9, “Yea, mine own familiar friend [literally, “friend of my peace”], in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (cf. Jer. 20:10), signifies a state in which one can feel at ease, comfortable with someone. The relationship is one of harmony and wholeness, which is the opposite of the state of strife and war: “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war” (Ps. 120:7). Shâlôm as a harmonious state of the soul and mind encourages the development of the faculties and powers. The state of being at ease is experienced both externally and internally. In Hebrew it finds expression in the phrase beshâlôm (“in peace”): “I will both lay me down in peace [beshâlôm], and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8).

Closely associated to the above is the meaning “welfare,” specifically personal “welfare” or “health.” This meaning is found in questions: “And Joab said to Amasa, Art thou in health, my brother? And Joab took Amasa by the beard with the right hand to kiss him” (2 Sam. 20:9), or in the prepositional phrase leshâlôm with the verb “to ask”: “And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?” (Gen. 43:27).

Shâlôm also signifies “peace,” indicative of a prosperous relationship between two or more parties. Shâlôm in this sense finds expression in speech: “Their tongue is as an arrow shot out; it speaketh deceit: one speaketh peaceably [literally, “in peace”] to his neighbor with his mouth, but in heart he layeth his wait” (Jer. 9:8); in diplomacy: “Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite” (Judg. 4:17); and in warfare: “… If it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee” (Deut. 20:11).

Isaiah prophesied concerning the “prince of peace” (Isa. 9:6), whose kingdom was to introduce a government of “peace” (Isa. 9:7). Ezekiel spoke about the new covenant as one of “peace”: “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezek. 37:26). Psalm 122 is one of those great psalms in celebration of and in prayer for the “peace of Jerusalem”: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” (Ps. 122:6). In benedictions God’s peace was granted to His people: “… Peace shall be upon Israel” (Ps. 125:5).

The Septuagint gives the following translations: eirene (“peace; welfare; health”); eirenikos (“peaceable; peaceful”); soteria (“deliverance; preservation; salvation”); and hugiainein (“be in good health; sound”).

Another related noun is shelem which occurs 87 times, and means “peace offering”: “And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord” (Exod. 24:5).

B. Verbs.

Shâlam (שָׁלֵם, Strong's #7999), “to be complete, be sound.” This verb occurs 103 times. The word signifies “to be complete” in 1 Kings 9:25: “So he finished the house.” Another verb, shâlam, means “to make peace”: “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7).

C. Adjective.

Shâlêm (שָׁלֵם, Strong's #8003), “complete; perfect.” This word is found in Gen. 15:16 with the meaning of not quite “complete”: “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” The word means “perfect” in Deut. 25:15.

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Peace'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. 1940.

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