SHALOM, WHOLENESS, WELL-BEING, PEACE, WELFARE, RECOMPENSE, REWARD

A student, to whom I am much indebted and who has been a friend now for years, asked me for help with her upcoming Sabbath lesson in a small synagogue in the Czech Republic. These notes are not polished, but maybe some other would enjoy looking at the information, a word study on shalom.

Quick word study: Shalom

Simple Piel Verb, שָׁלֵם

To complete, as in “they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:16 ESV).
To pay, as in “the owner of the pit shall make restoration [pay restitution]” (Exodus 21:34 ESV).
To restore, as in “I will lead him and restore comfort to him” (Isaiah 57:18 ESV) and “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25 ESV).

Adjective, שָׁלֵם

whole, at peace, as in “These men are at peace with us; let them dwell in the land” (Genesis 34:21 ESV).
or as in “When the house [temple] was built, it was with stone prepared [whole stones] at [from] the quarry” (1 Kings 6:7).

Adverbial use of the verb, שָׁלֵם

wholly, as in, “Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God” (1 Kings 8:61 ESV).

Related noun form, שִׁלֵּם

Recompense, payment for an offense, as in “Vengeance is mine, and recompense” (Deuteronomy 32:35 ESV).
Reward, as in “the LORD will reward you” (Proverbs 25:22 ESV).

Related noun form, שְּׁלָמִים

Peace Offerings (better translation would be Well-Being Offering).
The well-being offering is a covenant meal between the offerer and God (see 7:15-21 for the regulations about eating the meat). From a variety of scriptures (including some in Deuteronomy and Psalms, but primarily Lev 7:11-18) we know of three sub-categories of well-being offering: the thanksgiving offering, the vow offering, and the freewill offering. The organ and skin fat (or suet), kidneys, and large lobe of the liver are burned on the altar. Much of the suet is inedible for people and yet there is a tradition in the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic literature that it is the “best” offered to God. Milgrom calls it a mystery why the suet is reserved for God and burned on the altar. The prohibition against eating suet (organ and skin fat) or blood is called a “statute forever.” What distinguishes the well-being offering from all others is the fact that the blood and suet is offered to God while the rest is eaten by the offerer and those with him or her. The meat becomes to a certain degree sacred and the joyous experience of drawing near to God at the altar sanctifies the meal (much like a Passover, and many regard the Passover lambs as a special case of the well-being offering). Baruch Levine argues that the well-being offering served primarily as a tribute to God offered to atone for any rifts in one’s relationship with God (In the Presence of the Lord). The burnt offering and well-being offering are commonly mentioned in the Hebrew Bible throughout Israel’s history. They are the basic and common types of animal offering.

Related noun form, מְשֻׁלָּם

Dedicated (wholly committed) as in “Who is blind as my dedicated one?” (Isaiah 42:19 ESV).

Related noun form, שָׁלוֹם

Peace, welfare, well-being, completeness, as in “It shall be well, well with the far and the near” (Isaiah 57:19 JPS).
well-being, as in, “I will appoint Well-being as your government, Prosperity as your officials.” (Isaiah 60:17 JPS).
safety, as in “In safety and soundness, I lie down and sleep” (Psalms 4:9).
good, as in “For those who plan good there is joy” (Proverbs 12:20 JPS).

NOTES:

Shalom is a noun from a verb whose meaning is completeness, wholeness. It can have negative meanings, such as paying back evil deeds with vengeance or someone paying restitution for a crime. It can have neutral meanings such as paying a bill or completing a project. But it also has positive and inspiring connotations such as goodness, safety, wholeness, well-being. The common Jewish expression Shalom aleichem (peace unto you), therefore, is wishing someone wholeness. Of course wholeness or peace is part of the Messianic promise, as in Isaiah 9, ““Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end”
and “his name will be called, ‘A wonderful counselor is our mighty God; the everlasting Father is a prince of peace.’” Perhaps the most useful, practical verse about peace and wholeness is Isaiah 26:3, which is translated variously. My rendering seeks to be accurate to the grammar of the original: “A confident mind you protect in peace, in peace because it is trustful in you.” Isaiah’s theme is that those who understand God and his ways at the deepest levels have confidence and peace even when Assyrian armies are besieging the city and you are hungry and afraid. Your confidence, says Isaiah, is in God’s completing the work with goodness and happiness. His theme is similar to Paul’s saying, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV).

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