Ever watch NCIS? It’s one of my favorite TV shows. In the final episode of season 6, “Aliyah,” the Israelis greeted the visiting NCIS team with the traditional “Shalom.” They even greeted Tony that way — and they didn’t like Tony. Seems like a nice gesture; shalom means “peace,” right?
Not long after watching that episode, I read the first chapter of the book of Nahum. The first part of verse fifteen says, “Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace!” I use the “New Spirit Filled Life Bible” to study — it’s packed full of all kinds of interesting information. Following verse fifteen is this study on the word “peace,” which of course is translated from the Hebrew word shalom.
Completeness, wholeness, peace, health, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalam, meaning “to be complete, perfect and full.” Thus shalom is much more than the absence of war and conflict, it is the wholeness that the entire human race seeks.
Like so many other Hebrew words, the common English translation leaves so much unexpressed. When you say “Shalom!” to someone, you’re blessing him with completeness/abundance in body, soul, spirit, wealth and relationships.
And we forget, sometimes, that God intends for His children to bless everyone. In the Old Testament, God promised Abraham, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” In the New Testament Jesus told His disciples “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God intends for His children to make everyone’s life better.
I don’t see how anyone can object to that, whatever his faith or absence thereof (it’s even the same word as the traditional Arab greeting of salaam). And we already say “good bye,” which is a derived from “God be with ye.” Sometimes I say shalom instead of “goodbye,” “see ya,” “take care,” “best regards,” “be cool, yo” etc. Part of our jobs as Christians is to be a blessing, right? I’m trying to do it on purpose.
I love studying the meanings in the original Hebrew and Greek of scripture, so you can expect more posts like this. In the meantime…