Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
The word ‘welfare’ in that verse is the Hebrew word ‘shalom’ which is often translated ‘peace.’ God promises that the future he has in mind is one of fulfillment, contentment, health, and safety, all concepts bound up in the rich Hebrew word ‘shalom’.
One of the tools that I often use in word studies is the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Here is a slightly abridged version of the entry for ‘shalom’
sh?lôm. Peace, prosperity, well, health, completeness, safety. sh?lôm, and its related words sh?l?m, shelem and their derivatives, are among the most important theological words in the OT. sh?lôm occurs over 250 times in 213 separate verses. The KJV translates 172 of these as “peace.” The remainder are translated about 30 different ways many only a single time each. sh?lôm which occurs in other members of the Semitic language family, was influential in broadening the Greek idea of eir?n? to include the Semitic ideas of growth and prosperity.
sh?lôm means “absence of strife” in approximately fifty to sixty usages; e.g. 1 Kings 4:25 reflects the safety of the nation in the peaceful days of Solomon when the land and its neighbors had been subdued.
“Peace,” in this case, means much more than mere absence of war. Rather, the root meaning of the verb sh?l?m better expresses the true concept of sh?lôm. Completeness, wholeness, harmony, fulfillment, are closer to the meaning. Implicit in sh?lôm is the idea of unimpaired relationships with others and fulfillment in one’s undertakings.
About twenty-five times in the OT, sh?lôm is used as a greeting or farewell (Judges 19:20; 1 Samuel 25:6, 35). To wish one sh?lôm implies a blessing (2 Samuel 15:27); to withhold sh?lôm implies a curse (1 Kings 2:6). In modern Hebrew sh?lôm is used for “hello” and “goodby.” Note the cognate Arabic salaam.
sh?lôm is the result of God’s activity in covenant (berît), and is the result of righteousness (Isaiah 32:17). In nearly two-thirds of its occurrences, sh?lôm describes the state of fulfillment which is the result of God’s presence. This is specifically indicated in those references to the “covenant of peace” (berît sh?lôm Numbers 25:12; Isaiah 54:10; Ezekiel 34:25; Malachi 2:5) with his chosen representatives, the Aaronic priests and the Davidic monarchs. The peace that marks the conclusion of an agreement between adversaries (Isaac and Abimelech, Genesis 26:29), business partners (Solomon and Hiram, 1 Kings 5:12), and man and God (Abraham, Genesis 15:15) is couched in terms of covenant agreement.
This sort of peace has its source in God. He is the one who will speak sh?lôm to his people (Psalm 85:8). His promise to David in 1 Chron. 22:9-10 puts sh?lôm in context with menûh?â “calmness,” nûah? “rest,” and sheqet? “to be quiet,” as these are gifts from God. The classic statement of this concept is the Aaronic benediction (Numbers 6:24-26) which identifies the man to whom God has given sh?lôm as the one who is blessed (b?rak), guarded (sh?mar), and treated graciously (h??nan), by Yahweh. This is fulfillment through the divine gift.
There is also a strong eschatological element present in the meaning of sh?lôm. Messiah, “David’s greater son,” is specifically identified as the Prince of Peace (?ar sh?lôm—the one who brings fulfillment and righteousness to the earth.
Paul (Ephesians 2:14) links these themes in his identification of Christ as our peace. He is the messianic prince who brings wholeness, but he is also God’s last word—the “concluding sacrifice” that brings redemption to mankind.
May the Peace of God Stuart Townend
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (‘Peace on Earth’ – Casting Crowns)
The Lord Bless You and Keep You (Lutkin)