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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Hebrew Words

By Jeff A. Benner
שָׁלוֹם shalom

The word shalom is commonly used in Hebrew today as a greeting in the same way we use the word hello. It is also commonly used when departing in the same way we use the word good bye. This word is usually translated as "peace," but this English word does not adequately define this Hebrew word.

The root of this word is shalam and by looking at the context this word is used in the Biblical text we can get a better understanding of its meaning.

When one man's ox hurts another's, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the price of it; and the dead beast also they shall divide. Or if it is known that the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall pay ox for ox, and the dead beast shall be his. (Exodus 21:35,36, RSV)

In this passage the word shalam is used to express the idea of "replacing" or "restoring" one dead ox for a live one because of negligence. The verb shalam literally means "to make whole". The word shalom has the same basic meaning but in the noun form as can be seen in the following verse.

They said, "Your servant our father is well, he is still alive." And they bowed their heads and made obeisance". (Genesis 43:28, RSV)

In this passage the word "well" implies "wholeness" of the person in health and prosperity.

The word shalom is not only used as a greeting in modern Hebrew but in Biblical Hebrew as well.

And he said, Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks: I had your money. And he brought Simeon out unto them. (Genesis 43:23)

The next time you greet someone with the word "shalom" recognize that you are not just saying "peace" or "hello", you are wishing complete wholeness on that person.

Strong's: #7965

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