Over the years I’ve totally enjoyed digging into New Testament Greek, and doing word studies is one of my favorite devotional activities. But I’ve always shied away from Hebrew. It has seemed so much more difficult, shrouded in mystery, unfathomable. So I’ve limped along with dictionary definitions and transliterations…
In recent months I’ve been asking God to kindle in my heart a deeper love for His Word, and His answer to that prayer, in part, has been the discovery of “Hebrew word pictures.” The 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet (alef-bet) are each representative of a picture, which leads to a concept. And it is the combination of those pictures that brings the words of Scripture to life.
Today I want to explore the Hebrew word for peace, shalom. This is what it looks like in Hebrew — and it is read from right to left, not left to right as we are used to.
Using the word pictures, the meaning becomes “Destroy the authority that establishes chaos.”
As I thought about that, I realized that in my life, a lack of peace is characterized by uncertainty, confusion, disorder… in a word: chaos. In John 14:27, Jesus says this:
Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.
Jesus destroys the authority that establishes chaos in our lives and replaces it with the calm assurance of His sovereignty, His control, His authority, His lovingkindness.
Let’s look at a few other verses and I’ll leave it to you to lay this definition over them.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
For a child will be born to us,
a son will be given to us;
And the government
will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
“There is no peace for the wicked,”
says the LORD.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O LORD,
make me to dwell in safety.
Word picture definition: “Hebrew Word Pictures” by Frank T. Seekins, 2012
Shalom graphic: Wikipedia