Question: "What is the meaning of the Hebrew word shalom?"
Answer: Commonly translated as “peace” and used as both a greeting and farewell, shalom has rich meaning in Hebrew. “Peace” is an accurate translation of the term, but shalom implies more than lack of conflict. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, shalom means “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.” It is translated “success” and used as part of an inspired blessing in 1 Chronicles 12:18. Shalom is applicable to an external peace between two entities—such as individuals or nations—and to an internal sense of peace within the individual.
The ESV and NRSV title Isaiah 54 “The Eternal Covenant of Peace.” In part, God promises, “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you. . . . All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace” (Isaiah 54:10, 13). One of the names of God is Yahweh-Shalom (Judges 6:24), or the Lord our Peace. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
True shalom comes only from God. Paul explains, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. . . . But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:1–3, 8–10). We are no longer God’s enemies, but He has made peace with us through the blood of Christ.
Even more, in God we are made complete. Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” First Thessalonians 5:23-24 says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” Philippians 1:6 assures us, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
As we await that final completion, we can trust God for our welfare. Jesus encouraged His disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).