Shalom – Part 2 The Hebrew Root of Shalom

Jul 25, 2011 2 Comments by

By Ron Ross

For preaching/teaching email

The foundation of almost every Hebrew word is a root composed of three consonants, and each root has its own fundamental meaning. The other letters that fill in around the three-consonant root to make a word can be varied in many ways to make other words. However, something of the basic meaning of the root always remains in the meaning of all other words.

The root of the word shalom is sheen-lamed-mem, transliterated in English as SH-L-M. Its basic meaning is “wholeness” or “completeness.”

Literally hundreds of Hebrew words are built from the root SH-L-M, and all of them have some connection to the basic meaning. For example, ShaLeM means “complete,” and is also mentioned in Genesis 14:18 “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.”

SheLeM means “peace offering” which was part of restoring a broken relation with God; SheeLeM means “he paid,” that is he completely fulfilled his obligation.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us there is life or death in the power of the tongue. Therefore, whenever you employ the word “shalom” you are speaking into someone’s life all the wonderful things that shalom means!

The common phrase shalu shalom yerushalayim (pray for the peace of Jerusalem) is not speaking about an absence of war (though that is part of it) but that Jerusalem (and by extension all of Israel) is complete and whole and goes far beyond the idea of “peace”.” –

The name Jerusalem.

Most religiouns place a strong significance on the city of Jerusalem. It is the birthplace of the world three monotheistic faiths. There is no place as biblically relevant as Jerusalem. But it was neither built or named by the Hebrews. It’s original name was something like – Urusalim which meant the foundation of Shalem and this was an ancient Ugaritic god – an idol. It is first mentioned in the Bible in Joshua 10: 1 when it was conquered, sacked and then abandoned by Israel. (Judges 1: 8)

Then along came David, four hundred years later. In 2 Samuel 5: 6 we learn David conquered Jerusalem and made it his capital. It was where he established his palace, his home, his headquarters.

By the time the Hebrews had a say in it, the name Jerusalem had been long established. Most likely, the original name, that sounded something like Urusalimum or Ursalimmu, meant Foundation Of Shalem, the latter being a known Ugaritic god. The reason why the Hebrews didn’t rename the city when they had the chance, may be because its name was easily transliterated into something very striking in Hebrew.

Without a doubt the second and dominant part of the name reminded (then and now) of the word (shalom), peace. The root of this word, (shalem), denotes completeness, wholeness and soundness. In this sense the name Jerusalem is related to some other famous names from the David saga: Solomon and Absalom.

The first part of the name Jerusalem may likely have reminded a Hebrew audience of the verb (yara), throw, cast or shoot. This verb is used when arrows are shot, stones are thrown or stacked and even when lots are cast.

Other derivations of this same verb is (yoreh), early rain, and (moreh b, c), meaning both early rain and teacher.

Perhaps the name Jerusalem was never changed, but only Hebraized, because it seems to mean Rain Of Peace.
Jerusalem was to be the radiating heart of a world of completeness and wholeness. It seems that history supplied her with a most suitable name.

Bible Blog

About the author

Ron Ross worked as the first Sports Editor at WINTV. In Wollongong. He ran The Hamburger Hut an outreach and discipleship program for youth. He served with Youth With a Mission in Hawaii, Philippines and Australia. He was senior pastor of the Noosa Baptist Church, Queensland for 9 years. He reported news from Jerusalem for five years and is now the Middle East correspondent for United Christian Broadcasters and travels regularly preaching and teaching.

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