Sha·lohmʹ, the Hebrew word rendered “peace,” refers to the state of being free from war or disturbance (Jg 4:17; 1Sa 7:14; 1Ki 4:24; 2Ch 15:5; Job 21:9; Ec 3:8); it can convey the idea of health, safety, soundness (Ge 37:14, ftn), welfare (Ge 41:16), friendship (Ps 41:9), and entirety or completeness (Jer 13:19). The Greek word for peace (ei·reʹne) has taken on the same broad connotations as the Hebrew word sha·lohmʹ and may express the ideas of well-being, salvation, and concord, in addition to the absence of conflict. It occurs in the farewell exclamation “go in peace,” which somewhat corresponds to the expression ‘may it go well with you.’
Since “peace” is not always the exact equivalent for the original-language words, the context must be taken into consideration to determine what is meant. For example, to be ‘sent away in peace’ could signify being sent away amicably, with no fear of interference from the one granting permission to leave. (Ge 26:29; 44:17; Ex 4:18) To ‘return in peace,’ as from battle, meant returning unharmed or victoriously. (Ge 28:21; Jos 10:21; Jg 8:9; 11:31; 2Ch 18:26, 27; 19:1) ‘Asking concerning the peace’ of a person meant inquiring as to how he was getting along. (Ge 29:6, ftn; 43:27, ftn) ‘Working for the peace’ of someone denoted working for that one’s welfare. (De 23:6) For a person to die in peace could mean his dying a tranquil death after having enjoyed a full life or the realization of a cherished hope. (Compare Ge 15:15; Lu 2:29; 1Ki 2:6.) The prophecy concerning Josiah’s ‘being gathered to his own graveyard in peace’ indicated that he would die before the foretold calamity upon Jerusalem. (2Ki 22:20; 2Ch 34:28; compare 2Ki 20:19.) At Isaiah 57:1, 2 the righteous one is depicted as entering into peace at death, thereby escaping calamity.
Acquiring Peace. Jehovah is the God of peace (1Co 14:33; 2Co 13:11; 1Th 5:23; Heb 13:20) and the Source of peace (Nu 6:26; 1Ch 22:9; Ps 4:8; 29:11; 147:14; Isa 45:7; Ro 15:33; 16:20), it being a fruit of his spirit. (Ga 5:22) For this reason true peace can be had only by those who are at peace with God. Serious transgressions put a strain on a person’s relationship with God and cause the individual to be disturbed. The psalmist said: “There is no peace in my bones on account of my sin.” (Ps 38:3) Those who desire to seek and pursue peace must therefore “turn away from what is bad, and do what is good.” (Ps 34:14) Without righteousness, there can be no peace. (Ps 72:3; 85:10; Isa 32:17) That is why the wicked cannot have peace. (Isa 48:22; 57:21; compare Isa 59:2-8.) On the other hand, peace is the possession of those who are fully devoted to Jehovah, love his law (Ps 119:165), and heed his commandments.
When Christ Jesus was on earth, neither the natural Jews nor the non-Jews were at peace with Jehovah God. Having transgressed God’s law, the Jews had come under the curse of the Law. (Ga 3:12, 13) As for the non-Jews outside God’s covenant, they “had no hope and were without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12) However, by means of Christ Jesus both peoples were given the opportunity to come into a peaceful relationship with God. Pointing forward to this was the angelic announcement made to shepherds at Jesus’ birth: “Upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”
The peaceful message proclaimed by Jesus and his followers appealed to ‘friends of peace,’ that is, to persons desiring to be reconciled to God. (Mt 10:13; Lu 10:5, 6; Ac 10:36) At the same time this message caused divisions in households, as some accepted it while others rejected it. (Mt 10:34; Lu 12:51) The majority of the Jews rejected the message and thus failed to discern “the things having to do with peace,” evidently including repentance and acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. (Compare Lu 1:79; 3:3-6; Joh 1:29-34.) Their failure resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in 70 C.E.
However, even the Jews who did accept “the good news of peace” were sinners and needed to have their transgressions atoned for so as to enjoy peace with Jehovah God. Jesus’ death as a ransom sacrifice cared for this need. As had been foretold: “The chastisement meant for our peace was upon him, and because of his wounds there has been a healing for us.” (Isa 53:5) Jesus’ sacrificial death on the torture stake also provided the basis for canceling the Mosaic Law, which divided the Jews from the non-Jews. Therefore, upon becoming Christians, both peoples could be at peace with God and with one another. The apostle Paul wrote: “[Jesus] is our peace, he who made the two parties one and destroyed the wall in between that fenced them off. By means of his flesh he abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments consisting in decrees, that he might create the two peoples in union with himself into one new man and make peace; and that he might fully reconcile both peoples in one body to God through the torture stake, because he had killed off the enmity by means of himself. And he came and declared the good news of peace to you, the ones far off, and peace to those near, because through him we, both peoples, have the approach to the Father by one spirit.”
“The peace of God,” that is the calmness and tranquillity that result from a Christian’s precious relationship with Jehovah God, guards his heart and mental powers from becoming anxious about his needs. He has the assurance that Jehovah God provides for his servants and answers their prayers. This puts his heart and mind at rest. (Php 4:6, 7) Similarly, the peace that Jesus Christ gave to his disciples, based on their faith in him as God’s Son, served to calm their hearts and minds. Although Jesus told them that the time was coming when he would no longer be with them personally, they had no reason to be concerned or to give way to fear. He was not leaving them without help but promised to send them the holy spirit.
The peace that Christians enjoyed was not to be taken for granted. They were to be “peaceable”; that is, they were to be peacemakers, going out of their way to establish and to maintain peace. (1Th 5:13) To preserve peace among themselves, they had to exercise care so as not to stumble fellow believers. (Ro 14:13-23) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated: “Happy are the peaceable [literally, peacemakers], since they will be called ‘sons of God.’” (Mt 5:9, ftn; compare Jas 3:18.) Christians were counseled to pursue peace and to do their utmost to be found at peace with God. (2Ti 2:22; Heb 12:14; 1Pe 3:11; 2Pe 3:14) Therefore, they had to fight against the desires of the flesh, as these would cause them to be at enmity with God. (Ro 8:6-8) The fact that remaining in a peaceful relationship with God was necessary for divine approval lends much weight to the oft-repeated prayerful expression ‘may you have peace.’
Christians also wanted others to enjoy peace. Therefore, “shod with the equipment of the good news of peace,” they carried on their spiritual warfare. (Eph 6:15) Even within the congregation they waged warfare in overturning reasonings that were out of harmony with the knowledge of God, so that these reasonings did not damage their relationship with God. (2Co 10:4, 5) However, it was not a verbal fight or quarrel, not even when correcting those who had deviated from the truth. With reference to handling cases of those who had departed from a right course, the apostle Paul counseled Timothy: “A slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed; as perhaps God may give them repentance leading to an accurate knowledge of truth, and they may come back to their proper senses out from the snare of the Devil, seeing that they have been caught alive by him for the will of that one.”
Peaceful Rule. The Son of God, as the one to have ‘the princely rule upon his shoulder,’ is called the “Prince of Peace.” (Isa 9:6, 7) It is, therefore, noteworthy that Christ Jesus, while on earth, showed that his servants should not arm themselves for physical warfare, when saying to Peter: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Mt 26:52) Figuratively speaking, those who became Christians “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears.” They learned war no more. (Isa 2:4) This and God’s past activities, especially in connection with Israel during Solomon’s reign, point to the peace that will prevail during Jesus’ rule as King. Regarding Solomon’s reign, the Bible reports: “Peace itself became his in every region of his, all around. And Judah and Israel continued to dwell in security, everyone under his own vine and under his own fig tree, from Dan to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon.” (1Ki 4:24, 25; 1Ch 22:9) As is evident from other scriptures (compare Ps 72:7, 8; Mic 4:4; Zec 9:9, 10; Mt 21:4, 5), this served as a pattern of what would take place under the rule of Christ Jesus, the One greater than Solomon, which name comes from a root meaning “peace.”
Peace Between Man and Animals. Jehovah God promised to the Israelites, if obedient: “I will put peace in the land, and you will indeed lie down, with no one making you tremble; and I will make the injurious wild beast cease out of the land.” (Le 26:6) This meant that the wild animals would stay within the confines of their habitat and not bring harm to the Israelites and their domestic animals. On the other hand, if the Israelites proved to be disobedient, Jehovah would allow their land to be invaded and devastated by foreign armies. As this would result in reducing the population, wild animals would multiply, penetrate formerly inhabited areas, and do injury to the survivors and their domestic animals.
The peace promised to the Israelites in connection with the wild animals differed from that enjoyed by the first man and woman in the garden of Eden, for Adam and Eve enjoyed full dominion over the animal creation. (Ge 1:28) By contrast, in prophecy, like dominion is attributed only to Christ Jesus. (Ps 8:4-8; Heb 2:5-9) Therefore, it is under the government of Jesus Christ, “a twig out of the stump of Jesse,” or God’s “servant David,” that peace will again prevail between men and the animals. (Isa 11:1, 6-9; 65:25; Eze 34:23-25) These last cited texts have a figurative application, for it is obvious that the peace between animals, such as the wolf and the lamb, there described did not find literal fulfillment in ancient Israel. It was thus foretold that persons of harmful, beastlike disposition would cease their vicious ways and live in peace with their more docile neighbors. However, the prophetic use of the animals figuratively to portray the peaceful conditions to prevail among God’s people implies that there will also be peace among literal animals under the rule of Christ Jesus, even as there evidently was in Eden.