Hello! Welcome to a new month and a new post on Renaissance Woman!
I am continuing in my study of Isaiah 45:7: “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord do all these things.” I have made it to “peace” in my study which in the Hebrew is shalom and in the Greek eirene. I had planned for my next study step to be an in-depth look at the Hebrew letters comprising shalom and did touch on the Shin last week. However, I have come across something in my study of the Shin that must be looked at so, this week, I am going down one of those little side tracks I do usually try so hard to avoid.
In my previous studies of the Shin, I came across two teachers who described the shape of the letter as being comprised of other Hebrew letters. The Shin is like a flame with the three flame parts being Vavs, the tops of the Vavs are Yods, and the base is a Yod. Four Yods and three Vavs total seven parts to the Shin and seven is the number of Spiritual Perfection.
This is not the description Mr. Bentorah gives in his book. He writes, “The letter Shin is shaped with a base that has three arms extending upward. Jewish tradition teaches that the right arm of the Shin ש is a Yod י which teaches that we receive wisdom from heaven, the left side is a Zayin ז which teaches that from the left side there flows a weapon of defense to bring peace and the center of the Shin is the Vav ו which connects us with heaven. Thus the Shin brings the Zayin, Vav, and Yod into balance and harmony. The Shin teaches us that the peace of the Zayin, the wisdom of God, and the connection with heaven will bring us into harmony with God.”1
Mr. Bentorah speaks specifically to the Hebrew word shalom: “The left arm of the Shin is the Zayin which is a weapon to bring peace. The Shin is the first letter of shalom which means peace. Shalom has a wide range of meanings, not just an absence of strife, but the presence of wholeness and prosperity.”2
This idea of a weapon that brings peace sounds like an oxymoron to me. Never in any history I have read-of any age in any place-has a true peace resulted from warfare. While reading The Middle Sea, I was struck at how a battle would be fought because of the anger and resentment built during a previous battle which would then lead to another battle because an entirely different group of people would be outraged and then another battle, and another…any “peace” was merely a cessation of the actual killing. There was no peace in the sense of harmony or covenant friendship. I can think of no instance where a weapon of any sort brought a genuine peace.
I couldn’t think the idea was a scriptural one either. Doesn’t the Apostle Paul say, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds…?” (2 Corinthians 10:4) The list of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6 does mention peace but not as a weapon. Paul does say, “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” but the actual weapons are the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Ephesians 6: 13-17). Peace isn’t a weapon here, defensive or otherwise.
The only scripture I could think of where peace might be thought a weapon of defense is Philippians 4:7: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The Greek word translated “guard” in this passage (“keep” in the KJV) is phroureo (G5432) and means, “to be a watcher in advance, to mount guard as a sentinel, to hem in, protect, keep with a garrison”. I know of no culture where a Watch would be set without that Watch being armed: not to attack but to defend from attackers. Here, I can see the idea of peace as a defensive weapon but, wondering what more I might learn, I took a look at the Zayin.
There isn’t anything that immediately stands out. I look up the Zayin in both Mr. Bentorah’s and Mr. Haralick’s books and both tell me the Zayin is the seventh letter of the Hebrew Alphabet and has a numerical value of seven. The word Zayin (spelled Zayin ז Yod י Nun ן) means “arms” or “weapons”. Both books tell me the Zayin is even shaped like a sword with the top being the hilt and the vertical part being the blade.
Mr. Bentorah distinguishes between weapons and arms by writing, “Weapons are used to bring peace from those who are opposing peace. Arms are used to settle conflict over possessions, something like land, resources, or food.” He then goes on to write, “the Zayin reminds us that God has provided all we need when He created this world, He will sustain us or protect us. Thus the Zayin also means to protect and sustain. As a sword the letter Zayin is a symbol of power. It is the power of God that will protect us and sustain us.”3
Both books point out the Zayin’s numerical value is seven and the seventh day is the Sabbath or the Day of Rest. Elaborating on this idea of rest, Mr. Haralick writes, “True rest occurs when the desire to receive for ourself alone is at rest. For work can be viewed as the activity we do to fulfill and feed the desire to receive for ourself alone. When the work activity ceases, that is, when the desire to receive for ourself alone is put to rest, a stress-free state emerges. In this stress-free state we are able to take a cosmic view, seeing ourselves as part of and connected to and identified with Godliness rather than separated and fragmented from Godliness.”4
My Mother commented on last week’s post that she saw the peace of God as rest. In the Zayin, I definitely see the connection between peace and rest. Yet the letter Zayin also stands for movement so this letter appears to be a letter of opposites. It’s an active rest and it’s a peaceful warfare. Such opposites are only reconciled inside the person of Jesus Christ and by understanding life lived in the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is our rest and His rest is made real to us by the Holy Spirit living in us. Yet the Holy Spirit is described as wind and living water in the scripture: always moving, increasing, and bringing refreshment and revitalization. This rest is a dynamic rest. Then, there is no denying our Christian lives are filled with warfare. And yet, we do not make war as the world does. We have no need to fight for resources: God Himself is sufficient and “my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
I think it’s interesting that Ephesians speaks of having our feet shod by the preparation of the gospel of peace. Assuming the Apostle Paul has a Roman Legionary in mind when he is describing the armor of God, these warriors of Rome did a great deal of marching and carried heavy packs while they were at it. Good footwear was important and Roman Legionaries wore heavy soled hobnailed sandal-boots called caligae. The hobnails gave the wearer good traction on most surfaces. Reliable footwear was probably one of the most important parts of a Legionary’s military kit and it makes me look at the passage in Ephesians in an entirely new light.
The peace with which our feet are shod is the peace of God: union, harmony, completeness, wholeness, well-being, tranquility, and abundance. With this peace as our foundation, we stand on the solid ground that is Christ Jesus and we cannot be moved. We are protected and sustained with Jesus Christ Himself as our defense. When we do move, it is not in a state of warfare to claim more ground and resources or because we seek to put an enemy down. When we move, it is because we are pressing toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Our steps are sure because Jesus is also the way and our feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of His peace.
- Bentorah, Chaim, Hebrew Word Study Beyond the Lexicon, Trafford Publishing, USA, 2014 Page 149
- Ibid., Page 150
- Ibid., Page 90
- Haralick, Robert M., The Inner Meaning of the Hebrew Letters, Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, New Jersey, 1995, Page 106
All Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
Matyszak, Philip, Legionary: the Roman Soldier’s Unofficial Manual, Thames & Hudson, Ltd., London, UK, 2009, Page 52-54
Norwich, John Julius, The Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean, Vintage Books, Random House, New York, New York, 2006
Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990