Jehovah-Shalom (The Lord is Peace)

This post is part of a series about the names of God in the Bible. This series is based off of the study that took place in our Ladies’ Bible Class. You can watch those sessions online at WestsideLife.org/media. Just look for the “Name Above All Names” media series.


In our previous post, we discussed the peace we have when we follow the Good Shepherd. That is perfect segue into our next name of God, Jehovah-Shalom. As you may remember, Jehovah is an English variant of God’s personal name YHWH (The LORD), and Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. This is used as a proper name for God just once in the Bible, in Judges 6:24.

The Story of Gideon (Judges 6-8)

The name Jehovah-Shalom (The Lord is Peace) is part of Gideon’s story in Judges 6. Gideon was the unlikely hero that God called up out of obscurity to free his people from their oppression at the hands of the Midianites. After realizing that he had just spoken with the angel of the Lord face-to-face (which should have had mortal consequences), Gideon’s life was spared. As a result, Gideon built an altar and named it Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord is Peace.

In the immediate context, this name is a testimony to the fact that God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. He does not discipline us as we deserve, because his heart is inclined to protect us instead of punish us. God’s gracious act of sparing Gideon despite what the letter of the law says runs in parallel to God’s gracious act of sparing Israel from their oppression at the hands of their enemies, despite the fact that Israel brought that punishment on themselves through their blatant disobedience and disregard for the law. Even when we deserve the wrath of God, he gives us grace upon grace. That’s what it means to worship the God of Peace.

The Situation: Consequences for Israel’s Sin (vv. 1-6)

We learn in Judges 6:1 that God gave Israel into the hands of the Midianites and Amalekites for seven years. We might wonder why would a good and loving God allow his people to experience this kind of suffering for the better part of a decade. Was he unaware it was happening? Was he callous and uncaring about their struggle? Was he too weak to do anything about it? Of course not! The reality is, this was a God-ordained act of discipline, designed to being Israel back into a faithful obedience to the covenant they agreed to live by. It was a time of temporary discipline designed to bring about permanent repentance.

The enemy was especially ruthless. They engaged in scorched earth tactics— everything was taken or destroyed (v. 4-5). Israel was tired, fearful, and desperate for help. After struggling through the seven years of oppression, Israel finally did the right thing and cried out to the Lord for help (v. 6). 

God’s Response: A Prophet To Deliver God’s Message (vv. 7-10)

One of the big themes in Scripture is that God responds when his people humble themselves and cry out for help (e.g. Israelites in Egypt). In this instance, God’s plan of deliverance began with a prophet that God sent to explain the situation to Israel. Through this prophet,  God reminds Israel that he rescued them in Egypt and brought them into the land (vv. 8-9), not any of the so-called gods that Israel had begun worshipping in the Promised Land.

God entered into a covenant relationship with Israel at Mt. Sinai, and that covenant promised blessings for the people as long as they were living in obedience to the Law. This was a conditional covenant: if you obey, you will be blessed; but if you rebel, you will be disciplined. A central tenet of that covenant was the responsibility, on Israel’s part, to worship God alone (v. 10)

In Judges 6, it’s clear that Israel has refused to live up to their covenant responsibility, and that’s the reason for their seven years of oppression (v. 10).

The Angel Appears to Gideon (vv. 11-24)

After the prophet delivered his message, an Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, who was threshing wheat in a winepress (in order to keep it hidden from their oppressors, vv. 11-12). God saw something in Gideon that Gideon didn’t see in himself. God spoke his truth about Gideon when the angel said “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” (v. 12) . When you think about Gideon, who is described as small, weak, and hiding in fear, “Mighty Warrior” isn’t the first phrase that would naturally come to mind. God’s view of Gideon and Gideon’s view of himself are lightyears apart. But what matters most is not what we think about ourselves, but what God promises to do through us if we are faithful to the call he has placed on our lives.

Gideon’s Theology: God Doesn’t Care About Us. (v. 13)

Gideon questions God’s loyalty, goodness, and power. For Gideon, the oppression is evidence that God is no longer with them or not powerful enough to work miracles against the Midianites the way he afflicted the Egyptians. Despite the words of the prophet in the preceding verses (perhaps he didn’t hear them…), Gideon doesn’t seem to even consider that their oppression is a result of Israel’s sin (vv. 13) and not God’s abandonment. 

Gideon experiences the oppression as a sign that God has abandoned them, but the message from God asserts that Israel has abandoned their faith in God.

When bad things happen in our lives, we are sometimes quick to blame God. And when good things happen in our lives, we are slow to give God the glory. It must break God’s heart when his children only come to him to complain about their misfortunate or blame him for their troubles, especially when some of that heartache is a direct result of our sin—not the absence of God.

Back and Forth Between Gideon and the Angel (v. 14-18)

The Angel does not directly challenge Gideon’s questionable theology, but instead commissions him to go save Israel (v. 14). Gideon responds by saying Pardon me, Lord!—A phrase conveying total humility, even trepidation. 

  • Moses says it twice as he objects to being God’s chosen one to free Israel (Exodus 4:10, 4:13).
  • Joshua says it when he realizes Israel has sinned against God (Joshua 7:8).
  • Hannah says it to Eli the Priest (1 Samuel 1) and a mother says it to King Solomon in 1 Kings 3 (two women with a dispute over the identity of a baby)

Gideon is really skeptical that he is the right person for the job, just like so many other ordinary men and women that God calls into service. How can I save Israel? I’m the smallest guy from the weakest clan. (v. 15) The Angel’s responds to Gideon’s doubt by saying  “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (v. 16)

Gideon’s Glimmer of Faith: Gideon wants to believe the message, but needs a sign (other than an angel appearing to him?) that this message is the real deal (v. 17-18). He knows what his eyes are seeing but he’s not fully convinced this is really happening. Gideon decides to put this angel to the test—to run an experiment of sorts involving a sacrifice. While we might expect God to become very angry very quickly at Gideon’s decision to test God, he actually shows a lot of patience and allows the situation to play out.

Gideon’s Sacrifice (vv. 19-21)

In the next section, Gideon prepares a goat, broth, and unleavened bread as an offering to the angel (v. 19). The angel touched the offering and it immediately burned completely up (v. 20-21). And then suddenly, without any further conversation, the angel was gone (v. 21).

Burnt Offering: An offering that is completely consumed is a burnt offering, and the total destruction of the offering is meant to symbolize the worshippers total devotion to God. There’s nothing held back, nothing kept for themselves.

Gideon’s Fear and the Lord’s Reassurance

Gideon is mortified once he realized he had just seen God (an angel) face-to-face. God had told Israel that anyone who sees him face-to-face will die from the overwhelming glory of the Lord (Exodus 33:20).

God responds with the word Peace (shalom, v. 23). “Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” (v. 23). Imagine the relief Gideon must have felt when he heard those words of peace and reassurance from God. The letter of the law called for death, but the Lord of Peace spoke life. 

In response, Gideon built and altar and called it “The Lord is Peace,” or Jehovah-Shalom. And that’s the story behind this particular name of God.

Gideon’s Story is Israel’s Story

A strict reading of the law would lead you to believe that Gideon deserved death. But God chose to offer peace and life instead. From a broader perspective, the letter of the law said Israel deserved punishment for their idolatry, but God chose to offer grace and peace—and the promise of victory over their oppressors. The Lord is Peace is a testimony to that fact that God offers us peace and prosperity and completeness and wholeness (all of which are part of the Hebrew concept of Shalom) even in the midst of adversity. 

But The Lord is Peace is also a testimony to God’s compassionate and gracious nature. He really is slow to anger, and he is quick to forgive and wipe our slates clean. 

What is most remarkable about this story is that Jehovah-Shalom is promising Israel peace even though they are the ones who are responsible for the mess they’re in. Gideon understands the grace and mercy God has shown and immediately launches some significant religious reforms to renew Israel’s commitment to the covenant.

Gideon’s Religious Reforms (vv. 25-32)

God instructs Gideon to tear down the altar(s) to false gods (Baal) and to build a proper altar to the Lord in its place (vv. 25-26). Gideon was told to offer a burnt sacrifice—a sacrifice that is fully consumed on the altar, a symbol of complete devotion (v. 26). 

Gideon does follow through on this commandment, but in my grade book he only he gets a “B-” on the assignment. He does what he’s told, but he’s so afraid of the backlash that he does it in the middle of the night when no one will see him (v. 27 Frankly, it’s hard to reconcile the heart of a burnt sacrifice (fully devoted) with wanting to do it in secret.

When the rest of the community discovers what Gideon did to their altar, we see the depth of their spiritual decay. They are so spiritually lost that they want to kill Gideon for his attempt to lead them back towards their commitment to God and God alone (vv. 28-30). The good news for Gideon is that his father Joash defends him, which seems to diffuse the situation (vv. 31-32). 

Forty Years of Peace

In the next chapters, Gideon leads the people of Israel into battle and successfully defeats the Midianite army:

“Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years.” Judges 8:28

In the Bible, forty years was roughly equivalent to one generation. The combination of Israel’s faithfulness, God’s power, and Gideon’s willingness to answer the call led to an entire generation of peace for the people of God. What an incredible testimony to the plan God has for his people today! We can be bold and courageous throughout every season of life because we have a Good Shepherd who offers us peace—if we’re willing to be fully devoted to the Lord.