PEACE. Pick the definition you like the best:
1: a state of tranquillity or quiet: as
a : freedom from civil disturbance
b : a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom
2: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
3: harmony in personal relations
4 a : a state or period of mutual concord between governments
b : a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity
Peace. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved November 6, 2013, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peace
Now find that definition in the following verse from Judges 1:1-7 (NIV):
1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?”
2 The Lord answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.”
3 The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them.
4 When Judah attacked, the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.
7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.
Peace is there, I promise. But it might not be what you have thought it is in the Old Testament.
Let’s try a different version. Here’s the same text in the New American Standard version:
Now it came about after the death of Joshua that the sons of Israel inquired of the Lord, saying, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” 2 The Lord said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.” 3 Then Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted me, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I in turn will go with you into the territory allotted you.” So Simeon went with him. 4 Judah went up, and the Lord gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hands, and they defeated ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 They found Adoni-bezek in Bezek and fought against him, and they defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. 6 But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes. 7 Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to gather up scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has repaid me.” So they brought him to Jerusalem and he died there.
Still haven’t found it? Ok, here’s the phrase translated by the Hebrew word for peace (shalom): “so God has repaid me (NAS).” Or in the NIV, “Now God has paid me back…”
Shalom, translated here as “paid back” is in the Piel root. The Piel root conveys intensive action. If the verb is “tear,” as in “he tears the paper,” in the Piel root the meaning would carry the idea of “ripped,” an intensive action.
God “shalomed” Adoni-bezek. He intensely “peaced” him.
Peace in the Old Testament, at least in much of the Pentateuch and specifically in Judges, was not a meditative, free from conflict, nothing is bothering me state of being. Peace in the Old Testament was a restoration of the community’s equilibrium, often by actions of punishment or restoration. The scales are balanced.
Peace is broken by injustice. Restitution or punishment restores peace.
The next time you read of peace in the Old Testament, try to uncover what was out of sorts, what imbalance had occurred.