by Lois Tverberg
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. – Psalm 122:6-7 KJV
Often in the past several thousand years, Israel has been in the center of international controversy. It’s as if the powerful spiritual battles that have happened in that land are ongoing, and still trigger events in world politics today. With this in mind, it is good to be reminded that God tells us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” in Psalm 122:6, above.
Older translations often complete that verse by saying that God would prosper those who do so. The idea that God would make us wealthy for caring for his people is actually a mistranslation of the word shalvah, which doesn’t mean prosperity, but actually ease, security and freedom from worry. The NIV now translates this verse in the following way:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”
In Hebrew, we can also hear how the verse is composed to gently roll off the tongue as well:
Shalu shalom Yerushalaim, yishla’u ohavaikh.
The overall effect in reading the verse is to hear both poetic parallelism and alliteration, as the soft sound of the “sh” is used in the words shalu (ask, pray), shalom (peace), Yerushalaim (Jerusalem), and yishla’u (security, tranquility). We also hear the closeness of ideas of shalom (peace, well-being) and shalvah (tranquility, security, ease). We see that those who care about God’s children in that troubled land will find tranquility themselves.
Why? God has chosen Israel for a purpose that will not be fulfilled until the end of the age. The people there show the ongoing struggle within all of humanity, spiritually. They are no better and no worse there than the rest of the world, and when we pray for God’s shalom to be established there, we are praying for ourselves as well.
See Listening to the Language of the Bible, by Lois Tverberg and Bruce Okkema, En-Gedi Resource Center, 2004. This is a collection of devotional essays that mediate on the meaning of biblical words and phrases in their original setting.
For a friendly, bite-sized Bible study of five flavorful Hebrew words, see 5 Hebrew Words that Every Christian Should Know, by Lois Tverberg, OurRabbiJesus.com, 2014 (ebook).