ADONAI-Shalom is another example of a compound name of God that is revealed in the naming of an altar. The previous name of ADONAI related to an altar is ADONAI-Nissi, ADONAI is my banner (Ex. 17:15). At that time Israel was camped at Rephidim and were fighting the Amalekites. Israel, through the power of ADONAI, won the battle due to Moshe’s intercession of uplifted hands and staff as a sign (nes נס) of the presence of ADONAI among Israel.
The name ADONAI-Shalom is revealed to Israel when Gideon is judge. This is many, many years after God has revealed Himself as ADONAI-Nissi and as ADONAI M’kaddesh. Moshe and Joshua have long since died. Israel has conquered the land of Cana’an and divided it among the tribes. Though Israel has settled in the Promised Land, there is no central government or place of worship, and no semblance of national unity has been achieved. Israel is still living in covenant with ADONAI, under his direct kingship. However, in those days when Israel had no king, every one did what he/she considered to be right in his/her own eyes (Jud. 17:6; 21:25).
This is the situation in which Gideon finds himself. After Deborah, the Israelites again do evil in the sight of ADONAI, who turns them over to the Midianites for seven years. Israel is so overwhelmed by the Midianites that they hide in makeshift shelters, caves and strongholds. Midian, and her allies the Amalekites, were raiding the land, destroying what they could not devour and snatching the sheep, oxen and donkeys so that the Israelites were left with no sustenance or supplies. In this weakened condition, Israel cries out to ADONAI.
An Altar for ADONAI
The angel of ADONAI appears to Gideon while he is threshing wheat in the wine press. Normally a person would thresh wheat at the threshing flour outside the city where it can be done with animals and a threshing sledge. But because of the Midianite threat, Gideon was forced to thresh the wheat with a stick hidden in a winepress inside the city. The angel of ADONAI tells Gideon that ADONAI is with him, and that he is the mighty warrior who will save Israel. Not quite sure of ADONAI’s call, Gideon asks for a sign and runs off to prepare a young goat and unleavened bread as a sacrifice. When he returns, Gideon places the meat and unleavened bread on a rock, and pours the broth over it. When the angel of ADONAI touches the elements with his staff, they burst into fire and are totally consumed, and the angel of ADONAI disappears. It is only then that Gideon realizes that he has seen the angel of ADONAI face to face. As a result, he builds an altar for ADONAI and names it ADONAI-Shalom.
There are many wonderful things happening in this narrative, but our focus is the word shalom. It is one of the best known and most famous words in the Bible, but it is also one of the most misunderstood. The root of shalom is שלם (sh,l,m) meaning to be complete, whole or sound. As such, the meaning of the word shalom is very broad and is translated many different ways. For example 1 Chron. 12:18/19 in English, Amasai, speaking on behalf of David’s thirty mighty men, wishes him shalom, shalom, shalom (Hebrew/TLV), which is translated: success, success, success (NIV); peace, prosperity and success (NLT) and peace, peace, peace (KJV). We can begin to see the fullness of the term from this one verse. The translation of shalom is “completeness,” “wholeness,” “well-being,” or “welfare and peace.” However, when shalom is translated as “peace,” it does not simply mean the absence of war or strife. Shalom as peace, describes a positive peace, one in which the time, place and condition are characterized by love, righteousness, calmness, political, moral and ethical uprightness, and much more. It is a word reserved for those who walk in a positive relationship with ADONAI. When ADONAI ’s shalom is upon His people they are in the highest possible state of His chesed [covenantal lovingkindness, goodness and grace].
In Gideon’s situation, he built and named the altar ADONAI-Shalom, indicating faith in ADONAI and His characteristics of shalom, i.e. love, righteousness, political, moral and ethical uprightness, wholeness, rest, security. •