How can we best describe the state of affairs at the close of the creation stories in the first two chapters of Genesis? A Hebrew word sums it up perfectly: Shalom. We typically equate shalom with the English word "peace." Unfortunately, we often identify peace as simply the absence of war or anxiety. Shalom means so much more.
Here are just few ways shalom is used in the Old Testament. The words representing shalom are in bold.
Absence of War
Joshua 9:15 (NRSV)
And Joshua made peace with them, guaranteeing their lives by a treaty; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.
1 Samuel 16:4-5 (NRSV)
4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, "Do you come peaceably?" 5 He said, "Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice."
Personal welfare of people and animals
Genesis 37:14 (NRSV)
So he said to him, "Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me."
Jeremiah 33:9 (NRSV)
And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them; they shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.
Zechariah 8:16-17 (NRSV)
16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, 17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the LORD.
Peace of mind
Psalms 119:165 (NRSV)
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
These are just a few examples of the many shades of meaning in shalom. There are other more nuanced instances as well. All seem to point toward a combination of wholeness, wellness, and harmony.
There are three more passages I want to highlight. These passages show the centrality of shalom to God's vision for humanity. The first passage is the Priestly Prayer and the other two are messianic prophecies.
Numbers 6:24-26 (NRSV)
24 The LORD bless you and keep you;
25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NRSV)
6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Ezekiel 37:24-28 (NRSV)
24 My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. 25 They shall live in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, in which your ancestors lived; they and their children and their children's children shall live there forever; and my servant David shall be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations shall know that I the LORD sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is among them forevermore.
Shalom is the best descriptor for the state affairs at the end Genesis 2. Shalom is also the best descriptor for the state of affairs at the end of time as evidenced in the last two passages. While shalom is not primarily an economic concept, economic issues are integral to the concept. God’s primary mission for us is to care for creation and enhance it in ways that reflect what God values. Work is of God. The transformation of resources and distribution of goods is integral to God's mission for humanity. There can be no shalom without economics that honors God.