It’s one of the most loved Bible verses of all time.
It’s probably the most memorized and quoted.
And possibly the most tattooed!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11.
(I don’t know this man in the photo, and it’s not my habit to put strange men on my blog, but his photo was on Wikimedia Commons and “rights free” to use. “Thank you, sir, and Wikimedia Commons for letting me use your back.)
Now that we have that cleared up, let’s continue….
I’ve often prayed this verse for others, my children, myself. It’s encouraging and hopeful, and we live in a world that so desperately needs hope.
But the other day as I was writing in a new journal, Jeremiah 29:11 was printed on the bottom of the page, but it was another translation than what I normally use. It was the New King James Version. Look how it reads:
“I know the thoughts that I have for you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
The Bible study geek in me did a back flip! Why had I never read or seen this translation before? And WOW! What a difference between the words “prosper” and “peace” at least in my brain. So…you know what I had to do. I had to start digging![Side note: Please start digging into the ancient language under the translations when you find a discrepancy such as this. Use a Key-Word Study Bible or a website such as BlueLetterBible.org.]
The Hebrew word that in my mind has been translated so differently is shalowm.
According to the BlueLetterBible.org site, the definitions of shalowm include:
completeness, soundness, welfare, peace
completeness (in number)
safety, soundness (in body)
welfare, health, prosperity
peace, quiet, tranquillity, contentment
- peace, friendship
of human relationships
with God especially in covenant relationship
As I read these definitions peace fell on me. I breathed deep and exhaled long and slow. The word itself and its definitions seemed to hold a sacred power over me. And I knew that if I were to print the LTB (Lee Translation Bible), I would choose to translate Jeremiah 29:11 with the word “Peace” rather than “Prosper” even though “prosperity” is one of the meanings. Actually, maybe I would not use an English word to translate this verse. Maybe I’d simply use the Hebrew because it holds so much more depth and meaning than any of our English words can convey.
“I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of shalowm…
…peace in relationships with God and man
I know prospering doesn’t have to mean money or things. It can be on the inside too. But my mind automatically goes to “stuff” when I think of prospering.
But “stuff”– though it can make life easier, does not possess the ability to bring me shalowm.
I feel the need to pray. Grab my hand. Let’s kneel before the throne together.
“Father-God, thank you. Thank you that your thoughts toward us are loving. You look at us with eyes of grace and love. Many feel you are always looking for a reason to punish us, but Jeremiah 29:11 testifies your desire to have relationship with us, to grant us peace with you and others, contentment, sound minds, and tranquility. Help us claim this in our lives. We desire your shalowm. Thank you for Jesus. You’ve made these thoughts of love and shalowm tangible through Him. We love you. Amen.”
Share your thoughts: How does knowing the definition of the Hebrew word shalowm in Jeremiah 29:11 affect your understanding of the verse? What would your new translation look like? (Comments are like chocolate for my soul without the sugar or calories!)