I have a confession to make. Well, actually, two.
Confession number one: I used bacon to lure you in to this post. Sorry about that.
Confession number two: Sometimes when I read the Bible, I catch myself just absentmindedly skimming it, not really even digesting what it says because I’m thinking about
bacon other things. However, I have found that if I look up the keywords of a verse in a Hebrew or Greek dictionary, it not only expands their meaning and gives me a deeper understanding of the verse, but it also grabs my attention and keeps me focused.
Now if you don’t share my affection for word study, you probably yawned and mentally checked out at the mention of the word dictionary. However, even if words don’t excite you like they do me, and even if you don’t contemplate for eons which word is perfect for a particular literary moment like I do (and ask your spouse which word is better and receive a puzzled what-does-it-matter? in return), and even if you are not a complete word
aficionado nerd like I am, you can still benefit greatly from digging deeper into God’s Word.
The Bible is unique in many ways, but one way is how you can read the same passage multiple times on different days or in various seasons of your life and glean new meaning and understanding. I don’t mean that God’s Word changes, I just mean that since it is the living Word, the Holy Spirit is able to continually reveal his truth to us through it–if we are paying attention and are willing to learn.
Here’s how I do my word studies. Although there are several online Bible study resources, my favorite is Bible Study Tools. There are over 30 Bible versions available on the site, but the King James Version and the New American Standard are the translations linked to the dictionaries. After you choose one of these translations and enter a verse or passage reference, click on “Strong’s Numbers”. The words that are linked to the dictionary will turn bold blue. You can then click on a bolded word to go to its definition.
Since I have not studied Hebrew or Greek, I don’t always understand what the grammatical notations mean (really, never), but that’s ok. I just get the gist of the definition. Then I like to study the verse by placing the definition or synonyms in parentheses after each keyword like this:
As for God, His way is blameless (complete, whole, entire, healthful, wholesome, unimpaired, innocent, having integrity, complete or entirely in accord with truth and fact);
The word of the LORD is tried (refined, tested, proven true);
He is a shield (buckler, defense, protection, safeguard) In this instance, since there was only one other word besides shield listed in the Hebrew dictionary, I pulled the last three words from Merriam Webster under the definition of buckler.
to all who take refuge in (flee for protection, to put trust in, confide or hope in)
Each phrase of this verse contains great power and comfort as is, but when you add in the definitions and synonyms from the dictionary, the verse takes on even more meaning. Now you can also understand that God is entirely true, that His Word is proven true, and that He is your protection and safeguard–all from just this one verse!
Please know that I am not suggesting that His Word isn’t enough just like it is. But we have to remember that unless we are reading Scripture in its original languages, we are reading a translation. Some words don’t translate easily, and the meanings of words in living languages evolve over time. And even though God is powerful enough to reveal His Word in any way He chooses, I have experienced firsthand how researching the meanings of the original languages adds richness and depth to Bible study.
He wants us to understand His words. If studying them makes me a nerd, then bring on the taped glasses and slide rule. I’m in.
O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8
(Hmmm, I wonder what it means to taste…)
Janice Powell 2013
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972, 1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.