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What Does "Behold" Mean in the Bible?
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What Does “Behold” Mean in the Bible?

“Behold” is a word that appears frequently throughout the Bible. But what exactly does it mean? And why is it used so often, especially in the Old Testament? In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll explore the meaning, usage, and significance of “behold” in the biblical text.

Introduction

The word “behold” in the Bible is rich with meaning. At its core, it’s an exclamation that draws attention to something important. It signals the reader to pause and take notice, to behold and carefully consider what follows.

Behold often highlights a new scene, a theophany (divine encounter), or a stunning revelation. It may also emphasize a command or prophecy. The word reflects a sense of wonder and awe at the works and words of God. As such, behold is an invitation to worship, contemplate, and respond.

Below are some key takeaways on the meaning and usage of “behold” in Scripture:

  • “Behold” translates from several Hebrew and Greek words meaning “to see” or “to perceive.” It signals something worthy of attention.
  • It often introduces a new section, calling readers to visualize a scene or encounter.
  • “Behold” highlights divine appearances, miracles, and other spectacular events.
  • It draws attention to important commands, promises, and prophecies.
  • “Behold” reflects reverence, awe, and wonder at the mighty acts of God.
  • It calls readers to attention, contemplation, worship, and obedience.

By exploring specific examples, we’ll see how “behold” functions in various Old and New Testament passages. This comprehensive study will uncover the richness of meaning carried by this small but significant biblical word.

What does "behold" mean in the bible?

Meaning and Usage of “Behold”

The primary Hebrew word translated “behold” in the Old Testament is hineh. This word means to “perceive,” “discern,” or “gaze upon” (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon). It draws attention to something worthy of notice.

In the New Testament, “behold” mainly comes from the Greek word idou. Like hineh, it invites perception and consideration of what follows (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).

“Behold” typically appears at the beginning of a sentence or clause. It serves as a demonstrative particle that alerts readers or listeners. The biblical writers use “behold” to highlight special revelations from God as well as important commands and predictions.

Let’s explore some examples of how “behold” functions in Scripture:

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Introducing New Scenes or Encounters

Frequently, “behold” sets a new scene and draws attention to a significant person or event. For example:

“And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah.” (Luke 9:30, NKJV)

Here “behold” marks a transition to the Transfiguration scene, a spectacular divine encounter. The word signals readers to visualize this stunning event and behold the glory of Jesus along with the appearance of Moses and Elijah.

Similarly, Isaiah writes:

“Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.'” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

The “behold” draws attention to this pivotal moment when Isaiah’s lips are purified to speak for God.

These passages demonstrate how “behold” can shift focus to a new setting or important occasion that demands attention. It heightens anticipation and directs the audience to visualize the scene.

Emphasizing Divine Encounters and Revelations

Another prime function of “behold” is highlighting theophanies and divine revelations. The word underscores miraculous works of God and His manifestation to people.

For example, when God appears to Solomon in a dream, 1 Kings uses “behold” to emphasize the divine encounter:

“Now it happened at night that the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, ‘Behold, I have given you a wise and understanding heart'” (1 Kings 3:5)

The “behold” signals that something remarkable is happening – God directly communicating with Solomon.

Similarly, Isaiah writes:

“I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up….Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings….And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-3).

The repetitive “behold” introduces the magnificent vision, underscoring the splendor of God’s presence and the wonder of beholding Him on His lofty throne.

These passages reveal how “behold” spotlights God’s miraculous works, His personal interaction with people, and His awesome glory. The word invites reverent awe at divine visitations.

Calling Attention to Commands and Predictions

“Behold” also frequently appears with important commands, promises, and prophecies in Scripture. It signals readers to take note and heed what is being revealed.

For example, when Moses receives the Ten Commandments, God prefaces them:

“I am the LORD your God….’Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse'” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

Here “behold” emphasizes that God is issuing an important decree – outlining the consequences of obeying or disobeying His Law.

Likewise, God tells the prophet Jeremiah:

Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.” (Jeremiah 21:8)

The “behold” underlines the urgency of this message. God Himself is presenting the options of life or death, blessing or curse. The word bids listeners to pay close attention.

We also find “behold” highlighting pivotal messianic prophecies:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14)

“But you, Behold, your King is coming to you…..” (Zechariah 9:9)

Here “behold” emphasizes monumental predictions – the virgin birth of the Messiah and His triumphal entry. It makes these promises impossible to ignore or overlook.

Reflecting Wonder and Worship

At its heart, “behold” carries a tone of awe and reverence. It reflects the wonder of beholding the mighty works of God.

After witnessing God’s glory filling the tabernacle, Moses recounts, “Behold, You have driven me to see that this people are set apart by You.” (Exodus 33:13)

The “behold” acknowledges with wonder God’s act of setting Israel apart for Himself. It inspires worshipful awe.

The Psalms especially demonstrate this tone of marveling reverence:

Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song” (Isaiah 12:2)

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him…” (Psalm 33:18)

These “beholds” reflect adoration as the psalmists survey the protecting strength of God, the blessed fellowship of the saints, and the watchful eye of the Lord over His people. The word signals joyful admiration and wonder.

So in these passages, we see “behold” expressing awe, celebration, and implicit worship at the revelation of God’s kindness, beauty, power, and love.

Significant Examples in Context

To gain a richer sense of how “behold” operates in Scripture, let’s look at some full narrative passages where it occurs. Examining the context and flow of the text reveals how “behold” signals major theophanies, commands, and revelations meant to arrest reader attention.

Isaiah’s Commissioning Vision (Isaiah 6:1-13)

In Isaiah 6, the prophet beholds a dramatic vision of God’s glory filling the temple. This magnificent sight of the Lord on His throne leads to Isaiah being commissioned as a prophet.

The passage begins:

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple” (v.1)

The initial “I saw” invites us, along with Isaiah, to visualize this splendid scene. As we read on, our attention is repeatedly drawn to significant details through the refrains “behold” and “Holy, holy, holy”:

Behold, the Lord on a throne, high and exalted” (v. 1)

“Seraphim stood above Him….And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” (vv. 2-3)

Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away And your sin is forgiven.” (v. 7)

We are compelled to pause and perceive the glory of the Lord, the hymn of the seraphim, and the cleansing of Isaiah’s lips. The passage continues:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (v.8)

God issues His vital call, and “behold,” Isaiah volunteers. Finally, the section closes with God outlining the future impact of Isaiah’s message:

“And He said, ‘Go, and tell this people: “Behold, you will hear but not understand…'” (vv. 9-10)

Again “behold” signals an important prophetic announcement that demands attention. Through key repetitions of “behold” and “Holy,” this passage moves from an awe-inspiring vision of God’s glory to a dialogue between God and Isaiah about the crucial commissioning. “Behold” spotlights the theophany, the purification, the call, and the prophecy – inviting us to visualize and grasp the significance of each step.

The Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36)

The account of Jesus’ transfiguration also uses “behold” to highlight key moments of wonder:

“Now it happened about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered…And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah” (vv. 28-30)

Here “behold” marks the dramatic transition to the transcendent revelation of seeing Jesus shining in heavenly splendor, together with the departed Moses and Elijah.

The passage continues:

“Then a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!'” (vv. 34-35)

“Behold” signals the incredibly significant event of God’s own voice addressing Jesus’ divine sonship and authority.

Through key repetitions of “behold,” the transfiguration account moves from extraordinary visual spectacle to direct verbal revelation. Just as with Isaiah, the word invites us as readers to pause, visualize, and grasp the awe-inspiring significance of each moment.

The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)

One of the most famous occurrences of “behold” is when God establishes His covenant Law through Moses:

“And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘Behold, I am the LORD your God…You shall have no other gods before Me.'” (vv. 1-3)

God preceded the commandments with “Behold” because these decrees demand undivided attention. The people must recognize that the Lord Himself is issuing non-negotiable principles for the community.

The passage continues with a series of orders, each laying down God’s expectations and standards for relationships and worship within the covenant. By beginning with “Behold,” God signals the gravity of these commands that follow and demands careful obedience.

Through cases like this, we see how “behold” often introduces solemn commands of God that require full submission. The word bids readers to recognize divine authority and heed it accordingly.

Theological Significance of “Behold”

We’ve explored various examples of “behold” in Scripture and its rhetorical effect. But the word also carries profound theological meaning. “Behold” points to important truths about God, His self-revelation to humanity, and our proper response. Let’s survey some of these theological implications:

God Makes Himself Known

The ubiquity of “behold” reminds us that the transcendent God actively makes Himself known. As Author A.W. Tozer notes, “Behold” acknowledges that “God is self-revealed…we cannot know Him truly until He declares Himself to us” (The Knowledge of the Holy). In His grace, God unveils His truth through general revelation in creation as well as special revelation to His people. “Behold” signals the moments He manifests His glory, character, purposes, and plan.

God Invites Relationship

Furthermore, “behold” implies relational intimacy with God. Theologian Karl Barth described it as an “existential indicator” that invites “participation in an event” (Church Dogmatics). In other words, “behold” doesn’t merely present facts to analyze. It draws readers into real-time encounter and communion with God. Just as “Come and see” invites relationship (John 1:39), so “behold” calls us to engage personally with God.

We Are Called to Response

Sight of God leads to insight. Encounter elicits response. Thus the “behold” of revelation implies a call for action. Seeing rightly stirs us to worship, trust, obey. Over and over in Scripture, “behold” appears in connection with responding to God (e.g.Ps 27:13, Song 6:13). As purveyors of truth, writes Barth, “Its meaning is always contained in the summons or invitation to him who hears or reads it to decision and action” (CD). So this simple but significant word carries a weighty charge – will we act on what we’ve beheld of God?

Conclusion

In summary, “behold” has rich biblical meaning. It signals something important to visualize or grasp, often introducing transformative encounters with God and His truth. “Behold” highlights theophanies, miracles, commands, and prophecies that demand attention and response. The word reflects reverence, awe, and wonder at God’s mighty deeds.

Ultimately, “behold” points to a gracious God who reveals Himself and invites us into transformative relationship with Him. It charges readers to respond actively to His revelation with trust, obedience, and worship. Through this small but regular biblical refrain, our eyes and hearts are drawn to fix on the glory of God and live in light of who He is and what He has done. May the Spirit give us eyes to truly see and “behold” Him through His Word.

Key Takeaways on “Behold”

  • “Behold” translates Hebrew and Greek words meaning “to see” or “perceive.” It signals something important worthy of attention.
  • “Behold” often introduces new scenes or encounters with God, heightening anticipation.
  • It highlights theophanies, miracles, and other revelations of God’s glory and power.
  • “Behold” draws attention to divine commands, promises, and prophecies.
  • It reflects a sense of awe, wonder, and reverence at God’s mighty acts.
  • “Behold” calls readers to worshipful contemplation and obedient response.

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Pastor duke taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.