The word “shew” is used over 200 times in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. But what exactly does it mean? In modern English, “shew” is not a commonly used word, which can make these verses confusing for today’s readers.
Definition of “Shew”
The word “shew” in the KJV is an archaic spelling of the word “show.” According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, “shew” means:
- To present to view
- To point out
- To set forth
- To explain or make clear
So when we see the word “shew” in the Bible, it means to show, point out, present, set forth, explain, or make clear. It does not mean “shoe” as in a piece of footwear! The verb “shew” is pronounced the same as “show.”
How is “Shew” Used in the Bible?
The word “shew” is used in several different ways in Scripture:
1. To show or point out a physical object or location
“And Leah said, God hath shewed me another son therefore called she his name Zebulun.” (Genesis 30:20 KJV)
Here Leah says God has “shown” or “pointed out” her newborn son Zebulun.
“And the men which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land, Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the Lord. But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still. And Moses shewed them the land.” (Numbers 14:36-38 KJV)
In this verse, Moses physically “showed” or “pointed out” the Promised Land to Joshua and Caleb after the other spies had given a bad report about it.
2. To demonstrate or give evidence
“And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee. And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.” (Exodus 4:1-5 KJV)
Here God shews or demonstrates his power to Moses by turning his staff into a snake, so that the Israelites will believe that God appeared to him.
3. To make something known or reveal something
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.” (Revelation 5:9-7 NKJV)
4. To give guidance or instruction
“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psalm 32:8 KJV)
Here God promises to shew or instruct and guide the believer in the right way to go.
“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost. So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5-8 KJV)
5. To give evidence of a spiritual reality
“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18 KJV)
James challenges believers to shew or give tangible evidence of their faith through good works. The reality of saving faith is demonstrated through acts of love.
Why Does the KJV Use “Shew” Instead of “Show”?
The King James Version was published in 1611. At that time, “shew” was the accepted spelling of the verb “show.”
English spelling was not yet standardized, so translators often used multiple spellings of the same word within one text. The translators of the KJV chose to use the “shew” variant throughout their translation.
Modern versions such as the New King James Version (NKJV) update the spelling to “show” for clarity, while retaining the eloquent Early Modern English language of the KJV.
“Shew” versus “Show” in NKJV
To illustrate the difference, here are some examples of verses from the KJV translated in the NKJV with “shew” becoming “show”:
KJV: “Shew me now thy ways, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.” (Exodus 33:13)
NKJV: “Show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” (Exodus 33:13)
KJV: “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13 KJV)
NKJV: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13 NKJV)
Key Takeaways on the Meaning of “Shew”
- The word “shew” in the KJV means to show, present, point out, reveal, make known, instruct, or demonstrate.
- It does not mean “shoe” but is an archaic spelling of the word “show.”
- The NKJV modernizes the spelling to “show” while keeping the style of the KJV.
- “Shew” is used to indicate:
- Understanding “shew” gives insight into the meaning of many KJV verses.
Examples of “Shew” in Key Bible Passages
Now that we understand the definition of “shew,” let’s look at some important examples of its usage in key Bible passages:
KJV: “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
NKJV: “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Meaning: God will reveal or make known the path of life that leads to eternal joy in His presence.
KJV: “Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”
NKJV: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.”
Meaning: The Psalmist asks God to reveal His ways, truth and paths so he can learn and follow them.
KJV: “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.”
NKJV: “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.”
Meaning: God will cause the Psalmist to know true wisdom in his inner being. The Hebrew word “yada” implies an experiential knowledge of God Himself.
KJV: “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
NKJV: “Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
Meaning: God reveals new events before they happen so when they occur people will know He is sovereign.
NKJV: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Meaning: Jesus promises to reveal Himself to those who love and obey Him.
KJV: “And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”
NKJV: “Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”
Meaning: God revealed a new truth to Peter in a vision, overturning the old dietary laws.
1 Corinthians 12:7
KJV: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”
NKJV: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.”
Meaning: The gifts of the Holy Spirit are made evident in believers for the common good of the church.
1 Timothy 6:15
KJV: “Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.”
NKJV: “which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Meaning: God will reveal the full majesty of Christ’s kingdom in the future.
In summary, the word “shew” in the King James Version simply means “show” or “reveal.” Understanding this allows us to grasp the full meaning of many important verses that describe God making Himself and His truth known to His people. While modern translations update the spelling of “shew,” the eloquent language of the KJV still resonates with Bible readers today. By studying key verses with “shew,” we can deepen our comprehension of Scripture and of the ways God chooses to make His person and will manifest to those who seek Him.