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What Does ‘Behold’ Mean In The Bible?

The word ‘behold’ appears over 1,300 times in the King James Version of the Bible, commanding attention to something important. If you don’t have time to read this full article explaining the meaning and significance of ‘behold’, here’s the short answer: in the Bible, ‘behold’ emphasizes the importance of what follows, calling readers to attention and reflection.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore the definition, context, significance and purpose behind the extensive use of ‘behold’ throughout both the Old and New Testaments. With over a dozen examples from key Bible passages, we will illustrate how this thought-provoking word sheds light on the teachings of Scripture.

The Definition and Origin of ‘Behold’ in the Bible

Definition of ‘Behold’ in Scripture

The word “behold” is used over 1,300 times in the Bible. It is an English translation of several Hebrew and Greek words that mean “to see” or “to perceive.” In the King James Version, “behold” is used to draw attention to something important that should be observed or contemplated.

When “behold” appears in Scripture, it is a command to pay attention and see something significant. For example, Isaiah 7:14 prophesies, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

The use of “behold” emphasizes that this prophecy of a virgin birth is an important, remarkable sign.

Some other examples of “behold” in the Bible include:

  • “And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven.” (Matthew 28:2)
  • “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Matthew 17:5)
  • “And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel?” (1 Samuel 15:17)

In these verses, “behold” signals to readers that something important is happening or being said that demands their attention. Overall, “behold” highlights remarkable acts, scenes, or statements for readers to pause and reflect upon.

Etymology and Origin

In Hebrew, common words translated as “behold” in the King James Version include hineh, ra’ah, and chazah. These words have the sense of directing one’s attention to see, observe, or gaze at something.

In Greek, the word often translated “behold” is idou. Like the Hebrew words, it means to perceive something remarkable that deserves closer examination. Idou is an imperative verb, which serves as a command to look at what follows it.

“Behold” entered English in the 1100s, derived from the Old English word behaldan, meaning “to hold or keep in view.” It was used in Middle English Bible translations to translate Latin ecce or Greek imperative verbs denoting “to see.”

So “behold” took on the specific meaning it has in the Bible of directing attention.

The first use of “behold’ in Scripture is Genesis 16:11 when an angel speaks to Hagar: “Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son.” This dramatic annunciation stresses the importance of what is being revealed.

So in the Bible, “behold” originated from Hebrew and Greek words meaning “to perceive.” It alerts readers to significant ideas, events, teachings, or appearances of God in Scripture that warrant closer inspection.

Why ‘Behold’ is Used So Frequently in the Bible

Emphasizes Divine Truths

The word “behold” is used over 1,300 times in the Bible. This frequent usage highlights important divine truths that God wants to emphasize to readers. “Behold” calls attention to significant spiritual insights, God’s mighty works, and revelations of His character.

It spotlights these pivotal concepts so that readers take notice.

For example, Isaiah 40:9 states, “Behold, your God! “ This draws focus to God Himself. Other key verses emphasize beholding God’s grace (Zechariah 4:7), His care for creation (Psalm 104:27-28), and His judgment (Zephaniah 3:5).

By prefacing such revelations with “behold,” the Bible underscores their importance.

Highlights Spiritual Insights

“Behold” highlights deeper spiritual truths that illuminate God’s perspective. More than just bringing attention to information, “behold” elevates readers’ insight into divine principles.

Instances where Christ uses “behold” showcase this. His statement, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20), conveys His patient pursuit of relationship with people. In saying “Behold the birds of the air” (Matthew 6:26), Jesus illuminates God’s faithful provision for creation.

Such verses give spiritual vision beyond surface-level facts.

Calls Attention to God’s Works

“Behold” also accentuates God’s wondrous acts, from Christ’s miracles to fulfillments of prophecy. Prefacing accounts of divine wonders with “behold” spotlights God’s active works in the world for readers to glorify Him.

For example, Doubting Thomas cries out “Behold my Lord and my God! “ when Jesus appears resurrected (John 20:28). This signals an awe-inspiring demonstration of Christ’s deity. And in Revelation 21:5, God declares, “Behold, I am making all things new” as He promises the impending renewal of creation.

Such verses emphasize beholding God’s mighty acts.

Indeed, “behold” permeates Scripture to highlight vital spiritual truths so that readers cherish revelation from God Himself. It elevates their vision to see as He sees.

Key Examples of ‘Behold’ in Bible Passages

The word “behold” is used frequently throughout the Bible to draw attention to something important. Here are some key examples of “behold” in biblical passages:

Isaiah 7:14 – Prophecy of the Virgin Birth

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (ESV)

This passage prophesies the virgin birth of Jesus Christ hundreds of years before it took place. The “behold” here emphasizes the incredible nature of this prophecy.

John 1:29 – Jesus as the Lamb of God

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (ESV)

John the Baptist uses “behold” to highlight Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah who would die for the sins of the world.

Matthew 1:23 – Jesus as Immanuel

““The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).”

““Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” (ESV)

Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14, using “behold” to emphasize Jesus’ fulfillment of this prophecy as Immanuel, “God with us.”

Revelation 1:7 – Jesus’ Return

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.”

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” (ESV)

John describes Jesus’ glorious second coming, using “behold” to underscore this amazing event and grab the reader’s attention.

These passages give a sample of the many important instances where “behold” is used in the Bible. It often highlights prophetically-significant moments and emphasizes Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah and coming King.

The Significance and Purpose of ‘Behold’ in Scripture

Deepens Understanding

The word “behold” in the Bible serves to draw the reader’s attention to something important. It deepens our understanding by highlighting key events, people, or spiritual truths that God wants us to notice and reflect upon (Exodus 34:10, Isaiah 7:14).

Using “behold” inspires a sense of wonder and awe at God’s actions. It also signals readers to pause and carefully consider the significance of what follows.

Inspires Reverence and Awe

“Behold” invites us into a posture of reverence, humility, and awe before the majesty of God. When we encounter “behold,” it reminds us that we are reading no ordinary book, but God’s inspired Word (2 Timothy 3:16). “Behold” urges us to recognize the divine nature of the Bible.

It calls us to pay rapt attention, letting the truth and power of Scripture fill our minds and transform our hearts. The word stirs our spirits to gladly submit to the Lordship of Christ.

Demands Reflection and Response

God’s use of “behold” requires more than just taking a quick glance at the text. It demands our thoughtful reflection and personal response. “Behold” is a call to actively engage our minds, ask questions, make connections, and ponder the implications for our lives.

It prompts us to carefully examine our beliefs and realign our priorities with God’s will as revealed in His Word (James 1:22-25). The urgency of “behold” suggests that we not just hear the message, but act upon it in obedient faith.


As this exploration reveals, the prolific use of ‘behold’ throughout Scripture serves an important purpose. This attention-grabbing word calls readers to reflect deeply on divine truths, spurring reverence, awe, understanding and thoughtful response.

Next time you encounter ‘behold’ in the Bible, pause to consider what great spiritual insight it might highlight.

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