See also our other Bible Study posts: Book of the Bible Overview Study Template and How and why to do a character study – template included!
This past winter, I had the opportunity to ride in a horse drawn buggy through a block of our hometown. Slowly meandering past landmarks and buildings in the town that I have seen thousands of times, I noticed things that I’m sure I had never seen before. It reminded me of Bible reading. It can be easy to breeze through our “reading” time, feeling familiar enough with many of the passages so that nothing really stands out… until we slow down and take a careful look around. It may take a conscious effort to appreciate our surroundings both naturally or spiritually, but it is worth every minute of it!
To extend the comparison, pulling out a telescope and gaining a greater appreciation of our surroundings in a bigger context could be compared to looking at the Bible from an overview angle. (Check out this Book of the Bible Overview Study Template.)
And a word study could be compared to using a microscope to examine closely things that might have been missed with the naked eye.
There is magnificence of incredible design no matter how you look at God’s creation, and there is magnificence of incredible design no matter how you look at God’s Word. The more we spend time with God’s Word, the more we can grow to know our Father. The more we know Him, the more He can change us to be like Him.
Decide what to examine.
How do you know where to begin or what word to choose to look at more closely?
If you are reading a chapter, you might notice a re-occurring word or a “key word,” and decide to look at it to understand more deeply what the import of the chapter is. You may choose a word if you are unsure of the meaning.
Sometimes looking at a verse in an interlinear Bible will make certain words jump out at you. This is an online interlinear: https://biblehub.com/interlinear/matthew/1-1.htm. The Blue Letter Bible app also has an Interlinear tool, if you click on a verse.
Another place to start is choosing a word out of personal interest. Maybe you would like to see what God says about “love” or “forgiveness” etc. Time for a word study!
And finally, a good recommendation is another great place to start a word study. You can listen for ideas in exhortations and classes or even ask your friends what word studies they may have found helpful. Here are some word (and phrase) study suggestions from others:
- Fear not
- It is enough
- Right hand
- Care (anxiety)
- Keep your heart
- Restore fortunes (ESV)
- Stand still
- any of the Characteristics of God
- any of the fruit of the spirit
Pulling out the microscope.
Next, you need tools to examine your word more closely. A tried and true tool is a Strong’s Concordance. This “How to Use a Strong’s Concordance” handout was developed for these Junior Elpis Israel Classes by Jonathan Bowen.
You can also use free online tools or apps such as https://www.blueletterbible.org/study.cfm. You’ll want to be able to use the tool both to find other occurrences of the word, and the meaning of the word in its original language (Hebrew or Greek). Another useful tool is the Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge (online: http://www.tsk-online.com/). Although the intent of this tool is not to list all the other times the exact same word is used or give the meaning of the word in the original language, you can use this tool to look up a verse and find other verses with similar key concepts.
Observation and Note-taking.
It’s helpful to have a journal or notebook to keep your findings. You may find this Word Study Template helpful.
First look up the word in your Strong’s Concordance or online. Look up the meaning of the word in it’s original language and jot down the definition and how it is translated. If it comes from a root word, you may find looking at the root word helpful, as well. How many times is this word used in Scripture? Which books/writers use this word? What context is this word used in? You can use an Englishman’s concordance to find where the word shows up in its original language. Look up all the verses that contain this word for more insight (or as many as you can!)
Finally, think about what you have learned through this word. Have you learned more about God? What did it teach you, or how did it reprove, correct or instruct you?