Why It’s Important to Look and Behold

To look (verb) direct one’s gaze toward someone or something or in a specified direction; think of or regard in a specified way.

To behold (verb) see or observe (a thing or person, especially a remarkable or impressive one); to perceive through sight or apprehension

My wife and I are both devout Christians who study the scriptures daily. Recently, we were having a philosophical discussion about the preponderance of certain words within passages of scripture. On this particular occasion, she had been studying a chapter where the words “look”, “behold”, and “beheld” appear over and over again in the course of just four chapters. I read the same passages in my personal study over the last few days.

I am a believer that the writers and translators of sacred writ use this rhetorical device to grab the reader’s attention. It’s as though they’re saying, “Hey you! Yes you wearing the out-of-season Hawaiian shirt. PAY ATTENTION!” Something along those lines, though I’m not always wearing an out-of-season Hawaiian shirt when I study the scriptures.

Because I’m also always interested in data, I decided to pay the Gutenberg project a visit and download plain text versions of the canon of scripture. Then, I wrote a Python script to count the number of times each of those words appeared within each book. (You’ll note from my code sample that I am a novice Python developer.)

Here’s what I discovered in the canon of scripture:

  • Look (including looked) appears 544 times
  • Behold appears an astonishing 3,501 times
  • Beheld appears 218 times
  • The total for all 3 root words: 4,263 appearances

In the four-chapter passage I referenced before, here are the results of the same script:

  • Look (including looked) appears 25 times. Interestingly, 10 of those are with an exclamation point; the translator apparently doubling down on trying to get my attention.
  • Behold appears 42 times
  • Beheld appears 62 times
  • The total for all 3 root words in this passage: 129 appearances

Those four chapters represent a mere 0.25% of the total number of chapters yet the appearance of “look”, “behold”, and “beheld” in them accounts for 3.03% of the total number of occurrences.

As we study scripture, it is important that we have “ears to hear” and “eyes to see”. When we’re possessed of these qualities, the seemingly unimportant can often become very important in who we are and how we approach our relationships with God and man.

In my case, the Lord wanted me to pay attention. Specifically, the idea of beholding; really seeing and observing the lessons He was trying to teach me through my personal study of the scriptures.

By the way, I’m not going to tell you where those four particular chapters are. You’ll have to do a bit of your own investigation, but you can start by going here. (Not an affiliate link; I don’t get paid anything if you follow it.)

Thanks for reading!

Married to my best friend. Father to five exuberant children. Fledgling entrepreneur. Writer. Software developer. Inventory management expert.