A little word can make a big difference. Consider, for instance, a tiny, albeit significant word frequently found in both Testaments. It’s the word “Behold.”
“Lo and Behold” is a Hebrew (Old Testament) interjection. The phrase is generally used as a literary way to arouse the reader’s curiosity or heighten one’s interest. The authors of Scripture used it the same way that we do today.
Imagine if I was telling you a story and said, “I was walking down the street the other day, minding my own business, when LO AND BEHOLD…” Without even finishing the story, did you notice what that phrase did to your level of curiosity? As it grabs your attention, it compels you to sit up, lean in, and listen closely. It is a verbal cue that something significant or unexpected is about to happen.
I have pointed out several times, in our study of Matthew, that he uses this interjection with literary genius. Much to my own chagrin, we don’t get to appreciate it in every case, because the Greek word for “behold” goes untranslated in many modern versions (such as the NASB, ESV, & NIV). The best translation to find this word in is the King James Version. Even still, it’s a word that should not be ignored.
Below, I have listed every use of the word “Behold” that we have seen so far in our Matthew study (chapters 1-16.) In those places where Matthew uses it similarly, I have grouped those under the same heading. Next to each heading, I’ve also provided what, in my opinion, is a possible alternate reading of “behold.” In other words, I’ve written out the fuller, specific idea that Matthew might be conveying to us. Notice the significance of this little, often overlooked word.
Behold! A Surprising Visitor: (“You’ll Never Guess Who Got Involved…”)
Matt 1:20 – But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him (Joseph) in a dream…(For other angels appearances, see also 2:13, 2:19, 4:11)
Matt 2:1 – Now after Jesus was born… (behold) magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem
Other surprising visitors introduced with “behold” include: demons (8:29), an entire city flocking to Jesus(8:34), Jesus’ astonishing party guests: tax collectors & sinners (9:10), and Jesus’ own family (12:46-47).
Behold! An Unexpected/Miraculous Event: (“Believe It Or Not…”)
Matt 2:9 – After hearing the king, they went their way; and (behold) the star…went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.
Matt 3:16 -17 – After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved
Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Other unexpected/miraculous events introduced with “behold” include: a sudden storm (Matt 8:24) and a herd of pigs committing suicide. (8:32).
Behold! A Seemingly Impossible Irony/Situation: (“Surprisingly Enough…”)
Matt 1:23 – “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON…
Matt 7:4 – “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
Matt 10:16 – “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…”
See also: Jesus’ description of John (11:18) and calling the disciples His mother (12:49).
Behold! A Person With Incredible Physical Need (“Sadly…”)
Lepers – Matt 8:2 – And (behold) a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
See also: a paralytic (9:2), a synagogue official w/a sick daughter (9:18), a hemorrhaging woman (9:20), a demon-possessed man (9:32), a man w/withered hand (12:10), and a Canaanite woman w/a demon-possessed daughter (15:22)
Behold! A Very Significant Insight Revealed: (“Listen to This…”)
Matt 12:41-42 – “…behold, Someone greater than Jonah is here… behold, Someone greater than Solomon is here.”
See also: prophecies of John the Baptist’s coming (11:10) and of Jesus’ coming (12:18).
Behold! A Shocking Accusation (“Look! Look! Look over here…”)
Matt 11:19 – “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'”
Matt 12:2 – But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “(Behold), Your disciples
do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.”
See also: the scribes call Jesus a blasphemer (9:3).
Behold! A Call to Listen Closely: (“Once Upon a Time…”)
Matt 13:3 – And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow…”
As Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” that even includes the interjections. In the end, understanding such small words in the Bible will not necessarily make you a better Christian; but it will make you a better reader of God’s Word. And, “lo and behold,” THAT can make you a better Christian.