How to Do an In-Depth Word Study in 1 Week
The Word Became Flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5, 14
I love words! I love the power of words. I love this passage in John speaking of Jesus being the physical and literal Word of God. And the Word of God cared enough to come down and live with us as a man, as the Son of Man and Son of God. Pretty powerful! As we approach Christmas, I encourage you to remember the real Word of God, the real Jesus. He’s not some cute little plastic baby in the gloriously neat packaged manager scene. He is the real God. The Son of God. God in the flesh. Christ who came for us to save us and deliver us from all sin and death and to reconcile us again to the Father, and bring us into the light.
I sent out an email during my 30 Dates in November Challenge outlining the basics of doing a word study. The Christmas season is the perfect time of year to do an “in-depth word study” as we remember the Word of God who became flesh for us. The Christmas season is the perfect time to ask God to illuminate His Word for us – to open our eyes to see the wonderful things of His law and Word as Psalm 119:18 says.
How to Do an In-Depth Word Study
3 Steps to Prep
1. Start by praying Psalm 119:18 for your time of study. Ask the Lord to illuminate His Word and help you to see things in a new light.
2. Grab your Bible (a study Bible preferably, but if you don’t have one you can use an online one), a journal and a pen or your laptop (but I advocate an actual physical notebook as it’ll make your study time more meaningful). You may want more than one version of the Bible to read the verse in different contexts. Try using BibleGateway.com if you don’t have multiple different versions.
3. Pick up Bible study tools
- a Bible commentary (I recommend Expositor’s Bible Commentary of the Old and New Testament, Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible and/or John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible)
- a Bible concordance (many study Bibles have these in the back, but I’d also recommend Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, which you can also find online.)
- a Bible dictionary (I recommend Evangelical Dictionary of Theology from the Baker Reference Library, which you can also find online. Here are a few others I’d recommend: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary or Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary).
- a Bible encyclopedia (I recommend the Zondervan Encylcopedia of the Bible, but you can also find The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia online).
A note of caution: Should you choose to do a word study from Song of Solomon, I would recommend using this website – PreceptAustin.org. Prominent, respected commentaries such as Matthew Henry often interpret the book as a strict allegory of Christ (being the groom) and the Church (being the Bride). Problems arise when one doesn’t interpret the Bible literally such as whose commentary is the accurate translation. When you are looking for a hidden spiritual meaning, the danger becomes completely overlooking the literal meaning. I often quote from Pastor Mark Driscoll’s messages on the Peasant Princess, who also takes a literal look at the Song of Solomon. The text itself doesn’t indicate we should interpret the book any differently than any other book in the Bible. I believe that God included the book of Song of Solomon in the Bible to give us a very real picture of what a godly, passionate marriage and sexual union between husband and wife should look like.
Day 1 – Pick your word and pick a verse as a starting place. For the purposes of this example, I’m going to pick the word/phrase ‘Prince of peace‘ and I’m starting with Isaiah 9:6 – “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Read the verse in its entire context – [Isaiah 9:1-7.] Make notes. What is going on? Who is speaking? [To understand this you may need to pop back to the beginning of Isaiah in the study Bible or look at a topical Bible. In this case, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amos, is speaking and in this particular passage.] What stands out to you?
Look at the notes in your study Bible or in the commentary For example: [The Zondervan NIV Study Bible, 2002, says, “His rule will bring wholeness and well-being to individuals and to society.”]
Day 2 – Read the recommended cross-reference verses. In my study Bible, these verses are located in the middle of the page, but they may be at the bottom of yours or to the left or right. [My Bible recommends: Isaiah 26:3,12; 53:5; 66:12; Jeremiah 33:6; Luke 2:14.] Make notes on these verses.
Day 3 Cross-reference the word ‘peace’ with the other verses from Day 2. [For example: take Luke 2:14. My study Bible’s note mentions how Christ promises peace to His disciples and sends me to John 14:27, whose note sends me to John 16:33. You could also use the specific cross reference verses mentioned in your study Bible or commentary. For example, starting with Luke 2:14, my study Bible recommends Isaiah 52:7; Luke 1:79; and Romans 5:1.]
You can choose to stop when the notes on the verses no longer mention other verses or send you back to verses you’ve already read. You can also choose to stop when the verses no longer contain the word you are studying, or you’re getting further away from the meaning.
Day 4 – Read the verse you chose in several different versions.
[For example, the Message version of Isaiah 9:6 says, “For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness.” This gives us a little more insight into the Prince of Peace, as the peace He brings will bring wholeness and completeness.]
Day 5 – Use the concordance and look up your word/phrase.
BibleStudyTools.com has a handy Interlinear Bible where you can click on a specific word in that verse and read more about it. For example, Isaiah 9:6’s word peace takes me to an article on Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace. This article provides a variety of resources such as word origin, word usage verse count in each book of the Bible, and definition. Clicking on a particular book of the Bible takes you to a page where your word is used in that book. For example, using the word shalom (peace), I click on Psalms and it gives me 27 different verse options.
BibleStudyTools.com also offers the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Using the verse Isaiah 9:6, under the subheading Prince of Peace offers a host of verses such as Colossians 1:20 and Hebrews 13:20. Again, you can skip over the verses you’ve already read in the previous days if you so choose.
Day 6 – Use the Bible dictionary and a regular dictionary. Use the regular dictionary to look up your word, and then compare with the Bible dictionary. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary (available online) has a whole article on peace, with sub-headings the meaning of peace, God as the source of peace, the relationship of righteousness and peace, and peace in the age to come. Baker’s also provides other verses to look up such as Judges 6:24 – the LORD Yahweh is peace, or Yahweh Shalom.
Use your Bible encyclopedia. Look up your word/phrase in the Bible encyclopedia. In the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia’s online version, the word peace provides a long article. For purposes of this study, I scrolled down to the sub-heading Prince of Peace. This section provides verses to read such as Isaiah 2:4. Then I specifically scrolled down to read through peace in the New Testament and read through the available verses.
Day 7 – Go back and reread through the original verse and your notes for the week. What observations do you make? What did you learn? How does your study illuminate the word you chose? How does your study help you grow in your walk with the Lord?
Take it a Step Further – (optional Day 8) Read a devotional on the verse you read. In BibleStudyTools, you can type in your word/phrase under the devotionals section to find one. (i.e. John MacArthur writes a devotional, Remembering Our Prince of Peace this Christmas.)
Share With Us
Have you ever done an in-depth word study? If so, how has it helped you better understand God’s Word? If not, what excites you or scares you about taking on the challenge of doing a word-study? What do you hope to learn?
- Posted in: Knowing God