You know what a Bible is. You also know what a dictionary is. But do you know what a Bible dictionary is, or why you should use one? Here’s three reasons to use a Bible dictionary, based on my own recent study of God’s Word.
LEARN A LITTLE CHRISTIAN TRIVIA
I was reading Psalm 111 the other day and decided to pull open the Resource Guide. As I was scrolling, I noticed that “Hallelujah” was listed under Topics. Now, I know that “Hallelujah” means “Praise the Lord” (and the app told me this, too), but I was curious if there was any other information on the phrase that I hadn’t heard before.
When I tapped on “Hallelujah” and opened my Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, I learned something hilarious. You see, when I was in high school, I sang in the choir, and we always sang songs that incorporated “Alleluia.” Turns out that, according to Vine’s, it’s a misspelling of “Hallelujah”! All this time I’ve been wondering what the difference was…
LEARN ABOUT GOD’S PROMISES IN HISTORY
Exodus 4 is another passage I was looking at recently. It’s here that Moses is instructed to inform Pharaoh that Israel is Yahweh’s “firstborn.” If Pharaoh does not relinquish the Israelites, God promises to kill the Egyptian ruler’s his firstborn son.
“Firstborn” is most definitely a key word in this passage–but what is its significance? There is a deep, rich history of God expressing the closeness of His relationship to the Israelites through this term, that is discoverable through using a Bible dictionary. Vine’s provides references to many other passages that teach about the cultural view of firstborn children in the Israelite community, revealing that it was a coveted position that held many benefits. A firstborn son was considered to be the most loved and to receive the greatest inheritance.
So, when the Israelites hear that God has called them His “firstborn,” a lot of emotions are stirred! According to Vine’s, being God’s “firstborn” meant enjoying a privileged position and blessings, in comparison all other nations. In Exodus 4, God is making it known that Israel is His prized child, and that no one—not even Pharaoh—can mess with them.
LEARN ABOUT GOD’S PROMISES FOR TODAY
But it doesn’t stop there. Vine’s is searchable, like a normal dictionary, and you can find a word’s definition for either the Old or New Testament. By looking up “firstborn” in the New Testament, I found passage after passage where Jesus is referred to as the “firstborn” (protokos) of creation. The most interesting reference I found was when John the Baptist proclaims that “He (Jesus) was first (protos) of me.” He’s saying much more than “Jesus was born before I was.” Instead, he is putting Jesus in the ultimate privileged position with God, receiving the highest blessing, because he is not just a son, but the Son.
Now, the important question: how does this apply to our lives? Time and time again we see God be faithful to His people, the Israelites. Better yet, we see the Father praise, glorify, and bless His Son. This seems like a pretty exclusive group.
But, we’re invited! When we believe in Christ’s atoning work, we are welcomed into this family. We enter this promise, into this privileged position with God. If you study the word “firstborn” across the Old and New Testaments, you can learn more about the history of God blessing those He calls His own. For thousands and thousands of years, God has been drawing people to Himself—and you are one of them.
ONE LAST THOUGHT
Overall, the main reason to use a Bible dictionary is this: The Bible is not our own. The Bible is a compilation of God speaking to His people through His people, in a time and culture we weren’t around for. So, although we have been welcomed into this family, we must recognize that this family has existed for thousands of years! That takes a bit of help and research to understand—but it’s worth the investment.
This week, we are discounting Bible dictionaries in hopes of encouraging deeper study of God’s Word. Check out the Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words or the Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 vols.) while they’re on sale.