Finding and understanding words in the Bible: Concordances and Lexicons


Strong’s Concordance

A concordance is simply an alphabetic list of all the different words that occur in a book and where they are found. For many years, Bible students have used Bible concordances. These large books are invaluable for serious study. With an exhaustive concordance to the Bible version you read, it is possible to locate any verse in the Bible provided you can remember at least one key word of the verse.

They are also useful in performing word studies. For example, if you are studying Abraham, a concordance will help you find all the passages in the Bible where Abraham is mentioned.

Online Bible software, such as Bible Desktop, the one I use, comes with a Strong’s Bible Concordance. This allows you to type in any word, phrase or part of a phrase in the Bible and search for it throughout the entire Bible or various parts such as just the Old Testament, New Testament, Prophets or Gospels, for example.

If I were interested in finding every place in the Bible that the phrase “Son of Man” occurs, I would type this phrase into the search function and choose “The Whole Bible” as the range for the search. The search will yield the result, showing 195 verses with “son of man”. It displays every occurrence allowing you to view the location of the phrase. This is an excellent study tool to quickly assist you to study the location and context of a phrase or word.


A lexicon is an alphabetical listing of the words in an entire language including their definitions. This is a valuable tool to assist with understanding the Bible or for in-depth Bible study because the Bible was originally written in three different languages: Hebrew and Aramaic (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). Unless one uses a lexicon to look up the definitions of words from the original languages, the reader is left to trust the work of the translators. It must be noted, however, that if used too carelessly, a person can pull a variety of meanings from a word, without regard for its context.

For convenience, a lexicon is often included with a concordance. This is the case with the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. This lexicon however, was not meant to be used for in-depth word studies as it only provides very basic information about the word in question. This is connected to the King James Version of the Bible.

Online Bible software, such as Bible Desktop, comes with a Bible lexicon keyed to the King James Version (KJV). This allows you to look up any word in the original Hebrew or Greek language and search for it throughout the entire Bible or various parts such as the Old Testament, New Testament, Prophets or Gospels, for example. It also allows you to discover what English word the translators chose to use from the original language and this can change from translation to translation.

Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible

If I wanted to look up every place the original Hebrew word for “soul” is used in the Old Testament, I would begin by using the Concordance function in Bible Desktop. This would show me the first use of the English word “soul” in the KJV is found in Genesis 2:7 and is used 443 verses in the Old Testament. I would then look at the Strong’s number assigned to the word for “soul”, located under the word “soul” in the verse. Using the lexicon function, I would type in the Strong’s number (h5315) and search the Old Testament. The result would yield 683 verses in the Old Testament. Notice that there are more verses using the Hebrew word for “soul” than the English word. This means that the translators of the KJV used different English words for the same Hebrew word. For example, the first use of the Hebrew word for soul is found in Genesis 1:20, and the English word is “creature”. This allows for some very good Bible study, discussion and analyses. You can also compare how the Hebrew word is used and how the various English words for “soul” are used in both the Old and New Testaments.

Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament

A lexicon in the form of an expository dictionary provides much more insight into the word itself. We know that words in English can have a range of meaning depending on the context. For example, the word “stand” can mean an upright position; to rise to one’s feet; to set in an upright position; being situated in a particular place; to remain valid; to remain motionless; to rest without disturbance; to stay on specified course; to be a candidate in an election; or a position in an argument; a piece of furniture; to stop motion; or a group of growing plants such as trees. The correct meaning for the word is understood by the context in which it is being used. This is just as true of words in Hebrew and Greek and a lexicon can help to explain this and also help to keep the word within its context. However, it is important to remember that lexicons can contain theological bias (prejudice towards particular beliefs). This is an interesting article to read on finding study tools that contain less bias: Modern Lexicons and Dictionaries for Bible Study.

Give this a try. You may find it a bit of a challenge at first, but once you get comfortable and see the different English words that are used for a Hebrew or Greek word, it can become very interesting and assist you in your understanding.

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