What the scriptures say about
UNDERSTAND
Comprehend, gain knowledge or insight of, accept, get it, see
References:
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology | Thompson Chain Reference

UNDERSTAND in scriptures [BibleGateway Search]

select Cross Reference Bible links
Genesis 11:7 - at Babel God confused man's language so they couldn't understand each other
Deuteronomy 4:5-6 - obeying God is the basis of our wisdom and understanding
Deuteronomy 29:4 - But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands, or eyes that see, or ears that hear. (NIV)
Deuteronomy 32:29 - Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
Judges 13:17-18 - What is your name? ... Why? It is beyond understanding. (NIV) or It is wonderful
Job 28:28 - 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. To depart from evil is understanding.'"
Job 32:8-9 - But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.
Job 38:4 - "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if you have understanding."
Job 38:36 - Who has put wisdom in the inward parts? Or who has given understanding to the mind?
Psalm 14:2, Psalm 53:2 - Yahweh looked down from heaven on the children of men, to see if there were any who did understand, who did seek after God.
Psalm 32:8-9 - (God) will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go. I will counsel you with my eye on you. Donít be like the horse, or like the mule, which have no understanding, who are controlled by bit and bridle, or else they will not come near to you.
Psalm 49:3 - My mouth will speak words of wisdom. My heart shall utter understanding.
Psalm 73:16-17 - When I tried to understand this, it was too painful for me; Until I entered Godís sanctuary, and considered their latter end. (Also see Ezekiel 43:10-11)

Isaiah -ck

Hosea 4:11 - Prostitution, wine, and new wine take away understanding.
Hosea 14:9 - Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Who is prudent, that he may know them? ...
Matthew 13:13-23 - Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they donít see, and hearing, they donít hear, neither do they understand....
Matthew 16:9,12 - Donít you yet perceive [understand in NIV], neither remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? ... Then they understood...
Colossians 2:2 - ... gaining all riches of the full assurance of understanding...
Hebrews 11:3 - By faith we understand...
2 Peter 3:3 - knowing this first... (NIV: first of all you must understand...)
2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness... (NIV: as some understand slowness)
2 Peter 3:16 - there are some things that are hard to understand (in Paul's letters)


UNDERSTANDING [Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology]

The Old Testament. The basic Hebrew word so translated is the verb biyn or one of its derivatives, together used some 247 times in the Old Testament. In the Revised Standard Version this root accounts for 89 out of 113 appearances of the word "understanding." Occasionally leb (heart/mind) will be rendered "understanding" in contexts where the rational rather than the emotional is stressed (Job 8:10; 12:24).

Biyn is associated with the Hebrew substantive beyn, which means "interval" and, when used as a preposition, "between." Thus, the basic meaning of biyn is to separate, to distinguish. It is perceptive insight with the ability to judge.

Understanding is seen as a gift of God (Dan 2:21) and it is to be prayed for (Psalm 119:34). In answer to the question,

"Where shall wisdom or understanding be found?"
the response is,
"God alone knows" (Job 28:12,20,23).
It also results from the study of the divine precepts (Psalm 119:104) and careful reflection in the sanctuary (Psalm 73:17). Hearing is no assurance of understanding (Dan 12:8).

Understanding has a moral character (Job 28:28). This does not, however, preclude the cognitive (Psalm 49:3-4) for understanding is to be gotten (Prov 4:5,7), sought (23:23), and learned (4:1). This can be seen in references to the understanding of a foreign language (Isa 33:19) and Daniel's understanding of all the subjects in which he was interrogated by Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 1:20). The emphasis of this word goes beyond collection of data, however. Acquired knowledge must be used and used correctly. The injunction is to trust in the Lord rather than to rely on one's understanding (Prov 3:5).

A person can perceive data with the senses: with the eyes (Job 13:1; 23:8), with the ears (Job 23:5; Prov 29:19), with the touch (pots can feel the heat ó Psalm 58:9), and with the taste (Job 6:30).

Understanding can pertain to arts and crafts (2 Chron 2:13) or to the administrative functions of the king (2 Chron 2:12) ó even extended to the messianic king (Isa 11:2). David's understanding as shepherd of his people is extolled (Psalm 78:72). While artisans have made idols according to their understanding (Hosea 13:2), Isaiah challenges the effectiveness of such effort, noting that artisans can create no gods at all (44:17). Daniel possesses apocalyptic understanding (Dan 9:2, 23; 10:1).

Understanding is associated with wisdom and personified (Prov 2:3; 7:4; 8:14-31). While some see this as an hypostasis, it is more likely a poetic personification of an abstract principle.

On the one hand, God is the most important object of understanding (Isa 43:10; Jer 9:24), but in an intellectual sense he is beyond a person's understanding (Isa 40:28).


The New Testament. Of the seventeen occurrences of understanding in the Revised Standard Version New Testament, ten are translations of suniemi or one of its derivatives. This is the word that the Septuagint uses as a translation of biyn. Its meaning is to understand, to gain insight into something.

It can designate a positive quality as when the scribe concurred with Jesus about loving the Lord with "all your understanding" (Mark 12:33) and in Paul's prayer for the Colossians where he couples it with "spiritual wisdom" (Col 1:9). It can be the means of understanding an important truth (2 Tim 2:7) or the Lord's will (Eph 5:17).

There is also a negative quality to this word. Jesus used parables because of his audience's slowness to understand (Matt 13:13). Even his own disciples did not understand the miracle of loaves and fishes (Mark 6:52). Jesus notes that infants understand God's program better than the intellectuals (Matt 11:25).

The other significant Greek word rendered "understand" is noeo and its derivatives, which refer to rational reflection or inner contemplation. Paul notes the limits of human understanding by noting that the peace of God surpasses it (Php 4:7). The apocalyptic number 666 is a challenge to the person who has understanding (Rev 13:18). The pagans act as they do because they are "darkened in their understanding" (Eph 4:18). On the other hand, John affirms that understanding has been made possible by the revelation of Jesus (1 John 5:20).

Understanding, then, involves the cognitive, the spiritual, and the moral. While human efforts are called for, the ability to understand comes from God. The final test of understanding is obedience to God.

Carl Schultz

See also Mind/Reason; Wisdom


UNDERSTANDING [Thompson Chain Reference]
 # Spiritual, general references to

    * Deuteronomy 4:6
    * 1 Chronicles 22:12
    * Psalms 119:104
    * Proverbs 2:6
    * Proverbs 8:14
    * Proverbs 11:12
    * Proverbs 13:15
    * Proverbs 14:29
    * Proverbs 17:27
    * 2 Timothy 2:7
    * SEE Spiritual; Knowledge
    * SEE Wisdom

# Enlightened

    * SEE Spiritual; Enlightenment 

# No understanding - examples of those slow to believe

    * Psalms 32:9
    * Psalms 49:20
    * Proverbs 12:11
    * Proverbs 18:2
    * Proverbs 24:30
    * Proverbs 28:16
    * Isaiah 27:11
    * Isaiah 44:19
    * Jeremiah 4:22
    * Jeremiah 5:21
    * Matthew 13:19
    * SEE Ignorance
    * SEE Grossness

Home | Keyword Index