Evidence #295 | January 10, 2022

“And Behold”

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Scripture Central


The clause “and behold” used in many passages of the Book of Mormon text may reflect the Hebrew background of the Book of Mormon.

“And Behold” in the Bible

Gary Rendsburg, a Jewish authority on the Hebrew Bible and its language, describes what he considers one of the significant developments in modern biblical scholarship. He refers to the discovery of Francis Anderson and Jan Fokkelman who each, working independently, found that the Hebrew particle we-hinne, meaning “and behold,” is used “to allow the reader to view the scene through the eyes of the character—what Anderson called ‘participant perspective’, the equivalent of the ‘point of view shot’ (POV shot) in film.”1

Passages where this clause appears often signal an element of “surprise” or an “unexpected turn of events.”2 Sometimes we-hinne appears “even though the text has already stated what has happened, but does so in order that the reader may step into the eyes of the character who is experiencing what is seen for the first time.”3

There are many biblical examples which illustrate the use of we-hinne,4 as in Jacob’s dream at Bethel.

And he dreamed, and behold (we-hinne) a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold (we-hinne) the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold (we-hinne), the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed. (Genesis 28:12–13)

In Jacob’s dream, we-hinne highlights key elements in the vision that can be viewed through Jacob’s eyes: the ladder, the angels ascending and descending, and finally the Lord himself.

Jacob's Ladder (painting circa 1800 by William Blake). Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Another example can be seen in Moses’ encounter with the burning bush. “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush: and he looked and behold (we-hinne) the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). The text has already told the reader that the angel of the Lord appeared in the bush, but the clause we-hinne allows the perceptive reader to more directly experience the theophany through Moses’ eyes. It also signals the unexpected: a fire that doesn’t consume.  

A third biblical example comes from the book of Judges after Ehud kills the Moabite oppressor Eglon. “And they [the servants] tarried till they were ashamed: and behold (we-hinne), he opened not the doors of the parlour; therefore they took a key, and opened them: and behold (we-hinne), their lord was fallen down dead on the earth” (Judge 3:25). Again, the reader already knows that Ehud has killed Eglon, but the clause we-hinne allows the reader to experience the surprise through the eyes of the servants as they discover his death for the first time.

Eglon Slain by Ehud. Image by James Tissot.

Ammon and King Lamoni

There are many examples of the use of “and behold” in the Book of Mormon, some of which may reflect the ancient Hebrew heritage of its writers. In the account of Ammon’s mission to the Lamanites, King Lamoni, his wife, their servants, and Ammon were all overcome with the Spirit and fell to the ground. Abish, one of the Queen’s maidservants, then drew the attention of the people to this miracle:

And they began to assemble themselves together unto the house of the king. And there came a multitude, and to their astonishment, they beheld the king, and the queen, and their servants prostrate upon the earth, and they all lay there as though they were dead; and they also saw Ammon, and behold, he was a Nephite. (Alma 19:18)

As the Lamanite crowd gathers to see what has happened, the words “and behold” allow us to survey the scene from their perspective, and to also experience their sense of shock. “And behold he was a Nephite!”

Abish Witnessing That Everyone Has Fallen to the Earth. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org. 

The Murder of the Chief Judge

Another example is found in the sermon of Nephi the son of Helaman, as he warned against secret murders and provided a sign of the approaching judgments of God:

Yea, behold it is now even at your doors; yea, go ye in unto the judgment-seat, and search; and behold, your judge is murdered, and he lieth in his blood; and he hath been murdered by his brother, who seeketh to sit in the judgment-seat. And behold, they both belong to your secret band, whose author is Gadianton and the evil one who seeketh to destroy the souls of men. (Helaman 8:27–28)

In this case, the clause “and behold” invites Nephi’s immediate audience, as well as the reader, to vividly imagine the scene of the dead chief judge as if they (and we) were there. The five men sent by the crowd to verify Nephi’s prophecy then “ran in their might and came in unto the judgment-seat; and behold, the chief judge had fallen to the earth, and did lie in his blood” (Helaman 9:3). Once again, “and behold” invites the reader to see a shocking image through the eyes of the story’s characters as they fall to the earth in surprise.

Lamanite Conversions

In the book of Helaman, a group of Lamanites were surrounded by darkness after they imprisoned the righteous prophets Nephi and Lehi. In this setting, the narration introduces a Nephite dissenter named Aminadab.

And it came to pass that he turned him about, and behold, he saw through the cloud of darkness the faces of Nephi and Lehi; and behold, they did shine exceedingly, even as the face of angels … And it came to pass that this man did cry unto the multitude, that they might turn and look. And behold, there was power given unto them that they did turn and look, and they did behold the faces of Nephi and Lehi. (Helaman 5:36–37)

Here, at a key moment in the story, the point at which the group begins to turn to God, the words “and behold” allow the reader to view the miraculous event through the eyes of Aminadab and then from the perspective of Lamanites. We experience more directly the sense of surprise and wonder as they behold the divinely illuminated faces of the two Nephite prophets shining through the cloud of darkness. At Aminadab’s behest, the crowd in the prison repent and cry to God.

And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, [and5]  behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire. And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory. And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words. And it came to pass that there came a voice unto them, yea, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying: Peace, peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world. And now, when they heard this they cast their eyes as if to behold from whence the voice came; and behold, they saw the heavens open; and angels came down from heaven and ministered to them. (Helaman 5:43–48)

Again, the words “and behold” allow the reader to view each divine manifestation in the narrative through the eyes of those in the prison. We are invited to see ourselves surrounded by fire, experience the Holy Spirit come down from heaven to fill our hearts, and finally witness the heavens open and angels come down to minister to us.

Jesus Descends from Heaven

A final example can be seen in the visitation of the Savior described by Mormon in 3 Nephi. The multitude heard the voice of the Father twice but did not understand what it said (3 Nephi 11:3–4).

And their eyes were toward the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came. And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them: Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him. And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them. (3 Nephi 11:5–8)

In this passage, the words “and behold” open our understanding as we see through the eyes of the multitude the resurrected Jesus descending from heaven to the temple at Bountiful.

Jesus Christ Appears to the Nephites, by Arnold Friberg.​​​​​​


According to Rendsburg, our increased understanding of the clause “and behold” (we-hinne) “constitutes one of the great findings of modern biblical scholarship.”6 It is not insignificant, therefore, that the rhetorical purposes and contextual usage of “and behold” in the Book of Mormon match up very well with its biblical implementation, just as do many other Hebraisms in the Nephite record.7 If Joseph Smith were ever aware of the nuances surrounding we-hinne in the Bible, he certainly didn’t learn it from biblical scholarship in his day. As Rendsburg noted, this feature of Hebrew literature was only recently discovered.8

Donald W. Parry, Preserved in Translation: Hebrew and Other Ancient Literary Forms in the Book of Mormon (Provo and Salt Lake City, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2020).

Donald W. Parry, “Hebraisms and Other Peculiarities in the Book of Mormon,” in Echoes and Evidence of the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002), 155–189.

BibleGenesis 28:12–13Exodus 3:2Judges 3:25Book of MormonAlma 19:18Helaman 5:36–37Helaman 5:43–45Helaman 5:48Helaman 8:27Helaman 8:28Helaman 9:33 Nephi 11:5–8


Genesis 28:12–13

Exodus 3:2

Judges 3:25

Book of Mormon

Alma 19:18

Helaman 5:36–37

Helaman 5:43–45

Helaman 5:48

Helaman 8:27

Helaman 8:28

Helaman 9:3

3 Nephi 11:5–8

  • 1 Gary A. Rendsburg, How the Bible is Written (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2019), 411. See Francis I. Anderson, The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew (The Hague: Mouton, 1974), 94–96; J. P. Fokkelman, Narrative Art in Genesis (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1975), 50–51; Shimon Bar-Efrat, Narrative Art in the Bible (London: T&T Clark International, 2004), 35–36.
  • 2 Anderson, The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew, 94–95.
  • 3 “In these cases the narrator explicitly informs us what is being described is what one of the characters is seeing at that moment, even though it has been proved to us that the narrator actually knew this beforehand or knows more than that character discerns at that moment …. In these examples the word ‘behold’ relates to the character who sees the object described, not to the narrator. The narrator discerns something, and as a result we perceive it too, together with the character and through the latter’s eyes.” Bar-Efrat, Narrative Art in the Bible, 35–36.
  • 4 Rendsburg provides many examples from the Hebrew Bible. Rendsburg, How the Bible is Written 411–423.
  • 5 Although “and” is missing from the 1981 edition, it appears in the Printer’s manuscript as “& {b}ehold.” See Royal Skousen, The Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Entire Text in Two Parts (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2001), 732. See also, Royal Skousen, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2009), 524.
  • 6 Rendsburg, How the Bible is Written, 423.
  • 7 See Donald W. Parry, Preserved in Translation: Hebrew and Other Ancient Literary Forms in the Book of Mormon (Provo and Salt Lake City, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2020); Donald W. Parry, “Hebraisms and Other Peculiarities in the Book of Mormon,” in Echoes and Evidence of the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002), 155–189.
  • 8 Rendsburg, How the Bible is Written, 411, 423.
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