Scripture is full of surprises. That includes surprises within many famous and familiar verses from the first page of God’s Word to the last page. Some surprises will make you smile. A couple may make you wince. And more than a few could cause you to go “Aha!”

Old Testament Surprises

1. Genesis 1:4 begins a refrain repeated throughout the seven days of creation: “God saw that [it] was good.” All but five Old Testament and five New Testament books connect “God” (or “Lord”) and the word “good.” The Lord God, who creates good, is good!

2. Exodus 34:7 says the Lord God forgives all kinds of sin. We love that for good reason! Yet the Lord doesn’t stop there. He “punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” This doesn’t seem fair until you compare what God said about this earlier. These are unrepentant adults repeating the awful sins of their Lord-hating parents and grandparents.

3. Numbers 6:24-26 ends its popular triple blessing with a blessing for shalom. Shalom is usually translated as “peace” but is so much more. It means total well-being. In that sense, it’s the life we all want. Shalom, indeed!

4. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the wonderful Shema, ends with a future tense command. That command is to write Bible verses on things the Israelites hadn’t had in nearly 40 years—houses and doorposts, let alone fences and gates. But they would have them soon!

5. Joshua 1:8 doesn’t talk about God’s Word in a vague, general sort of way. Instead, it clearly suggests that Moses had written Genesis through Deuteronomy, each having been inspired by God (in various places, times, and ways). Joshua had the original writings (autographs) in his possession. What a treasure!

6. Ruth 2:11 records Boaz’s beautiful commendation of Ruth, who had done so much for Naomi including coming “to live with a people you did not know before.” That last word literally means “yesterday three days ago.” That’s similar to people today saying “a couple three days ago.” It’s not talking about literal days. Instead, it’s an open-ended idiom that means “before.”

7. 1 Samuel 30:24 says, “The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” What a great principle. While David said it, he didn’t invent it. The Lord said this to Moses, who told the priests in Numbers 31:27, and later Joshua, his successor, reiterated this important principle to the eastern tribes in Joshua 22:8.

8. 2 Chronicles 16:9 isn’t the only verse about the eyes of the Lord roaming the earth. Also see Proverbs 15:3, Jeremiah 16:17, and Zechariah 4:10. Summary: The Lord God sees the whole earth and all of its inhabitants, good and bad, everywhere.

9. Ezra 3:11 invites us to give thanks to the Lord because He is so good and His loyal love endures forever. Jeshua and Zerubbabel and their worship leaders didn’t invent this stanza. Instead, David wrote it in 1 Chronicles 16:34 and this same stanza appears in 10 other places from 2 Chronicles 5:13 to Jeremiah 33:11.

10. Proverbs 31 immediately precedes Ruth 1 in the Hebrew (Masoretic) Bible. These back-to-back chapters speak about an excellent wife/woman (31:20 and 3:11 respectively), a righteous husband/man respected at the city gates (31:23 and 31:28-31 and 4:1 and 4:11) who speaks well of and on behalf of that excellent woman, who is excellent because she honors the Lord and is richly blessed by Him (31:30 and 3:12, 4:5, and 4:11-12). Triple hint: Ruth the Moabite convert to Judaism is a living example of the Virtuous Woman of Proverbs 31:10-31.

11. Song of Solomon 2:1 records the Shulamite’s poetic description of herself as a “rose of Sharon.” The word “rose,” however, is a loose paraphrase. It was used by early English Bible translators since it was a familiar and beautiful flower. The original Hebrew word is better translated as “meadow flower,” possibly a crocus, narcissus, asphodel, or meadow-saffron.

12. Habakkuk 3:3-13 says Selah three times. Psalm 3:2 to Psalm 143:6 says Selah another 71 times. It’s the only undefined word that appears frequently in the Bible, and then exclusively in these two books. Translators have offered several possible meanings for Selah. Whenever you run into the word, it’s best to assume it means, “Think about what God is saying in this psalm. Pay attention. Now, keep reading!”

13. Zechariah 14:12-13 talks about zombies. Literally. See for yourself. Then again, you can see Hollywood’s 2013 interpretation of these verses, World War Z. Zechariah 14:15 goes on to talk about zombie animals. Yikes! I’m so very glad we’re going to miss that terrible time of judgment.

New Testament Surprises

14. Matthew 6:11 asks our heavenly Father, “Give us today our daily bread.” Literally, the verse says, “Give us today our food for tomorrow.” This is because religious Jewish people reckon time differently. Each new day starts at sunset. So, Jesus taught us to pray for all our tomorrow’s food needs to be met by our heavenly Father today. Isn’t that great? What’s more, forgive us our “debts” means “sins,” and lead us not into “temptation” also includes “testing” or “trials.”

15. John 3:16 says God so loved the world, right? Actually, “so loved” literally means “loved,” and “begotten” actually should be translated “one and only” or “unique.” The NLT is one of many contemporary translations that gets both right. Then again, “so loved” is true!

16. Romans 3:23 says all have sinned. Romans 3:10 says there is none righteous. They’re two sides of the same coin. Paul didn’t mint this coin. The twin truths appear throughout the Old Testament including 1 Kings 8:46, 2 Chronicles 6:36, Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3, Psalm 143:2, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Proverbs 20:9, Jeremiah 2:29, Jeremiah 5:1-9, Jeremiah 6:28, and Micah 7:2. These twin truths also appear in James 3:2 and 1 John 1:8-10.

17. 1 Corinthians 3:12-13 says, “If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.” The shorthand phrase “the Day” refers to the return, revelation, and second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ for judgment. That judgment includes punishment for the persistently evil and wicked. More importantly, it includes the culmination of salvation and rewards for God’s people.

18. Galatians 5:6 says, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” This wonderful verse includes the idea of love being a fruit of the Spirit, which is explicitly taught a few verses later in Galatians 5:22. In other words, faith doesn’t merely express our natural human love. Instead, it expresses God’s love poured out in and through us by His Spirit.

19. Ephesians 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” What does the shorthand phrase “in the Spirit” mean? Earlier Paul makes it clear: “And pray with the power of the Holy Spirit within you on all occasions.”

20. Philippians 2:10-11 says every creature in the universe will do two things. The verses take us back to 700 BC. The Lord issues these words: “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: [1] before me every knee will bow; [2] by me every tongue will swear” (Isaiah 45:22-23). It’s terrific if you’re ready to do both things. Now, pray earnestly and often for the salvation of your not-yet-Christian family and friends. See 2 Peter 3:9 below.

21. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.” What does the shorthand phrase “the inheritance” mean? Earlier Paul makes it clear: “the inheritance of the saints of light in the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.”

22. 2 Peter 3:9 says God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance. The apostle Peter didn’t invent this. It appears throughout the Bible including Job 3:10, Isaiah 48:9, Jeremiah 36:3, Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32, Ezekiel 33:11, Matthew 18:14, and 1 Timothy 2:3-4.

23. Revelation 5:13 says that the apostle John—still “in the spirit” (4:2)—saw and heard “every creature,” including himself, and you and me, worshipping God. What an amazing thought. Perhaps we should memorize Revelation 5:13. After all, we will sing this song of worship to God with “every creature” someday!

24. Revelation 22:20 records the closing words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament: “Yes, I am coming soon!” It also records our response: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Amen, indeed!

Reflecting on These Surprises

Which section surprised you the most? The Old Testament or New Testament? And, which verse surprised you the most? Was it a positive and good surprise (“Aha!”) or a bit of a downer? If the latter, which surprise blessed you the most?

Questions or concerns? Write to the author at, subject “Question” or “Concern.”

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headshot of David Sanford new 2020 David Sanford’s book and Bible projects have been published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His newest book is Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s new book, Life Map Devotional for Women.