Wist-Wit-Wot: KJV Bible Word Study Series

You wist not what these words found in the KJV Bible mean, but I wot that these obscure words will make sense to you to wit after this study.

Um, what did I just say? Basically, you might not know what wist, wit, and wot mean, but I know once you replace these obscure words with modern ones, you will.

 

Welcome to my KJV Bible Word Study Series!

I love the King James Version Bible. I believe it is the most accurate and beautiful translation we can read. Nevertheless, it is important for us to know that none of the translations we have today (including the KJV) is perfect. Only the original Hebrew and Greek texts from which they came are divinely inspired.

The KJV, its lyrical beauty aside, uses some antiquated words, and words that have changed their meanings over time, that might send us scrambling for the nearest dictionary or concordance.

In this series, I take words that we may be unfamiliar with outside their biblical setting or that may be confusing to our modern-day English sensibilities, and expound upon their original meaning within the context of the verse.

By using Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, it is my hope to bring clarity to, and broaden our understanding of, many beloved and obscure KJV Bible passages.

 

Wist, wit, wot:


WistH#3045: To know (properly to ascertain by seeing); used in a variety of senses, figurative, literal, euphemistic and inferential (including observation, care, recognition and instruction, designation, punishment), acknowledge, advise answer, be aware, unawares, comprehend, consider, be diligent, discern, discover, make known, be learned, mark, perceive, privy to, man of skill, be sure, teach, understand, have understanding

G#1492: to see (literally or figuratively) to know, be aware, behold, can (+not tell), consider, know, have knowledge, look (on), perceive, be sure, tell, understand, wish

 

(to)WitH#3045, see above

G#5613: which how, in that manner, about, after that, (according) as (it had been, it were), like unto, how (greatly), since, so that, whensoever, while, with all speed

G#1107: to make known, to know; certify, declare, make know, give to understand, do to wit, from G#1097, know, feel, be aware of

 

WotH#3045: see above

G#1492: see above

G#1107: see above

 

[Underlining and words in bold are added for emphasis in Bible verses throughout this study.]

 

 

Wist, to Wit, Wot


These three odd words used in the King James Version are not as complicated as they seem if we exchange them in our heads with modern equivalents as we read.

In the Old Testament, the meaning of all instances of wist, to wit, and wot have the same origin. They all come from the Hebrew word yada meaning “to know” or “to see” in various applications whether literally or figuratively.

Wist not (wist is always used with not) means “did not know.” I wist not the meaning of wist when I started researching these words. {wink}

When the phrase to wit is used, it is similarly used to mean to know or acknowledge that something is, to discover what something will be, but also can mean according as it were, that is, how, and since.

Wot not is similar to wist not in that it means to not know, to not see (figuratively), to not be sure of something.

Let’s explore some examples of these words as they are used in the King James Version:

 

Wist:

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, it is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. Exodus 16:15

 

The Israelites were given a gift from heaven, something completely unusual they had never seen before. They had no idea what it was. Hence, the word manna means “whatness” or “what!”

 

And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him (Exodus 34:29).

 

Moses didn’t realize his face was glowing from the encounter with the glory of the Lord. It was such a frightening and awesome (in the true sense of the word) sight to the people that Moses was compelled to cover his face with a veil when he spoke to them. They just couldn’t handle it. I dare say, in their place, we’d be a little freaked out too.

As I was researching, I came across some interesting side notes:

  • Moses fasted forty days and forty nights before receiving the word of God (Exodus 34:28),
  • the prophet Elijah fasted forty days and forty nights (1 Kings 19:8)
  • and, most known to us all, Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:2).
  • These two men who fasted forty days and nights (with supernatural help from God, no less) were also awoken from sleep for a time to talk with Jesus Christ on the mount in front of Peter, John, and James (I believe this was to seal any doubts the disciples may have had that Jesus was the Christ.)
  • Also, Moses brought the Word of God to the Israelites, Jesus Christ was the Word of God. Fascinating!

Continuing on with wist, in Luke 2:49, the young Jesus tells his exasperated, three-days-searching-for-him parents, “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” He tells them plainly, Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I have my Father’s work to do? After three, long, probably frantic days, I wonder what looks Joseph and Mary gave each other after hearing that?

 

And there appeared unto them Elias [Elijah] with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid. Mark 9:5–6

 

How many of us find ourselves unsure of what to say, but we blabber on anyway? Peter was an impulsive soul and often spoke or did things before thinking. But it’s always better if we wait before speaking about things we don’t understand. Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.” 

James 1:19 says it this way, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (Italics mine.)

In Acts 12:9, Peter thought he was dreaming or sleepwalking when his chains fell off, and he walked right out of the prison cell led by an angel after defying the ruler’s demand to stop teaching about Christ.

 

And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. Acts 12:9

 

We’d probably think we were seeing things, too, if we were in his place.

In this last example of wist, Paul is being facetious with his use of the phrase after being struck in the face by the order of the high priest. He means it as wish.

 

Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. Acts 23:5

 

He’s saying, I wish he weren’t the high priest because we’re not supposed to say bad things about our leaders—but he deserves it!

 

(to) Wit:

 And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not. Genesis 24:21

 

Abraham’s servant, who was sent on a mission to find a wife for his master’s son, Isaac, waited and didn’t say anything right away or do anything hasty until he was to wit or sure this was the woman (Rebekah) God led him to.

 

And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him. Exodus 2:4

 

Young Miriam waited in the reeds to wit or to discover what would happen to her baby brother, Moses, as she watched Pharaoh’s daughter’s servants draw the basket from the water that held him.

 

There are only two instances of to wit in the New Testament located in 2 Corinthians, but both have different meanings:

 

Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit [G#1107, we certify and want you to know] of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia. 2 Corinthians 8:1  

 

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

To wit [G#5613, how, according as it were, since], that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18–19

 

 

The words wist, wit, and wot found in the KJV are baffling. But once you replace them with modern words learned in this study, they won't be. #wist-wit-wot, #kjvbible, #wordstudy, #biblestudyforwomen

 

Wot:

In Acts 7:40, Stephen was referencing Exodus 32 when he spoke to the angry crowd of Israelites reminding them of their history and disobedience to God, “Saying unto Aaron, make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.” The children of Israel didn’t have much patience or faith in their God who had just help them miraculously escape from the Egyptian army through the Red Sea. Since Moses was taking so long on Mount Sinai, and they wot not or didn’t know what happened to him, they decided to take matters into their own hands. (Never a good thing.)

Paul was referencing 1 Kings 19 and the story of Elijah when he spoke in Romans 11:2–4.

 

God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not [don’t you know] what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Romans 11:2–4

 

When things look their bleakest, when it seems we are all alone in this evil world, there is always hope, dear Christian. God protected and knew about every one of the faithful that had not defiled themselves with other gods in Elijah’s time, and He does and will do the same for us now.

 

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. Philippians 1:22

 

By the time Paul wrote the epistle to the Philippians, he was tired. He had been through a lot and longed for the rest that would be revealed at the very next moment of consciousness after death. But he also knew that his calling was to serve the brethren, and he didn’t want to leave them. Christ was the joy—the fruit of his labor—while being in the flesh. But even more joy awaited him after death.

He’s “betwixt two” and wot not or didn’t know what to choose, wanting to stay alive for the benefit of those he served and sleep in death so that he could be in the presence of Christ when he and the faithful are resurrected at Christ’s second coming (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4; Colossians 3:4, etc.).

How many of us who have been around in this world for a while feel the same way? We’re tired. We want it to be over—the pain (physical and mental), the constant disappointments, the difficulties left and right, and the mocking of God’s truth and the persecution of His elect. 

Life is hard. It was hard then, and it’s still hard now. But Christ was with Paul and the faithful in his day, and Christ is with us now in ours. We have nothing to fear. We can be certain and know for sure that our lives are in the palm of the Father’s hand, and His love will guide and protect us till our very last breath.


I love a good word study, don’t you? I hope you’ve gleaned, along with me, some additional insight into the rich words used in the KJV Bible.

If you would like to read more posts in this series, please check out my KJV Bible Studies page.

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Abiding in the Vine, 

~ Gleniece

About Gleniece

Writer/Editor at Desert Rain. Wife to Mighty Man. Homeschool mom, Bible study-er. Lover of wine and chocolate. Ever thankful for the gift that is Christ.

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