WHY IS THE BIBLE SO DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND?- Here's a few things that might make it easier!

Let’s get very practical today… and honest! Have you ever said or thought, “Why is the bible so difficult to understand?” As a bible teacher I hear this all the time! And let’s be real…the bible IS often hard to understand and grasp! Let’s talk about that…

First off…

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.  2 Tim 3:16

Let’s start by agreeing that the Bible is the very inerrant word of God. Let’s agree it is TRUTH. No matter what anyone else says… period!

And let’s also confirm…

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.  John 16.13

Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we cannot grasp the very words of God. For it IS the Holy Spirit that lead us in the Truth of God. So, with those beliefs established let’s talk about… why can the Bible still be difficult to understand?

There are many reasons that the Bible is sometimes a difficult book… and we can’t address them all… but we will talk about a few here and I bet knowing these things will make understanding the bible easier!

I had a huge epiphany when I studied in Israel!

The land, the people, the customs, language, the food, the mindset and almost everything else was so different than what I was accustomed to at home!   Soooo different!

This exotic land and the people who live in it are the “stuff” of the Bible. How then, could I read God’s Word through the lens of who I am and my American experience.

The bible is an ancient book, written thousands of years ago. But it is the relevant book for our lives today!

Now here’s the thing.
We cannot deeply understand the words of the Bible if we think like 21st century Americans (or whatever your are). And most of us read the bible using a modern mindset. No wonder we have trouble understanding it!

We are MODERN PHILOSOPHICAL WESTERN thinkers. Our thinking is affected by the world we live in today. We are vastly affected by Greek philosophy and our western culture.

So different from the thinking and ways of the writers of the Bible!

They were ANCIENT ORIENTAL ORTHODOX  thinkers. Like us, their thinking was affected by their world too. And if we want to have a better understanding of the Bible, we need to put the Word in…


In other words, we need to understand the world and the times the Bible was written in.

Here’s an example…

And Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman came out from the region, and began to cry out, saying,”Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon possessed.”

But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying,”Send her away, for she is shouting out after us.”

But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs of the master’s table.”

Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O, woman, your faith is great; be it done as you wish. And her daughter was healed at once.  Matthew 15:21-28

Let’s set the scene… important in knowing what the scripture passage means.

We need to think like a first century Jew to understand this sometimes difficult passage. Let’s put away our modern thinking!

Jesus and His disciples went to the land of Tyre and Sidon.  I did a little research… and Tyre and Sidon were Gentile (no Jews there) lands. Jews would not usually travel in Gentile lands. The were considered defiled. (Remember, no modern thinking!)

By now Jesus’ fame was close to Rock Star status and He would have been known everywhere He went! This scripture takes place at the height of His popularity. Certainly His miracles would be very well known.

A Canaanite woman, a person that a good Jew would have nothing to do with as they were an evil and idol worshiping people, came to Jesus and kept calling out for help. This was MOST unusual during this time. Jews and Gentiles usually did not mix… and certainly a Jewish man would have very little to do with a Gentile woman!

 The woman called Jesus SON OF DAVID. More than amazing!!!!! SON OF DAVID was the Jewish description for the long awaited King of the Jews. It is another world for Messiah or Christ! This idol worshiper knew to call him SON OF DAVID!

This woman was coming to the only one who could help her… even if it was totally unheard of during her time. She had a child that was demon possessed. Even though she lived among a very evil people group and did not know the One true God… she loved her child. What would you do if your child was in such trouble?

Sometimes, I think we are so jaded by modern medical marvels. They are commonplace and normal today. We can cure so many ailments that our lives can be pretty sanitized in our affluent modern world. We don’t understand the desperate way many ancients lived. Lives shattered by disease, mental illness, birth defects and accidents. If this was one’s lot in life it remained unchanged!

Jesus, the Savior of the WORLD, would not answer her. He said, that He had only come to save the LOST SHEEP OF ISRAEL. Here is a little context… the Jews were called LOST SHEEP in the ancient writings. God used sheep… the “stuff” of their time… an everyday thing in their world  to show the Jew just how lost they were and how they needed a shepherd, a Good Shepherd. But I digress…

Jesus did come to save the world with his death that would take away ALL sin. But during His ministry on earth… it was a ministry to the Jews. Jesus and the gospel that saves…

came to the Jews first, then to the Greeks  Romans 1:16 (Greek is a synonym for Gentile or not Jew)

 The Gentile world would be reached primarily after His death and resurrection. And it would be reached at first by some in the Jewish nation that believed Jesus was the Son of God!

The woman in our story would not be deterred. She came to Jesus and bowed down to Him. Again amazing!!!!! And she calls Jesus Lord which means master. She must have been so desperate!

Here is Jesus’ response to her…

It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs“.


An odd response!!!  Hard to understand! So, let’s put this passage into the CONTEXT of the day…

Jesus often called the Jews of the day CHILDREN. He was their Rabbi, or teacher.

 Bread was a staple of life in the ancient world. No wonder Jesus called Himself “THE BREAD OF LIFE”.

And dog? Why on earth did Jesus talk about dogs?  Now you really have to put away your 21st century thinking for this one… A dog was another name for a Gentile.  The Jews called Gentiles dogs. It was common language. One that both Jews and Gentiles would understand.

In today’s thinking this would be quite an insult. In the time this passage was written this was common language.

So this is what Jesus is saying to the Canaanite woman…My ministry is with my people, my children the Jews… and not to the Gentiles (at least not yet) who do not know or believe in my FATHER!

The woman’s reply astounds me. She said, “Yes, Lord”, acknowledging Jesus’ statement was true and added…

“but even the dogs feed on the crumbs that fall from the master’s table”.

This desperate, Gentile mother was saying she would take the crumbs of Jesus’ ministry and that will be sufficient!!!! Sufficient for her needs. Oh what beautiful faith!!!!

And because of her faith, her daughter is healed by Jesus’ word. Jesus broke custom and tradition to reach out and help a mother who had faith in Him.

And like the Canaanite woman I bow to my wonderful Lord after understanding this passage! How can you not love Jesus when you understand!!!!!

When we can step out of our world and trod and plod through ancient lands with the ancient peoples and learn their ways we will begin to find such beautiful and deep meaning and truths in the Bible!

I love this scripture. At first glance I wondered why Jesus was so “snarky”. Why He would not help.  But when I understood the CONTEXT of this passage and read the scripture in light of the custom and culture it made sense.

Jesus was really the amazing God I have always known Him to be.  Compassionate, always calling people to a saving belief in Him. Not wanting any to perish!!!!

What a difference when we understand!!!!

Here are some practical things that have helped me study and understand the bible…

Please hear this! I think this has helped me the most! We should always read and study the bible starting with prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit, the ONE who leads us in all truth, to open your eyes and hearts (our mind, will, emotion and intellect) to the truth of the Word.

We should read God’s word, not for head knowledge alone but because we want to align our lives with what the Word says. Transforming our lives is our goal. We want to look more and act more like Jesus!

We should read the bible asking the Holy Spirit to be our teacher. Don’t reach for commentaries or audio or video aids. Always dig into the word and “mine” the treasure for yourself. God wrote His Word with YOU  in mind!!!!

 I keep a notebook handy to write what I am learning and to write any questions I have. I always ask the Holy Spirit to help me with my questions and to guide me to a right answer. I also thank and praise Him ahead of time for I know that He will answer my prayer!

Only after I have garnered what I can learn from the word, I consult good, God-centered commentaries and study aids. They often give the historical context of what you are studying.

Knowing God’s word takes time and effort and commitment! He gave us His word to know Him, to bring us into salvation and to change our lives.

We are His ambassadors to a lost, dark and hurting world. We are to show Christ to others so  shouldn’t we know Him to do a good job?

The next time you find scripture difficult, rejoice! Take the time to get into the word and find the CONTEXT and true meaning. With the help of the Holy Spirit you will be on the journey to finding beautiful and life changing TRUTH!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. I JUST downloaded the Bhome (?) app and was so encouraged to find this post coming up first! I have no idea what this app can even do yet or where it will take me, BUT it’s off to a very good start!❤️

    1. I’m so glad you are finding your favorite bloggers on bHome! We all love bHome!

  2. Thank you for sharing such great insights!

  3. Thank you for sharing the context of this reading and for giving all glory to God for his revelation.
    PS – typo on the cover photo – “IT” should be “IS”

    1. THANKS so much, Theresa! I am a horrid speller and an even worse proofreader!

  4. What a beautiful post. I LOVE God’s word. Reading is never enough. It takes study for sure. God bless you, Yvonne, in your blog ministry!

  5. Thank you for your inspiring words Yvonne. May God bless you as you bless others.

  6. Cindy L Saylor says:

    This was so enlightening for me. It answers so many questions I have had. Thank you!

  7. Carol Elkins says:

    Thank you for sharing and encouraging us to read and study God’s word.

  8. Thank you for the enlightening and understanding of that scripture.

  9. Thank you so very much for your insight! I have done (and continue to do) numerous Bible studies, and I do struggle to understand. You have put it in such wonderful perspective. Blessing to you and your ministry!

  10. Linda Bond says:

    God is so good! He has used our shared passion for decor and all things beautiful to enrich my understanding of Himself. How interesting it is to me that I was drawn first by your love of decor, not even knowing that you were a Christian. Decor is my gift from the Lord and I use it to serve my church. There have been many times when I have questioned my gifting. Decor seems “ungodly” as compassed to other more scriptural gifts I might have been blessed with! But when I ponder how He has used your gifting to draw people to himself, I can onlyhope that he will use mine in the same way! God bless you!

    1. Thank you Linda. God is creative and gifts people with creativity too! Remember all the people who make the articles of the tabernacle and clothing for the priests were gifted with our kind of creativity!

  11. I love this! Thank you for showing us the importance of studying and understanding Gods Word.

  12. Tonya Vakser says:

    I find the more I get into the Word the more clear it becomes. You really have to read it and think on it all the times. You are exactly right about the worldview too, we tend to interpret it from our modern viewpoint. Even though it was written then and from that ancient point of view it is the living Word of God and applies to us today and tomorrow! I never tire of studying the Bible and the truths that are revealed are so exciting. This is a really great article on the subject too! http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/the-holy-spirit-the-word-of-god-and-you.html

  13. This was a lovely post on Jesus. Love how you broke it all down. You have a Holy Spirit given gift for making the difficult more understandable. I wish you would consider doing a short daily devotion.

    1. I agree! So wish you would do a daily devotion!

  14. Debbie Atchley says:

    Well taught Yvonne!

  15. Thank you for this wonderful post. I often find that each time I read the scriptures and chapters they teach me or tell me something different or enlighten me to something new depending on what is going on in my world at that specific time. Which proves that it is written just for me and the Holy Spirit is constantly using it to keep teaching me and comforting me and correcting me and whatever He knows I need. And it is true for everyone…if they allow the Holy Spirit to reveal it to them!

  16. Thank you for your beautiful explanation Yvonne. You are truly an inspiration. There have been many times when I’ve questioned the meaning of a passage in the Bible. But your explanation really makes things so much clearer.

  17. You make this Bible verse easy to understand. Thank you for blessing me!

  18. Great Word, and so true, understanding the culture and times of the bible it does shed light on the word.

  19. I have been attending Kay Arthur Bible studies for years to further my knowledge & understanding of the Bible. She too emphasizes “digging into the Bible, yourself” verses just reading Christian authors and accepting their beliefs & viewpoints & interpretations of Biblical passages. These tools should supplement but never take the place of personal Bible reading and study.

  20. I think you’re one of the best Sunday School teachers I’ve ever had! Best break down of this scripture I’ve been offered in a long time.

  21. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for this very informative article. I really appreciated your advise to read the Bible first and then the resources that might help improve my understanding

  22. How wonderful it is to know and love God and His word….these two are the same.

  23. Jeanne Naigus says:

    Thank you for putting this into a perspective that a modern day dinner can understand. More please.

  24. I so look forward to Sundays with Stonegable! Thank you for sharing.

  25. I love this post, thank you so much.

  26. I love this! Thank you for sharing this! It makes so much sense as to why it is difficult to understand Scripture sometimes.

  27. Context is king! It’s not just the actual passage but the historical context. How can we truly understand the Word of the Lord without taking the time to mine its treasures through careful observation (what does the author say), correct interpretation (what does the author mean) and then personal application (what does it mean for me.) May the Lord continue to use you for His glory! Thank you.

  28. darla coffman says:

    Thank you so much for explaining this Bible passage. I will start praying first when I read the Bible, so that the Holy Spirit can guide me into understanding His word.

  29. Thank you for your testimony! Refreshing!

  30. I pray more people (including myself) have the ability to interpret scripture as you have instead of reading it exactly as written and using it in that context to make judgement (or an opinion) upon others. Jesus’s life on earth was a ministry to those lost sheep, who the Pharisees and religious leaders accused him of welcoming as “sinners”. Lost sheep need the word of God and acceptance by others yet somehow are the very ones judged and turned away. To truly be a servant of the lord we must be accepting and open to those who are lost and show the true love of the lord. It is difficult to translate scripture but when we do it sometimes has a different meaning than the mindset we originally read it with. I am enjoying the teachings of Pope Francis and learning many new things when seeing the word through these more modern times and interpretation, he encourages us to open our bible as often as we open our cellphone,” read it often, meditate on it, assimilate it”. Thanks for using your gift and this platform to teach and spread God’s message.

  31. Anne Porter says:

    Wisdom is our teacher…thanks for your wisdom!

  32. Gerry Corlew says:

    Thank ou o much, for helping me to understand this Bible passage, I didn’t understand this one. God Bless you
    For showing us The Truth of Gods Word..
    I’m Blessed,
    Hugz xoxox

  33. Thank you for this. This message was needed more than you could know (for reasons I prefer not to share in a public forum).

    God bless.

  34. Elizabeth says:

    As always your Sunday blog was such a blessing. I so look forward to your Sunday messages as they are so enlightening. I also enjoy sharing them with my 13 year old granddaughter who is becoming quite a scholar of the Bible herself.

    Many blessings to you !

  35. I believe it was D. L. Moody who said, “We don’t read the Bible to have more knowledge. We read the Bible to change our lives. “. Thank you for this wonderful lesson illustrating this.

  36. I always appreciate it when you share God’s word. It is one of the reasons I was drawn to your blog.

  37. I wish you would write a daily devotion. God has certainly given you the gift of “teaching”. Love your Sunday devotions.

  38. Thank you so much for this post! This is the Bible story we studied in our Sunday School class today and also was the Pastor’s message. It truly was difficult to understand when I first read it, but after discussion in class, the minister’s sermon and your post, it is much easier to understand. It is so true that one must dig deep to appreciate and understand the Bible. Thanks for shedding some light on it!

  39. Nancy Schipper says:

    Thank you for walking us through this Bible passage. Your faith is an inspiration and you are truly a light for His Kingdom. Have a blessed week.

  40. Thank you for your insight. It is always good to learn more about the meaning of the word. Blessings.

  41. Robin Talley says:

    I think the Bible is beautiful, I love so many scriptures and psalms, I read almost daily

  42. Barbara Ann says:

    Thank you for another encouraging message and for sharing your insights in the Word. Many blessings!

  43. Lisa Bates says:

    Thank you Yvonne, what a beautiful post. I really enjoyed this! Have a terrific week!

  44. GwenCondit says:

    It is a privilege to have a blogger like you. I thank God for your truths written. I’ve found as I grow older the more I learn when I read my Bible. I like to read through a Gospel after Christmas until Easter. I like looking at Jesus’ Words. I never knew dogs meant Gentiles. Or maybe I did. But it does not grow old to hear you talk about Jesus and a passage. It brings life to my heart. God is good. I thank Him for this free ministry where I can learn

  45. As always, thank you for your faithfulness. May you continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

  46. You inspire me in so many ways! I always look forward to the post on Sunday as I learn something new each time. This one aligned with the sermons the last two Sundays! Thank you so much!

  47. Jere Newcomb says:

    Sunday’s with Stonegate. A peaceful time of contemplating and reading the Word.

  48. Thank you so much for these Sunday lessons! This one is a great one. I will look forward to reading other tough to understand passages with you. It’s a privilege to be in your Sunday School class, too.

  49. Great mini-study, Yvonne. Shared some stuff I have never heard before. When I read the title of the post, I thought, “Because a person doesn’t have the Spirit.” Always nice when I read your Bible posts that they line up with what I have been taught over the years. Many things you write really coincide with what our Pastor teaches. 🙂 Thanks!

  50. I agree with others in that you should write a devotional.

  51. I love what you said about mining God’s word for yourself. That’s why we can never, ever, never exhaust His Word to us!

  52. Kimberly H says:

    Thanks so much for this beautiful post!

  53. Marian Karas says:

    Thank you so much Yvonne, such a great post…I struggle so much with actual Bible study…I love the Word of God and your post will be a guide….Please keep teaching, I wish I could just call you or text you an ask “hey whats this mean” but I am satisfied with your posts hehe …I love your blog you are my favorite…

  54. Dorinda Selke says:

    Yvonne – what an informative post this is. Thoroughly enjoyed reading and digesting every word. Thank you so much , Hugs to you, Dorinda

  55. Shirley Herchline says:

    I always look forward to your Sunday post, Someone just told me that the Bible is God in print! I like to think on that as I love the Word of God

  56. Such an informative post, Yvonne! Thank you for sharing your knowledge of understanding God’s word. I need all the help I can get!

  57. You give such inspiration in your blog.
    Thank you.

  58. Thanks Yvonne. Everything you shared today is a great encouragement to me. I often think that passages are difficult to understand and especially so in the Old Testament.

  59. Melanie MSMD says:

    I love that you recommend praying before study. I always pray Psalm 119:18: Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.

    I might add that reading a different translation that is both word-for-word and also thought-for-though (for instance the HCSB & NLT, respectively) are helpful; also looking at the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek versions and doing actual word study are important; many times they have helped me “get” what was meant. Also, consider that ONLY the Holy Spirit grants understanding and God wisdom. If we are studying with the right heart and are seeking God’s will, He will reveal meaning to us; unless He grants the wisdom, we can study and “mine” til the cows come home and not understand a lick of what we’re reading. And it may be one reads a passage a million times and doesn’t get it, and then one day, BOOM! Epiphany granted by the Holy Spirit in God’s perfect timing.
    For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6
    But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:26

  60. I think it is amazing to know that so much of the bible can be supported and better understood with human knowledge such as science, history, culture, linguistics, politics, economics etc., which can be studied by anyone (relatively speaking) I have had to struggle so much with this until I grasped the earthly knowledge of the scripture I could not truly understand the things of God as Jesus said in his exchange with Nicodemus. But it should be noted that human knowledge is transient and meant to support understanding of God’s word not the foundation of God’s word