- Repeated Words. I can’t repeat it enough. Pay attention to stuff that repeats. This is one of the simplest observations you can make. Get a Bible that you don’t mind writing in, and highlight repeated words with the same color. The author’s big ideas will jump right off the page. For example, Genesis 14 repeats the word “king” more than 20 times. It’s even built into one of the character’s names (Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”). The author wants us to think about what a true king looks like!
- Comparison and Contrast. A passage often shows how two or more things are similar (comparison) or different (contrast). Picking up on that connection can help. For example, Gen 24, Gen 29, Exod 2, and John 4 all describe interactions between a man and a woman at a well of water. What is similar and different in each account?
- Characters. Pay special attention to how each character is named in a passage. Authors will communicate important stuff just by using certain names. For example, Genesis 21, which has a lot to say about Ishmael, never mentions his name. He’s always “the son of Hagar” or “the son of the slave woman.” Why do you think that is?
- Connectors. Words like “therefore,” “in those days,” or “in the same way” draw significant connections between sentences, paragraphs, or chapters. Notice the connections so you can work to figure out why they’re there. For example, Genesis 15:1 begins with “after these things.” How might it affect your understanding of this chapter, if you think about how Abram might be feeling immediately after the events of chapter 14?
What else can we observe?