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Show or Shew

Why doesn’t the KJV use the word show instead of the not-sure-how-to-pronounce shew? (For the record, shew is only pronounced as "shoe" in America; the English sound is actually the same as show: sho.) Why do most Bibles say “showbread” and yours says “shewbread”? William Shakespeare used both show and shew in his plays—before the KJV was published. Both words were available, and yet, the KJV translators never used show, not once.

Perhaps you tossed and turned all night, wondering about these deep questions? (!) Well, I have an idea. Essentially the theory is that show is not as easily defined as shew, and to use it in biblical text would add ambiguity to the meaning of the text. Simply put, shew is more definite and consistent than show.

Shew is always a verb. To reveal something, to make something plain, open, clear. The shewbread (converted to a noun) was on top of the table, before the Lord, alway (Ex. 25:30). It was never bagged or tucked away. When the psalmist declared “I shewed before him my trouble” (Ps. 142:2) he was simply stating that he made his complaints open before the Lord. He revealed his trouble.

Show, as a verb, also means to reveal something, to make something obvious. But, unlike shew, the word show has many other definitions. As a noun, we hear “The show must go on” and “We have a great show tonight….” Entertainment. And more, if someone is a show-off or something is showy, we understand it’s about gaining attention, flashy. A show-boat’s actions cry out “hey, look at me.”

Now consider replacing shewbread with showbread… do you see 12 loaves, openly viewed and presented to the Lord, or do you see 12 loaves flashing with neon lights… “Look at me…”? In Micah 6:8, is God saying he has clearly revealed to us what is good, or is God saying He put on a captivating entertainment program for our good? I think shew is good choice.

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