What is “visitation” in Scripture?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The word appears 15 times in the Authorized Version King James Bible. In Hebrew, it is “pequddah.” The Greek equivalent is “episcope” (“look over, inspect”). Depending on the context, it can be good or bad. For example, the first instance is Numbers 16:29: “If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the LORD hath not sent me.” This, of course, is bad. It is in connection with physical death! In the case of Job 10:12, however, the word is employed in the sense of God’s caring or loving oversight: “Thou hast granted me life and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.”

Most of the time in Scripture (especially Jeremiah), the idea concerns Divine judgment or God’s punishment of sinners:

  • Isaiah 10:3: “And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?”
  • Jeremiah 8:12: “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.”
  • Jeremiah 10:15: “They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.”
  • Jeremiah 11:23: “And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation.”
  • Jeremiah 23:12: “Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the LORD.”
  • Jeremiah 46:21: “Also her hired men are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back, and are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation.”
  • Jeremiah 48:44: “He that fleeth from the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that getteth up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for I will bring upon it, even upon Moab, the year of their visitation, saith the LORD.”
  • Jeremiah 50:27: “Slay all her bullocks; let them go down to the slaughter: woe unto them! for their day is come, the time of their visitation.”
  • Jeremiah 51:18: “They are vanity, the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.”
  • Hosea 9:7: “The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.”
  • Micah 7:4: “The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity.”

The word twice appears in the Greek New Testament (Luke 19:44; 1 Peter 2:12): “episcope” means “look over, inspect.” It is translated “bishoprick” in Acts 1:20 (referring to Judas Iscariot’s apostolic office that Matthias later fills) and “office of a bishop” with respect to the local church leader (1 Timothy 3:1). Remember, the idea is “oversight,” as in a superintendent watching over operations. Acts 20:28, the Apostle Paul’s words to the elders of the church at Ephesus, captures this tenor: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers [episkopos], to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

In the case of Luke 19:44, Christ Jesus, having been rejected, spoke of Jerusalem’s future destruction: “And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” Israel did not have spiritual eyes to recognize the Lord Jesus Christ had fulfilled prophecy when He entered Jerusalem rising on the donkey. God was considering their response to His Son here, and they refused to have Him. Now, He would “pay them back” in righteous anger (yet future even now).

The final instance of “visitation” is 1 Peter 2:12: “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” Israel’s believing remnant is exhorted or urged to conduct themselves separate and distinct from the evil world system. Gentiles (non-Jews) are observing them, so they need to have testimonies that lead the Gentiles to glorify the God of Israel. Daniel’s 70th Week will be another time of God considering or inspecting Israel’s behavior, their response to Him and His Son Jesus Christ.

Studying all these instances of “visitation” in Scripture, we understand the LORD God is looking over creation with considerate but righteous eyes. He is gracious and compassionate, watching over and blessing, like a loving parent monitoring the wellbeing of a child. However, He is also holy and separate from sinners, and His justice demands He enforce His righteousness. He must address and punish sin at some point. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon summarizes the concept succinctly: “In biblical Greek, after the Hebrew, that act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds, character, of men, in order to adjudge them their lot accordingly, whether joyous or sad; inspection, investigation, visitation.”

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Also see:
» Did God create evil?
» How can a “loving” God send people to Hell forever?
» Does God chasten us when we sin?