What does “circumspect” mean?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Our Authorized Version twice makes use of this term.

  • Exodus 23:13: “And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.”
  • Ephesians 5:15: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,….”

Looking closely at the word itself, and breaking it down into its individual components, there are clues as to its definition. Think of circle, circumference, spectacular, spectacle(s). “Circle,” “circumference,” and “circumspect” are partly derived from the Latin word “circum” meaning “around.” “Spectacular,” “spectacle,” and “circumspect” are based on the Latin term “specere” meaning “look.” Combining this information, to be “circumspect” carries the literal definition of “looking around.” In other words, we are aware of our surroundings and where we are going—the exact opposite of carelessness or foolishness (see Ephesians 5:15 above).

With regards to Exodus and the Mosaic Law, the nation Israel was to pay attention to all the commandments of God as they related to their daily life. To not be mindful of God’s revelation to them meant they were walking contrary to the Creator’s will, how He designed life to function. They were to take notice of all that He said to them through Moses, for it was literally the difference between obedience (blessing) and disobedience (curse).

Concerning us the Church the Body of Christ, Ephesians 5:14-17 exhorts: “[14] Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. [15] See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, [16] Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. [17] Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” It is so sad that believers today often have no idea what God’s will is for them—and this should not be so. As the nation Israel was to be cognizant of God’s words to them through Moses, so we are to be aware of God’s words to us through the Apostle Paul. The Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon, will impart to us Divine wisdom needed for victorious Christian living today. If we are not walking by faith in an intelligent understanding of God’s words to us, we have deviated or drifted away from the path He has laid out for us in this the Dispensation of Grace—and it should not surprise us that disaster is certain.

Also see:
» What does “sottish” mean?
» What does “brutish” mean?
» What does “gainsaying” mean?
» What does “amiss” mean?
» What does “cumbered” mean?