The fear of the Lord

Addendum: the fear of the Lord

Nothing Left to Fear

Nothing Left to Fear (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But before we go any further, at first this. In some Orthodox circles sometimes strong emphasis is placed on the fact that God is great and greatly to be feared, “and they do so then pointing to the frequent occurrence of the phrase” the fear of the Lord. “This would emphasize the distance that exists between God and the believer. The expression can be found both in the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT), but the origin as so often is evident is from the OT. Greek of the NT uses a word that does indeed means “fear.” But the phrase “fear God” goes back to the Old Testament expression, where “fear” (Heb .: yare ) much more has the meaning of having “reverence for ‘; for real fear Hebrew used another word.

“{1} Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! {1) Or [Oh that they had such a heart as this alway, to fear me, and keep all my commandments, that etc]}” (Deuteronomy 5:29 ASV)

The word is often repeated in the book of Deuteronomy. If Moses exhorts the people to continue to serve God in the promised land, he says, for example:

“1  Now this is the commandment, the statutes, and the ordinances, which Jehovah your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it; 2 that thou mightest fear Jehovah thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.” (Deuteronomy 6:1-2 ASV)

‘Fear God’ is explained in more detail here as “all his statutes and commandments” and when we maintain them we shall be able to get our reward. We have to remember that there are the statutes and judgements, that are being taught by the Most High Lord our God Who commanded us to keep them, which should be our guideline and making out the direction of life so that we may live long. We find this again in Deuteronomy 10. In verse 12 of that chapter we read:

“And now, Israel, what doth Jehovah thy God require of thee, but to fear Jehovah thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve Jehovah thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,” (Deuteronomy 10:12 ASV)

Again, “God fearing” is specified as “walking in his ways ‘and ‘serve him’ but also as ‘to love Him.

In the Psalms, the fear of the Lord is associated with a very personal relationship with God. For example, in Psalm 25 (vs. 12-14) the one who fears the Lord ‘intimacy with God‘ is promised:

“12 What man is he that feareth Jehovah? Him shall he instruct in the way that he shall choose. 13 His soul shall dwell at ease; And his seed shall inherit the land. 14 The {1} friendship of Jehovah is with them that fear him; {2} And he will show them his covenant. 1) Or [counsel]; Or [secret] 2) Or [And his covenant, to make them know it]}” (Psalms 25:12-14 ASV)

When we hear there is friendship and intimacy, that is quite something different from a relationship based on fear.

Once we see that the ‘fear of God‘ is synonymous with love for his commandment, we also understand the link with wisdom in the Proverbs of Solomon. In Proverbs 2: 4-5:

“4 If thou seek her as silver, And search for her as for hid treasures: 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of Jehovah, And find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:4-5 ASV)

We in our reverence for the Divine Creator should look for His Wisdom as for hidden treasures,knowing that wisdom dwells with prudence, and shall get us knowledge by thoughts, when we hate evil, pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the froward mouth, which we should be well aware of are hated by God. In Proverbs 8: 12-13 “wisdom” introduced herself saying:

“12  I wisdom have made prudence my dwelling, And find out {1} knowledge [and] discretion. {1) Or [knowledge of witty inventions]} 13 The fear of Jehovah is to hate evil: Pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, And the perverse mouth, do I hate.” (Proverbs 8:12-13 ASV)

In Proverbs 9:10 we read:

“The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom; And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 ASV)

This link to wisdom is understandable when it comes to the love of God’s commandment, but would be very strange if it was fear, as ‘being afraid of’. Fear is an extreme form of anxiety, where the ‘fear of God‘ just leads to peace of mind:

“26  In the fear of Jehovah is strong confidence; And {1} his children shall have a place of refuge. {1) Or [the children of him] that hath it} 27 The fear of Jehovah is a fountain of life, That one may depart from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 14:26-27 ASV)

We therefore understand the description of the Messiah (Saviour) in Isaiah 11:

“1  And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah. 3 And {1} his {2} delight shall be in the fear of Jehovah; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither decide after the hearing of his ears; {1) Or [he shall be of quick understanding] 2) Heb [scent]}” (Isaiah 11:1-3 ASV)

These verses about a rod which will bear fruit from the stump of Jesse, with a branch that shall grow out of his roots, tell us that the Messiah will be characterized by the love for God’s commandment (‘want in the fear of the Lord’); Jesus having the ambition to accomplish God’s Will. Because of the intentions of Christ God His Eye and His Spirit will be on him. Throughout the gospels we can see how much effort hie puts in it to live according to God’s Will. It characterizes him as someone who wants to do God’s will in all respects (see Chapter 7). With fear this has nothing to do.

We can find other English words for the same word which perhaps could be better used or give the right intention:

Generally: to fear = To fear something, is to give credence to it power over you

as such you can consider the Biblical saying “the fear of the Lord…” meaning that we come in a position where we are acknowledging God in His supremacy over us.

The phrase “the fear of the Lord” in modern English KJV can be found to be used 30 times.

Fear: to have a reverential awe of <fear God>; profound reverence and awe especially toward God {Merriam Webster} + {See fear defined for English-language learners }

Middle English feren, from Old English ̄ran, from ̄r

Middle English fer, from Old English ̄r sudden danger; akin to Old High German fāra ambush and perhaps to Latin periculum attempt, peril, Greek peiran to attempt

Yare = Vreze =

  • Ontzien: spare, save, consider, go to any lengths to
  • Duchten: fear, dread, be afraid of
  • Fear: fere: a companion, a mate, a spouse, an equal
  • Yfere: together in company

wich is like Gefera in Old English companion and gefere:company, clearly more indicating about a relationship or an stand or attitude creating such relationship.

trepidation adds to dread the implications of timidity, trembling, and hesitation <raised the subject with trepidation>.

Dread may not only be taken as a great fear, but here in the Bible coming from Yare and ‘dred’ it is about ‘awe’ and inspiring great fear of awe, to reverence.

Awe: reverential wonder or fear, power to inspire awe, to strike with or influence by awe

  • an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime <stood in awe of the king> <regard nature’s wonders with awe> {Merriam Webster} See awe defined for English-language learners
  • in awe (of someone or something): fearful and respectful of someone or something
  • stand in awe (of someone or something): to be overwhelmed with respect for someone or something
  • in awe of, be: Also, stand in awe of. Respect and revere someone or something, experience a feeling of solemn wonder, as in All of us are in awe of his many achievements. This expression dates from about a.d. 1000 and originally meant “fear something or someone.” Later awe came to mean “dread mingled with respect,” and eventually it signified reverence alone. {The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.}
  • in awe (of somebody/something): admiring someone or something very much {Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2003. Reproduced with permission.}

The same love for God’s commandment that the Messiah had would have to characterize the believers, in all their imperfection. They too should have that awe for God’s commandments and this would cause them to have a certain respect for the Law of God, making them taking on a certain attitude which should be recognisable and different than of those who do not believe in God.

In several verses of the gospels we are reminded that God is a God of love and that we also should share that love with others. We are also reminded that perfect love casts out fear; because fear has torment and who fears is not made perfect in love. We are told that we should not really be afraid. Also the Apostle John says that ‘Fear’ has to do with the fear of punishment, but who loves God need have no fear of punishment; on the contrary, he lives in the certainty of God’s love:

“17  Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, even so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is not made perfect in love. 19 We love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:17-19 ASV)

In this sense, Jesus also referred to his warning in Luke 12: 4-5:

“4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, who after he hath killed {He has slain} hath {1} power to cast into {2} hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. {1) Or [authority] 2) Gr [Gehenna] [eternal death] 1) to throw}” (Luke 12:4-5 ASV)

We should not be afraid of people who we can diminish this life, but not eternal life. Instead, we should be ‘afraid’, but in the Old Testament sense of that expression, for Him who can give or withhold that eternal life. He exhorts his listeners to actually stay with the love of God. The double meaning of ‘fear’ is apparently deliberately used as a form of wordplay. His real message is not to fear, for it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 ASV)

What that gift of the Kingdom exactly means we’ll see later. But it will be clear that the ‘fear of God’ has to do with God’s presence, not an insurmountable distance. That fear of the Lord we will meet several times in the coming writings, looking at Rijkeboer’s book, and we will come back extensively on love for God and his commandments.



1) For the meaning of the word “hell” see Addendum 2 of Chapter 11.


Additional reading:

  1. A world in denial
  2. Judeo-Christian values and liberty
  3. Condemnation of the World and Illustration of Justification
  4. We may not be ignorant to get wisdom
  5. God’s wisdom for the believer brings peace
  6. Searching, light, fear and deliverance
  7. Some one or something to fear #1 Many sorts of fear
  8. Some one or something to fear #3 Cases, folks and outing
  9. Fearing the right person
  10. Fear of God reason to return to Holy Scriptures
  11. Those who fear him
  12. Muslims should also Fear God
  13. Patriarch Abraham, Muslims, Christians and the son of God
  14. Why is it that Christians don’t understand Muslims and Muslims do not understand Christians?
  15. Why think that (4) … God would reveal himself in words
  16. Looking for True Spirituality 8 Measuring Up
  17. People Seeking for God 7 The Lord and lords
  18. To be prepared and very well oiled
  19. No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation
  20. A Living Faith #3 Faith put into action
  21. There can only be hope when there is a will to be and say “I am”
  22. Looking at three “I am” s
  23. Cleanliness and worrying or not about purity
  24. Trusting, Faith, calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #2 Calling upon the Name of God
  25. Trusting, Faith, calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #3 Voice of God #3 A voice to be taken Seriously
  26. Trusting, Faith, Calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #4 Transitoriness #2 Purity
  27. Trusting, Faith, Calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #4 Transitoriness #3 Rejoicing in the insistence
  28. Trusting, Faith, Calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #5 Prayer #2 Witnessing
  29. Trusting, Faith, Calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #10 Prayer #8 Condition
  30. Jehovah steep rock and fortress, source of insight
  31. Creator and Blogger God 4 Expounding voice
  32. Outflow of foundational relationship based on acceptance of Jesus
  33. Of old and new ideas to sustain power and to feel good by loving to be connected and worship something
  34. Inner voice inside the soul of man
  35. The Song of The Lamb #6 Revelation 14
  36. The Song of The Lamb #8 Revelation 15 Lessons for us today
  37. 144 000 following the Lamb
  38. Kingdom Visions of Rainbowed angel, Lamb in Mount Zion
  39. No fear in love
  40. Daily portion of heavenly food
  41. Praying is surrendering in all circumstances


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