The Fear of the LORD is Wisdom

“And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28 KJV)


     We hear the phrase, “Fear God” all the time but it seems that there is no real consensus regarding what that exactly means and entails.  Hence, it is the purpose of this post to briefly examine wisdom in relation to the Fear of the Lord and attempt to draw some conclusions.

     To begin with, the Hebrew word for fear, used in the above quoted verse and often in the Old testament, is the word “Yirah.”  It has a couple of different meanings.  First, is the emotion of “fear” as in Deuteronomy 5:5 when Father manifests on Sinai before the children of Israel.  This was a terrifying experience for them.  However, there was a reason for this experience.  Namely, as Moses states in the Exodus account, “Fear not:  for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.” (Exodus 20:20 KJV)  Secondly, it is often used in passages meaning, proper or righteous people such as Job who “feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1)  Thirdly, fearing the Lord carries the idea of a reverent awe or respect for God.  This can clearly be seen in the Egyptian midwives who put their own lives at risk by refusing Pharoah’s command to kill all the male babies of the children of Israel.  The bible states as their reason, “They feared God.” (Exodus 1:17-21)  Another interesting passage demonstrates the “fear of the Lord” while not completing following the Lord in 2 Kings 17:32.  In this passage, the people whom the king of Assyria relocated into the Northern Kingdom of Israel had a polytheistic approach to life.  Meaning, they had several gods that they worshipped and they also included Yahveh in this because the “they also feared the LORD.”  To summarize all of these three ideas into one sentence it could be “A respect for God that is rooted in experiences with Him and these impact all the actions and decisions that are subsequently made.”  In essence, that is what it means to “fear the LORD.”

      The two words that are used for wisdom in both Hebrew and Greek have a very similar meaning.  The Hebrew word is “hakmah” and the Greek word is “sofia”.  The basic idea of New Testament wisdom is: The wisdom of God that existed in Jesus and now has been given to us via the Holy Spirit.  It is true insight into the nature of things.”  Wisdom is the bi-product of relationship with God.  We gain true insight into the nature of things as we fear the Lord, considering Him in all our actions and decisions, and this shows us the nature of all things.

     This idea has merit to the translators of the Septuagint.  In the above quoted verse at the top of the post, they didn’t include the usual phrase for “Fear of the LORD”.  Instead, they used “jeosebeia” which is basically translated “godliness.”  It carries the meaning of proper conduct in reverence towards God.  It is what Abraham feared was missing in Abimelech’s kingdom (Genesis 20:11) and what the angel of the LORD commended Abraham for having as he prepared to sacrifice Issac (Genesis 22:11)  So, we see that the ideas we have presented here have support from the Rabbi’s who translated the Septuagint.

     Here is the sum of the matter, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV)  When we have reference for God that is rooted in experience and we implement that in our daily lives, we live a life that “keeps his commandments.”  This also, as we’ve seen in the above-quoted passage of Job, gives us true insight into the nature of things by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is  wisdom. 

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