Fear of the Lord: A Word Study from Proverbs

The Fear of the Lord

By: William Hemsworth

The phrase to be studied is “fear of the Lord” and the text has much meaning. Fopurposes of this exercise the study is limited to the first two chapters of the book of Proverbs. The usage of this phrase occurs in Proverbs 1:7, 1:29, and 2:5. 

The Importance of Repetition

The first word in the phrase “fear” is the Hebrew word yir’ah, or יִרְאָה. This term is used forty-five times in the Old Testament. Its root word is the adjective yare’, or יָרֵא, which is used sixty-four times in the Hebrew Bible[1].

The second word in in the phrase, which makes up “of the Lord” is the Hebrew word Yĕhovah, which in Hebrew is יְ֭הוָה. As one can imagine this word is used several times. In fact, it is used an astounding 6,519 times[2]. Though it is the name of the Lord, its root word is hayah, or הָיָה in Hebrew.

The first word yir’ah, or יִרְאָה, is used three times in the first two chapters of Proverbs in 1:7, 1:29, and 2:5. The second word Yĕhovah, or יְ֭הוָה in Hebrew, is used a total of four times in the first two chapter Proverbs in 1:7, 1:29, 2:5, and 2:6.

The English word used for the word yir’ah are fear, exceedingly, dreadful, fearfulness, or reverence[3]. Many sources available, such as Blue Letter Bible and Bible Gateway agree, but Strong’s also added reverence. When one speaks of the fear of the Lord it is in reverence, so it was good to see it listed.

The second word Yĕhovah, or יְ֭הוָה is translated as Lord, God, and Jehovah[4]. It is the proper known for the God of Israel, and the translations appear to be universally agreed upon.

Context Clues

The context of the passages is crucial to word placement in the passages mentioned. The first two chapters of Proverbs deal with the call of wisdom and the treasure of wisdom. The fear of the Lord in the beginning of understanding (1:7), those who hate knowledge do not have respect for the Lord (1:29), and those who fear the Lord are illuminated with knowledge (2:5).

The first two chapters of Proverbs teach us a valuable lesson. No matter hard one may try, an understanding of life and of God begins with a deep reverence for the creator[5]. This will lead to wisdom which is the humility to understand that God is God and we are not.  God grants us understanding and wisdom, but if we become prideful and elevate ourselves to a place we should not be then we will be humbled.  We will be humbled because we no longer have the fear of the Lord.  The fear of the Lord is the foundation of a holy life.

Bibliography

Dockery, David S., ed. Holman Concise Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.

Gesenius, Wilhelm, and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003.

Mangum, Douglas, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, and Rebekah Hurst, eds. Lexham Theological Wordbook. Lexham Bible Reference Series. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009.

Thomas, Robert L. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, 1998.

[1]. Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 364.

[2]. Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications,, 1998).

[3]. James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009).

[4]. Douglas Mangum et al., eds., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[5]. David S. Dockery, ed., Holman Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 237.


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary. William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at https://tucsonapologetics.org/for more great and informative Catholic content!

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