What does “fear of the Lord” mean?? I have always been a little confused by the concept. It is greatly misunderstood. There are 2 totally different Hebrew words that have been translated as “fear” in the context of the Bible verses about fear of God. Two different words with different meanings. It is important to understand what the “fear of the Lord means” each time it is written in the Bible. Read below to learn about “fear of the Lord”.
1) The first word translated as “fear” comes from the Hebrew “yirah”, which denotes reverence. Some modern Bible translations say “revere the Lord”. Synonyms for revere in this context are; adore, glorify, honor, respect, worship.
This kind of “fear of the Lord” is given by the Holy Spirit to Christians. “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”- Isaiah 11:2
If you truly “fear the Lord” in the “yirah“ sense, you will adore Him, serve Him, worship Him and follow His wise, loving ways. This kind of living honors God.
(A partial list of verses using “yirah” is at the end of this post.)
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” -Deuteronomy 10:12
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” -Psalm 16:11
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”-Psalm 8:1
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” -Matthew 22:37
2) The second word translated as “fear” in the Bible, is the Hebrew word “pachad”. This relates to sinners who have rejected God and the resulting consequences of that decision. Pachad has been translated as dread or terror of the Lord.
Christians should never “fear” God in the sense expressed in Isaiah 2:10 quoted below.
“Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty!” -Isaiah 2:10″
“Now let the fear of the Lord be on you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.” 2 Chronicles 19:7
“And they attacked all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the LORD was upon them. They plundered all the cities, for there was much plunder in them.“-2 Chronicles 14:14
“And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel.”-2 Chronicles 20:29
Each Christian has realized several things.
– God is Holy and cannot be in the presence of sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” -Romans 3:23
– We cannot have a relationship with God if we are in a state of sin. “Yet God loves everyone and wishes no one to perish.” – 2 Peter 3:9
The good news is that God in his love and mercy provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him through Jesus. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins with his death on the cross and his resurrection. God fully accept Jesus sacrifice of himself on the Cross to atone for us.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” -Romans 8:1
We will have eternal life and not eternal punishment; however, for those who stand against God and do not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, there is eternal punishment.
Read God is Love.
(A partial list of verses using “pachad” is at the end of this post.)
Much has been written on this topic. I invite you to read more about the fear of the Lord from other sources below, as I am not a Bible scholar.
FYI– The phrase “fear of the Lord” occurs 23 times in the old testament and only 2 times in the New Testament. The phrase appears more in the book of Proverbs than any other book.
Digging Deeper – Other Sources
Articles and Books:
I read a very interesting article about the meaning of “fear of the Lord”. According to the website, The Living Words “fear” is an abstract concept, but the Hebrew words that are translated for “fear” have a more concrete definition behind them, as I have tried to explain above. Click here to read the article. There are many Books written on the topic of “the fear of the Lord”. You can easily conduct online research to discover these books.
Bible Verses translating “fear“ from the Hebrew word “yirah”
“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God” -Proverbs 2:1-5
“Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!” –Psalm 128
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction”. – Proverbs 1:7
“The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.” -Proverbs 19:9
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” -Proverbs 9:10
“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.”-Proverbs 14:27
“The fear of the Lord leads to life, And he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.” -Proverbs 19:2
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. – Psalm 111:10
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.” (also translated “the whole duty of man) – Ecclesiastes 12:13
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” – Acts 9:31
“The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” -Proverbs 15:33
“Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life.”-Proverbs 22:4
Bible Verses translating “fear“ from the Hebrew word “pachad”
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The Ministry of Reconciliation. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.”-2 Corinthians 5:10-11
“People will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from the fearful presence of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.” -Isaiah 2:19
“They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.”-Isaiah 2:21 (also translated terror of the Lord)
“And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel.” -2 Chronicles 20:29