Fear as Reverence - It’s Importance in Scripture

Proverbs 8:13

The reverence of YAHWEH
is to hate what is bad.    

The word "fear" occurs 400 times in the KJV Bible.
There are three different Hebrew words for fear identified in Strong's Hebrew Dictionary. One is a verb, one is an adjective, and one is a noun. In most English translations they are translated as fear, to be afraid or to be frightened. This is our most common understanding of fear as we respond to various things that threaten us or pose a danger to us. But this is not the only meaning of these three terms.

Unfortunately this ignores the most important scriptural understanding of fear which is reverence or respect. 

While there is an element of fear involved in this reverence it is not the primary focus. When used in regard to YAHWEH it is intended to move us to have a healthy reverence or respect in regard to Him, to hold Him in very high honor. In part, this is because He has the ability to destroy us in an instant. But He is also capable of awesome deeds which when experienced
cause us to tremble with awe, with overwhelming respect for His power and authority.

Take a closer look at the following definitions provided by Strong's Hebrew Dictionary (emphasis added):

3372.  aérÎy  yare', yaw-ray´; a primitive root; to fear; morally, to revere; caus. to frighten:—affright, be (make) afraid, dread(-ful), (put in) fear(-ful, -fully, -ing), (be had in) reverence(-end), x see, terrible (act, -ness, thing).
aérÎy  yare', yaw-ray´; from 3372; fearing; morally, reverent:—afraid, fear (-ful).
3374hDa√rˆy  yir}ah, yir-aw´; feminine of 3373; fear (also used as infinitive); morally, reverence:—x dreadful, x exceedingly,

Here is what The Old Testament Word Study Dictionary has to say about these same three terms:

3372. aérÎy  yaœreœ} : A verb meaning to fear, to respect, to reverence, to be afraid, to be awesome, to be feared, to make afraid,
to frighten. The most common translations are to be afraid, to fear, to fear God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” is a famous use of the noun (Prov. 1:7 niv); the famous narrative of the near sacrifice of Isaac proved to God that Abraham feared Him above all (Gen. 22:12); people who feared God were considered faithful and trustworthy for such fear constrained them to believe and act morally (Ex. 18:21). The midwives of Pharaoh feared God and did not kill the newborn Hebrew males (Ex. 1:17, 21). The fear of the Lord was closely tied to keeping God’s decrees and laws (Deut. 6:2); people who fear God delight in hearing of His deeds for His people (Ps. 66:16). The God of Israel was an object of respectful fear (Lev. 19:30; 26:2) for Obadiah and Hezekiah (1 Kgs. 18:3, 12; Jer. 26:19). In addition, because Israel feared and worshiped other gods, they were destroyed by Assyria (Judg. 6:10; 2 Kgs. 17:7, 35). They were to worship and fear only the Lord their God (Josh. 24:14). Israel had an unnecessary and unhealthy fear of the nations of Canaan (Deut. 7:19). The verb describes the fear of men: Jacob feared Esau, his brother (Gen. 32:7[8]); and the official in charge of Daniel feared the king (Dan. 1:10). In the sense of respectful fear, each person was to honor his mother and father (Lev. 19:3). As a stative verb, it describes a state of being or attitude, such as being afraid or fearful: a man afraid of war was to remove himself from the army of Israel (Deut. 20:3, 8; Judg. 7:3); as a result of rebellion, Adam and Eve were afraid before the Lord (Gen. 3:10).

 In the passive form, the word expresses the idea of being feared, held in esteem: God was feared and awesome (Ex. 15:11; Ps. 130:4); His deeds were awe-inspiring (Deut. 10:21; 2 Sam. 7:23); the Cushites were an aggressive people feared by many (Isa. 18:2); even the threatening desert area was considered fearful or dreadful (Deut. 8:15).

The factitive or intensive form means to frighten or to impart fear: the wise woman of Tekoa was frightened by the people (2 Sam. 14:15); and the governor of Samaria, Sanballat, attempted to frighten Nehemiah so that he would not rebuild the wall of Jerusalem (Neh. 6:9).

3373.  aérÎy yaœreœ}: An adjective meaning fearing, afraid. The Hebrew word is used when the author of Genesis speaks of Abraham fearing God because he did not hold back his only son (Gen. 22:12). Jacob asked God to save him from Esau, because he was afraid that Esau would attack him (Gen. 32:11[12]). Jethro told Moses to [p. 471] select as judges men who feared God (Ex. 18:21). Proverbs says that a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Prov. 31:30). Jeremiah told the Israelite army that God said not to fear the king of Babylon (Jer. 42:11). See the primary verb yare’ (3372).

3374. hDa√rˆy yir}aœh: A feminine noun meaning fear. The word usually refers to the fear of God and is viewed as a positive quality. This fear acknowledges God’s good intentions (Ex. 20:20). It will motivate and delight even the Messiah (Isa. 11:2, 3). This fear is produced by God’s Word (Ps. 119:38; Prov. 2:5) and makes a person receptive to wisdom and knowledge (Prov. 1:7; 9:10). It is even identified with wisdom (Job 28:28; Prov. 15:33). The fear of the Lord may be lost by despair of one’s own situation (Job 6:14) or envy of a sinner’s (Prov. 23:17). This fear restrains people from sin (Gen. 20:11; Ex. 20:20; Neh. 5:9); gives confidence (Job 4:6; Prov. 14:26); helps rulers and causes judges to act justly (2 Sam. 23:3; 2 Chr. 19:9; Neh. 5:15); results in good sleep (Prov. 19:23); with humility, leads to riches, honor, and life (Prov. 22:4). The word also refers to the fear of briers and thorns (Isa. 7:25); and the fear of Israel that would fall on other nations (Deut. 2:25).

Because this is such an important issue in scripture the S4S Version, Scripture For Seekers, has utilized reverence where the context suggests this is the appropriate term. When you review these passages with this word in place it produces a profound impact upon your understanding of the text and its implications.

Here are some of the 55 passages where reverence is used in place of fear as suggested by the context:

Ex. 20:20   And Moshe said to the people,
“Do not be afraid!
Indeed, for the sake of proving you yourselves את
The Elohim has come,
even in order that the
reverence of Him
will exist before your faces
so that you will not offend.”

Ex. 20:21   And the people stood at a distance.
But Moshe drew near to the thick darkness
where The Elohim was.

Is. 33:5   YAHWEH is being exalted!
Indeed, He is dwelling on high!
He has filled Tzion with judgment and justice!
6 And He will be the faithfulness of your times,
a wealth of deliverance, and wisdom, and knowledge. 
The reverence of YAHWEH, it is His treasure.

Psa. 19:7-10    (H19:8) The teaching of YAHWEH is complete,
causing life to return.
The precepts of YAHWEH are trustworthy,
causing the simple to become wise.
 8  (H19:9) The accountings of YAHWEH are fair,
rejoicing the heart.
The directives of YAHWEH are pure,
causing the eyes to be enlightened.
 9  (H19:10) The reverence of YAHWEH is undefiled,
standing forever.
The regulations of YAHWEH are certain,
they are altogether just.
10  (H19:11) They are more desirable than gold,
even more than much refined gold,
and sweeter than honey
or the drippings of the honeycomb.

Psa. 34:9    (H34:10) Revere YAHWEH Himself את,
you who are set apart!
Indeed, there is no lack to them revering Him!

Psa. 34:10    (H34:11) Young lions have lacked
and been hungry.
But those seeking YAHWEH
will not lack any good thing.

Psa. 34:11    (H34:12) Come, children!
Listen attentively to me!
I will teach you the reverence of YAHWEH!
Psa. 34:12    (H34:13) Who is the man desiring life,
loving days for the sake of seeing good?
 13  (H34:14) Keep your tongue from what is bad
and your lips from speaking deceit! 

Psa. 111:10   The beginning of wisdom
is reverence of
a good understanding
for the sake of everyone doing
His praise will be rising up forever!

Psa. 119:38   Cause Your word to stand
for the sake of Your servant,
that which is for the
reverence of You.

Prov. 1:7   The reverence of YAHWEH
is the beginning of knowledge.
Wisdom and instruction fools despise.

Prov. 2:3   Indeed, if you call out for discernment,
give forth your voice for the sake of understanding,
 4 if you will seek her like silver,
and search for her like hidden treasures,
 5 then you will understand
the reverence of YAHWEH!
And knowledge of The Elohim you will find! 
Prov. 2:6   Indeed, YAHWEH gives wisdom!
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding!
 7 And He has hidden away sound wisdom
for the sake of the upright,
a shield for the sake of those walking with integrity,

Prov. 8:13   The reverence of YAHWEH
is to hate what is bad.

Prov. 9:10   The beginning of wisdom
is reverence of YAHWEH.
And knowledge of the set part is understanding.
 11 Indeed, with me (wisdom) your days will be many
and years of life will be added for you.

Prov. 14:26   In the reverence of YAHWEH
there is strong confidence.
And for His children there is shelter.

Prov. 14:27   The reverence of YAHWEH
is a fountain of life.
It exists for the sake of turning one away
from the snares of death.

Prov. 15:16   Better is a little
with the reverence of YAHWEH,
than much treasure, but with panic.

Prov. 16:6   With kindness and faithfulness
moral perversity is atoned.
And in the reverence of YAHWEH
one turns away from what is bad.

Prov. 22:4   The result of humility,
the reverence of YAHWEH,
is riches, and honor, and life.

Prov. 23:17   Your heart is not to be zealous concerning offenders,
but rather, concerning the reverence of YAHWEH all the day,
 18 because for certain there is a final end.
And your hope will not be cut off.

Job 28:28   Then He said to the human being, ‘Behold!The reverence of
YAHWEH, that is wisdom!
And to turn aside from what is bad is understanding!’ “

Heb. 12.28 Therefore, since we are receiving
a kingdom which is immovable,
let us have favor
through which we might serve YAHWEH
acceptably with humility and reverence
 29 because our Elohim is an utterly consuming fire.

1Tim. 4:7 Now what are profane and old wives’ fables, avoid!
But exercise yourself toward
 8 Indeed, bodily exercise is to a little advantage,
reverence is advantageous for everything,
having a promise of the life that now is
and of that which is to come.

1Peter 3:15 Now sanctify YAHWEH, The Elohim,
in your hearts,
and always be ready to give a defense
to everyone who asks you a word
concerning the expectation that is in you
with gentleness and
 16 having a good conscience
so that when they slander you as doers of harm,
those who insult your good behavior in The Messiah
are put to shame.

The scriptures provided here are only a sample of the ones containing these terms. Yet these give evidence that the reverence of
YAHWEH is profoundly important. Within such a response to Him great blessings are found.

YAHWEH does not want you to be afraid of Him, He wants you to have proper respect for Him, for His power, and for His authority over your life. When that becomes your response you relationship with Him becomes warm and personal, and His kindness and compassion are poured out into your life.

There is reason to be afraid of YAHWEH when one offends Him by refusing to do what He has instructed us to do. The penalty for such action is death. Yet in His great love for us He has provided a means to escape that penalty. He has sent us His Messiah, YAHUSHUA of Nazareth. He gave His life, taking your penalty, death, upon Himself in order that you might not have to experience eternal separation fro YAHWEH. With this in view we have profound evidence that YAHWEH does not want us to be afraid of Him. He wants us to respect Him, to revere Him, holding Him in awe and wonder for His great love.

You're the only one that can choose which response you will have toward Him. Will you love Him and revere Him? Or will you cringe in terror before Him because you know you have offended Him by rejecting His Word of Truth?

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May YAHWEH speak to your heart and bless you with understanding as you explore His Word.