Does God Want Us to Fear Him?

ScaredThe word “fear” is common in the Old Testament, and to many it sounds like we should cringe in dread of God’s presence.

Of course, we also find “fear” in the New Testament too. The Gentiles who believed in God were called God-fearers, and the early church was said to be built up in the “fear of the Lord” (Acts 9:31). Why is there so much fear in the Bible?

The key to solving this mystery is to know more about the Hebrew word that we translate as “fear.” Like many words in Hebrew, it has a much broader range of meaning than we have in English. To us, “fear” is the opposite of trust, and its synonyms are fright, dread and terror. But the Hebrew equivalent, yirah (YEER-ah) encompasses a wide range of meanings from negative (dread, terror) to positive (worship, reverence) and from mild (respect) to strong (awe).

You may be surprised – every time you read “revere” or “reverence” in English it comes from the Hebrew word yirah. In Leviticus 19:3, we are told to “fear/respect/revere” our mother and father using this same word. Certainly here yirah refers to showing them respect or reverence, not being afraid of them.

An even stronger word for “fear,” pahad, (which is often translated “dread”) can also describe jaw-dropping awe. Listen to how Jeremiah uses it to describe the coming glory of Jerusalem:

She shall gain through Me renown, joy, fame, and glory above all the nations on earth, when they hear of all the good fortune I provide for them. They will thrill and quiver because of all the good fortune and all the prosperity that I provide for her. (Jeremiah 33:9 JPS)

Here pahad is actually translated as “thrill.” Just imagine — “fear” actually describes spine-tingling amazement at what God has done to bless his people!

How Should We “Fear the Lord”?

LightningOften Christians interpret “the Fear of the LORD” as the fear of the punishment that God could give us for our deeds. Certainly, we will all stand before God’s judgment when we die. But if you know that Christ has paid for your sins, you should not have this kind of fear anymore. This is what John preaches against when he says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18).

The rabbis often spoke of the “fear of the Lord” — Yirat Adonai — but they always thought of it in terms of the most positive sense of the word yirah. They defined it as awe and reverence for God that motivates us to do his will.

They pointed out that fearing God’s punishment is actually an inferior understanding, because at its core it is self-centered. It doesn’t even focus on God. Rather it looks at God only through the lens of your own interests, by asking what will happen to you because of God’s knowledge of your deeds. (See link for a quote from Abraham Heschel on this.)

If you have yirat Adonai, awe and reverence for God, it fills you with a better kind of fear. Imagine that you work at a mega-corporation and one day you’re promoted to work directly under the CEO. Wouldn’t you tremble as you report for your first assignment? When you have great respect for someone, you feel terrible knowing you’ve disappointed them. And when you love another person deeply, you earnestly want their approval. How much more should this be true with God!

Understanding Yirat Adonai as the rabbis do shows why the “fear of the Lord” is so highly praised in the Bible:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death. Proverbs 14:26-27

The “fear of the Lord” in these passages is an awe-filled love of God that allows us to grow in intimate knowledge of him. It teaches us how to live, and reassures us of God’s power and guidance. It gives us a reverence of his will that keeps us from getting caught in sins that will destroy our relationships and lives.

A Sense of God’s Presence

One aspect of Yirat Adonai is the idea that we should be constantly aware of the presence of God. You see a reminder of this in many synagogues. Over the ornate cabinets that hold the Torah scrolls is the phrase Know Before Whom You Stand. This means to realize that an infinitely powerful God is close at hand. Wow!

In worship, there really is no greater thrill than to feel spine-tingling awe at the grandeur of God. In this sense, to “fear” God is one of the most profound experiences of our lives, spiritually. You can see why the “fear of the LORD” as an awesome sense of his presence is really the essence of our life of faith.

Jewish thinkers point out that study of the Scriptures must always be done with Yirat Adonai. Academic education in biblical studies tends to be entirely intellectual, and Christians often find it dry. What they are looking for is God’s voice speaking through the Scriptures, and to find it they need Yirat Adonai. There is an enormous difference between study of the Bible that has Yirat Adonai, reverence for God, and a purely intellectual approach.

Padlock PhillykevflicksA classic rabbinic saying is that a scholar who does not have Yirat Adonai “is like a man who owns a treasure chest and has the inner keys but not the outer keys.”2 Rich wealth is right in his hands, but he can’t get at it. To study the Bible without reverence is a dry enterprise that will never unlock its true meaning.

Our Moral Foundation

Another thing that Yirat Adonai gives us is an inner moral foundation. When you know that God knows your thoughts, you are compelled to act not just for what other people think, but for what God thinks. This was what Paul meant in Colossians 3:22 when he said, “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.” Reverence of God gives us an inward sincerity because we don’t things just for appearances, but to please God who knows our heart.

A humorous story illustrates:

A great rabbi once caught a ride on a horse-drawn wagon, and as the wagon passed a field full of ripe produce, the driver stopped and said, “I’m going to get us some vegetables from that field. Call out if you see anyone coming.” As the driver was picking vegetables, the rabbi cried out, “We’re seen! We’re seen!” The frightened man ran back to the wagon, and looked and saw no one nearby. He said, “Why did you call out like that when there was nobody watching?” The rabbi pointed toward heaven and said, “God is watching! God is always watching.” 3

An awareness of God’s presence will motivate us to obey him. You may still think of this as a fear of punishment, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Indeed, the “fear of the Lord” should really be a sense of Christ’s majesty that gives you an earnest longing to please him. When you know he is always with you, it causes you to try to live as the disciple he wants you to be.


“Fear” is one of the Hebrew word studies in my latest book, 5 Hebrew Words that Every Christian Should Know.

(Photos from Phillykevflicks, Capture Queen)

1 From “Fear of YHWH and Hebrew Spirituality” a lecture by Dwight Pryor, October 2003. See the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies ( for more.

2 From the Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 31b. See the article “Fear of God” at

3 As quoted by Joseph Telushkin in The Book of Jewish Values, p 10. Copyright 2000. (This is an outstanding book on practical ethics and how we should live – highly recommended.)


55 Responses to “Does God Want Us to Fear Him?”

  1. 1
    Alex R.|February 13, 2014

    Lois, this article is terrific. The propensity to use this language inappropriately is very widespread in our Western culture. Thanks so much for clarifying and enlightening.

  2. 2
    Carol Abraham Shuey|February 13, 2014

    Thank You for the article. It was very enlightening.

  3. 3
    Tom G|February 17, 2014

    Lois, Great Article. I frequently speak to my children about the fear of the Lord/fearing God as walking in a manner that protects to holiness of God’s Name and is in awe of the fact that we are called according to His Great Name. He is jealous over the holiness of His Name, and yet we are saved/forgiven for His Name’s sake.

    Abraham was told to walk before God and be Blameless! Job was called a blameless man by God- What was God’s criteria for Job’s blamelessness: He was upright, Feared God and turned away from evil. This is the target for which I point my children to.

  4. 4
    Lois Tverberg|February 17, 2014

    Tom, very good thought. Thanks for that.

  5. 5
    Ruth Hickman|February 17, 2014

    Dear Lois
    This a a great article about a subject very misunderstood in the church due to the lack of our Hebrew roots. Love you writings.
    Ruth Hickman

  6. 6
    Emily|February 17, 2014

    What a beautiful message! Thank you for taking the time to write about something we should be doing in our walk with The Lord.

  7. 7
    Joyce|February 17, 2014

    I learn so much from your articles! Thank you for sharing all you have learned about the Jewish culture and history. I appreciate your teaching and books. You have helped me reverence and love Jesus more deeply and sense His presence more personally. God Bless You.

  8. 8
    Darrell Phillips|February 17, 2014

    Bless you Lois for this wonderful article!!! One thing I love to do, is look at the Hebrew letters that construct a word. In this case, “yireh” is a yod, a resh, and an aleph. Because Hebrew letters have literal meanings, the letters could say “He looks (or points) to strength or might.” Hope I am close?!!!

  9. 9
    Lois Tverberg|February 17, 2014

    Darrell, as lovely as that sounds, I would say no. Looking at individual letters is not in any way helpful for learning what Hebrew words actually mean. Hebrew is not magic, that it works in ways other languages do not. I’ve seen others do this, and sometimes they come up with a nice application. But honestly, I’d say it’s coming from their own imagination.

  10. 10
    Patrick Rietveld|February 18, 2014

    When I looked in Jeremiah 33:9 I couldn’t find the verb yireh. I only saw 2 other verbs: phd & rgz. Did I overlook it?

  11. 11
    Lois Tverberg|February 18, 2014

    Patrick, you’re completely right. I need to edit that paragraph. The word there is pahad, which is an even stronger word for “fear” than yireh. Usually it is translated as dread or terror. In Jer 33.9 it’s translated as “thrill” because it’s being used in a very positive sense.

  12. 12
    Chandra|February 21, 2014

    Dear Lois,

    I am from Indonesia and so thankful for this article you created. In these last days before the second coming of Christ many Christians are deceived by satan as they justifies continuing sin, lust, and wickedness on the basis of continuing mercy of Jesus.

    He about to come, and Hebrew 12:14 clearly states without holiness no man shall see the Lord. How can we enter the Kingdom if we can’t even see the Owner?

    Your articles provides clear understanding on the meaning of Fear of the Lord that constitutes a strong basis for us Christians living in holiness in heart, mind, body, and soul.

    Thanks! Jesus bless you in everything you do 🙂

  13. 13
    Lois Tverberg|February 26, 2014

    I just put up a follow-up post at this link. It shares a magnificent quote from Abraham Heschel on this very same topic. Here’s part:

    “Awe, unlike fear, does not make us shrink from the awe-inspiring object, but, on the contrary, draws us near to it. This is why awe is comparable to both love and joy. In a sense, awe is the antithesis of fear.”

  14. 14
    Anne|March 7, 2014

    Thank you for this explanation. I have always sort of thought that the word “fear” translated into the English bible did not completely fit the original word, but I wasn’t sure what its meaning really was. I really appreciate the image of fear as “spine-tingling amazement at what God has done”, along with the comparison of awe and respect for a high up boss like the awe and respect we should have for God. I had never really thought about how fearing God’ punishment is self-centered before. but it makes sense now that I read it, and brings more clarity to what “fear” really means. Thank you.

  15. 15
    Steven|March 7, 2014

    This is a wonderful new perspective on the meaning of Fear as used in the Bible. Ever since I began reading my Bible, I always found it off when I came upon the word. Does our creator want us to be scared of him? Doesn’t he love us like a father? I’ve always been somewhat uncomfortable with the term. To me it meant that I should make sure my actions are in check before him. And while they still should be, that fear means awe and amazement instead it makes the passages including the word fear make a lot more sense, and further displays how we should approach our God. However, I question why bible translators fail to include this meaning. Why simply leave it at the english word of “fear,” which almost always has a negative connotation?

  16. 16
    Logan|March 7, 2014

    Growing up, I always thought that when the fear of God was mentioned in the Bible, it meant that we were supposed to be scared of God. I never really understood what this meant and why we should be scared of God. I never knew that there were so many different translations for the word fear. We should build our lives and our faith around our fear for God. One of the most powerful translations is Yirat Adonai. This translates back to mean to have an awe and reverence to God. Once we build our moral foundation off of this, we begin to think more and more before making decisions. We think about what God wants us to do, and what God would do.

  17. 17
    Rachael|March 7, 2014

    Dear Lois,

    Thank you for opening up my mind to the word ‘Fear’. That is one thing that I have always had a question on, and that I have never quite understood. As a young child I thought that God was mean and mighty in the old testament, but then he changed and got more loving in the new. Of course I can see how silly that is now, and knowing that the word fear means awe changes it so much. The Israelites were not always scared of God, they had such reverence for him. I think I want to try practicing that more because we sure have one great and mighty God.

  18. 18
    Landon Brower|March 7, 2014

    Dr. Tverberg, this article was very enlightening in my vision of what it means to fear God. It is awesome how you took the word “fear” and interpreted it within the Jewish culture that it was used. Doing this allowed you to realize and portray to your readers that “fear” actually means a wide spectrum of things. Your example about working directly under the CEO of a mega-corporation very much spoke to me because I could clearly see and feel what that kind of fear would be like. Fearing God because of the potential punishments He could put upon you is the wrong kind of interpretation, as you stated. Fearing God because of his importance, grandeur, and then reflecting this fear in how you behave morally is how I now view “Yirat Adonai.” Thank you for your interpretation in this article as is has enlightened my life in a new way.

  19. 19
    Kaylee|March 7, 2014

    I really enjoyed this article. I never really knew what it meant to “fear” God. I thought people were always saying that we should be afraid of God, but that’s not it. We don’t need to be afraid of Him, we need to be amazed by Him, and all the things that He does for us. Thank you so much for writing this article, and explaining to me, and everyone else that needed it, what it really means to “fear God”. And, thank you too for giving us some ways that we can “fear” Him. I really liked the point you made about being in an office and giving a speech. If you disappoint your co-workers then you feel terrible because you weren’t good enough. It should be that way with God as well.

  20. 20
    Rachel|March 7, 2014

    This topic always interests me because it is hard to understand that God is our father and full of such unconditional love, but we are also supposed to fear Him. What I really liked was when the article pointed out that if we fear God (or fear judgement day) than it is no longer about God, but the focus has shifted to ourselves. That is a really interesting point that I have never thought about before. We do not fear the Lord to put focus on ourselves, but out of respect for how awesome HE is. The most common type of “fear” is a word that can also mean awe and reverence. I like to think that I am filled with awe and reverence for the Lord, not scared fear.

  21. 21
    Donny K.|March 7, 2014

    In this article, there were some interesting thoughts. In my opinion, I don’t think God actually wants us to be terrified or afraid of him, but we have to realize that he is in power. I think when the word “fear” is mentioned, it can also mean to know and understand who God is. In Proverbs 9:10, it says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” which isn’t describing fear as being scared of God, but instead, what understanding God is. I think we should “fear” God in the sense that we know he is in control and there are consequences for the bad things we do, but also “fear” God in the sense that we need to do our best to understand more about God and the Bible.

  22. 22
    Sarah|March 7, 2014

    I saw the other day someone refer to their mom as a “God-fearing women”. I always wondered what that meant. When I thought about it, it didn’t make sense to me to fear God. Then I got a little concerned because I’m not afraid of God and according to the Bible maybe I should be. Looking at the Hebrew definitions totally changes what fearing God means. My favorite interpretation is “draw dropping awe”. That’s what fearing God really is. I also liked the story at the end about God always watching. And I don’t mean that like He is watching down on people waiting for them to make mistake, but like the article says, acknowledge God’s presence because He is there in every situation. I think that’s what fearing God means; to acknowledge His presence and want to obey Him.

  23. 23
    Luke Walters|March 7, 2014

    This article was a good one for me to read because I have always struggled with what it actually meant to fear God. The meaning of the word used for fear in the Bible can actually mean reverence or even awe. This makes me happy because I never really wanted to be scared of God, because that would never allow for a deep relationship with Him, but if I am in awe of Him and deeply respect Him. Also I am guilty of only believing in God for selfish gain because I want to go to heaven, and this article showed that it’s all about showing God the love you have for him.

  24. 24
    Allie|March 7, 2014

    I always was confused when I would read or be told about fearing God. I never wanted to think that I had to be afraid of somebody who I called my Father. I don’t like to think of God as scary and a person that I need to fear all the time, so I am thankful for this article clearing that up. It’s crazy how much you really need to get into the culture and the language before you can get the full effect that the Bible is intended to have. Knowing that when talking about “fearing God” it means to have the respect and the awe-filled love for Him, clears a lot of things up for me.

  25. 25
    Lisa|March 7, 2014

    This article was very insightful. I loved how you talked about the differences between the definitions of fear. Our view of fear is much different than the Jewish word for fear. It gave me a better understanding on how to fear God. I loved how it has much more to do with admiration and love. The idea that God gives us a thrill is inspiring. The fear isn’t dread or grief, it is awe and reverence. It helped me better understand how fear can draw us close to God. The fact that it is not suppose to shrink us away is amazing. It gave me a totally different outlook of a word that I hear so often. Thanks so much for sharing what you know!

  26. 26
    Vicky Plaggemars|March 7, 2014

    We, as westerners, think generally that when we hear fear in the Bible we automatically think of dread or terror, but that is not the meaning of fear in the Bible. Fear of God is wanting to please God and earnestly honor Him. I only learned the meaning of fearing God a few years ago. I never understood the second Hebrew meaning behind it, what it truly means. I think it is important to constantly think of the presence of God. It is important to know that God is always with us no matter what. We need to be moral whether there is anyone around or not because God is always here. We should be moral out of respect for God, but also to please Him. Verses that talk about fearing the Lord are:
    The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10

    In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death. Proverbs 14:26-27

    They discuss how fearing the Lord brings us closer to Him. How it is the base of our knowledge and understanding of Him. I enjoyed this article how it is more in-depth of the discussion of fearing the Lord and understanding what it means to fear the Lord.

  27. 27
    Lindsey|March 7, 2014

    This question always burns deep into my brain when I read the bible and see the word ‘fear’. It is such a simple word that has such a big meaning, that is what I learned from this article. Even though the word sounds like it means being scared of God, or running away from him, it does not actually mean that. I think the article just wants us to see that this word has all good meaning in it, no bad. I love to hear that because it makes me happy that I am able to worship a God that I can fear, but not in a bad way. I can fear him by worshipping him in everything that I do because he is the almighty maker of everything and he deserves our fear of him. It talks about in the article how there is no greater thrill than feeling spine-tingling awe because of how amazing God is. I think this is so true, I always feel this when we have singing chapels at our school and we sing the song, “The Stand”. I just love to see everyone with their hands up, praising the Lord and fearing him. This article really taught me a lot, and it was not even that long of an article. I loved everything about it.

  28. 28
    Marcus|March 7, 2014

    I really enjoyed hearing what you had to say about fearing God. Often when we hear the word fear we think of it literally and assume that’s how we must always feel about him. The literal meaning reminds me of Adam and Eve after they sinned because they knew they had let God down. This is sometimes the case but usually when we try to carry our own guilt. This feeling of fear is really meant to be one of excitement and awe of a God who can do anything.

  29. 29
    Kirby|March 7, 2014

    I really enjoyed this. Sometimes its been hard to understand how I could love him so much when I have people telling me Im supposed to fear him. I’ve sat through so many sermons of my pastor telling us that our faith without deeds is dead, and I sit there thinking, “where’s the grace?” Ive had the wrong kind of fear for him, and this has helped understand where my thinking has been wrong, but sometimes I find myself wishing that I wouldn’t have to be so nervous when Im talking to him. i wish that I could talk to him as more of a friend.

  30. 30
    Connor Kuipers|March 7, 2014

    Thanks so much for this insight into the fear of God. I have always took the fear that the Bible has talked about as a fear of what He might do to us because of our sins. I have been learning that words in Hebrew often times have many meanings and “yireh” seems to be one of those cases. The fact that God wants us to respect him is something I can understand so much more than a God who wants me to be scared of Him. I also found your point on Yirat Adonai to be very interesting. Someone who does not have a reverence of God and does not understand that He is always watching. Biblical studies that are entirely intellectual will not further your understanding. I am really excited about the implications of this question of “Does God want us to fear him?” I think he wants us to respect him, but not fear him in the way some might assume. Thanks for the thoughts!

  31. 31
    Kari Kroeze|March 7, 2014

    This article is a great reminder that we have to respect God so much that we fear disappointing him. God’s nearness should be an inspiration to act, think and talk in a way that pleases God. Many people, including myself, take for granted and even forget how close God actually is. The fact that he knows the true desires of your heart is hard to wrap your mind around. This concept of “Fearing the Lord” is so powerful. I like how well this article explains the meaning and how he ties it to the Hebrew language. It is crazy how a slight change in translation can drastically change the meaning of a word.

  32. 32
    Cody|March 7, 2014

    Dear Mrs. Tverberg,

    After reading this article, I came to a new understanding of what God is telling us to do when he says to fear him. I honestly was confused about this because God is always talking about how he cares for us all the time and yet he wants us to be afraid of him, I didn’t understand that. But now reading that God wants us to be in awe of him and revere him helps me understand what he is saying. It is interesting to see how translating from Hebrew to English can confuse what God is actually trying to say.

  33. 33
    Janka Mezo|March 7, 2014

    I liked this article, because I understand better the “fear the Lord” phrase. I think it was clearly explained and the examples also helped me to get a better ‘picture’ of this phrase. I like the part when you liken the “fear of the Lord” to and awe-filled love. I like the similes and short stories, because it maintains the attention. I liked the last paragraph where you summarized the important things. This article made me think about my relationship with God and about how should I “fear” God. Thanks! 🙂

  34. 34
    Josiah Coleman|March 7, 2014

    I’ve always thought that fear was being scared of God, but I was completely wrong! I wanted to be good because I was scared that God would do something bad if I didn’t. Fearing God is just merely showing respect. When you have respect of others you know not to do anything that would harm the respect. It’s like honoring your father and mother. You listen and do as your told because you love and respect them. It’s the same for God. You love him so you want to respect him so you have a sort of fear in a sense but it’s more like honoring him.

  35. 35
    Joshua Maas|March 7, 2014

    I really liked this article. It helped me know and remember that “fear” can mean a lot of different things, like in awe and respect. I liked how you put it into a today situation like when you really like someone or if your going to work under the CEO. It helps me understand better of how my relationship with God is suppose to be. So often I forget that i’m always standing in front of God and that I need to act like it. This article was a helpful reminder that I can’t go through life without thinking of that.

  36. 36
    Keagan|March 9, 2014

    Thank you for your insight on fearing God. The word “fear” comes up in the Bible frequently and for me, it has always been a little bit confusing. It really helps to understand the Hebrew meaning behind the word because there are so many interpretations. Also, it is very reassuring to know that we don’t have to be scared of God: He has paid for our sins already. One of my favorite aspects of your post was the importance of the presence of God. When we know that he is there, a whole different way of life forms for us. I think that when we know God is with us, it allows us to become more like Him in every situation.

  37. 37
    Lois Tverberg|March 9, 2014

    Thanks, everyone from RVL’s class. I appreciate your comments and thoughts. 🙂

  38. 38
    Samuel Henen|March 10, 2014

    In arabic there are two different words that I think help me understand this subject better. The fear of GOD and fearing God, (In arabic, Al khawf mn allah and Makhaft allah) In both language they look very much alike but they have very different. From my understanding and the research I did, The fear of God (Al khawf mn) is being afraid of him because of his justice, hardness, and his punishment. Fearing God, (Makhaft allah) is like having piety to his commandments and his word. This will put in me in a place where I respect him, and do this things that he asks me to do not because I’m afraid of him, but because I don’t want to make him mad or upset. As you mentioned in the article. The fear of god is like a child that is respecting and loving his dad so he can get his money or candy. Fearing God I think is like a child that loves his dad and respects hime because he don’t not want to make him upset.
    But I still don’t know when good is trying to make us fear him and when he is trying to make us afraid of him because both of these points are true and real.
    Malachi 2:2 If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the Lord of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart. I think this verse describes having fear of the God. On the other hand, Proverbs 14:26-27 describes fearing the lord.

  39. 39
    Sam|March 10, 2014

    We in todays culture or at least I have always thought about how it says fear of the lord as an actual fear. Something like how people have a fear of the dark or something like that. I suppose it has both meanings though. Its a word in the Bible that has really confused me. I have both meanings for God. I have a fear of what he can do and just a fear as a reverence for him as well. If you think about it, you should have some sort of fear for someone or something that created you and is all powerful and perfect though at the same time.

  40. 40
    Kate|March 10, 2014

    This article was very insightful on what it really means to “fear God.” The term “Fearing God” has always been something I was a little unsure about. This article explained well how it can has a much different meaning if we look at the Hebrew word it was translated from. Instead of thinking of fearing God as something that makes us scared because of his power, and as you said, “cringe in dread of God’s presence” I found it insightful to look at is as being “awe-filled love of God that allows us to grow in intimate knowledge of him.” This is a whole new way of looking at fearing God, and I think it helps to know this side of fearing because it helps reassure us of God’s power.

  41. 41
    Caleb|March 10, 2014

    I think that this is an interesting perspective. I have always heard that it is fear and reverence, not just fear. This always left me wondering why an all loving God would want people to fear him. Nobody had ever explained that it is not a physical fear like needles or the dark. I also think that it is very interesting that that one Hebrew word can mean so many different things and can be translated differently for different situations. I have recently fallen in love with Lexicon. I think that it is great for things like this or knowing the history of a passage.

  42. 42
    Dero|May 8, 2014

    I never had an issue with the fear of the Lord because as a child when I asked my Anglican wise and calm historian mother she said that fear was an old english word meaning respect and awe. I am glad for this article and the many responses since I now see that this was/is a big issue. I have even asked many of my pentecostal evangelical church mates and found that it is indeed a troubling concern.
    I’d like to share a childhood story that brings to mind this fear.
    My after-school chore was to wash the dishes after tea (afternoon snack) in preparation for dinner. I never liked this duty and it made little sense to me because we had 2 daily helpers …a cook and a general cleaner. It was clear to my 9 year-old mind that there was no need other than my mother’s misguided notion that I needed to have a sence of responcibility. I often forgot or found some lame excuse. My mother and I had many firm conversations about unwashed dished and staying at school to play long after Brownies was over. Other than this dish washing dissonace my mother and I were close. She talked with me, hugged me etc. One day I stayed at school to play much longer than usual and on my way home (very late) I then remenbered the dishes and that my father was having guest to dinner so I started to run to get the job done before my mother arrived home from work. I burst into the kitchen out of breath to find my mother looking sad,tired and disappointed and almost finished at washing the dished. I felt she should spank me,at least yell at me, but instead she washed my dishes up, told me to hurry off to get dressed for dinner as the guest would be soon there. I felt so loved, forgiven and accepted that I burst into tears.I was trebling on the inside from guilt and undeserved kind forgiveness! I had let my mother who loved and trusted me down. I never let those after tea dished go unwashed again out of fear of my mother. Not afraid of her but in awe of her understanding and forgiveness. We (my mother and I) never had to talk about undone chores again.I am obviousely not a child now,but I still have great repect for my mother.

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    Darryl|June 7, 2014

    Great article, еxactly what Ӏ needed.

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    Ryan|July 14, 2014

    Good article but one question if fear in hebrew can mean awe and other words why does the word awe show up many other times in te bible ike in psalms? Instead of saying fear why not just say awe?

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    mary|September 22, 2014

    Fear of God also means one understands who God is and His absolute authority.

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    Tim|June 18, 2015

    Wow, what an excellent article! Thank you for posting this. I have always known that The Fear of The Lord was not terror or threat. After all why would the Father say “Fear not for I am with you…”. This all falls into place for me. 🙂

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    Abbi|April 22, 2016

    I loved this article, and the new perspective that it gave me is enlightening. I’ve always wrestled with the “Fear of the Lord.” I knew it wasn’t a trembling terror, but your words allow it to all make sense for me. I love when you said that the Bible used the word fear in the most positive sense. When we fear the Lord, we should hold Him up in reverence. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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    Andrea Kempf|April 22, 2016

    This was a much needed article. I’ve always been confused on God’s definition when it comes to “fearing Him.” The quote, “You can see why the “fear of the LORD” as an awesome sense of his presence is really the essence of our life of faith,” really helped me further understand what it looks like when fearing God. He is a God who loves us beyond what we could ever imagine and wants what’s best for us, and one thing that needs to come along within a relationship is each other’s upmost respect.

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    Erica Slenk|April 22, 2016

    Thank you so much for writing this amazing article! I really like how you dive deeper into the Hebrew meaning behind the word ‘fear’. When I think of the word ‘fear’ in English, I also think of the words ‘fright’ or ‘terror’. I grew up wondering if the word ‘fear’ literally means being scared of God. I like how you wrote about how fearing the Lord is defined as awe and reverence for God. Thinking about all that God has done for us, and the love that He has for us, is overwhelming. I also really love how you talk about constantly being aware of God’s presence. Thank you for your words and thoughts!

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    Candis Stewart|November 12, 2016

    I was in a long drawn-out process of researching the word ‘fear’ in the Bible when I ‘stumbled’ here. Perfect & thank you!

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    Pancha Rubio|November 23, 2016

    hi, this is a great website for whoever wants to learn about this kind of stuff. Thank you for this!

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    Cheryl|March 13, 2017

    I think in today’s world that the scripture in Jude, Jude 23, “others save with fear”, saving people with a fear of going to hell is good if it gets the job done to get people to not go there.

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    Joshua|June 8, 2017

    Thank you for your article, Lois.

    I appreciate that you point out the self-serving nature of ‘fearing God’ in the sense of incurring his Wrath and punishment, and would like to add some supporting thoughts to this important point.

    When one is living with this kind of distorted belief about God, the unavoidable result (which is often subconscious) is a sense of resentment and anger towards a Father that has given strict orders to uphold – OR ELSE…

    This creates an unhealthy (and unholy) relationship based on one’s efforts to ‘give in order to get’… where a person gives respect and obedience in order to get God to reward them — or at least not rain fire and brimstone upon them.

    This reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the Nature of God. When this perceptual distortion exists, it is reflected by a distorted subjective view of God, Self, and Reality. Thus, one is not capable of living in alignment with God’s Truth and Love, but out of fear-based survivalistic beliefs of the ego in separation from God.

    Without wanting to write my own full article here… I would conclude by saying this distorted perception of God reflects the delusional bondage of egoic reaction to falling out of At-One-Ment with God — which is called the ‘Original Sin’. God is Omnipresent – He does not come and go. It is we who come and go from abiding in the Presence of His Being, Here and Now.

    ‘Seek ye first, the Kingdom of God.’

    ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.’

    Be filled with His Presence – Let thy Awe be the key to the Gates of Heaven within you!

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    Alan Lethbridge|March 11, 2019

    Thank you for your teaching

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    Ray Foucher|August 10, 2019

    It is good to see careful examinations of words that have caused confusion in the Christian community. I have compiled this for a number of words (including “fear”) in what I call The Character of God and the Gospel Glossary at It includes evidence that we should consider an additional definition for “fear;” the meaning of “to pay attention to.”

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