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G6. Fearing God.    [Make a Comment]

We are to reverently and lovingly fear God.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Leviticus 24:16 (Maimonides RP4; Chinuch C4321)
and whoever blasphemes the name of ADONAI must be put to death; the entire community must stone him. The foreigner as well as the citizen is to be put to death if he blasphemes the Name

Numbers 1:17 (Maimonides RP4; Chinuch C4322)
Observe diligently the mitzvot of ADONAI your God, and his instructions and laws which he has given you.

Deuteronomy 6:13 (Maimonides RP4; Meir MP4; Chinuch C432)
You are to fear ADONAI your God, serve him and swear by his name.

Deuteronomy 10:20 (Maimonides RP4; Meir MP4; Chinuch C432)
You are to fear ADONAI your God, serve him, cling to him and swear by his name.

Matthew 10:28 (see also, Luke 12:5)
Do not fear those who kill the body but are powerless to kill the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gei-Hinnom.

Acts 9:31
Then the Messianic community throughout Y'hudah, the Galil and Shomron enjoyed peace and was built up. They lived in the fear of the Lord, with the counsel of the Ruach HaKodesh; and their numbers kept multiplying.

Ephesians 5:21
Submit to one another in fear of the Messiah.

1 Peter 2:17
Be respectful to all - keep loving the brotherhood, fearing God and honoring the emperor.

1. The relevance of this Scripture to fearing God is not immediately evident, but it is listed because it is referenced by Maimonides and HaChinuch in their respective mitzvah compilations.

2. Ibid.

Supportive Scriptures

Isaiah 8:11-13
For this is what ADONAI said to me, speaking with a strong hand, warning me not to live the way this people does: "Don't regard as alliance what this people calls alliance, and don't fear what they fear or be awestruck by it; but ADONAI-Tzva'ot - consecrate him! Let him be the object of your fear and awe!

Isaiah 11:3
... he will be inspired by fearing ADONAI. He will not judge by what his eyes see or decide by what his ears hear ...

Isaiah 66:1-2
"Heaven is my throne," says ADONAI, "and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house could you build for me? What sort of place could you devise for my rest? Didn't I myself make all these things? This is how they all came to be," says ADONAI. "The kind of person on whom I look with favor is one with a poor and humble spirit, who trembles at my word.

Psalm 19:10(9) (The fear of ADONAI is clean, enduring forever. The rulings of ADONAI are true, they are righteous altogether, ...)

Psalm 36:2(1)
Crime speaks to the wicked. I perceive this in my heart; before his eyes there is no fear of God.

Psalm 89:7-8(6-7)
For who in the skies can be compared with ADONAI? Which of these gods can rival ADONAI, a God dreaded in the great assembly of the holy ones and feared by all around him?

Psalm 103:17-18
But the mercy of ADONAI on those who fear him is from eternity past to eternity future, and his righteousness extends to his children's children, provided they keep his covenant and remember to follow his precepts.

Proverbs 1:7
The fear of ADONAI is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Proverbs 8:13
The fear of ADONAI is hatred of evil. I hate pride and arrogance, evil ways and duplicitous speech.

Proverbs 10:27
The fear of ADONAI adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.

Proverbs 14:26-27
In the fear of ADONAI is powerful security; for his children there will be a place of refuge. The fear of ADONAI is a fountain of life enabling one to avoid deadly traps.

Proverbs 16:6
Grace and truth atone for iniquity, and people turn from evil through fear of ADONAI.

Proverbs 19:23
The fear of ADONAI leads to life; one who has it is satisfied and rests untouched by evil.

Proverbs 22:4
The reward for humility is fear of ADONAI, along with wealth, honor and life.

2 Corinthians 5:11
So it is with the fear of the Lord before us that we try to persuade people. Moreover, God knows us as we really are; and I hope that in your consciences you too know us as we really are.

Philippians 2:12
So, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed when I was with you, it is even more important that you obey now when I am away from you: keep working out your deliverance with fear and trembling, ...

Hebrews 12:28-29
Therefore, since we have received an unshakeable Kingdom, let us have grace, through which we may offer service that will please God, with reverence and fear. For indeed, "Our God is a consuming fire!"

1 Peter 1:17
Also, if you are addressing as Father the one who judges impartially according to each person's actions, you should live out your temporary stay on earth in fear.


Scripture tells us that God is our Heavenly Father, that we are His created children, and that He wants us to have a loving relationship with Him. At the same time, we are not to approach Him with the same kind of comfortable familiarity as we would a peer, but with awesome respect, having full knowledge of His power.

This is easier to understand for those of us who have (or had) godly and loving parents here on earth, because we have experienced, in the natural, what good fathers and mothers are like, and we are able to transfer our understanding to our relationship with God. It is more difficult (and even counter-intuitive) for those of us who have not had good parental experiences, so we must glean our understanding from the words of Scripture, and from what others tell us and teach us.

The attributes of God disclosed in Scripture are many, and often seem contradictory. God is compassionate, yet He executes judgment. God loves, yet He punishes. So when we read in Deuteronomy 6:5 "... you are to love ADONAI your God with all your heart ...", and then read in Scriptures like Deuteronomy 6:13 "... You are to fear ADONAI your God ...", we may not know what to think.

The problem is partially that our English language Bibles tend to use the word "fear" to translate different underlying Hebrew and Greek words used in different kinds of situations. So, for example, the derivative of (yarei) that is applied to God in Deuteronomy 6:13 means "reverend fear" - the kind that holds God in awe, deference, and honor. Yes, the word can also mean to be afraid of God but, when it is used that way, it is meant as a warning to sinners who ought to be afraid.

It is a different kind of fear that is referred to in 2 Timothy 1:7, which the NKJ version translates:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Here, the Greek word for "fear" δειλία (deiliah), which has a different connotation than (yarei) in that it means a lack of courage, cowardice, or timidity. Other Greek words such as φόβoς (phabas) and φoβέω (phabei-oh) in 2 Corinthians 5:11 and 1 Peter 2:17 respectively, have connotations similar to (yarei).

In addition to the lexical evidence that fearing God (for an obedient believer) should not mean being afraid of Him, we also have textual evidence for the same premise. A Scripture that strongly implies this is Proverbs 22:4; it informs us that "fear of God" ("fear" being derived from ) is a reward that results from our being humble. In other words, it is a good thing - not something to be dreaded. Another Scripture that implies something similar is Ephesians 5:21 that tells us to "submit to one another in fear of the Messiah" ("fear" here is φόβoς). There is no other place in the New Covenant Scriptures that suggests that we should be afraid of Messiah Yeshua and, in fact, everything we read about Him suggests the opposite. Therefore "fear of the Messiah" (and therefore φόβoς in this context) could not mean being afraid and must, instead, be referring to a character virtue.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides does not say that we are to fear God, but rather that we are to believe in the fear of God, and be expectant of his punishment at all times. He then launches into a discussion of blaspheming, and pronouncing the Name of God in vain as it is related to fearing Him.

Meir states that we must fear God, and that the path to fear and love are the same. He also refers to "reverend fear" that requires that we not pronounce God's Holy Name in vain or without purpose.

HaChinuch also uses the term "reverend fear", and warns us to fear God's punishment if we sin. Like Maimonides (and to a lesser extent Meir), HaChinuch spends a considerable proportion of his writing on our not blaspheming or speaking the Lord's Name in vain. The connection that both he and Maimonides make to fearing God is that, doing either, results in our losing the kind of reverend fear of God that God requires.

Maimonides and HaChinuch emphasize an expectation and fear of God's punishment, whereas this Mitzvah emphasizes a reverend and loving fear of God, with the hope and expectation of our not sinning. Maimonides also speaks of not speaking God's Name in vain.

Although all three commentators state that we are not to speak God's Name in vain, none of them make reference to the third of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:73. Also, even though it is a reality that if one sins, punishment is likely to follow, I do not believe it is the intended meaning of the Commandment to fear God. Perhaps the difference in my approach has to do with my belief that we are exclusively in and subject to the New Covenant. The New Covenant acknowledges the possibility that a believer in God and Messiah will sin, but it does not assume it. This is unambiguously taught in 1 John 2:1:

My children, I am writing you these things so that you won't sin. But if anyone does sin, we have Yeshua the Messiah, the Tzaddik, who pleads our cause with the Father.

3. For a discussion of Exodus 20:7, see Mitzvah #A6 of this compilation.


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