Words Have Meaning - The Meaning of Fear

The Bible is written in covenant language, expressing our relationship to God and God to us. Heaven and hell depend on our understanding God's will for us, of how we must respond to His will (Deuteronomy 30:15-20; John 3:36). The term fear plays a prominent part in Scripture, about the attitude we should have toward God and the part it plays in motivating how we live. Today, some would reduce fear to the concept of reverence or respect alone, and while certainly this is part of the concept, there is more to it than just that. Some would tell us God was to be feared during the days of the Old Testament, but that in the New Testament He is a God of love, and that fear is no longer a response He desires from us.

A cursory glance at the Hebrew and Greek words translated fear shows us that, while God is indeed to be loved and reverenced, we must also have a sense of awe at His majesty and greatness, a healthy sense of fear because of who He is as God.

Old Testament terms for fear include:

Charadah-- A noun meaning trembling, quaking, fear, often brought on by acts of God (1 Samuel 14:15).

Yare -- A verb meaning to fear, to respect, to reverence, to be afraid, awesome.

Yirah -- A noun meaning fear. This fear restrains people from sin (Gen. 20:11).

Chath -- A noun denoting fear filled with terror. It is used to describe the extreme dread and fear animals have of humans after the flood (Genesis 9:2).

Mora -- A noun whose primary concept is a sense of fear or awe that causes separation or brings respect (Deuteronomy 11:25; Isaiah 8:12-13).

Pahad -- A noun translated dread or terror, often caused by the Lord (I Samuel 11:7).

Pachdah -- A noun meaning fear or awe. Used only in Jeremiah 2:19, where it refers to the proper respect and reverence due to the Lord, which is lacking when one forsakes God and His commands.

New Testament terms for fear include:

Ekphobos -- frightened out of one's senses; greatly terrified (Mark 9:6).

Entromos -- To be in terror or trembling with fear; terrified (Acts 16:29).

Eulabeomai -- A fear accompanied by circumspection and respect (Hebrews 11:7).

Phobos -- Fear, terror, reverence, respect, honor (1 Peter 3:2).

Phoberos -- dreadful, terrible, horrifying (Heb. 10:27).

God is a great and awesome God, seen in the power where all things were spoke into existence, where all things are upheld by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). The love of God is clearly seen in Jesus becoming flesh and blood, offering himself for our sins (1 John 3:16). This does not, however, negate the fact that God should be feared, as judgment belongs to him as well (Romans 14:10-11). We should love, reverence, and fear the God with whom we have to do, now and eternally. "Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Robert Johnson, Longview TX