Why is the fear the Lord the beginning of wisdom?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever. (Psalm 111:10)

Why is fearing the Lord the beginning of wisdom?

  • Wisdom is about a right understanding and a right application of the way things really are. The fundamental fact about the way things really are is that God exists and is engaged with  the creation. Mark Roth says it this way: The fear of the Lord is to be God-conscious.
  • Living in the shadow of the Almighty–understanding what pleases, and what displeases, God–is clearly the most important thing to be wise about.
  • God is eternal, and God’s praise “endures forever.” It is only the beginning of wisdom to fear God–we have all eternity to deepen and ripen our wisdom (or to deepen and exacerbate our foolishness).
  • To understand who God is, and who we are, is to understand that we are fundamentally flawed and broken; without this understanding, we will remain forever foolish. “The greatest ascetics, those who mortified themselves and who for a period of forty or fifty years daily and nightly lived a life of mortification until death, were filled with the fear of God and these, the most sinless among mortals, cried out in their hour of death: ‘O God, have mercy on me a sinner!'”–Bishop Nicholai of Zicha and Orchid.
  • Fearing God, says St. Thomas Aquinas, is only a first step towards understanding “the knowledge of Divine things.” On the one hand, we fear God as a servant fears a master, fearing God’s punishment; on the other hand, we fear God as a child fears a parent; “in order to make a beginning, man must first of all fear God and submit himself to Him: for the result will be that in all things he will be ruled by God.”

I think it is useful to state that this verse is, in some sense, not saying that fearing God is the only starting point on a path to wisdom; other starting points might include a love for God, faith or trust in God, a deep curiosity about what wisdom is, etc. Still, this mode of considering God–God is great, and we are not–is to begin to effect our “chief end:” to glorify and enjoy God for ever.

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About Will Fitzgerald

I work on recommendation systems and lexical resources for Wordnik.

23 thoughts on “Why is the fear the Lord the beginning of wisdom?

  1. Carole Boshart says:

    When I was young and first coming into the Christian faith, I did not understand the concept of “fearing the Lord.” It was explained to me that it was not fear as being afraid, but fear as being in awe. So your example of fear as a servant fearing the master, and as a child fearing a parent set me to thinking. I have heard of stories where the servant comes to love and respect the master because the master has been compassionate and caring. And in the best parent-child relationships, the parent loves the child unconditionally and the child loves the parent unendingly. So if fear is the beginning of these relationships, the end is one of unfailing love and compassion. With this in mind, one could have the courage to invest in the relationship even though one fears the other. Shalom, Carole

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    • Elizabeth says:

      Well said in all completely. I’m actually researching this bible verse b/c it was in a book I’m reading for my English class Their eyes were watching God and believe me the analytical depth of this verse is mind blowing. God truly is above us and everything in existence. God Bless!

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    • Karen says:

      Well said, Carole. That is my take exactly; not to be afraid of God but to love him ceaselessly with a love so true and so pure that all you want to do is to please Him and be loved by Him. To live in glory of His light. When a child does wrong the parent scolds the child to teach them right and to prevent further wrong doing and when the love between them is shared mutually it makes for a beautiful relationship that can weather any storm. God is father to all humanity. When your child does wrong it breaks your heart but can you fathom the pain we cause God on a continuous basis. Have we considered God? My life is far from perfect but I pray daily that He doesn’t suffer meto wander far from Him, to keep me and my family in His grace forevermore. May all be blessed.

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    • Israel Godson says:

      @Carole,
      U have lifted up my faith, believe and d grace of God for my life with ur comments on d fear of God, if u are a lady I wish u will be my wife, to encourage and support my ministry of reaching out to people all over and around me with d Gospel of truth, I totally agreed all u said, is very encouraging and inspirational, u just say my mind in all, what else do I have to say bt to tell u, well done for dis autrance and knowledge and God grant u more understanding in his word, God bless u AMEN, Israel

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  2. rabecca says:

    pray for me that God to help and intervein for me.i need a miracle.

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  3. Rahul says:

    Fear of the Lord = have GREAT respect for the lord.

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  4. I’ve been diagnosed with enlarged prostate. Please pray I don’t have cancer. My wife does not need that now and neither do my kids.

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    • eileen says:

      We believe in God and prayers. But we also have to do things to help ourselves. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Do not eat meat. Pls send me your email add.

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      • chris says:

        I agree.
        If you have cancer you should do EVERYTHING YOU CAN.
        Not JUST Pray.
        And don’t eat just ANY Fruit. Good Clean fruit! And the RIGHT ONES. And Drink GOOD water. Not BAD DIRTY WATER.

        I also suggest

        Black walnut husk oil 1 TBspn
        (the green oil color. expensive and hard to find )

        cloves (NOT Garlic cloves, The Little spicy ones)
        2 tsp ground up

        Artemisia absinthia wormwood extract.
        1 TBSpn

        take for as long as possible.

        These are hard ingredients to find and expensive.

        but they all can be grown in your garden.

        These are to kill Microscopic parasites that cause cancer.

        ALSO. If you know you are in a WRONG Environment LEAVE!!!! Cause you are no good with Cancer.

        ALSO. LOVE.
        GOD GIVES YOU GOOD AND EVIL JUST ASK JOB in the bible.

        take this after a

        FASTING of FOOD for 3-7 days while you
        DRINK AND BATHE IN SALT WATER MEDITATION EXERCIZE AND PRAYER for the time of Fast.
        ONLY WATER. IF YOU MUST EAT then only eat greens i.e vegtables

        NATURAL SPRING or TONIC WATER!!!
        Salt encourages electricity in the water of your body.

        NO ALCOHOL!!!!
        alcohol incourages death and disease in the body (Liver)

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    • Dear brother in the lord, i just want to let you know that you will not die but you will live in Jesus name becuase greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world and also remember that by his Stripes you are healed, confase with your mouth that Jesus is lord, confase that you have no cancer in your body and so shall it be in Jesus name amen.

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  5. Lord, hear our prayers for Rabecca and Daniel. Give them what they need: your sustaining power, your intervention, health. Protect Daniel’s family; prevent his cancer. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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  6. chris says:

    Proverbs 1:7

    The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

    The fear of the Lord was the BEGINNING Of KNOWLEDGE.
    The lord was Solomon (at the time).
    Solomon WAS AFRAID of The BEGINNING of Knowledge.

    That is to say, Afraid of when or where knowledge first Began or where it begins.

    Knowledge is to be feared. Solomon knew this.
    He also knew where knowledge would or would not take the human race.

    He was afraid of this. He also says but fools do not listen to wisdom.

    That is why we have things like the Atom Bomb etc.

    When you READ that Book of Books.

    Make sure you don’t let any person Interpet it to you what it means. It should be plain as day. And furthermore, that book DOES NOT NEED INTERPRETING. It is not a book of riddles. It says exactly what it means. Or else it is cloaked in deceit.

    A wise man has no extensive knowledge; He who has extensive knowledge is not a wise man. [Lao-tzu, "Tao te Ching," c.550 B.C.E.]

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  7. chris says:

    When you go to the doctor you are AFRAID of what he Might say.

    It is the same sorta thing as that.

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    • ross says:

      It’s more like the fear you have for a police officer. If you’re speeding, and you see an officer, you slow down. You do this because you know that he or she has the power to punish you and hold you accountable for what you did. You don’t fear law enforcement officers like you would a murderer or some kind of monster; if tht were the case then the piece of mind offered by having officers would be useless. You fear in the sense that although they’re there to protect you, they’re there to protect others, as well. If someone does something that could put you in danger, they’ll punish that person. If you do the same thing, though, they’ll punish you just the same. The case is almost identical with God. The difference is that He’s everywhere and sees everything at all times. Don’t fear God like you would news that you have cancer. Fear Him because He loves everyone and will not let bad behavior slide.

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  8. Jake says:

    Fear the lord becase he is all powerful and worthy of all glory and we are weak.
    We should to be like children.
    Lord please bless rabecca and Daniel. We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus, who lives and reigns with You an the Holy Spiit, one God now and forever.

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  9. ed says:

    Interpreting it to mean “awe” or “respect” feels like a rationalization to make it a little more palatable. If “fear” means “awe” or “great respect”, why use the word “fear”? Why not use the word “awe”?
    Personally, I think “fear of god” is a terrible phrase, and horrible advice. Then again, I don’t know what the original Hebrew says so I can’t say for sure what the intention of the authors was.

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  10. KIDISTARGAW says:

    GOD BLESS U ALL

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  11. Please pray for me, i want God to change my life and use me, help me to obey him in all.

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  12. ibeawuchi sixtus says:

    Lord pls grant Daniel good health 4 your word says with man is impossible but with God it is very very possible thank u Lord 4 ur healing upon him

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  13. […] of wisdom.”  I suppose by knowing our place, that makes us humble.  Good post on this at http://asimpledesire.wordpress.com/2006/11/09/why-is-the-fear-the-lord-the-beginning-of-wisdom/   “Wisdom is about a right understanding and a right application of the way things really […]

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  14. Israel Godson says:

    Well I love dis topic to start wit, I take my comments from the book of same proverb 8:13-21 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

    14 Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.

    15 By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.

    16 By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.

    17 I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.

    18 Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.

    19 My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.

    20 I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment:

    21 That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures. Which means d fear of God is simply to stay away,out,totally from sin and evil and d spirit of exellency, ability to be wise in all circular of life will possess and over take u by all means

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  15. George Eshimakhe says:

    It has be wonderful to learn God’s word

    Like

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