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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Fear

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FEAR . In the OT ‘the fear of the Lord’ is frequently a definition of piety. The purpose of the giving of the Law is the implanting of this fear in the hearts of men ( Deuteronomy 4:10 ); it is the sum of religious duty ( Deuteronomy 6:13 ) and prompts to obedient and loving service ( Deuteronomy 10:12 ). ‘Fear cannot be appraised without reference to the worth of the objects feared’ (Martinean, Types of Ethical Theory , ii. 184); hence it is on the revelation of the Divine nature as ‘holy and to be feared’ ( Psalms 111:9 ) that this fundamental principle of religion rests: those who know His name have learnt that to fear Him is true wisdom ( Psalms 111:10 ) and true blessedness ( Psalms 112:1 ). In the NT mention is made of a fear which has high moral quality and religious value. ‘The fear of the Lord’ was the rule by which the early Christians walked ( Acts 9:31 ), and when an uncircumcised foreigner became a devout worshipper of the God of Israel he was known as ‘one that feareth God’ ( Acts 10:2 ; cf. 2 Corinthians 7:1 , Philippians 2:12 , 1Pe 1:17 ; 1 Peter 2:17 , Revelation 14:7 ; Revelation 15:4 ; Revelation 19:5 ). Although the usual Gr. word for ‘fear’ is not used in Hebrews 5:7 , the reference to the ‘godly fear’ of the perfect Son emphasizes the contrast between reverent awe and slavish terror.

The fear which ‘hath punishment’ (1 John 4:18 ) is the result of sin ( Genesis 3:10 ). The sinner, under condemnation of the Law, is in ‘bondage unto fear’ ( Romans 8:15 ), and inasmuch as ‘the sting of death is sin’ ( 1 Corinthians 15:56 ), he is also through fear of death … subject to bondage’ ( Hebrews 2:15 ). Transgression may so completely deceive him that he has ‘no terror of God’ ( Psalms 36:1 ); the climax of human wickedness is the loss of any dread of God’s judgments, though the Gr. and Eng. translations of the Heb. word for ‘terror’ ( pachadh , cf. Isaiah 2:10 ; Isaiah 2:19 ; Isaiah 2:21 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) fail to bring out this thought in St. Paul’s quotation of this verse ( Romans 3:18 ). To rouse men from this callous indifference to God’s threatenings is the purpose of the appeal to fear, which is a primary and self-regarding emotion and a powerful spring of human action. This appeal is warranted by our Lord’s words ( Matthew 10:28 ) as well as by Apostolic example ( Hebrews 4:1 ; Heb 10:31 , 1 Timothy 5:20 , Judges 1:23 ). The spirit in which this appeal should be made is that which inspired St. Paul, when he declares that, ‘knowing the fear of the Lord,’ before whose judgment-seat all must be made manifest, he is constrained by the love of Christ to persuade men to be ‘reconciled to God’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:11 ff.).

J. G. Tasker.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Fear'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/f/fear.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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