In the late- tenth century, men needed structure to live their lives. Man, especially the youth, had nothing to look to for guidance. They were lost without the advice and guidance of the higher power, someone to lead them on the journey toward wisdom. Attributed to King Solomon, the Fear of the Lord serves as the beginning of a set of principles with the purpose of shaping a fool into a wise and knowledgeable man. In Proverbs it is written that, “the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” (Proverbs 1:7). Some may believe the fear is a scare tactic, but church teaching argues that it brings man to wisdom. “The fear of God”, within the book of Proverbs, was for the sake of gaining wisdom from God. Through the literary history of the book of Proverbs, we see that it has many sources and influences. Within Kenneth A. Kitchen’s, an evangelical Christian Bible scholar, article, he discusses the ancient context of the book of Proverbs. He states, “In the tenth century BC, Solomon produced a work with overall title prologue, subtitle and main text, incorporating some data from other sages” (Kitchen 71). Solomon brought existence to the book of Proverbs. Through his authority, he was able to lend guidance and unity to the many writings of the collection. Moreover, King Solomon was not the only profound influence on the book of Proverbs. Although King Solomon was the ultimate author, King Hezekiah of Judah copied the text while revising some of the original wording (Proverbs 25.1). Specifically, King Hezekiah of Judah had a significant impact on the titles. The collaboration and building upon works is what makes up the book of Proverbs and the bible as a whole. Kitchen states, “Along with other biblical references to Solomon and Hezekiah (but not for Agur or Lemuel), the title clearly differentiates in historical period between Proverbs of Solomon, supposedly composed/ compiled by Solomon in his own time [and] Proverbs, Solomon, Hezekiah’s men, supposedly Solomonic material copied out 250 years later as an entity in Hezekiah’s reign (c 700BC)” (Kitchen 70). In an attempt to collaborate on the work of the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon, King Hezekiah of Judah, and the many other writers, successfully created a text that provides necessary guidelines to achieve wisdom and understand the fear of God. This wisdom presented within Proverbs is what will nourish man during his life so that he may enter heaven upon his death. The goal in going through life is to become closer to God in death, by going to heaven. Matthew Henry, a nonconformist minister, asserts that it is this wisdom that will give you a mansion in heaven hereafter. The call to the Lord’s wisdom is nonexclusive; it is intended for all men. The only people who are shut out of this knowledge are those who shut themselves out. The book of proverbs looks for people to live a Godly life and find wisdom within. God’s message of wisdom and fear was directed, not towards those who were already holy, but those who were already sinners. The actions of sinners show that they are not wise through their own eyes, but through the way that they see. Leading the sinners in the search for wisdom, that comes from fearing God, in order to open their eyes to the path towards a holy life. Men who do not show a propensity towards this “Godly fear” should be avoided, as the foolish will transform the wise by corrupting them. Michael Fox, an American Jewish biblical scholar, discusses Proverb 10:31, “The mouth of the righteous man produces wisdom, while the perverse tongue is cut off,” and states that “Wise speech is valuable both to the righteous man himself and to those who hear him” (Fox 529). It is only right that man appreciate and make use of the wisdom that God is trying to give him, because the wisdom does not benefit God, it only benefits man. God uses the fear he bestows to assist his people. God does not have anything to profit from, which is why everything that he does, he does for man. Man is wished to fear God so that we may find the true wisdom that can only come from this awe. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “fear” in several different ways. As a noun, two of the different perspectives are “a feeling of respect and wonder for something very powerful, a profound reverence and awe especially towards God.” As a verb, it is “to have a reverential awe of.” In divine terms, fear demands a certain degree of respect and reverence in order to learn all of the proper lessons. “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). In the very beginning of Proverbs, the authors make their point very clear: in order to achieve wisdom, respect must be given to the highest power of them all. Teachers demand respect. For on the path to righteousness and to living a proper life, one shows a sense of wonder towards his teacher, God. Achieving wisdom in the eyes of God is the key point to Proverbs. Every stanza conveys a message pertaining to the necessary path towards gaining the necessary fulfilling knowledge. One particular passage that is emblematic of this is Proverbs 2:1-2/7: “My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inkling your heart to understand… then you will understand the fear of the Lord.” Through one’s following of these principles, the respect that God demands will shine through and one will fully understand the extent of his power. Throughout the Book of Proverbs, there is an influential message of how one should live their lives. It serves as a set of guidelines for readers to apply the Fear of God directly into their everyday activities. Michael Fox states, “just as the fear of god is the prerequisite of wisdom (as Prov 1:7 and 9:10 declare), so is humility the prerequisite of (true) honor. What may appear to be contrary qualities, humility and honor, are paired as cause and effect” (Fox 60). He discusses how the wisdom produced by the fear of God leads to the cause and effect in our everyday life. The decisions one makes in his or her life, will effect what happens in their life. The Book of Proverbs highlights these aspects of wisdom bestowed through the fear of God relating to how one relates to God and one another.
Fox, Michael V.. 2014. Proverbs 10-31. New Haven, US: Yale University Press. Accessed April 24, 2016. ProQuest ebrary.
Coogan, Michael D., The New Oxford Annotated Bible (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).
Kitchen, Kenneth A. "Proverbs and Wisdom Books of the Ancient Near East: The Factual History of a Literary Form." Tyndale Bulletin 28 (1977): 69-114.
"Proverbs 9:10 The Fear of the LORD Is the Beginning of Wisdom, and Knowledge of the Holy One Is Understanding." Proverbs 9:10 The Fear of the LORD Is the Beginning of Wisdom, and Knowledge of the Holy One Is Understanding. Accessed April 24, 2016. http://biblehub.com/proverbs/9-10.htm.