Biblical fear: 'awesome respect'

After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the children of Israel were ready to enter the promised land. However, before they were to do so, Moses gave words of exhortation. The three discourses he gave them are recorded in Deuteronomy.

In Greek, Deuteronomy means "the second law" or "the repetition of the law." Translators thus named the fifth book of what is now the Old Testament because in it Moses summarized the Mosaic code in three final discourses.The first address was a recount of the important events during the wilderness wandering. Moses reminded the people they must not forget the laws given them at Sinai. (See Deut. 1:6-46, chapters 2-3 and 4:1-40.)

The second address contains Moses' review of the law. He emphasized the spiritual principles and added further insights into various laws. (See Deut. chapters 5-26.)

The final discourse contained a call for the children of Israel to renew their covenants and a warning of the consequences if they failed to do so. (See Deuteronomy, chapters 27-30.)

The greatest commandment of all is contained in the book of Deuteronomy: "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (Deut. 6:5.) The commandment is given again, with a slight change: "And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?" (Deut. 10:12.)

When Christ Himself came to earth and organized His Church, He identified loving the Lord as the first and great commandment. (See Matt. 22:38.)

In A Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament, Daniel H. Ludlow pointed out: "The word fear in the King James Version is a classic example of a word in the scripture which does not mean the same today as in the original language. Although several different Hebrew words are translated fear' in the King James Version, the Hebrew word which is often used to denote a relationship to God is yare, which has the basic meaning ofreverence' or `awesome respect.' "

Additional Information

Sources: The Miracle of Forgiveness, by Spencer W. Kimball; A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, by Bruce R. McConkie; A Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament, by Daniel H. Ludlow; April 1969 general conference report and Ensign, July 1976.

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