The Surprising Meaning Of Proverbs 1:7 (why wisdom starts with fear of the Lord)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7 

At first glance this verse seems out of place. What does fear have to do with wisdom? And why should we fear a loving and good God? 

But the meaning of Proverbs 1:7 has some powerful truth for our lives and faith. And what we will see is there is an appropriate kind of fear that will lead us to a better life. This is a passage that can help you grow in your faith. 

The Context Of Proverbs 1:7 (what it means to fear the Lord)

Proverbs is a unique book and is vastly different than many other books in the Bible. Therefore we need to take a minute to understand what we are reading before we can look at the meaning of Proverbs 1:7. 

Proverbs centers around wisdom, how to find it and how to live it. But it’s style is much different than others. If you were to read through a few chapters of Proverbs you would find the writing style quite unique. 

John Collins describes it this way: “To read straight through a few chapters of Proverbs is like trying to have a conversation with someone who always replies with a one-liner.” 

These little snippets found through Proverbs center around how to get and use godly wisdom. Not get rich quick schemes, success formulas, or how to live your best life now. No, Proverbs is all about principles and priorities.  

And all throughout Proverbs this phrase “fear of the Lord” appears 18 times in the book. Proverbs is trying to show us something important; fearing God is something we should pay attention to. 

Now, I’ve written on the more broad topic of fearing God before. So I’m not going to go too in-depth on what it means to fear God in this post. But if you want more context on that, check this out: What Does It Mean To Fear God? (and 5 surprising benefits)

But I do want to give you a little context of what it means to fear the Lord. We tend to have a negative view of fear; we fear things that harm and hurt us. But that’s not the kind of fear the Bible talks about. 

Think of a child who has tremendous respect and love for his father. He doesn’t want to offend or displease his father. Not because he’s afraid of a beating he will receive, but because he loves him. In fact, when he does disobey he finds grace and restoration, not condemnation. Which further drives the respect he has for his father. 

To fear God means that we have awe and respect toward the majesty God. Not because we fear He’s going to torture us if we don’t. Rather, because we recognize who HE is and who WE are. 

It’s important that we understand this, really the rest of Proverbs is based off this idea found in this passage. 

Now that we have a base understanding of what it means to fear God, let’s dive into Proverbs 1:7.

The Meaning Of Proverbs 1:7

To help us better understand the meaning of Proverbs 1:7 I want to break this verse down into two sections. The first section contains a positive statement and is followed by it’s negative consequence if ignored.

Let’s dive in. 

The Fear Of The Lord Is The Beginning Of Knowledge Meaning 

Remember our definition of fear. Fear is an affectionate reverence that we bring before God. It means that we submit to his will and desire to not sign against him. Why? Because we understand the consequence of our sin and the awesomeness of his love. 

Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, is saying that this is the beginning of knowledge, or wisdom. 

Now, certainly there are many very smart people who do not follow God. But in the original Hebrew phrasing, “beginning” does not point to knowledge, rather to “fear of the Lord.” 

The same phrase can be more literally translated as “giving priority to.” In this context, the term “beginning” means the chief place in time, space, and order. The contention here is not that one cannot obtain knowledge apart from God. Instead, this implies that knowledge is out of place apart from the fear of the Lord.

Even though many have acquired much information apart from God, Solomon is claiming true knowledge rests on the fear of the Lord. Information apart from God can only get us so far in attaining true wisdom. 

The fear of the Lord is the foundation of which we build upon. Anything else will not lead us to a place of firm standing. If you desire wisdom, it’s starts with fearing God. 

But Fools Despise Wisdom And Instruction Meaning

Now, Solomon gives us the negative consequence if we choose to not fear God. “But fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Fools not only don’t desire the knowledge of God, they despise wisdom. They want to do things their own way and pursue their own desires. They don’t want to respect God or listen to what he says. They want to be the god of their own life. 

And here’s the key… God lets them. He never forces anyone to follow him, instead he let’s them go the way they want to go. The problem is, that approach to life never results in what we hoped. 

Many think that if they get want they want, if they fulfill every desire then they will be happy, then they will find a full life. And that sounds like freedom, but it results in death. 

Culture tells us that if we get everything we want, everything we desire, it will bring us joy and happiness… but it brought despair. You see that right? Just look at our culture. This attitude of doing whatever we want has robbed us. It promised life, but brought death.  

And what the meaning of Proverbs 1:7 is saying is that it’s foolish to despise wisdom. It’s foolish to ignore God’s instruction. It doesn’t lead to life, rather it destroys our life. 

3 Ways To Apply The Proverbs 1:7 Meaning To Your Life 

Now that we know what the meaning of Proverbs 1:7 is, I want to give you some practical ways you can apply this to your life. Here’s 3 ways you can live this out.

1. Approach God With Reverence 

The fear of the Lord starts with the way that we approach God. Many assume this means we need to say fancy words, take off our hats, and close our eyes. But approaching God with reverence doesn’t mean we have to take some formulaic approach to God. 

Rather this means that we understand who we are and who he is. We are finite sinful beings approaching an infinite and holy God. We don’t need to grovel with shame. But it does mean that we should have an understanding of who we are and who God is. 

When we approach God we should do so with a healthy fear, knowing that the only reason we can do so is because of the sacrifice he made for us.  

2. Listen To God’s Way 

Throughout the Bible we are told how to live in certain areas of our life. Now many assume this is because God wants to control us and keep us from fun. But it’s actually the opposite. It leads to a greater life. 

We often think the good life is found when we can do whatever we want, when we gain more for ourselves. But that kind of life has robbed many. The Bible teaches us a different way to live, a way that leads to the life we are actually after. And it starts with fearing God and listening to what he says is best. 

If you are looking for an incredible resource to help you connect with God I highly recommend: Core 52: A Fifteen-Minute Daily Guide to Build Your Bible IQ in a Year

3. Submit To God

Fearing God means that we submit to him. Not just in part of our lives, but our whole lives. 

Now, there will come a time where submitting in part of your life won’t make sense. It will seem like God is wrong, like the world’s way makes more sense. But we must not forget we have a limited view. God sees everything. 

The meaning of Proverbs 1:7 is that knowledge comes from us fully submitting to God. It won’t always make sense this side of heaven, but it’s the way to knowledge and to life. 

Thanks for reading this blog post on the meaning of Proverbs 1:7. I hope that it helped you better understand how the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. If it did, you would share it with a friend so they too can benefit?

Jeffery Curtis Poor
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