The “Fear Of God” In The Book Of Ecclesiastes -- By: Tremper Longman III

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 25:1 (NA 2015)
Article: The “Fear Of God” In The Book Of Ecclesiastes
Author: Tremper Longman III


The “Fear Of God” In The Book Of Ecclesiastes

Tremper Longman III

Westmont College

The phrase “fear God” appears seven times in the book of Ecclesiastes (3:14; 5:7 [Heb., 5:6], 7:18; 8:12 [twice], 13; 12:3). The present study examines each use and determines that there are two different forces to the expression that are discerned by the context and that inform the theology of the two voices of the book. Qohelet, whose voice dominates the body of the book (1:12-12:7), encourages his listeners to be afraid of God and do their best to avoid drawing God’s attention. After all, life is meaningless and God is no help. The frame narrator (1:1-11 and 12:8-14) encourages his son (12:12; and thus other readers) to combine the fear of God (understood as reverent awe) with obedience to the law.

Key Words: Ecclesiastes, Qohelet, fear of God

The phrase “fear God” (or some variant) appears seven times in the book of Ecclesiastes (3:14; 5:7 [Heb., 5:6]; 7:18; 8:12 [twice], 13; 12:13). The verb fear is always from yrʾ and God is ʾĕlōhim (never Yahweh; sometimes the pronoun is used). This article explores the meaning of this phrase in the immediate context of its use.

The admonition to “fear God” and the phrase “the fear of God/Yahweh” is well known throughout the OT. While the fear of God is particularly associated with wisdom literature, it is also found in the Torah (e.g., Exod 9:30; 18:21; Deut 5:29), the historical books (e.g., 1 Sam 12:14, 24), and the prophets (e.g., Isa 8:13; Jer 5:22, 24; Mic 6:...

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