The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.Proverbs 1:7
This verse is the foundational principle of the entire book of Proverbs. The word “fear” has the idea of moral reverence, but does include dread or being scared. One who understands the potential of the Lord has a reverent awe, and even a dread of Him knowing their own sinfulness. The word translated Lord is the transliterated yehovah. It means “self-Existent or eternal”, and is one of the most used names of God, showing up 6,521 times in the Old Testament..
Notice that the fear of the Lord is the result of special revelation. The fear of the Lord is confirmed by natural revelation in this way. When someone looks at the world they could come to the conclusion that something or someone more powerful than ourselves must have caused all of what we see in creation. Yet, there is no fear of Jehovah God without knowledge of Him specifically. We could not properly understand who Jehovah God is without His self-disclosure. He had to reveal Himself to us. In His amazing grace He has revealed Himself to us. This is what Solomon says is the beginning of knowledge. It is a right, reverent, and fearful response to God’s revelation about Himself.
The Word “beginning” doesn’t just speak to chronology but also to priority. One does not rightly understand themselves or the world around them properly until they take on God’s view of the World. “What the alphabet is to reading, notes to reading music, and numerals to mathematics, the fear of the Lord is to attaining the revealed knowledge of this book.” (Waltke)
There is a contrast to the beginning of the statement. Those that properly grow in knowledge begin with the fear of the Lord, but the contrasting person is the fool. The attitude of the fool towards wisdom and instruction (also special revelation from God) is that He despises these things. There is no reverence for the Lord. There is a lack of fear.
The fundamental question of so much of the book of Proverbs is the question that could be surmised from this verse. Which person am I going to be? Am I going to be wise, fearing the Lord and therefore caring most for his view of me? Am I going to adopt his revealed word both in understanding and in obedience? Or am I going to be the fool who despises wisdom and instruction?
Where do you need God’s wisdom and instruction in your life today?
Waltke, Bruce K. New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Proverbs. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004. E Sword Software.