Friday, March 11, 2022

The Hebrew verb ירא (yārēʾ, pronounced ya-REH) means "to fear" or "to be afraid." For example, when Adam explains why he hid from the Lord in Genesis 3:10, he states, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid (ואירא), because I was naked." Another common use of ירא (yārēʾ) is its application as a negative command in moments when the speaker wants to comfort the hearer. This construct is often rendered with the phrase "do not be afraid" as can be seen in Genesis 26:24: "I am the God of your father Abraham; do not be afraid (אל־תירא)."

In other instances, the "fear" implied by ירא (yārēʾ) should be understood as "reverence," either for humans, as in the commandment to "revereיראו) your mother and father" in Leviticus 19:3, or for the Lord, as in 1 Kings 18:3: "Now Obadiah revered (ירא) the LORD greatly." It is within this context of "reverence" for the Lord that ירא (yārēʾ) appears as the familiar command to "fear" the Lord, with some instances connecting the "reverential fear" with specific divine activity, as in Exodus 14:31: "Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared (וייראו) the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses." Other times, this reverential fear appeared as a direct command, like in Deuteronomy 10:20, "You shall fearירא) the LORD your God."