Why is the Fear of the Lord the Beginning of Wisdom?

There are many verses in the Bible that speak of "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom". Why is this so? What is this wisdom with fear of God? What about the wisdom that has no God in it? What are the consequences?
For a good and correct understanding of a passage, we need to follow the rules of Hermeneutics.
One rule is to stick to the original language of the text.

Rule 1 Use the Original Language
The best understanding is to be found in the original language of Hebrew for the OT and the Greek for the NT. But since I know neither of them, I will use a concordance instead. Another way is to read multiple translations of the Bible. Here is the Prov 1:7 with strong concordance:

Pro 1:7 The fearH3374 of the LORDH3068 is the beginningH7225 of knowledge:H1847 but
foolsH191 despiseH936 wisdomH2451 and instruction.H4148

BDB Definition:

1a) fear, terror
1b) awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear)
1c) fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety
1d) revered
1) first, beginning, best, chief

1) knowledge
1a) knowledge, perception, skill
1b) discernment, understanding, wisdom
1a) skill (in war)
1b) wisdom (in administration)
1c) shrewdness, wisdom
1d) wisdom, prudence (in religious affairs)
1e) wisdom (ethical and religious)
1) discipline, chastening, correction
1a) discipline, correction
1b) chastening

Rule 2 Context
Any verse must be interpreted in its context. So the surronding verses are important too. For the key verse of Prov 1:7, let see the other verses.

Pro 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Pro 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
Pro 1:9 For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.

An extension of this context rule is to let the Bible interprets itself. To do that, I look up the verses where 'the Fear of the Lord' occurs and below is the mind-map that show many of the related verses.

Rule 3 Let the Bible interprets itself: Related Verses on "Fear of God is the Beginning of Wisdom"
Definition and What of Wisdom:

1. Believe in the Existence of God - The Creator of All (Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 
2. Fear as respect, worship and to obey God.
3. A moral standard or instructions or commands of right and wrong. They are used for corrections and discipline. As holiness in Prov 9:10, turning away from evil in Job 28:28.
4. Following of the instructions will result in blessings. They are like crown and necklaces that beautify us as in Prov 1:9. They are the duties of men as in Eccl 12:13.
5. The foundation, the basic, the first, the beginning, the source of wisdom is Fear of God.

Why Fear of God is the Foundation of Wisdom?
By implication, any wisdom or knowledge that does not acknowledge God is not wisdom or knowledge. Godless wisdom or knowledge are then
  1. lies. 
  2. evil.
  3. with consequence of ugliness, dishonor as opposite to crown and necklaces of Prov 1:9 (other parts of the Bible tell us the Devil comes to steal, destroy and kill. The punishment of evil is eternal hell etc).
  4. those who have such denial of God and instructions are called fools.
Without God giving the moral standards of right and wrong, then everything becomes relative and essentially there is not right and wrong. A society without any absolute standard of right and wrong will eventually leads to chaos and destruction.

See for example the saying of famous atheist Dawkins :  In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995))

For  more , Ravi Zacharias podcasts are highly recommended. See Secularism and the Illusion

Lim Liat (c) 30 May 2014


Training of A Child According to Proverb 22v6

Proverb 22:6 is a key verse in the training of a child. Among the translations read, there are two main groups that put emphasis on different aspects of the training. The majority of the translations stresses on the content - the way he should go. A smaller set stresses on knowing the character or personality traits of the child and train accordingly. Which is the correct translation, the content or the method? I propose that, firstly, we look at the original Hebrew and secondly look elsewhere from the different but related part of the Bible to form a good understanding. An important part is to look at the New Testament teaching on this topic. This is about letting the Bible interpret the Bible rather than imposing our own learning into the interpretation of the Bible.

Note: This is a good case example of how to interpret the Bible correctly.

Below is the mind-map that summarizes the discussion:

The Teaching:

1. The Content [of the training]:
The majority of the translations is as follow, choosing ASV as an example:
       ASV Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it.  
The key points are:

  1. training is needed and should start as early as possible ... when he is a child.
  2. the content of the training should be focused on the way he should go.
    Other relevant parts of the Bible tell us the 'way' is the commandments of God.
  3. the benefits: even when he grow old he will still follow the ways he was trained since young.
    i.e. Character formation begins as a child and will last through his life. It must begin as early as possible.
    Implication: as we grow older, it will be more difficult to correct a habit or behavior.
    The Chinese says that the parent responsibility for their children is 教养 teach and feed. Giving food and care for the child is just one of two responsibilities of a parent, The other key responsibility is to teach or train the child. A person that misbehaved is said to have no family teaching and is taken as an insult. For more on Chinese Chinese Words Make You Smarter.
2. The Method 
The other grouping of translations stresses on the training method. One subgroup just say they should be trained rightly but is unclear as to exactly how and that leave much to the imagination of the reader. Another subgroup makes it clearer, should be according to the character, traits and ages of the child.

The AMPlified Bible translation combine the both concepts of training content and method together.

Which Version is the Right One?
The original OT Bible is written in Hebrew. So we should go back to the original Hebrew text for understanding. Best is to have a Hebrew scholar to explain it to us. Next best is to go by the concordance such as Strong for each individual Hebrew word and see we can make sense out of it. It we just use the Hebrew words to form a sentence, it is very much the Classical Chinese 文言文 of which I can understand well.

Going by the Hebrew words, I am for the 1st group that Prov 22:6 is about the content of the training rather than the method of training. The method seems to be left to parents to decide according to their times. e.g. many now use computer or iPad to train their children. However, training is more than just teaching. Behavior and character formation depends on the mind (teaching of content) and of the Will and motivation of the Heart. Hence, the other parts of Proverbs talk about 'Discipline' even with using a rod.

New Testament Version:
Another way to have light shed on this issue is to consult the other parts of the Bible, especially the New Testament. We find Paul's writing in Colossian and Ephesian that address this as shown in the mind map above. There are three things to look up for in the training or dedication of a child to the Lord.

1. Content: 
  • instructions of the Lord.
2. Discipline:
  • Training is for behavior and character formation. The child needs to be monitored and correct as and when necessary.
3. Provoke Not. 
  • How do we not provoke the child, especially in the disciplining?
  • We must know the character or traits and age/maturity of the child. Some child is very sensitive and will know the meaning when his/her parent changes the tone of voice. Some child is not and may need stronger means of correction such as a canning. If we overdo the disciplining, some child may be so discouraged that they give up while another may be so angry to rebel in the future.
Lim Liat (c) 2 May 14