Sirach 1.9-18 – The Fear of the Lord

Sirach 1:9-18

(9)  The fear of the Lord is glory and exultation, and gladness and a crown of rejoicing.
(10)  The fear of the Lord delights the heart, and gives gladness and joy and long life.

As often is the case with Sirach, we find this author perhaps offering a Midrash upon an earlier author,

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, That one may avoid the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27 NASB

Fear of the LORD is a life-giving fountain; it offers escape from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27 NLT

From the very beginning of this passage, Sirach sets out to tell us of the joys of Fear, as we might except from a pre-Pharisaic community. He speaks not of fright or worry, but of a reverence for God and the things of God. Tyndale, in his translation, often used the word Reverence instead of fear, as that word brings to mind not of an angry God, but one that is to be respected and loved. It is hardly the fear of an abusive parent or an overpowering personality which Sirach is expecting his readers to develop, but one which is completely reverent of God. This passage does not speak of our understanding of fear, but instead relates the reverence of love (10a), blessings (happiness – v9 and 11), a long life (v10), basing the reverence upon receiving Wisdom.

(10a) Fear of the Lord is a gift from the Lord, for he also establishes paths for love.

(11)  With him who fears the Lord it will go well at the end; on the day of his death he will be blessed.

We can find in Proverbs a parallel of thought for this section of Sirach.

The fear of the LORD prolongs days, But the years of the wicked will be shortened. (Proverbs 10:27 NKJV)

It is very possible that Sirach is offering nothing but a midrash upon selections from Proverbs, as it is speculated that the author of Wisdom used the Suffering Servant’s song as well as Exodus to offer a statement about the unseen Wisdom.

(12)  Wisdom’s beginning is to fear the Lord, and she is joined to the faithful in the womb.

Sirach echoes the Psalmist in 111.10, which reads,

NASB  Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.

NLT  Psalm 111:10 Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!

The author of Proverbs tells us,

NASB  Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

NLT  Proverbs 1:7 Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

And

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Pro 9:10 NASB)

Returning to Sirach, we read,

(13)  She made among men an eternal foundation, and among their descendants she will be trusted.

In 12b-13 we find a distinct but not developed notion of predestination, in which Wisdom is said to be joined to the faithful in the womb and passed from generation to generation. It would be impossible to draw from this passage an Augustinian notion, but this may well be a seed which is later used by later theologians.

This eternal foundation is the Church

(14)  To fear the Lord is wisdom’s full measure; she satisfies men with her fruits;
(15)  she fills their whole house with desirable goods, and their storehouses with her produce.
(16)  The fear of the Lord is the crown of wisdom, making peace and perfect health to flourish.

(16a) And both are gifts of God for peace, and boasting creates space for those that love him.

(17)  He saw her and apportioned her; he rained down knowledge and discerning comprehension, and he exalted the glory of those who held her fast.

Unlike 12b-13, now it is up to the individual to hold to Wisdom, which then brings the glory of God.

The Italicized words above are given in several Greek recensions. With the use of this Greek text, it changes the pronouns, and thus the meaning of the verse. He, of course, if the Lord God (see 16a) who gives Wisdom to those that would hold fast to it. Without the addition of the first clause of v17, we would have Wisdom who does these things, and perhaps, then, more than an emanation from the Father. As an attribute of God, Wisdom is able to be seen and used of humanity, representing God but still unable to be fully God.

(18)  To fear the Lord is the root of wisdom, and her branches are long life.

(18a) The fear of the Lord repels sins, and when it endures, it will turn away all wrath.

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12 Replies to “Sirach 1.9-18 – The Fear of the Lord”

  1. I do prefer Tyndale’s translation, using the word reverence instead of fear. I think too many people get caught up on the “modern” perception of what “fear” means and by doing so completely miss what scripture says.

    This is something I’ve been learning, and Strong’s is becoming one of my most used references…

  2. I grew up as a KJVO congregation, but as I began to read the Bible in English by David Daniell, I discovered Tyndale and found his much more archaic language as more modern than the KJV. His use of praise, love, and reverence eased the sense of the various passages.

    Do you have e-sword?

  3. No, I don’t have that. In my studies @ Sterling, I’ve learned to develop a number of online resources, with Christian Classics Ethereal Library being one of my favorites. (ccel.org). Like I said before, Strongs is something I’ve learned to lean on lately, too.

    Did you see the story about the Joel’s Army spokeswoman that said “fear of Obama” is what motivates “evangelicals” like her to vote?

    http://www.theledger.com/article/20081011/NEWS/810060396/1410?Title=A_Few_Religious_Groups_May_Affect_Outcome_of_Election

    I know you keep an eye on these guys, so I thought I’d pass this on.

  4. I did not. Thanks for the link.

    If you go to e-sword.com, you will find a wealth of resources. Then there are the numerous user created modules. If you have MS Groove, I could transfer everything I have (I think near 1000) to you.

  5. The Psalter – the Book of Psalms, is perhaps my favorite Book of worship. And Psalm 130 is a personal favorite!

    “Out of the depths I cry to you,
    O Lord.
    Lord, hear my voice!
    Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my supplications!

    If you, O Lord, should mark
    iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
    But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered..”

    Indeed “reverence” is the reality of a biblical fear of God! But to revere HIM, always implies worship and real adoration: doxology & doxologize the doctrine of GOD! This doctrine of God is very real! Note, only those that know forgiveness, can in reality adore and worship God! This also begins but trancends knowledge.

    Fr. Robert

  6. That looks like a really great resource! I’ll download it to my laptop later today… thanks!

    I don’t have MS Groove, but I’ll check that out later, too.

    Christian

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