The term the fear of the LORD, or its equivalent, occurs many times in Scripture. The word fear tends to communicate the idea of “afraidness,” but much more is involved when associated with God. Solomon’s father, David, had long before given a clear explanation of the meaning of the term in one of his psalms, a writing with which Solomon must have been very familiar. David demonstrated that the term “the fear of the LORD” was essentially a synonym for “the LORD’s revelation,” that is, the fear of the LORD is referring not to an action associated with being afraid, but to the content of the LORD’s revelation of who He is and how man is to relate to Him. The fear of the LORD involved both the recognition of God as He revealed Himself and an interaction with Him according to His revealed design for man’s relationship to Him.
One who feared the LORD lived within a submitted recognition of his responsibility and accountability to his Creator. Men who did not live within this sphere of existence could not possibly interact with or properly interpret the creation about them. Such men could accumulate factual knowledge of the world, even using it to some extent wisely, but they would lack the beginnings, the “first” and most important elements of knowledge which provided full understanding and truly successful application. Through Solomon, God revealed that the “fear of Him” must be the “first” and “chief” stage in knowledge, the indispensable point of departure from which all other knowledge proceeds. The recognition of God and the necessity for submission to Him must be the “head” among all facts learned and applied in order for a man to be wise.
Those who reject this beginning of knowledge can in reality only be characterized as fools, those who arrogantly pursue their own ways as though God were insignificant or non-existent. Such foolish rejection on the part of an unsaved individual is only to be expected, because to recognize the LORD’s designs for the creation as the root and origin from which all else is evaluated is to make oneself accountable to the LORD as one of His creations.
David’s summation on this matter must have been so important for the life of man that his words were recorded twice in regard to the character of a fool as one who says in his heart that God does not exist. This man truly is a fool, because he is rejecting the revelation which God has provided to him, and thus, he is acting in direct contradiction to the knowledge he possesses. Instead of acknowledging the validity of God’s self-revelation and submitting to it, the foolish man desires to be “like God,” making his own decisions and establishing his own values for life. Wisdom and instruction, which have their roots in the Person of God, are for this man troublesome reminders of his chosen path. The conviction which they bring stirs him to despise them, and he must either avoid them or devise a counter wisdom which appeases the guilt of his “desparately wicked and deceitful heart.”