A photo capturing a person reading the Bible with a fearful expression, seeking solace and understanding in its verses, symbolizing the deep reverence and awe towards the teachings of God.

What Does ‘Fearfully’ Mean In The Bible?

The word ‘fearfully’ appears several times throughout the Bible, conveying an important spiritual meaning that provides insight into our relationship with God. This article will provide a comprehensive examination of the original Hebrew and Greek words translated as ‘fearfully’, analyze how ‘fearfully’ is used in key Bible passages, and explain the rich theological significance behind this term.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: In the Bible, the word ‘fearfully’ refers to having an attitude of awe, reverence and deep respect towards God.

The Original Meaning of ‘Fearfully’

The Hebrew Word Yare (To Fear)

The Hebrew word translated as “fearfully” in Psalm 139:14 is “yare”. This word has a range of meanings related to fear, awe, and reverence. In the context of this verse, it conveys the wonder and awe David felt regarding how God formed him in his mother’s womb.

Some key insights on “yare”:

  • It can mean to stand in awe or reverence of something or someone.
  • It often has the idea of fearing God or having an awe-inspired respect for Him.
  • The word is used over 300 times in the Old Testament in various forms.
  • It refers to the fear of God that leads to obedience and right living.

So when David says that he was “fearfully” made, he was expressing a profound sense of wonder and awe at God’s work in creating him. There is an element of deep reverence in this fear.

The Greek Word Phobeo (To Fear)

In the Greek New Testament, the word translated “fearfully” is often “phobeo”. This carries a similar range of meanings related to fear, reverence, and awe.

Some key insights on “phobeo”:

  • It can mean terror or fear, but also deference and reverence.
  • One key use is to describe fear of God, meaning awe, respect, reverence.
  • Jesus uses the word to describe fearing God rather than people (Luke 12:4-5).
  • It is used for the fear involved in worshipping God (Acts 9:31, Hebrews 12:28).

So in both Hebrew and Greek, these words convey a meaning more nuanced than simple fear. It is a sense of awe and deep reverence for the majesty, power, and authority of God. This sheds light on the meaning of “fearfully” as describing our awe at how God created humanity.

Key Passages Using ‘Fearfully’

Psalm 139:14 – We are fearfully and wonderfully made

Psalm 139:14 says “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” This verse reminds us that God has intricately and lovingly designed every human being. We are complex, awe-inspiring creations that reflect God’s power and majesty.

The psalmist expresses a reverent awe for the miracle of human life that God has granted.

1 Peter 2:17 – Fear God

In 1 Peter 2:17, believers are instructed to “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” Fear in this context means awe-inspired reverence and deep respect for God.

Just as we would show deference to a human authority, our holy and almighty God who created the universe and gives us life certainly deserves the highest honor and obedience.

Hebrews 12:28-29 – Serve God acceptably with reverence and awe

The book of Hebrews tells us to “serve God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). We are to thoughtfully consider God’s transcendence and glory. He deserves our true worship offered with deepest gratitude and respect.

Approaching God flippantly or casually is inappropriate. A right understanding of God includes recognizing that along with His great love, He remains an awesome, powerful, and yes, fearsome God before whom we bow in reverential awe.

The Significance of ‘Fearfully’ in Scripture

It Highlights God’s Awesome Power and Glory

The word “fearfully” in phrases like “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) points to the awe-inspiring power and glory of God. It reminds us that God is mighty, magnificent, and supreme over all creation.

When we realize how small and limited we are compared to God’s limitless might, it should inspire reverence, marvel and godly fear in our hearts. As Psalm 33:8 declares, “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!”

It Encourages Worship, Obedience and Righteous Living

Recognizing that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a God of infinite power and authority should lead us to live in ways that honor Him. Knowing that God is fearsome in holiness and righteousness should motivate us to turn from sin and walk in obedience to His commands (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

As 1 Peter 1:17 reminds us, “If you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” Living in godly fear inspires righteous living.

It Warns Against Disobedience and Sin

The “fear of the Lord” in Scripture also serves as a warning against rebelling against God’s authority. Those who live in defiance of God’s laws and ways should tremble before His judgments (Isaiah 66:1-2).

As Proverbs 9:10 declares, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Therefore, the meaning of “fearfully” is not only positive but also serves as a solemn reminder of God’s impending judgment on sin.


In examining the original Hebrew and Greek meanings, key passages, and theological significance behind the term ‘fearfully’, we gain insight into an important biblical concept. Properly understanding ‘fear of the Lord’ enables us to relate to God rightly with awe, reverence and faithful obedience.

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