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Fear In Western Thought
From a western abstract perspective, fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by a belief or perception of danger or an unwanted outcome (in the interest of self-preservation). It is also defined as being afraid… which, as with most abstract definitions, tells us absolutely nothing. In this perspective, there are three basic types of fear – irrational fear (afraid when there is no real danger), rational fear (afraid of an actual impending danger), and the fear of God (said to be reverence which is to respect deeply). In Hebrew, the same root word is used for all three.
So, what distinguishes one from the other?
Nothing. Translators interpret differences based on the context. Having one Hebrew word for all three types indicate that there is but one definition of fear. This could be a problem because scripture tells us “do not fear”, “God caused them to fear”, and “fear God.” It would appear that there are conflicts in these three commonly repeated biblical statements, although there is not.
Fear in Hebrew Thought
The Hebrew concrete definition of the word most often translated as fear can help us to better understand, and perhaps how to navigate it. As with western concepts of fear, there are three types of fear but only one definition exists from a Hebraic perspective. We’ll look at all three types.
First, we must understand what fear is not. It is not a feeling that can be overcome but an action that is the end result of an inescapable human process. It is something we do, rather than something we feel.
In Hebrew, fear is “ירא“, pronounced Yarah. The pictographic Hebrew drawings first used by the ancient Hebrews were pictures of the hand, head, and ox symbols, meaning work/worship, head, and power, respectively. It depicts an image of a person “doing” something with their arms and hands that contribute to head power, or as we say, mind power.
The root of this word is רא, pronounced Ra or Re. It is the Hebrew word translated as “see” in the bible. It is the pictographic Hebrew symbols of a head and an ox, literally meaning “headstrong”.
One might wonder what being headstrong has to do with seeing. Well, this word is not exactly “to see”, but to perceive. The strength, power or authority of one’s own head dictates how one sees (or perceives) things.
It is also true that the way we see things contributes to the amount of head strength or mindpower we have. In other words, a person who perceives things a certain way may be more intelligent about particular things than those who perceive it differently. For example, many people study the Bible, but some people have a better understanding of it. This is particularly true for people who perceive the book as a piece of history, a work of art, and a divinely inspired life manual versus those who view it as a strictly spiritual religious or Christian text.
Perception in Contrast to Hebraic Faith
Contrarily, faith and belief is ” אמן”, pronounced aman. A word that we are all familiar with. In English, we say “amen” which is meant as a term of agreement. It is as saying “certainly”, “I agree”, or “I believe.” The pictographic Hebrew symbols, ox, water, and seed literally translates to “the power from the seed.”
So, mind contributing to one’s strength is perception, but faith is the result of strength originating from the seed. The “seed”, in Hebraic thought, can be linked to a number of things, one of which is prophetic or God-given knowledge as a seed sown in us by Yah. The seed parables taught by Yahusha hints toward this truth.
Additionally, in Hebrew, the order of the letters is significant. In “perception”, or “רא”, the power, strength, and authority comes from the head “ר>א”. The head is the giver and the power is the receiver. Hence, it is called head power. (Hebrew is read from right to left)
In faith, the power, strength, and authority is something that gives to and is given by the seed “א>מ>ן”.
It can also be understood that strength is given to the portion “א>מן” where “מן” is the root which means portion. In which case, faith could be understood as the power given from the seed to the portion and it is a strong portion.
The Calling & Fear
Another Hebrew word based on the root, רא, sheds light on this thing we call fear. This word is “קרא”, pronounced Karah. The pictographic Hebrew symbols are circle, head, and ox. It literally is to circle the head strength or to center the head strength. Again, in modern terms, this means to center the mind power.
The word קרא is translated as “call” or “meet” because it indicates people are circling to see, as is done when people meet up. It also is indicative of a time to contribute to or cultivate head strength (perception) by calling upon something or someone, as to meet with them.
The purpose of meeting, calling, and being called is to calibrate perspectives. Think about why we attend meetings. Be it a job interview, or family, professional, personal, or religious meetings, we meet to calibrate our perspectives. In other words, someone’s way of seeing things is being aligned or becoming familiar with someone else’s when they meet.
Throughout the OT, the Bible says how certain ancestors “called” on YaHuWaH. It says Enos’ generation was the first to “call” on YaHuWaH’s name.
And to Seth gathered a young son and he called his name Enosh then that one began to call in the name of YaHuWaH. – Genesis 4:26
Then you see Abraham (Gen 12:8, 13:4, 21:33), Hagar (Gen 16:13), and others “calling on the name of God”. The word used here is קרא.
And she (Hagar) called the name of YaHuWaH that spoke to her her mark (as to say her destiny) God sees me because the saying that gather here, I did see behind me my perception. – Gen 16:13
Hagar is one of the best examples of what it means to “call on the Lord”. In this chapter, Hagar refers to the Karah (call) and Re (perception) and what we commonly call fear is also evident. In this verse, Hagar has fled from Sarah because there was contention between the two women after Sarah had her impregnated by Abraham. Hagar runs away, but here she reevaluates her perception according to the word of Yahuwah told to her by the angel. Essentially, Hagar says, “Yah perceives me because he has told me what will be and now I can look back at my own perception.” She goes on to call the well “The Well to Life of My Perception”, as to say this was the place where her perception came to life.
So, Hagar runs from Sarah not really having a good grasp on God’s purpose for her life. She reaches a certain well and Yah sends a messenger to tell her she must return to Sarah and why. The messenger says that she will be the mother of many nations and her son, Ishmael, will have a difficult role to play, but he would also be her glory. Knowing the purpose of her life and her son’s destiny, Hagar adjusts how she sees things to align with how God sees things and she returns to Sarah.
Abraham and others also demonstrate the purpose of Karah and its connection to fear. If you follow the phrase “Called on the name of the Lord” throughout the Bible, people called on Yah whenever they had to make a decision, were at an impasse or needed direction. Ultimately, they were usually at a crossroad where they could choose to act out of fear or faith. Interestingly, there were often times when calling on Him led to troubles that were overcame and that proved to be a learning opportunity for the biblical character. Either way, Yah always responded when someone called on Him.
Yah also calls on us at times as he did with Hagar after Abraham sent her and Ishmael away. (Gen 21:17) In which case, He instructed Hagar to “Fear not” and provided water in response to Ishmael’s cries.
Three Types of Fear
That being said, the first type of fear in Hebraism is an irrational fear. This form of fear is irrational in the sense that one’s perception is not checked at all. They perceive something and immediately respond by acting out in fear. An example of this is when women clinch their purses because a black man is walking by. Rarely do they stop to rationally consider the false perception that all black men are purse snatchers, men of other races are not, or that women aren’t also purse snatchers. This is a fear that exists with no consideration at all.
The second type of fear is rational fear. In it, perception is followed by contemplation about the perception. After contemplating, one still acts fearfully. That is, they act based on what they perceive in their own mind and by their own understanding. The rational mind will almost always act out of self-preservation, i.e. fear.
Contrary to both of these types, is the fear of God. In this type of fear, a person perceives with their natural mind or “mindpower”, contemplate what they perceive and reconciles their perception to sync up with God’s perception and perspective. Then, they act in fear of God… Also known as faith! This is what Hagar did!
Hebraic Fear Defined
Fear is an action that is led by a perception. Functional fear includes rationalizing about or perception to determine a course of action. This rationalization produces Yarah (fear) which is the action done in response to a perception.
The fear of God is acting based on the perception that God is in control and He knows best. It is acting in obedience to Him and according to His perspective, even when things don’t look favorable to us. Hagar, for example, returned to the volatile situation with Sarah, not because it would be easier than running, but because Yah revealed her and her son’s purpose and said according to His perception, it was best she returned to Sarah.
Fear can also be seen as the result of a decision making process. We perceive a situation, we contemplate what should be done, and we act according to our perception and contemplation. Evidence that we fear God is in the reconciliation of our own personal perception to that of Yah. Evidence that others fear God is in what they do. People who act against God’s instruction, are not acting in fear of God… But as we see later in this fear series, this is not what makes a person evil, dysfunctional, or bad!
Trust in YaHuWaH with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5
And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. – Exodus 20:20