Question: "What is the Fear of Isaac?"

Answer: The Fear of Isaac is one of the more obscure names of God in the Bible. The name is only found in one passage of Scripture, Genesis 31.

It is Jacob who calls God the Fear of Isaac. The context is Jacob’s departure from his uncle Laban, for whom he had worked for twenty years. Jacob reminded Laban of the poor working conditions he had labored under: Laban had lied to him, cheated him, and changed his wages ten times (Genesis 31:41). Jacob’s hardships had been many: “The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes” (Genesis 31:40). Further, Jacob had been forced to cover any business losses out of his own pocket so Laban did not have to pay for them. And through it all God had blessed Laban for Jacob’s sake.

Jacob summed up his view of both God and Laban this way: “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed” (Genesis 31:42). Laban, in his greed, wanted to keep everything Jacob owned; in Jacob’s estimation, it was God alone who stood between Jacob and the conniving Laban and prevented the theft.

To resolve their conflict, Jacob and Laban set aside their antagonism and made a mutual covenant that neither one would do harm to the other. Jacob sealed the covenant with “an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac” (Genesis 31:53), and then he offered a sacrifice to the Fear of Isaac (verse 54).

In this passage, Jacob refers to the Lord God by three titles: “the God of my father,” “the God of Abraham,” and “the Fear of Isaac.” In calling God “the Fear of Isaac,” Jacob was saying that his father, Isaac, feared God and worshiped Him exclusively. Yahweh is “the fearsome God of Isaac” (NLT) or “the Feared One” (AMP) and was the object of Isaac’s worship. It’s interesting that Jacob does not call God the “Fear of Abraham”—“Abraham was dead, and gone to that world where there is no fear” (Joseph Benson, Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments). In heaven, Abraham knew no more fear, because “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).

Jacob was right to refer to God as the Fear of Isaac, and Isaac was right to have a holy reverence and godly fear. Jesus said, “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:5). In many other places, the Bible promotes the fear of God as appropriate and wise:

“The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread” (Isaiah 8:13).

“For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods” (1 Chronicles 16:25).

“It is you alone who are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry?” (Psalm 76:7).

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).

The Fear of Isaac is the One who made heaven and earth by His great power (Jeremiah 32:17), who “displays his power in the whirlwind and the storm” and “never lets the guilty go unpunished” (Nahum 1:3, NLT), and who “watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth” (Psalm 11:4, NLT). In fearing God, Isaac submitted to Him, reverently served Him, and regarded Him more highly than anyone else.

The Fear of Isaac is still on the heavenly throne, and He should be our Fear as well.