The fear of God
No, not the sort that is the beginning of wisdom. No, I mean God's own fear, the fear he feels.
But God doesn't fear anything...
From at least Deuteronomy 32:19 onwards it is clear that the one speaking is YHWH ('The LORD saw it, and was jealous').
- 'He said' (v20);
- 'They made me jealous' (v21)
- 'For a fire is kindled by my anger' (v22)
- 'I will heap disasters upon them' (v23)
- 'The teeth of beasts I will send against them' (v24)
- 'I thought to scatter them' (v26)
Which brings the reader to Deuteronomy 32:27, where Yahweh says:
'but I feared provocation by the enemy, for their adversaries might misunderstand and say, "Our hand is triumphant; it was not the LORD who did all this"'
God doesn't merely not desire or not like this provocation. This verse tells us that he fears (NRSV) or even dreads it (NIV).
I couldn't find a comment on this verse anywhere in my OT Theologies, but the internet turned up a reference to Nahama Leibowitz who said of Deuteronomy 32:27, that it contains a "very daring anthropomorphism indeed, attributing to God the sentiment of fear." (Studies in Devarim: Deuteronomy, 328). Daring? No kidding!
Of course, the reader knows that God, not Moses, says this, so the picture is hardly of scared old god, with a beard, quaking in a corner. It is language meant to convey how strongly God feels about the defaming of his name, here provocation by the enemy. But Deuteronomy does this by telling us that God fears provocation.