The phrase "fear God" appears seven times in the book of Ecclesiastes 3:14; 5:7 [Heb., 5:6], 7:18; 8:12 [twice], 13; 12:3). The present study examines each use and determines that there are two different forces to the expression that are discerned by the context and that inform the theology of the two voices of the book. Qohelet, whose voice dominates the body of the book (1:12–12:7), encourages his listeners to be afraid of God and do their best to avoid drawing God's attention. After all, life is meaningless and God is no help. The frame narrator (1:1–11 and 12:8–14) encourages his son (12:12; and thus other readers) to combine the fear of God (understood as reverent awe) with obedience to the law.

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