How are the LORD God and His works “terrible?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

We regularly use the adjective “terrible”as in “extremely bad; unpleasant.” Yet, the Holy Scriptures frequently refer to the LORD God and His works as “terrible.” What meaning do these passages carry? The idea here is generating or exciting terror, reverential awe, or godly fear. His Person and acts are formidably great. Our English word “terrible” comes from the Latin “terrere” (meaning “frighten”). When you see “terrible” in the verses below, think of terrify.

  • Exodus 34:10: “And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.”
  • Deuteronomy 7:21: “Thou shalt not be affrighted at them: for the LORD thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible.”
  • Deuteronomy 10:17: “For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:….”
  • Deuteronomy 10:21: “He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.”
  • Deuteronomy 26:8: “And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:….”
  • 2 Samuel 7:23: “And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land, before thy people, which thou redeemedst to thee from Egypt, from the nations and their gods?”
  • 1 Chronicles 17:21: “And what one nation in the earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his own people, to make thee a name of greatness and terribleness, by driving out nations from before thy people, whom thou hast redeemed out of Egypt?”
  • Nehemiah 1:5: “And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:….”
  • Nehemiah 4:14: “And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”
  • Nehemiah 9:32: “Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day.”
  • Job 37:22: “Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty.”
  • Psalm 47:2: “For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.”
  • Psalm 65:5: “By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea:…”
  • Psalm 66:3: “Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.”
  • Psalm 66:5: “Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men.”
  • Psalm 68:35: “O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.”
  • Psalm 76:12: “He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.”
  • Psalm 99:3: “Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy.”
  • Psalm 106:22: “Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea.”
  • Psalm 145:6: “And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: and I will declare thy greatness.”
  • Isaiah 64:3: “When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.”
  • Jeremiah 20:11: “But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.”

Nearly 200 times, the Hebrew word (“yare,” pronounced “yaw-ray”) was rendered “fear” in our King James Bible. For example, see Genesis 15:1, Numbers 14:9, Deuteronomy 13:11, 2 Kings 17:25, Psalm 56:4, Psalm 96:4, Isaiah 35:4, Jonah 1:16, and Micah 7:17. It was translated “afraid” nearly 80 times. For instance, see Genesis 3:10, Exodus 3:6, 2 Chronicles 20:15, Psalm 112:8, Isaiah 40:9, Jeremiah 42:11, and Habakkuk 3:2.

Also see:
» How can God have “horns” coming out of His hand?
» How can God be “jealous” and not sin?
» How does the LORD “dwell in the thick darkness?”
» How could God forbid Jeremiah to pray for His people?