This is the usual rendering for the Hebrew noun paʹchadh (verb pa·chadhʹ), having the basic sense of that which causes quivering. (Compare Mic 7:17.) A form of the word quts has been translated “feel a sickening dread” (Ex 1:12; Nu 22:3; Isa 7:16), and this term often conveys the sense of “abhorrence.” (See ABHORRENT THING.) The expression “dread during the nights” refers to what may cause dread, or intense fear, during the night, such as surprise assault by robbers or attack by large beasts of prey.
Jacob referred to the Almighty as “the Dread of Isaac,” the one that Isaac viewed with reverential awe, fearing to displease Him. That Jacob shared the viewpoint of his father Isaac is shown by his making an oath “by the Dread of his father Isaac.”
A wholesome dread of Jehovah, reflected in a desire to shun what He disapproves, is vital if a person is to remain his servant. This dread made it possible for Job to be blameless and upright. (Job 1:1; 23:15; 31:23) And it enabled the psalmist to persevere in a divinely favored course despite the persecution by princes. (Ps 119:120, 161) Jehoshaphat encouraged appointed judges to have this proper dread so that they would be impartial in rendering just decisions.
Jehovah is the Protector and Sustainer of his people. So there is no reason for one to be in dread of men, manifesting intense fear of what they might do, and so yield to their improper demands. (Ps 27:1; 78:53; 91:2-5; Isa 12:2) But this does not mean that servants of God will never suffer in the present system of things. At times they do find themselves in a pitiable, disadvantaged position. Not discerning that such ones are still the objects of Jehovah’s care, faithless persons may abandon them in dread, not wanting to share their seemingly hopeless lot. (Ps 31:11) But Jehovah will not forsake them.
It is because of having no dread of God that the wicked continue in their evil ways. (Ps 36:1-4) But they will not escape the dread that comes from the calamity befalling them on account of their ignoring godly wisdom.
When Jehovah withdrew his protection from the unfaithful Israelites, they experienced dread day and night, being uncertain of their very lives. There was no escape from disaster. (De 28:66, 67; Isa 24:17-20; 33:14; Jer 30:5; La 3:47) This kind of dread would not be experienced by those acting in harmony with godly wisdom, those always having reverential awe of the Creator.
Manifestations of Jehovah’s matchless power, backing, or favor may cause observers to be in dread. (2Ch 17:10; Ps 53:5; 105:38; Isa 19:16, 17; Jer 33:9) For example, the Israelites, with divine help, gained remarkable and truly fear-inspiring victories over their enemies (De 11:25; 1Ch 14:17; 2Ch 14:12-14; 20:29), and during the time of Mordecai and Esther the unexpected turn of events in favor of the Jews caused their enemies to be in dread. (Es 8:17; 9:2, 3) Also the evidence of divinely inspired courage and strength may bring about a wholesome dread and an obedient response. Thus, when King Saul forcefully appealed to the Israelites to join in the defense of Jabesh-gilead, they were filled with “the dread of Jehovah” and responded “as one man.”
Because Jehovah had foretold the fall of Babylon by the hand of Cyrus, the Israelites had no reason to be in dread of that world-shaking event. For them it had to be a liberation from the dread of Babylonian rage. The makers of idols, however, were bound to feel dread, as all the deities manufactured by human hands would prove to be of no assistance in saving Babylon.