This is the first reference to one of the key concepts in Proverbs – “the fear of the LORD” (see also the verb phrase “fear the LORD;” 1:29; 3:7; 8:13; 24:21). The concept is based not on being afraid of God but on being in reverential awe of Him.
At its core, “the fear of the LORD” is when I see and appreciate God as He really is. This is the Biblical principle behind Step 2 of the 12 Steps and is life changing stuff. Seeing God as He really is – all His attributes and qualities – will affect how I see life. That will change how I think, which changes how I feel, which changes how I act.
Here “the fear of the LORD” is connected with knowledge (as in :29; also 2:5). “Knowledge” tends to focus on true facts and the reality of a situation – the ability to see things as they really are. The idea here is that knowing God and seeing Him as He really is also helps us to clearly and correctly see and know about things around us.
Elsewhere, “the fear of the LORD” is connected with wisdom (9:10; 15:33; Job 28:28). Wisdom and understanding are continually linked in Proverbs and it appears you can’t really experience one without the other.
In this verse we are also introduced to the fifth character in the introduction of Proverbs, and one of the central characters of the book – “the fool.” Always used in the Bible with a negative connotation, it does not suggest someone mentally deficient, but someone who is morally deficient, someone who make inappropriate choices.
The fool says in his heart that there is no God (Ps 14:1), so, it is no surprise that this verse says a fool despises both wisdom (see :2) and discipline (see :2, 3). Fools make conscious decisions to not connect with God – even though He is there and working in their lives all the time, anyway.