“protected.” The Hebrew word is sagab (#07682 שָׂגַב), and it more literally means, “to be set on high,” or “to be set or placed high, high up.” It also has the meaning of “to be exalted.” As we will see, both “protected” and “exalted” are important meanings in this verse. The idea of being “set in a high place,” meaning safe or “protected” (cp. HALOT Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon), comes from the military metaphor of being put in a high place that is inaccessible to the enemy and therefore safe. While fearing man brings “a snare,” i.e., trouble upon trouble, trusting God leads to ultimate protection, safety, and exaltation.
This verse parallels Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 10:28 that we should not be afraid of people, but rather should fear God. The worst any human can do to us is kill our body. But God will raise the righteous people from the dead and give them better bodies and everlasting life. In contrast, God can and will destroy the unrighteous people in Gehenna, the Lake of Fire, so He is the one we should really fear and trust.
People who are afraid of other people do things they should not do, or do not do things they should do, and their lives are just one snare and trouble after another. This verse is tied to the previous verse, Prov. 29:24, in which a person is so afraid of other people that he will not testify in court and tell the truth, which under Old Testament law could even result in his death, depending on the particular case. The way to rid oneself of fear of others is to trust God. That does not mean that troubles in this life will disappear, but they will certainly be lessened, especially mentally, and furthermore God is the ultimate deliverer. Even if godly people are killed, if they have trusted God and gotten saved, they will be “protected” in the end. More than that, however, because of their obedience to God, they will also be “exalted” by God and given rewards for their obedience. The Hebrew word means both “protected” and “exalted,” and thus is an amphibologia, a double entendre, and the native Hebrew reader sees both meanings when he reads the verse. We chose “protected” for our English version due to the context and the use of “snare” in the first stanza.