the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words
Lêb (לֵב, Strong's #3820), “heart; mind; midst.” Lêb and its synonym lêbab appear 860 times in the Old Testament. The law, prophets, and Psalms often speak of the “heart.” The root occurs also in Akkadian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Arabic, and post-biblical Hebrew. The corresponding Aramaic nouns occur seven times in the Book of Daniel.
“Heart” is used first of man in Gen. 6:5: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” In Gen. 6:6 lêb is used of God: “And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”
“Heart” may refer to the organ of the body: “And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place …” (Exod. 28:29); “… [Joab] took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom …” (2 Sam. 18:14); “My heart panteth …” (Ps. 38:10). Lêb may also refer to the inner part or middle of a thing: “… and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea” (Exod. 15:8); “… and the mountain burned with fire in the midst [RSV, “to the heart”] of heaven …” (Deut. 4:11, KJV)“Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea …” (Prov. 23:34).
Lêbab can be used of the inner man, contrasted to the outer man, as in Deut. 30:14: “But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it” (cf. Joel 2:13); “… man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Lêbab is often compounded with “soul” for emphasis, as in 2 Chron. 15:12; “And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul” (cf. 2 Chron. 15:15). Nepesh (“soul; life; self”) is translated “heart” fifteen times in the KJV. Each time, it connotes the “inner man”: “For as he thinketh in his heart [nepesh], so is he” (Prov. 23:7).
Lêb can be used of the man himself or his personality: “Then Abraham fell upon his face and laughed, and said in his heart, …” (Gen. 17:17); “… my heart had great experience …” (Eccl. 1:16). Lêb is also used of God in this sense: “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart” (Jer. 3:15).
The seat of desire, inclination, or will can be indicated by “heart”: “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened …” (Exod. 7:14); “… whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it …” (Exod. 35:5; cf. vv. 21, 29); “I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart …” (Ps. 86:12). Lêb is also used of God in this sense: “… and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul” (Jer. 32:41). Two people are said to be in agreement when their “hearts” are right with each other: “Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?” (2 Kings 10:15). In 2 Chron. 24:4, “… Joash was minded to repair the house of the Lord” (Heb. “had in his heart”). The “heart” is regarded as the seat of emotions: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, …” (Deut. 6:5); “… and when he [Aaron] seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart” (Exod. 4:14; cf. 1 Sam. 2:1). So there are “merry” hearts (Judg. 16:25), “fearful” hearts (Isa. 35:4), and hearts that “trembled” (1 Sam. 4:13).
The “heart” could be regarded as the seat of knowledge and wisdom and as a synonym of “mind.” This meaning often occurs when “heart” appears with the verb “to know”: “Thus you are to know in your heart …” (Deut. 8:5, NASB); and “Yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive [know] …” (Deut. 29:4, KJV; RSV, “mind”). Solomon prayed, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad …” (1 Kings 3:9; cf. 4:29). Memory is the activity of the “heart,” as in Job 22:22: “… lay up his [God’s] words in thine heart.”
The “heart” may be the seat of conscience and moral character. How does one respond to the revelation of God and of the world around him? Job answers: “… my heart shall not reproach me as long as I live” (27:6). On the contrary, “David’s heart smote him …” (2 Sam. 24:10). The “heart” is the fountain of man’s deeds: “… in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands I have done this” (Gen. 20:5; cf. v. 6). David walked “in uprightness of heart” (1 Kings 3:6) and Hezekiah “with a perfect heart” (Isa. 38:3) before God. Only the man with “clean hands, and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:4) can stand in God’s presence.
Lêb may refer to the seat of rebellion and pride. God said: “… for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21). Tyre is like all men: “Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God” (Ezek. 28:2). They all become like Judah, whose “sin … is graven upon the table of their heart” (Jer. 17:1).
God controls the “heart.” Because of his natural “heart,” man’s only hope is in the promise of God: “A new heart also will I give you, … and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26). So the sinner prays: “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51:10); and “… unite my heart [give me an undivided heart] to fear thy name” (Ps. 86:11). Also, as David says, “I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness” (1 Chron. 29:17). Hence God’s people seek His approval: “… try my reins and my heart” (Ps. 26:2).
The “heart” stands for the inner being of man, the man himself. As such, it is the fountain of all he does (Prov. 4:4). All his thoughts, desires, words, and actions flow from deep within him. Yet a man cannot understand his own “heart” (Jer. 17:9). As a man goes on in his own way, his “heart” becomes harder and harder. But God will circumcise (cut away the uncleanness of) the “heart” of His people, so that they will love and obey Him with their whole being (Deut. 30:6).
Lêb (לֵב, Strong's #3820), “tenderly; friendly; comfortably.” Lêb is used as an adverb in Gen. 34:3: “And his soul clave unto Dinah … and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.” In Ruth 4:13, the word means “friendly”: “… thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid.…” The word means “comfortably” in 2 Chron. 30:22 and in Isa. 40:2.
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Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Heart'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​h/heart.html. 1940.