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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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—Biblical Data:

The seat of the emotional and intellectual life. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23), refers to the moral and spiritual as well as the physical life. Animals have simply a sentient heart without personal consciousness or reason. This is what is meant when it is said that a beast's heart was given to Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:13 [A. V. 16]). Delitzsch ("System der Biblischen Psychologie," p. 252) calls attention to the fact that the Arabic Ḥamasa (p. 513) says explicitly that the brute is without heart ("bi-ghair lubb").

The three special functions, knowing, feeling, and willing, ascribed by modern psychologists to the mind, were attributed to the heart by the Biblical writers (comp. Assyrian "libbu" = "heart," in Delitzsch, "Assyrisches Handwörterb." p. 367). In the Book of Daniel intellectual functions are ascribed not to the head only (Daniel 2:28; 4:2,7,10 [A. V. 5, 10, 13]; 7:1,15), but also to the heart (ib. 2:30).

Its Psychical Aspects.

The heart as the seat of thought is referred to in "maḥshebot libbo" (thoughts of his heart; Psalms 33:11) and in "morashe lebabi" (possessions or thoughts of my heart; Job 17:11). So "amar beleb" (Obadiah 1:3), "amar el leb" (Genesis 8:21), "dibber 'im leb" (Ecclesiastes 1:16) (= "to speak to the heart" or "to oneself"), mean "to think." The heart knows and perceives (Deuteronomy 29:3 [A. V. 4]); it remembers and forgets (1 Samuel 21:13 [A. V. 12]; Deuteronomy 4:9). "A dead man out of heart" (A. V. "mind"; Psalms 31:13 [A. V. 12]) means a dead man forgotten. The man of understanding is called "ish [plur. "anshe"] lebab" = "the man of heart" (Job 34:10,34), and the man without understanding "ḥasar leb" (Proverbs 10:13) or "en leb" (Jeremiah 5:21), "the man void of heart" or "without heart."

That the heart is the seat of emotion is the generally accepted opinion of all investigators into the psychology of the Bible, though Carl Grüneisen ("Der Ahnenkultus und die Urreligion Israels," p. 39) denies it. All modes of feeling, from the lowest physical forms, as hunger and thirst, to the highest spiritual forms, as reverence and remorse, are attributed by the Hebrews to the heart (comp. Genesis 18:5; Judges 19:5; Psalms 102:5 [A. V. 4]); so joy and gladness, sorrow and grief, fear and reverence (Zephaniah 3:14; Isaiah 66:14; Psalms 13:3 [A. V. 2]; Deuteronomy 20:3,7,8; Jeremiah 32:40). Still the term "nefesh" (soul) is more frequently used with reference to the appetites.

Is the Seat of Volition.

The heart is also the seat of volition. It is self-directing and self-determining. All conscious resolvesemanate from that source (comp. "mela'olibbo" [Esther 7:5]; "nadab libbo oto" [Exodus 35:29]; "nesa'o libbo" [Exodus 35:21]; and "natan libbo" [Ecclesiastes 1:13]). When the words "heart" and "soul" are used in connection with each other (Deuteronomy 6:5), they are not used merely as synonymous terms in order to add force to the expression, for the phrase "with all your heart" denotes the love of conscious resolve, in which the whole being consents, and which must at once become a natural inclination (see Cremer, "Biblico-Theological Lexicon," s. καρδία, transl. by William Urwick, p. 347).

It is in the heart that the heart becomes conscious of itself and of its own operations. It recognizes its own suffering. It is the seat of self-consciousness: "the heart knoweth its [A. V. "his"] own bitterness" (Proverbs 14:10). As the whole physical and psychical life is centralized in the heart, so the whole moral life springs from and issues out of it. This is clear from such expressions as "shalem" and "tam" (perfect), "ṭahor" (pure), "ṭob" (good), and "yashar" (upright), used in connection with the heart. The Biblical writers speak of the false heart, the stubborn and obstreperous heart, and the heart distant from God (Psalms 101:4; Jeremiah 5:23; Isaiah 29:13). The hypocrite is the man with a double or divided heart: where one would say "two-faced," the Psalmist says "two-hearted" ("beleb waleb"; Psalms 12:3 [A. V. 2]). Lazarus ("The Ethics of Judaism," Engl. transl., 2:60, note) observes that "the Talmudic 'libbo' rarely reaches the inclusive meaning of the Hebrew 'leb,' which comprises the whole psychic phenomena. As a rule, the Talmudic expression approaches the modern 'heart,' primarily indicating inner conviction as contrasted with external deed" (see Sanh. 106b; Ber. 20a, Munich MS.). There is an interesting discussion between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Joshua as to whether the heart or the head should be regarded as the seat of wisdom (Yalḳ., Prov. 929).

Maimonides, in discussing the term "leb," says that it is a word used homonymously, primarily signifying the organ of life and then coming to mean "center," "thought," "resolution," "will," "intellect" ("Moreh Nebukim," 1:39). See Psychology of the Bible.

"Leb" is used figuratively for the center or innermost part of objects other than the human body, in expressions such as "the heart of the sea" (Exodus 15:8; Jonah 2:3); "the heart of heaven" (Deuteronomy 4:11; A. V. "midst"); "the heart [A. V. "midst"] of an oak-tree" (2 Samuel 18:14). In this use "heart" has gone over into the English language as a Hebraism when mention is made of the "heart" or "core" (Latin "cor") of a subject or object, meaning its central or innermost part, its central idea or essence. "She'er" (flesh) and "leb" (heart) are used conjointly to designate the whole inner and outer life of man (Psalms 73:26).

  • Franz Delitzsch, System der Biblischen Psychologie, 2d ed., § 12, pp. 248-265;
  • Charles A. Briggs, A Study of the Use of Leb and Lebab in the Old Testament, in Kohut Memorial Volume, pp. 44, 105;
  • J. T. Beck, Umriss der Biblischen Seelenlehre, 1843, Eng. transl., 1877, § , pp. 78-148;
  • D. R. Goodwin, in Jour. Bib. Lit. 1:67-72;
  • Hamburger, R. B. T.;
  • Protestantische Real-Encyc.;
  • Schenkel, Bibel Lexicon;
  • Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl.;
  • Hastings, Dict. Bible.

T. S.

—In Apocryphal and Rabbinical Literature:

Καρδία in the Apocrypha, and in rabbinical literature, have the various meanings of the Biblical term = "heart."

1. As the Seat of the Physical Organism:

Compare Tobit 6:4-7, and the numerous references in Talmud and Midrash, especially the treatise Ḥullin, which treats largely of the traditional manner of slaughtering animals for ordinary use.

2. As the Seat of All Morality and of All Moral and Spiritual Functions:

The heart being the center of personal life, and in fact of man's collective energies, as well as the laboratory for the appropriation and assimilation of every influence, the moral and religious conditions of man wholly depend upon it. For example, in II Esdras (9:31) occurs, "I sow my law in you [in your hearts] and it shall bring fruit in you, and ye shall be honored in it forever." II Macc. 2:3 reads: "And with other such speeches exhorted he them, that the law should not depart from their hearts." "Yes, therefore, Thou hast given us a heart that we may fear You and call upon Your name" (Baruch 3:7; comp. Tobit 1:12). That God "requires the service of the heart" is a favorite saying of the Rabbis.

As in the Bible (Genesis 6:5, 8:21), the seat of good and evil impulses alike is neither the body nor the soul, but rather the heart (not, of course, the physical organ, but the willing and thinking self); thus the Rabbis frequently use "yeẓer" to interpret the Biblical term . "Esau speaks in his heart" is rendered in Gen. R. , "The wicked are in the power of their heart, but the righteous have their heart in their power." In Num. R. it is said, in reference to the report of the spies, "The heart and the eyes are the cause of their sin." "The evil desire is living in the heart" (Ber. 61a). The heart is the organ of conscience. Thus the Septuagint translates Ecclus. (Sirach) 42:18, "The heart He searcheth," with συνείδησις = "conscience" (comp. Wisdom 17:11).

The heart is also the seat of feeling, of courage, of hatred, of pride, and of deceit. "As the heart is first to feel sorrow, so it is also first to feel joy" (Ex. R.; comp. Proverbs 14:10). "Set thy heart aright, and constantly endure" (Ecclus. [Sirach] 2:2). "Do not approach righteousness with a divided heart" (Enoch 91:4). "My son, love your brethren, and do not turn from them with a proud heart" (Tobit 4:13). "With his lips the enemy talketh sweetly, but in his heart he planneth to throw thee into a pit" (Ecclus. [Sirach] 12:16).

There is a famous reference in "Cuzari," 2:36 et seq., to the effect that Israel occupies the position among the nations which the heart occupies among the organs of the human body. For the heart is most exposed to the ills of the flesh, and most sensitive to all changes of temperament, hatred and love, fear and vengeance, etc.

3. As the Seat of the Intellect and the Will:

"Do not follow thy desires to walk in the ways of thy heart" (Ecclus. [Sirach] 5:2; comp. ib. 3:24,25; Baruch 2:30,31). In Eccl. R. 1:1 the Biblical passage 1 Kings 3:5 et seq. is referred to, where Solomon, in answer to Yhwh's request that he shall ask for something, asks for an understanding(hearing) heart. The Midrash renders "an understanding heart" by "wisdom"; and there it is said that God gives Solomon "wisdom and understanding." "The heart of the ancients was as large as the gate of Ulam, the heart of the later ones as the gate of Hekal; and ours is like the eye of a needle" ('Er. 53a). This refers not to the actual size of the physical heart, but to difference in mental attainments.

  • E. Kautzsch, Die Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testaments;
  • Deane, Pseudepigrapha;
  • Porter, The Yeçer Hara, in Yale Bicentennial Publications;
  • Wahl's Wörterb.
E. C.
A. G.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Heart'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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