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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Liver occurs in ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; . In all the instances where the word occurs in the Pentateuch, it forms part of the phrase translated in the Authorized Version 'the caul that is above the liver,' but which Gesenius understands to be the great lobe of the liver itself, rather than the caul over it. Jahn thinks the smaller lobe is meant. It appears from the same passages that it was burnt upon the altar, and not eaten as sacrificial food. The liver was supposed by the ancient Jews, Greeks, and Romans, to be the seat of the passions, pride, love, etc. Thus, , 'with their assembly let not' literally 'my liver be united.' Wounds in the liver were supposed to be mortal; thus the expressions in , 'a dart through his liver,' and , 'my liver is poured out upon the earth,' are each of them a periphrasis for death itself. The passage in Ezekiel () contains an interesting reference to the most ancient of all modes of divination, by the inspection of the viscera of animals and even of mankind sacrificially slaughtered for the purpose. It is there said that the king of Babylon, among other modes of divination, referred to in the same verse, 'looked upon the liver.' The liver was always considered the most important organ in the ancient art of divination by the entrails. Philostratus felicitously describes it as 'the prophesying tripod of all divination.' It is an interesting inquiry how this regard to it originated. Vitruvius suggests a plausible theory of the first rise of divination by the liver. He says the ancients inspected the livers of those animals which frequented the places where they wished to settle; and if they found the liver, to which they chiefly ascribed the process of sanguification, was injured, they concluded that the water and nourishment collected in such localities were unwholesome (). But divination is coeval and coextensive with a belief in the divinity. We know that as early as the days of Cain and Abel there were certain means of communication between God and man, and that those means were connected with the sacrifice of animals; and we prefer to consider those means as the source of divination in later ages, conceiving that when the real tokens of the divine interest with which the primitive families of man were favored ceased, in consequence of the multiplying of human transgressions, their descendants endeavored to obtain counsel and information by the same external observances. We believe that thus only will the minute resemblances be accounted for, which we discover between the different methods of divination, utterly untraceable to reason, but which have prevailed from unknown antiquity among the most distant regions. It is further important to remark that the first recorded instance of divination is that of the teraphim of Laban, a native of Padan-aram, a district bordering on that country (; ), but by which teraphim both the Sept. and Josephus understood 'the liver of goats.'





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Liver'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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