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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Liver

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A glandular organ situated, in man, to the right beneath the diaphragm and above the stomach. In six passages of the Bible in which the liver is mentioned the expression is met with in reference to the part of the organ which had to be sacrificed as a fatty piece (Exodus 29:13,22 , et passim ). The meaning of this expression has not been successfully established. Both Onḳ elos and pseudo-Jonathan translate it , or in the Hebrew form , which is met with in the Talmud. The Authorized Version, following Jerome, renders it "the caul above the liver" and it seems that Rashi gave the same interpretation. But the Septuagint renders it by "the lobe of the liver," which shows that the piece sacrificed was a part of the liver itself. The interpretation "caul" or "flap around the liver" seems to be based on the Aramaic , taken in the sense of "surrounding." But Bochart ("Hierozoicon," 1:562, Leipsic, 1793-96) has proved the error of such an interpretation, referring to Saadia's Arabic rendering "za' idah" (= "excrescent"). Kohut ("Aruch Completum," s.v. and ) draws attention to a passage in Tamid (31a) in which "the finger of the liver" is spoken of (see Rashi ad loc. ). Kohut therefore supposes that the Aramaic is the equivalent of the Arabic "khanṣ ar" = "little finger." His supposition is confirmed by Isaac ibn Ghayyat, who quotes Hai Gaon (Dukes, in "Orient, Lit." 9:537) to the effect that the expression comes from the Arabic and that the liver is composed of pieces similar to fingers. According to Naḥ manides (Responsa, No. 162), if this part of the liver is perforated, the flesh of the animal may be eaten (see also Dillmann on Leviticus 3:4 Driver and White, "Leviticus," p. 65 Nowack, "Archä ologie," 1:228 comp. Caul Fat ).

Neither man nor beast can live without a liver (' Ar. 20a). If the liver is missing from an animal, its flesh may not be eaten (Ḥ ul. 42a). Therefore if any one dedicates to the sanctuary the value of his head or of his liver, he must pay the value of his entire person (' Ar. 20a B. M. 114a). On liver complaints see Maimonides, "Yad," Sheḥ iṭ ah, 6:1,8, 9 7:4,19, 21 8:16.

The liver is the seat of life. The archers pierced the liver with their arrows (Proverbs 7:23 ), thereby quickly causing death. Johanan (d. 279) says: "He smote him under the fifth rib" (2Samuel 2:23 ), i.e. , in the fifth partition, where liver and gall are connected (Sanh. 49, above). Johanan does not mean to imply that liver and gall are in the chest, as Ebstein infers ("Medicin des N. T. und des Talmuds," 2:129), but merely that liver and gall were wounded. The tradition (IKings 22:34 2Chronicles 18:33 ) that the arrow struck the king between the ribs ("debaḳ im") likewise refers to the fifth partition (see also Sanh. 63b Kohut, "Aruch Completum," 4:182b). A tannaite living at Rome about 150 recommends the membrane of the liver of a mad dog as a remedy against hydrophobia, and Galen also approves of this remedy but the Palestinian teachers forbade it because its efficacy had not been proved (Yoma 8:5 84a, b see Blau, "Altjü dische Zauberwesen," pp. 80 et seq. ). Tobit 6:8 , 8:2, however, shows that fumigating with fish-livers was considered a means of exorcising evil spirits in Palestine.

On the functions of the liver there is only a single passage in the Bible, namely, Lamentations 2:11 : "Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughters of my people." On the functions of the several organs of the human body this observation is found in the Talmud: "The liver causes anger the gall throws a drop into it and quiets it" (Ber. 61, above).

The augural significance of the liver, hepatoscopy, is mentioned only once in the Bible, and then as a foreign custom. Ezekiel (xxi:21) says of Nebuchadnezzar: "For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked into the liver" (see Jew. Encyc. 4:624a, s.v. Divination ). Levi (3d cent.) remarks on this passage: "as the Arabian, who slaughters a sheep and inspects the liver" (Eccl. R. 12:7 ).

S. S. L. B. M. Sel.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Liver'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tje/l/liver.html. 1901.

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Thursday, May 28th, 2020
the Seventh Week after Easter
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