Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Hebrew Heart

In Wellum and Gentry's Kingdom Through Covenant the author's deal with the comand in the book of Deuteronomy which they consider the very centre of the book: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength." In discussing the focal point of Deuteronomy, a discussion of the meaning of heart ensues:

In Hebrew, the word "heart" refers to the core of who you are, the centre of each person. It refers, in particular, to the place where we feel, where we think, and where we make decisions and plans, i.e., emotions, mind, and will. This can be easily seen from the following illustrative passages: 
A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is crushed. (Prov. 15:13, ESV) 
A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Prov. 17:22, ESV) 
When these proverbs refer to a "glad heart" or a "joyful heart" they are clearly referring to one's emotions and feelings in terms of a healthy psyche. 
But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear. (Deut. 29:4, ESV) 
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed. (Isa. 6:10, ESV) 
In both Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 6:10, one understands with the heart; surely then what is being referred to is what we normally call the mind. This is the place where we reason and think and understand. 
The heart of a man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps. (Prov. 16:9, ESV) 
May he grant you his heart's desires
and fulfill all your plans! (Ps. 20:4, ESV) 
Proverbs 16:9 and Psalm 20:4 show that the "heart" makes plans and has desires; it is the place where we make decisions. (366-7)

They then highlight a key difference between how we often think about the "heart" in contrast to how the Hebrews thought about it:
We should note, then, that the biblical language differs markedly from our own in the Western world. For us, the heart is associated with emotions, feelings, love, and Valentine's Day. Conversely, for the Bible, the heart is where we reason and think and make decisions and plans. We can frequently speak f people who cannot bridge the eighteen-inch gap between the head and the heart. The ancient Hebrews knew no such gap. The heart is the centre of one's being and the place where the emotions, mind, and will operate in harmony and union. (367-8)

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