John T. Willis

Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Heart is the Midst or Inward Part

In the Bible, the word "heart" usually does not mean the "blood pump," but the center or middle or inward part of a person or a thing. In the Hebrew Bible, the word "heart" is connected with the sky, the sea, and trees.

1. The Sky.
     In Moses' first speech in the Plains of Moab [Deuteronomy 1:6-4:43], among other things, he reminded his fellow-Israelites that forty years earlier, Yahweh appeared on Mount Horeb [Sinai]. He says in Deuteronomy 4:11:
          "You approached and stood at the foot of the mountain
            while the mountain was blazing up TO THE VERY HEAVEN, shrouded in dark clouds."
The expression "to the very heaven" in the New Revised Standard Version [NRSV] means literally "to the heart of the heavens [that is, the sky]." Obviously, "the heart of the sky" means that part of the sky which is center to the human eye.

2. The Sea.
     "The Heart of the Sea" has two meanings.,
     a. Proverbs 30:18-19 says:
         Three things are too wonderful for me;
               four I do not understand:
          the way of an eagle in the sky,
               the way of a snake on a rock,
               and the way of a man with a girl.
The expression "on the high seas" in the NRSV means literally "in the heart of the sea," which must mean the center or midst of the surface of the ocean or the sea as one views with respect to the land on either side.
        b. In the Song of Moses in Exodus 15:1-18, verse 8 says:
            At the blast of your [Yahweh's] nostrils the waters piled up,
                  the floods stood up in a heap,
                  the deeps congealed IN THE HEART OF THE SEA.
In this context, "the heart of the sea" cannot be on the surface of the sea [here the Red Sea or the Sea of Reeds], but the depths of the ocean or sea between the surface of the water and the bottom of the sea.
        Similarly, in Jonah 2:3, when Jonah prays in the belly of the great fish, he says:
            You [Yahweh] cast me into the deep,
                  INTO THE HEART OF THE SEAS,
                  and the flood surrounded me,
             all your waves and your billows passed over me.
As in Exodus 15:8, in Jonah 2:3, "the heart of the seas" has to mean the depths of the sea or the ocean between the surface of the water and the bottom of the sea or ocean.
3. Trees.
     2 Samuel 18:1-18 relates the account of Joab murdering Absalom as Absalom fled from David. Absalom fled into the forest. His long hair was caught in the midst of an oak or terebinth. 2 Samuel 18:14 says:
       Joab said, 'I will not waste time like this with you [his fellow-soldiers].'
       He took three spears in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom,
       while he [Absalom] was still alive IN THE OAK.
The NRSV does not follow the Hebrew text, which says, "while he was still alive IN THE HEART OF THE OAK [TEREBINTH]." Obviously, "the heart of a tree" means the inner portion of the trunk or limbs of a tree, that section of the tree relatively equidistant from the circumference of the outermost branches and leaves into which the larger, more substantial limbs merge.

Texts like these help us understand that the "heart" in the Bible is not the "blood pump," but the midst or center of an object or a person. Blogs yet to come will assume this reality.

The Lord bless YOU richly today. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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