Numerous biblical texts show that the "heart" is far beyond "mental capacity." The "heart" is multifarious. The heart expresses many emotions. In the Jewish Encyclopedia, Adolf Guttmacher wrote concerning the "Heart" (Volume 6, page 295): "That the heart is the seat of emotion is the generally accepted opinion of all investigators into the psychology of the Bible. . . . All modes of feeling from the lowest physical form, as hunger and thirst, to the highest spiritual forms, as reverence and remorse, are attributed by the Hebrews to the heart." The human heart possesses a personal consciousness and reason, an emotional and intellectual life. The human heart is the seat or center of the most hidden emotions and feelings and passions and desires. The human heart is the receptacle and dispenser of emotions.
Thus, the heart is the seat or center of fleshly appetites. The heart is affected by the gratification of the fleshly appetites of eating and drinking. The heart responds emotionally to this gratification.
a. The Hebrew verb sa`ad [English "to support, strengthen, satisfy the appetite"] appears twice with the Hebrew noun lebh [English "heart"] (Genesis 18:5; Judges 19:5) and twice with the Hebrew noun lebhabh [English "heart"] (Judges 19:8; Psalm 104:15).
b. The expression "strengthen the heart" always emphasizes eating in a good sense.
a. According to Genesis 18:5, when Abraham saw "three men" [Yahweh and two angels--see Genesis 18:16-21; 19:1] approaching his tent, he said to them: "Let me bring a little bread, that you may strengthen your hearts [NRSV that you may refresh yourselves]."
b. Judges 19:5, 8 tells the story of a Levite and his concubine traveling from Bethlehem to their home in the hill country of Ephraim in North Israel. As they were preparing to leave, the concubine's father encouraged the Levite: "Strengthen your heart [NRSV Fortify yourself] with a bit of food, and after that you may go." Obviously, modern English translators of Genesis 18:5 and Judges 19:5, 8 have decided to abandoned the Hebrew language to create a related concept in English. People unfamiliar with Hebrew thought lose the beauty of biblical thought.
c. The composer of Psalm 104:14-15 praises Yahweh for his work in nature:
"You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
AND BREAD TO STRENGTHEN THE HUMAN HEART."
In this text, the NRSV faithfully follows the Hebrew, "strengthen the heart," which is the very same expression as in Genesis 18:5 and Judges 19:5, 8.
a. Five Hebrew words which mean "rejoice," cognates of two basic Hebrew roots, appear in the Hebrew Bible with "heart" to describe the result of drinking. These may express this result in either good or bad atmospheres.
l. The Hebrew verb tobh [English "to be glad, joyful"] appears 7 times with the Hebrew noun lebh, English "heart" [Judges 16:25; 19:6, 22; Ruth 3:7; 1 Samuel 25:36; 2 Samuel 13:28; Esther 1:10], and once with the Hebrew noun lebhabh, English "heart" [Judges 19:9]. All of these passages use the term "hearts were merry" in the sense of being irresponsible, enjoying oneself sensually, being drunk, being giddy or silly. Here are two examples of this.
a. Judges 16:25: The lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon and to rejoice, declaring that Dagon has given Samson into their hand [Judges 16:23-24]. "AND WHEN THEIR HEARTS WERE MERRY [apparently this mean, when they became drunk], they said, 'Call Samson, and let him entertain us.' So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them."
b. 1 Samuel 25:36: "Abigail came to Nabal; he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. NABAL'S HEART WAS MERRY within him, for he was very drunk."
2. The adjective tobh, "glad, merry," occurs once in a positive sense in Ecclesiastes 9:7:
"Go, eat your bread with enjoyment,
AND DRINK YOUR WINE WITH A MERRY HEART;
for God has long ago approved what you do."
This alludes to people who use wine wisely and do not get drunk.
3. A kindred Hebrew word, yatabh, English "to be good, well, glad," appears once with lebh, "heart," in a bad sense. When Ahab pouted because Naboth would not give him his vineyard at Jezreel, Jezebel said to Ahab: "Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, LET YOUR HEART BE GLAD [NRSV be cheerful]; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite"
(1 Kings 21:7). She proceeds to create a kangaroo court and had Naboth murdered "legally."
4. The forms of the Hebrew root smch appear with "heart" once to express the idea of some type of rejoicing as the result of drinking. samach occurs once in a good sense in Psalm 104:15: "YOU BRING FORTH WINE TO GLADDEN THE HUMAN HEART."
5. The adjective sameach, "joyful, merry" appears once in the bad sense. Isaiah 24:7 says:
"The wine dries up,
the vine languishes,
ALL THE MERRY-HEARTED SIGH."
The bodily appetites of eating and drinking are basically good because they strengthen the heart and make it happy. But of people misuse these appetites, they cause the heart to become irresponsible. "Strengthening the heart" refers only to eating, while "making the heart merry" refers only to drinking when the word "heart" appears as the seat of bodily appetites.
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