John T. Willis

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Heart is the Seat of Emotion--XVIII

The Hebrew noun lebh, "heart," is a synonym for emotions.
   1. "Heart" appears with the Hebrew verb mana`, "to withhold, hold back," in Ecclesiastes 2:10. "Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them' I KEPT MY HEART FROM NO PLEASURE, for I found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil." "To keep the heart from" is to deny outlet to the emotions.
   2. The composer of Psalm 86 says in Psalm 86:11:
        "Teach me your way, O Lord,
               that I may walk in your truth;
To "undivide" or "unite" the heart means to concentrate or focus on the emotions.
   3. The Hebrew expression dabhar `al-lebh, literally, "to speak to the heart," is a Hebrew idiom meaning to comfort. Genesis 34:3 contains this description of Shechem's approach to Dinah: "And his [Shechem's] soul was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl, and SPOKE TENDERLY TO HER [Hebrew--spoke to her heart]." This is clearly an emotional function of the heart.
   4. Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 20:9:
       "If I say, 'I will not mention him [Yahweh],
             or speak any more in his name,'
        then within me [Hebrew--in my heart] there is something like a burning fire
             shut up in my bones;
        I am weary with holding it in,
             and I cannot."
Jeremiah's attitude here is very emotional. He is struggling within himself.

These biblical passages show that according to the Bible, the heart is the terminal into which emotions merge and out of which emotions disperse. Thinking and feeling are inseparably connected in the lives of all human beings. As the heart thinks, it moves and is moved, and as the heart moves and is moved, it thinks. For each emotion, there is an antithesis.

Share YOUR experiences and observations and feelings and thoughts and desires with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Thursday, December 01, 2016

God is Our Great King, Defense, and Guide--Psalm 48

The worshippers of Psalm 48 have recently experienced Yahweh's deliverance from threatening enemies. The precise historical setting of Psalm 48 is uncertain. Some scholars have proposed that this alludes to Sennacherib's invasion of Jerusalem in 701 BCE [see 2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 36-37]. While this is possible, there is not enough information to know the exact historical background of Psalm 48.

The psalmist or composer or writer is anonymous. The superscription says: "A Song. A Psalm of the Korahites." The superscriptions in the psalms were added later, and it would be a mistake to identify persons, events, and dates connected with the psalms. Throughout Psalm 48, the composers or writers are PLURAL, not singular. Note carefully the uses of "we" in Psalm 48:8 [twice], 9, and "our" in Psalm 48:1, 14 [twice]. Apparenly, one of the members of this anonymous group actually put together this psalm.

Psalm 48 naturally falls into four brief stanzas.

1. The worshippers of Psalm 48 praise Yahweh in Jerusalem. Psalm 48:1-2.
    a. The worshippers begin by declaring that Yahweh is GREAT and GREATLY to be praised. The focus is on God, not on any earthly entity. 48:1a.
    b. The worshippers describe Jerusalem uses SIX terms to describe Jerusalem. 48:1b-2.
         1. The city of our God. While some biblical texts call Jerusalem "the city of David" (cf.
2 Samuel 5:7, 9; 6:10), in reality Jerusalem actually belongs completely to Yahweh, not to David or anyone else.
         2. His holy mountain. Several passages in the Bible call Jerusalem Yahweh's Holy Mountain or Yahweh's Holy Hill (see Psalms 2:6; 3:4; 15:1; 43:3; 87:1; Isaiah 11:9).
         3. Beautiful in elevation.
         4. The joy of all the earth. The Lord of all the earth dwells within Jerusalem=Zion (Psalm 47:2). From Jerusalem=Zion, Yahweh disseminates his blessings to all humankind, the chiefest of which is the dissemination of Yahweh's word or law (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:3).
         5. In the "far north." This is not true geographically; the worshippers are not thinking of Zion geographically. According to Canaanite mythology, the gods lived on a mountain in the far north, (see Isaiah 14:13; and the Ugaritic texts of the 13th century BCE discovered beginning in 1929). The worshippers of Psalm 48 are borrowing Canaanite language and applying it to Israel's historical situation and to the true God, Yahweh, must in the same way that Paul borrowed a line from a Greek poet in his sermon on the Areopagus in Athens, Greece, and reapplied it from a Christian perspective (Acts 17:28).
         6. The city of the Great King. The great king here is not David or Solomon or any other earthly king, but Yahweh, the King over all the Earth (see Psalm 47:2, 7-8).

2. The poet describes a recent enemy invasion which Yahweh overthrew. Psalm 48:3-8.
    a. The psalmist begins by declaring that within the citadels of Jerusalem Yahweh has demonstrated that he is a "sure defense." While Jerusalem was fortified, surrounded by a well-fortified wall, the only dependable defense was Yahweh. 48:3.
    b. Several foreign kings have made an alliance to attack Jerusalem. But when they and their armies saw the city of God, they were astounded; they were in panic, and took to flight. Trembling took hold of them at Jerusalem, pains as of a woman in labor. [The figure of a woman in labor appears often in the Bible to communicate the idea of anguish or pain. Micah 4:9, 10; Jeremiah 4:31; 6:24; 22:23]. Yahweh's defeat of his enemies was like an east wind shattering the ships of Tarshish. Tarshish is the modern Tartessus located on the southern tip of Spain. The ships are Tarshish were famous for transporting wealthy produces on the high seas [see 1 Kings 10:22; 22:48; Psalm 72:10; Jonah 1:3]. 48:4-7.
    c. God's worshippers had HEARD that Yahweh delivered his city in the past, but in this new situation, they have actually SEEN Yahweh's miraculous intervention. After all, this was "the city of the Lord of hosts [the Lord of the heavenly armies]," "the city of our God," not the city of David or of anyone else, but ONLY of God. And God ESTABLISHES his city forever. 48:8.

3.  The worshippers reflect on the threatening event which just occurred. Psalm 48:9-11.
     a. After the threat of enemies attacking Jerusalem, the worshippers gather at the Jerusalem temple and PONDER Yahweh's "steadfast love" which he has just demonstrated .48:9.
     b. The worshippers proclaim that Yahweh's NAME, that is Yahweh's reputation, like his praise, reaches to the end of the earth. Any time Yahweh does something, this affects all people throughout planet earth. Yahweh's intervention and defeating the impending enemies show that Yahweh's right hand is filled with victory. 48:10.
     c. Because of Yahweh's righteous judgments, the worshipper declares: Let Mount Zion be glad, let the daughters [towns] of Judah rejoice. 48:11.

4. The present generation has the responsibility of telling the following generation what Yahweh has done. Psalm 48:12-14.
    a. The worshippers encourages their hearers to walk around Jerusalem=Zion, to count Zion's towers, to consider well Zion's ramparts, to go through Zion's citadels that they might TELL the next generation that Yahweh alone is God. 48:12-14a.
    b. Because of this, all can count on the truth that Yahweh will be our GUIDE forever. 48:14b.

Share YOUR insights and experiences and reversals and commendations and doubts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Heart Desires and Lusts--XVII

Several texts in the Hebrew Bible declare that the "heart" desires and lusts. Some of these texts are positive, and others are negative.

1. The speaker of Qoheleth [Ecclesiastes] says in Ecclesiastes 2:10:
     "Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them;
       and this was my reward for all my toil."
In this context, the biblical composer declares that he thoroughly ENJOYS [has pleasure in] all his hard work, his toil. Many people greatly enjoy their diligent, hard work. This is a function of the heart.

2. Ecclesiastes 7:26 describes a HARLOT or PROSTITUTE as "snares and nets." This text says:
     "I found more bitter than death the woman who is a trap,
        whose hands are fetters;
        one who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her."
Obviously, this is a graphic description of a man's lust for a prostitute or harlot or loose woman. This is a heart issue.

3. Describing a prostitute or harlot or adulteress or loose woman, Proverbs 7:10 begins the description in this way:
     "Then a woman comes toward him,
            decked out like a prostitute, WILY OF HEART."
Proverbs 7:1-23 provides a full description of seduction and adultery.

4. The composer of Proverbs 6 warns his hearers to avoid another man's wife or an adulterer. He says in Proverbs 6:25-26:
            and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;
      for a prostitute's fee is only a loaf of bread;
            but the wife of another stalks a man's very life."

5. Job 31 contains similar warnings. Job 31:1 says:
     "I have made a covenant with my eyes;
            how then could I look upon a virgin?"
     Job 31:9-10 says:
            and I have lain in wait at my neighbor's door;
      then let my wife grind for another,
            and let other men kneel over her."

6. Job 31:26-28 warns people again worshipping the sun or the moon:
    "If I have looked at the sun when it shone,
            or the moon moving in splendor,
            and my mouth has kissed my hand;
      this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges,
            for I should have been false to God above."

The heart constantly entertains all kinds of pleasure and enjoyment. Some are  good and some are evil. It is a huge mistake to assume or think that the Old Testament is not concerned with the HEART. In Matthew 5:27-30 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not introducing the problem of lust of the heart, but is reiterating a long-established truth expressed often in the Hebrew Bible.

Share YOUR problems and questions and suggestions and desires and aspirations with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Yahweh is a Great King over All the Earth--Psalm 47

Psalm 47 is one of many passages in the Hebrew Bible declaring that Yahweh is God over all the earth, and not merely the God of Israel. Throughout the Hebrew Bible, there is a strong emphasis that Yahweh is in control of the entire universe, and is not limited to the land of Canaan. There is no information at all about the historical background of Psalm 47. Its origin is undatable. Psalm 47 is brief and clear. It falls into three brief stanzas.

1. God is a great king over all the earth; therefore, he subdues all nations under him. Psalm 47:1-4.
    a. The poet begins by summoning ALL PEOPLES, that is, ALL NATIONS, to CLAP THEIR HANDS, and to SHOUT to Yahweh with LOUD SONGS OF JOY. Clapping the hands is a gesture of approval.
         1. Addressing the Ammonites, Ezekiel declares: "For thus says the Lord God: Because you have CLAPPED YOUR HANDS and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the malice within you against the land of Israel, therefore I have stretched out my hand against you." Ezekiel 25:6-7a. The Ammonites clapped their hands in the sense of rejoicing over the defeat of the Israelites.
         2. The composer of Psalm 98:8-9a says:
              "Let the floods CLAP THEIR HANDS;
                      let the hills sing together for joy
                at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
                      to judge the earth."
The floods clap their hands with approval at the arrival of Yahweh to judge the earth.
         3. Describing the delivery of the Judean exiles from Babylon, the prophet declares:
              "For you shall go out in joy
                      and be led back in peace;
                the mountains and the hills before you
                      shall burst into song,
                and all the trees of the field
                      SHALL CLAP THEIR HANDS."
As the Judean exiles leave from Babylon to return to Jerusalem and Judah, the trees of the field "clap their hands" in exuberant approval of Yahweh's miraculous power and work.
      b. All nations must demonstrate approval of Yahweh because he, "the Most High," is awesome, A GREAT KING OVER ALL THE EARTH." 47:2.
      c. Yahweh subdued peoples and nations under the feet of Yahweh's people, demonstrating his overpowering strength. 47:3.
      d. In doing this, Yahweh chose Israel because of his love. This verse apparently has in mind the conquest of Canaan under Joshua. 47:4.

2. The composer repeatedly calls on his audience to "sing praises" to Yahweh because he is THE KING OF ALL THE EARTH. Psalm 47:5-7.
     a. The poet declares that God has gone up with a shout, with the sound of a trumpet. 47:5.
     b. Accordingly, the poet calls on his audience to "sing praises" to Yahweh as their KING. 47:6.
     c. The poet concludes by calling on his audience to "sing praises" with a psalm, because GOD IS KING OF ALL THE EARTH. 47:7.
Yahweh is the universal God and King.

3. The poet concludes declaring that Yahweh is King over the Nations, and all kings of the earth BELONG TO Yahweh. Psalm 47:8-9.
     a. The poet declares that Yahweh is KING over the nations. He SITS on his holy heavenly throne. 47:8.
     b. The poet declares that the princes of the nations gather as the people of Yahweh, "the God of Abraham," because the shields [a symbol of kings] of the earth BELONG TO Yahweh whether they realize this or not. Yahweh alone is highly exalted above all kings and nations and the earth. 47:9.

What a great encouragement and assurance. Trust in Yahweh alone.

Share YOUR beliefs and concerns and ideas and problems and setbacks with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Emotional Aspects of the Heart concerning Eating and Drinking--XVII

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.

1. Eating.
    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,
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.

2. Drinking.
   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,
          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.

Share YOUR experiences and thoughts and anxieties and fears and concerns with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis