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Bible Body Metaphors: The Heart

"The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

First Mention of Heart in the Bible

Genesis 6:5-6 is the first mention of the heart - man and God in the Bible. It is a sad commentary on the state of man: "every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart."


The heart is used metaphorically to describe being human (in Bible language as flesh or body) and personality or character.

Asaph writes in Psalm 73:26, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever". 

Speaking about moral qualities is spoken about in Psalm 131:1 where David writes,  "O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me". 

Eliab accuses David his youngest brother of displaying wickedness when he says,  "I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”

God through the mouth of Isaiah the prophet declares in regards to the follow of idol worship, "He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray"  (Isaiah 44:20)

Again God comments through Jeremiah the prophet that, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind" (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

We are called to "seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut 4:29) and "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deut 6:5).

Thought, Intellect and Memory

According to the idiom of the Bible, thinking is a function of the heart. 

Asaph the psalmist writes in Psalm 77:6, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search". 

Silent prayer to God is described often as in the heart. For example,

"Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard" (1 Samuel 1:13).

"But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). 


The heart is often used to denote the origins of emotions. 

God in conversation with Moses says about the joy Aaron would experience, "Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart" (Exodus 4:14).

We are warned not to “hate your brother in your heart" (Leviticus 19:17).

Fear is expressed as "hearts melt" when describing the emotion of the children of Israel when viewing "the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God" promised them (Deut 1:28).

The heart is descried as the centre of desire, both negative and positive. Negative in relationship to the incident of Shechem (Genesis 34:3,8) and positive by David as he wrote in Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart".

Intent or Will

Jesus reminds us that "what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false  witness, slander" (Matthew 15:19). Pharaoh is a classic example, being described as having a "hard heart" when it comes to his determination not to let the children of Israel leave Egypt (Exodus 4:14, 21; 7:3; 8:15).

It's not all doom and gloom. God commends those "every man whose heart moves him" to make a gift to Him in Exodus 25:2. 

God's Heart

Genesis 6:6 notes that the "Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart."

Hosea 11:8-9 notes "My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man". 

Interested in a Remedy for Spiritual Heart Disease?

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:9-11).

"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" (Psalm 139:23-24) 

"God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:8-9).

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Inspired by the Bible Class by I Prentice and the entry for Heart in the book "Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: An Encyclopaedic Exploration Of The Images, Symbols, Motifs, Metaphors, Figures Of Speech, Literary Patterns And Universal Images Of The Bible" 

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