Understanding The Word lev, לב In The Ancient Semitic Languages

The Hebrew word often translated “heart” is the word lev, לב. Although lev is frequently translated as “heart,” it should be rendered “mind.”  This information is actually very important for accurate reading of many Biblical texts. Based upon personal conversations with Dr. Eldon Clem on numerous occasions we learned what he called a linguistic fact.  Quoting him, “In all Semitic languages without exception, lev means mind.” Dr. Eldon Clem, a professor of ancient Semitic languages, heads the Semitic Languages Department at the Jerusalem University College. He continued to explain that when reading a text, if the context is speaking of the physical organ that pumps blood, then lev is to be translated as heart.  In any other context, lev means mind and this is true in all the Semitic languages. The Hebrew language is part of the Semitic language family, specifically the North West Semitic Branch.

In recent advances of neuroscience there is a fascinating discovery about the organ of the human heart. The discovery is that there are neurons in the heart that connect to the brain.  So it seems now that the mind of man exists within both the brain and the heart as two organs together.  When our Creator speaks to us using the word lev לב, He is directing us to understand how important it is within His design to pay attention to the thoughts of our mind. What we are thinking in any one moment of time, has a huge role in how we are experiencing that moment and how we will live within that moment of time. The MBT Academy provides a place to explore The Torah together with many facets of the design of the mind and emotions within the Creator’s design of man as nephesh chayya.  The MBT Academy is a special design of learning. Instead of traditional courses of study, we have what we call Sitting Rooms.  Each module of learning is designed for you to spend significant time sitting within settings of Timeless Torah Truths and to think carefully within The Written Word. MBT is an Academy by this definition:

An Academy is a place of study or training in a special field. Our field of Study is Timeless Torah Truths, which help us to re-discover the humanity that God created humanity to be. How do we know who we are as His children? In today’s world, our understanding of humanity has drifted far from what God describes it to be in His Word — far from the humanity that He created humanity to be. We have also drifted far from the human relationships that God created from the beginning.

An Academy is an institution that aims to promote and maintain standards in its particular field. This is exactly what MBT Academy is. We seek to promote and to maintain accuracy in handling Torah text to rediscover the foundations of our Faith. In so doing, we will rediscover the foundations of human relationships. 

When God created man, He called us nephesh chayya, which is a living being as a whole living being. We are created to live as the wholeness that we were created to be. A life living exactly as that life is created to live.  Living according to created design in the wholeness of that design. In the Sitting Rooms of The MBT Academy, there is an exploration within some aspects of living according to created design, in the wholeness of that design. Understanding the human brain within that design gives profound insight into the passages of scripture where we find the word lev לב.

For you to consider in this discussion of the translation of lev, we include here an example of when the translators put mind and heart in the same verse:

Psalm 26:2

Examine me, O LORD, test me; refine my heart and my mind.

The Hebrew here is my kilyot and my lev.

kilyot are kidneys.

In this verse the translators want to translate kilyot (kidneys) as something other than kidneys. They then accurately translate lev as mind which is correct and they translate  kilyot (kidneys) as heart. In this way they can say:

Examine me, O LORD, test me; refine my heart and my mind.

An accurate translation of Psalm 26:2 is:

Examine me, O LORD, test me; refine my kidneys and my mind.

The Hebrew at the beginning of Psalm 26:2 is bachaneini (בְּחָנֵנִי), from the word bachan (ָבחן) and is translated as “examine me”   

This Hebrew word is sometimes used in the refining process of metals.

There is a second word in this verse that is related to the first one, not linguistically, but conceptually. It is naseini (נַסֵּנִי), from the word nasah (נסה). It has been used to speak of testing to give experience or to ascertain something.

Near the end of the verse is yet a third word related conceptually and actually used as a synonym to the first word. It is tzerufah (צרופה), from the word tzaraf (צרף) usually translated “to burn,” but carries the idea of burning metal in order to refine it, to refine or smelt metal and is a synonym to the first word. 

Here in Psalm 26:2, we have an example of when the translators don’t want to say kidneys and mind so here they translate lev as mind and kidneys as heart.

Why does our Creator, our Father have in this verse kidneys and mind?

This is one of the things we will explore in the Sitting Rooms of the MBT Academy.

We will find insights into this question during the exploration of the instructions for korbanot, commonly translated sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus.

Understanding the role of korbanot within the tefilah of the children of God, we can see clearly why our Creator our Father words Psalm 26:2 in the way that He does!

He means exactly what He says!

Examine me, O LORD, test me; refine my kidneys and my mind.

We will introduce you to these concepts in the MBTA Sitting Rooms that explore our Creator, our Father’s design in the korbanot and The Family House.

The korbanot are commonly referred to as sacrifices and The Sacrificial System.

We prefer to use the Hebrew korban and korbanot.

Our reason is tied up within the common understandings among most people when they hear or read the word sacrifice.  All of us learn words within how the words are used in the contexts of our environments.  How we learn to know a word then becomes part of our assumptions about the meaning of that word. There are many words that God uses in His Written Word which have meanings that are very specific to what it is that He is communicating to us as His Creation, and as His children.  Often our understanding of words that He is using leads us to very different impressions of what it is that we think He is writing to us. This very often leads us to mis-understandings about who He is and what it is that He is saying to us. Usually people read Him as having many requirements for us in our relating to Him. And this is consistent with how we know people in our lives who have many requirements of us in our relationships with them.  Abba does have certain requirements that are the nature of Covenant Relationships, but how He words His instructions to us is very precious if we know how to read it accurately.  The explorations that we take within the MBT Academy, lead us on a journey to begin to see more clearly the ways that Abba communicates with us so that we can know His Character more truly to who He is. As we begin to see Him more truly to who He is, we are being transformed by the renewing of our mind in how we know Him and how we know ourselves. It is in this transformation that we begin to experience the joy that we are created to know! That we are created to live!

If you are not yet enrolled as a student of MBT Academy, we warmly invite you to come explore with us.