First we must establish the fact that human organs from a scientific standpoint were not mentioned in the Bible. The only time that organs were ever mentioned was when Yahweh was giving instruction for the ritual animal sacrifices. “He [Son of Aaron/Cohanim] is to present the sacrifice of the peace offerings as an offering made by fire to Yahweh; it is to consist of the fat covering the inner organs, all the fat above the inner organs, the two kidneys, the fat on them near the flanks, and the covering of the liver, which he will remove with the kidneys.” (Leviticus 3:3-4, CJB). So when a person’s heart is mentioned in the Bible, it is speaking metaphorically and not physically.
What then does the “heart” represent in Hebrew though? When the word “heart” was used in this passage, it was translated from the word lev or levav, which refers to a unit within the body that includes not only the heart, but also the kidneys and brain as well. It is basically the interior of the body or the innermost center of the human being. It metaphorically refers to the “core” of a person where he believes and exercises faith. It is the location of the human deliberation, where wisdom is utilized. Understanding is said to be the function of the mind (Job 38:36), yet it is not considered separate from the heart in operation. When specifically speaking about overwhelming emotion, the kidneys are isolated and given credit in this area, though again, they are not separated from the other parts of the unit. The heart is where a person discerns the difference between right and wrong. The heart is the center of man’s character or who he really is. It is the center of courage, emotions, and will. The closest word that expresses this idea is the word ego in Latin, meaning “I,” and translated by Freud to denote the “self.”
The Encyclopedia Judaica states: That somebody’s “heart” is sick means that he is grieving; that Israel’s “heart” is obstructed (older translations, regrettably, “uncircumcised”) signifies that it is religiously stubborn and intractable – cutting away the obstruction of Israel’s “heart” of course means making it religiously reasonable. So, too, that a man says something “in his heart” means that he says it to himself, or thinks it; that he is “wise of heart” means that he is intelligent or skillful. One who has no “heart” is a dolt.
Thus, when the Shema prayer was said and verses were committed to memory such as “you will love YHWH with all you heart and all your soul and all your mind”, the concept was that they would put YHWH’s laws and word into they’re inner being so that they would not forget it. Now let’s read the words of Yahushua in Matthew 12:34 with our new meaning of the word “heart”. “You snakes! How can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what overflows from the heart.” And in Luke 6:45, “The good person produces good things from the store of good in his heart, while the evil person produces evil things from the store of evil in his heart. For his mouth speaks what overflows from his heart.” It seems as if the heart is something like a garden, to be cultivated (please excuse my using a metaphor to explain a metaphor). We are responsible for seeds that are planted there and for producing good fruit. Work must be done so that our “insides” will be trained to guide us in the right direction.
In Western society, we see the heart and the brain as two separate components. Our heart is metaphorically the wellspring of emotion and intention, and the mind is a psyche that housed in the brain and is where logical and rationale is used. Perhaps the heart was credited to be the seat of emotions in the Western world, because often times as a result of experiencing extreme emotions (such as fear or love) we may actually feel something different in our chest. But this “skip of a heart beat” is nearly the effect of what we is being comprehended; we must first perceive or understand something that is going on before we feel the emotions related to the event. Grant it, this all happens fast.
And I close with this verse: “…and let the shalom which comes from the Messiah be your heart’s decision-maker, for this is why you were called to be part of a single Body. And be thankful -let the Word of the Messiah, in all its richness, live in you, as you teach and counsel each other in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude to Yahweh in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15-16, CJB).