Hebrew Word For Heart: Lev

by | Feb 16, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

When conflicted about something, most people would advise you to “follow your heart” in reference to doing what feels right or good for you. In some cases, we can say we are speaking from the heart to show genuineness. However, following the heart can lead to disasters or tragic consequences. To better understand what the Old Testament meant by a heart, it’s best we look at the word in its original Hebrew language.

So, what’s the Hebrew word for heart?

The Hebrew word for heart is lev or levav. Biblically, the heart is the source of life and refers to the whole person, including their emotions, choices, thoughts, desires, and intelligence. So, to understand what the Bible says about the heart is to gain deeper insights into our human nature. The Bible mentions the heart approximately 1,000 times and says because it’s deceitful it needs to be circumcised or transformed.

Unraveling the Hebrew Word for Heart: Lev

The heart in Hebrew is pronounced levav or lev in a shorter form. Lev refers to what’s inside the body or our whole being. For instance, “I seek you with all my heart” or “I have hidden your word in my heart” (Psalm 119:10-11)

The pictograph of lev or the Hebrew word heart is composed of two letters: Lamed and Beyt. Lamed is a pictograph of staff representing authority, to protect, guide, disciple, the shepherd, or to urge forward. The pictograph of Beyt is a tent, house, or family representing an internal space or area that needs to be filled by entering. The biblical meaning of Beyt is more than just a shelter; it refers to what matters to the inside of a person or what matters the most.

What is the Meaning Of Heart in the Old Testament?

The Old Testament describes the heart as the center or core of a person in reference to their intuition, feeling, and emotion. The heart can reason, think, and feel strong emotions such as love, sympathy, joy, sadness, and hate.

The Scripture also tells us that God has the power to see what’s in our hearts and write things on it (Hebrews 8:10; Jeremiah 31:33). Wisdom is also found in the heart (Proverbs 14:33). That means it is where the Israelites discern between right and wrong. So, the heart is also responsible for intellect.

When the ancient Hebrew refers to Israelites’ hearts as uncircumcised, it means they are religiously stubborn. Apart from transforming hardened hearts into flesh, God wants to have a strong relationship with His people. That’s why He also made a covenant and declared, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Is “Follow Your Heart” Biblical Advice?

The Bible doesn’t tell us to “follow our heart.” It teaches us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).

We need to guard our hearts because the human heart is the most deceitful of all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Sinful behaviors come naturally to most of us because we naturally tend to sin. We are like sheep that have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6).

We may not understand our hearts, but God knows their secrets (Psalm 44:21). He is capable of changing hearts, but to do that, the Israelites were to obey the Lord with all their hearts and follow all His commands (Deuteronomy 30:1-6 ).  To be saved from sin, the heart must be changed, and we must be willing to love God with all our hearts.

What Does The Bible Say About The Heart?

The word heart can mean different things depending on the context. To some, the heart is the inner being or the core of our being that controls our will. According to the Bible, the heart is the source of life or from where everything we do flows (Proverbs 4:23). The heart is also the source of our emotions, desires, intentions, and innermost thoughts (Jeremiah 15:16; Proverbs 14:33).

The word heart in the Bible also embodies the mental or emotional core and the whole internal being. The Bible tells us we should love God with all our hearts and take delight in the Lord, and he will give us our hearts’ desires (Psalm 37:4; Mark 12:30-31).

David is called a man after God’s heart. He loved the Lord and was willing to obey His commands. Despite having God’s favor, David allowed his heart desires to win and he committed adultery and murder. These sins meant he fell short of the righteous life and standards God had set for Israelites. David eventually realizes his mistakes by saying, “For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.” He then asks God to “create in me a clean heart” (Psalm 51).

David recognizes that he cannot have a relationship with God if he is sinful because God is holy. The Bible also calls the heart deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). If we follow our hearts without filtering it with God’s word, it’s more likely to lead us to sin.

What is a Sinful Heart?

God helped the Israelites to conquer the Promised Land. But the Israelites became rebellious, and idolatrous and hardened their hearts against God’s laws. Because of their sins and disobedience, they were exiled.

God promises to save the Israelites (despite their sinful behaviors and disobedience) and replace their hardened hearts of stone with ones receptive to His love and guidance (Ezekiel 36:26). 

In this context, the “heart of stone” is a hardened or unrepentant heart that turns away from God’s commands and teachings. Sinful people do not believe in God (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). People often deny God exists because what He commands doesn’t align with their heart’s desires or the need to live a wicked life. 

Pharaoh could not listen to Moses and let the Israelites leave Egypt because his heart was hardened. A hardened heart is also uncircumcised because it doesn’t adhere to God’s covenant. Circumcision In the Old Testament was an outward sign of willingness to follow and obey God.

But, it is not enough to follow His covenant; the heart has to be circumcised as well (Jeremiah 9:25). A heart that turns from stone to flesh represents the transformation that occurs when people acknowledge their sins and return to God.


From the Hebrew word lev or levav, we learn that the heart is the core of everything we do. It represents our whole being and is associated with our thoughts, emotions, and intelligence. While the heart is the source of life, it’s also deceitful and wicked. Hence, it needs to be circumcised to meet God’s standards and to be right with Him.


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About: Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.
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Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.

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