das Herz – the heart
bildlich für Liebe, Seele, Güte [Source: Wiktionary]
a figurative symbol for love, the soul, and benevolence
Sprüche 4,23 Behüte dein Herz mehr als alles, was zu bewahren ist; denn von ihm aus sind die Ausgänge des Lebens.
Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
There are many verses about the heart in the Bible.
What is the heart?
I think it’s a difficult question to answer precisely, though we all have some general idea of what it should mean.
The definition above is still a rather handwavy one, although it is definitely the most appropriate one for the meaning that is in this verse, out of all those on Wiktionary.
It still doesn’t really answer the question of what the heart is.
I am going to use the definition, from on an article by Jon Bloom that I read not too long ago: It is the part of our inner being (soul) that is the source of our affections.
In German, what the verse literally says is that you should guard your heart more than any other thing. (In the original Hebrew, it says above all keeping.)
Somehow, I find that the translation to German makes it much clearer to me how much I ought to protect my heart, more so than the English “with all diligence”. (This is why I enjoy reading different translations, especially in different languages, because sometimes it helps to put a new perspective on things.)
When I read the words “with all diligence”, the word that stands out the most is “diligence”, when it really should have been “all”.
For the German translation, it is immediately clear that I need to safeguard my heart above all things.
What are the issues of life?
The German translation of die Ausgänge are many, the outcomes, the starting points, the beginning, the source…
It is this most likely this last definition that is the one that is intended.
The heart is the source of our affections.
In the gospel of Matthew, it tells us that the very nature and character of a person comes from his heart:
Matthew 12:34-35 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
Matthäus 12,34.35 Otternbrut! Wie könnt ihr Gutes reden, da ihr böse seid? Denn aus der Fülle des Herzens redet der Mund. Der gute Mensch bringt aus dem guten Schatze Gutes hervor, und der böse Mensch bringt aus dem bösen Schatze Böses hervor.
(This is mainly in verse 35, which I added emphasis to above. I included the preceding verse because of the context that it provides. In the German translation, verse 35 does not contain the word “heart”. Depending on the manuscript, this is sometimes present or absent in the Greek.)
Our hearts are the center, the source, that impacts every area of our lives.
It affects us profoundly, in the way we live, the way we act, the way we are.
It is so fundamental, and that is why it is something that we must guard, lest we go astray.
- behüten – to guard
- bewahren – to preserve, to safeguard