Home > Hermeneutics > The first mention of “man’s heart” in scripture

The first mention of “man’s heart” in scripture

THE first time that center of man’s moral nature—the heart—is mentioned in the Scriptures we have an infallible forecast of all later teaching thereon. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Remarkably full is the outline here furnished us. Observe first the words “and God saw,” intimating that He alone is fully conversant with this inward spring from which proceed the issues of life.

Second, that it is upon the same His eyes are fixed: “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Third, that what is here said of man’s heart is explanatory of his wicked conduct: since the fount itself be foul, filthy must be the streams flowing therefrom.

Fourth, that man’s heart is now radically evil, and that continually, being “deceitful [the Hebrew word is rendered “crooked” in Isaiah 40:4, and “polluted” in Hosea 6:8]… and “desperately [incurably] wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9); out of which, as Christ declared, proceed all the abominations committed by fallen man (Mark 7:21-23).

Fifth, that the “heart” equals the whole of the inner man, for the marginal rendering of “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart” is “the purposes and desires,” and thus it is not only the seat of his thought, but that of his affections and will.

“And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth” (Genesis 6:6, 7).

This is the initial reference to repentance, and though its language be indeed metaphorical—for by a figure of speech (anthropopathia) the Lord ascribes to Himself human feelings—yet it contains all the essential elements thereof. First it is striking to find that this grace is here attributed not to the creature, but to the Creator, telling us that repentance originates not in one whose mind is enmity against God and whose heart is hard as a stone, but is a Divine gift (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25), wrought in him by the Holy Spirit. Second, that repentance has sin for its object. for it is the wickedness of men which is here said to make Jehovah repent. Third, its nature is clearly defined: as a change of mind (God’s repenting that He had made man) and a grief of heart. Fourth, that the genuineness of repentance is evidenced by reformation, or an alteration of conduct, a resolve to undo (as far as is humanly possible) that which is sorrowed over—seen in the Lord’s decision to destroy man from off the face of the earth.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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