The “Kidneys” and the “Heart” in the Scriptures
THE literal kidneys represent a region of the body lower than the fleshly heart. According to one of the definitions, the kidneys are the seat of human feelings, affections and passions. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary links the kidneys with the person’s “temperament.”* At Revelation 2:23 the resurrected, glorified Jesus Christ says: “I am he who searches the kidneys and hearts, and I will give to you individually according to your deeds.” (See also Jeremiah 11:20, footnote, NW, Reference Bible.) The kidneys and the heart are different organs of the body and are in different locations. The physical kidneys are lower down in the body than the physical heart. These also have different reactions to different stimuli. These reactions would signify something. Thus such reactions could be read or observed as denoting different qualities that indicate what sort of person the searched individual is. Is one’s literal heart moved to beat faster or, as it were, to grow cold? Are his kidneys stimulated to function at an unusual time and in an odd manner? The Searcher of the hearts and kidneys is able to interpret such reactions and more thoroughly understand the person, as to what sort of kidney he is.
At Psalm 16:6-8 the composer David writes: “The measuring lines themselves have fallen for me in pleasant places. Really, my own possession has proved agreeable to me. I shall bless Jehovah, who has given me advice. Really, during the night my kidneys have corrected me. I have placed Jehovah in front of me constantly. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be made to totter.” How, in fact, did David’s kidneys correct him during the nights when he would be awake? Well, if David had had any misgivings as to Jehovah’s attitude toward him, what sort of person he really was, his figurative kidneys would give him a correct assessment of Jehovah’s purpose toward him. That is why David went on to say: “For you will not leave my soul in Sheol. You will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.”—Psalm 16:10.
Of course, David will have a resurrection from the grave, or Sheol, in Jehovah’s due time; but, under inspiration on the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the apostle Peter applied Psalm 16:10 to Jesus Christ, Peter saying at Acts 2:25-28: “For David says respecting him, ‘I had Jehovah constantly before my eyes; because he is at my right hand that I may never be shaken. On this account my heart became cheerful and my tongue rejoiced greatly. Moreover, even my flesh will reside in hope; because you will not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you allow your loyal one to see corruption. You have made life’s ways known to me, you will fill me with good cheer with your face.’”
The cheerful heart enlivened the psalmist David, and likewise the cheerful heart made the earthly life of David’s great antitype, Jesus Christ, active. The natural heart also affects the body, just as Proverbs 14:30 says: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.” The heart of the Greater David, Jesus Christ, could remain calm with a steady heartbeat and blood flow even under provocative circumstances, yes, under persecution and physical mistreatment, up until the time of his impalement. It was only then that he died of a broken heart.—Psalm 69:20.
At Hebrews 4:12 it is stated that “the word of God . . . is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This signifies that “the heart” is the thing that induces and motivates the thoughts and intentions, which are discerned by “the word of God.”
Regarding “kidney,” see also The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary; The Concise Oxford Dictionary; The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (Unabridged); The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language; Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language.