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IZintso - The Kidneys

Updated: May 19, 2019


Xhosa Anatomy Part II - The Kidneys

In Part 1 of these Xhosa anatomy series, we looked at the Heart (ntliziyo) and how this part of the body is described in the Bible. This study proved without a shadow of doubt that the word we have come to know in english, the mind, is in fact the human heart. The place where our thoughts come from. Strange huh?


In Part II, we will be taking a closer look at the kidneys and how they are so very much more than a regulatory organ and a secretor of waste. Turns out, things doesn't really work like that... Too simple !

Before we kick off, lets find some descriptions of the word zintso in Xhosa (kilyah in Hebrew, again - if your into carrier languages). What is interesting about the word itself (zintso) is its associations to ethical behaviour and there is also a Xhosa term used for unethical communities `kwa ntso nganyanwana` which means `kidneys for little feet`.

Zintso (izintso) is a fascinating word not only because you can find it all over Levicitus, phrases that proved increasingly hard to translate or even put into context, even in the Hebrew scrolls (the carrier language) over to latin, greek or english, without doing some serious damage to the readers good senses.

Like Ben Sira said in his prologue:

`You are invited therefore to read it with good will and attention, with indulgence for any failure on our part, despite earnest efforts, in the interpretation of particular passages. For words spoken originally in Xhosa (originally a Bantu language) do not have the same effect when they are translated into another language. That is true not only of this book but of the Law itself, the prophecies, and the rest of the books, which differ no little when they are read in the original.`

Words of wisdom indeed and the language Ben Sira was talking about, which has been translated Hebrew was more than likely a similar one to that of the African Bantu languages, like Xhosa or Zulu, some of the oldest languages in the world. Back to the kidneys, easy to find in Scripture because they often come in plural, and rarely `a kidney` but more than often a pair of kidneys (zintso).


Most of the scriptural references that pertain to the kidneys does very often involve sacfricifes, found in Exodus 29, Leviticus 3; 4; 7; 8 & 9, all have references in them placing the kidneys in a strictly sacrificial context. However the word for kidneys implicate greater depths and does hint at these organs as having a mind of their own.

Psalm 73,21:

`Thus my heart (mind) was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.`

`Ukuba ndithe ndabindeka intliziyo, Ndahlabeka ezintsweni,`

The word very often translated in the english version is, just as the above `reins` (also within, in some translations), these reins are - you guessed it - its actually the kidneys. The word ezintsweni, which means King David was saying his heart was embittered and he was pierced in his kidneys. Why the kidneys?

To be certain there are a few references to the heart and kidneys both being tried and or tested (Psalm 7,9; 26,2). But why does David mention the kidneys? In part II we came to the understanding that the heart is the seat of the mind, where thoughts and intentions come from. In a similar fashion, the kidneys are the seat of emotion.

Proverb 23,16:

`Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.`

`Zidlamke izintso zam Ekuthetheni komlomo wakho okuthe tye.`

The phrase innermost being used in many english translations, is often rendered as reins or even your innermost being, zintso (kilyah or kilyot), aka the kidneys. In your `innermost being` you can feel a great joy, felt inside the actual place of the kidneys, a place where you also (obviously) can feel emotion. A fact which is very easy to see in translators choice of words in :

Jeremiah 11,20:

`But, So NiNi wemikhosi hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins (kidneys) and the heart (mind), let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause.`

`So NiNi wemikhosi, ugwebayo ngobulungisa, uzicikidayo izintso nentliziyo, mandiyibone impindezelo yakho kubo; ugokuba ndiyityhilile kuwe imbambano yam nabo.`

With great leaps in the modern medical field, we now know some of them kidneys function. They make sure the body is in homeostasis, which means they regulate acid-base (pH) and maintaining fluid balances, regulating and filtering minerals (electrolytes) from the blood, also filtering waste materials from food, medications and toxic substances, created hormones that produce red blood cells, bone health, blood pressure, etc, etc. So it goes without saying there is allot going on in these two little bean shaped sacks, resting just next to your upper-lower spine, like this...


Now the kidneys seem to be able to accomplish all these tasks by essentially filtering, secreting and then absorbing what the body needs to be able to function. No small feat, you gotta admit. This means that the kidneys literally are vessels in themselves, who's main function is to regulate and keep the body in balance. They also produce hormones such as calcitriol (a very specific hormone that aids the body to take up calcium for production of red blood cells) and renin (a key component in management of blood pressure). Now these are pure physical aspects, and are nonetheless but descriptions of such. Now we move into the way more interesting part, the emotional.

Like its given physical descriotion (in english), the kidney seems to be a `vessel` for emotions. If you include the handful of Scriptures that show our hearts and mind are indeed to be tried (Psalm 7,9 & 26,2). However, if heart and mind are both reflected in ntliziyo and zintso, like we established in Part II, how do we read the verses like the below?

Leviticus 3,1-4:

`And if his oblation be a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the So NiNi. And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron's sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about. And he shall offer of the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire unto the So NiNi; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, And the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away. `

`Ke ukuba umsondezo wakhe ungumbingelelo woxolo: ukuba uwusondeza ungowasezinkomeni, nokuba yeliduna, nokuba yelithokazi, wolisondeza ligqibelele phambi koYehova. Maze acinezele entlokweni yomsondezo wakhe ngesandla sakhe, awuxhelele emnyango wentente yokuhlangana; oonyana baka-Aron, ababingeleli, balitshize igazi bajikelezise esibingelelweni; asondeze ukudla kwasemlilweni kuYehova, ethabathe embingelelweni woxolo; umhlehlo ogubungele izibilini, namanqatha onke asezibilinini, nezintso zombini, nenqatha lazo, nelisemihlubulweni, nomhlehlo ophezu kwesibindi, ewususa ngasezintsweni. `

So the heart expresses the mind and the intentions, the kidneys expresses the emotions, to have these then tested or tried - is not only to have your mind and intentions tried, but also your innermost emotions. I dont normally include academical quotes from hebrew or even christian scholars, unless they are on to something (which they sadly rarely are, regurgitating what they learned at university).

However, Germans Carl F. Keil (1807-88) and Franz Delitzsch (1813-90) in their monstrous commentary on Leviticus 4, accurately do state (Keil & Delitzsch, 1975):

`....the kidneys, which were regarded as the seat of the tenderest and deepest emotions, can only have set forth the better part or inmost kernel of the man.`

Indeed they were right. So then the best examples and descriptions of kidneys are found in the Books of Moses, and verses such as the above and said elaboration goes back to the sacrifices offered according to the Old Testaments ways described in great detail in Leviticus (3rd Book of Moses).


In the next article, we will be taking a closer look at the Liver (sibindi), but for now we will make the last efforts to understand the kidneys and how they can be pierced.


Note from the layout given in Leviticus, that all the organs are to be removed, entrails, kidneys, the lobe of the liver were requirements. Is this symbolic of something? Well, off course. The Most High is very specific for a reason. Now follow this, if the body of the sacrifice is a representation of us, then the kidneys of the sacrifice is representative of our most tender and deepest emotions. You follow? Its symbolises you devotion and innermost feelings for your Creator, for some this seems backward and barbaric, personally I find it beautiful. Though, everyone who has read their Bible knows well enough that mercy is desired, before sacrifice (Hosea 6,6).

So, essentially the kidneys represent the deepest emotions of the soul, our very being. When David then speaks of being pierced in his kidneys, he speaks of an emotional pain in the innermost part. Just think about Proverbs 23, which states that our kidneys rejoice when that is right is spoken. Also, according to David, our kidneys teach us in the night... Which I find immensely interesting.

If you are a believer of some kind, assuming you are, this is very easy to hold up as a mirror on the self, reflect then on your emotional struggles, anger, sadness, resentment, fear, depression, joy, etc. These are emotions we all feel, even sturdy believers. They just dont show it all the time, they do most likely feel even more than your average and careless sinner. But thats another topic all-togheter. This one, is difficult enough to understand the outlines of, and even, as we discuss further down below, even harder to grasp in depth.

Our emotions are the part of us that makes us human, the parts that are hardest to bring into submission, the hardest to control and difficult to live with. But then again, would you give up anger for reconciliation? Would you loose both grief and joy? I wouldn't.

Believers are indeed works in progress, but emotions can be swayed with help of The Almighty, if they are submitted in a life chosen to serve rather than to be served. If anyone needs directions in life or anger management control, I would personally recommend Ben Sira or Wisdom of Solomon.

So NiNI does indeed test and try our minds (the things we intend or manifest, and go out in the world to do). However He also test and tries our emotions (our feelings, wether we want to or not).

If we want that crown of glory in the forever hereafter, we have to be fully submitted to the Almighty Father, uBawu So NiNi na NiNi.

Uxolo lube nani