Sibindi - The Liver

Biblical Anatomy Part 3 - The Liver

We keep on moving further and deeper into the anatomical world living and breathing inside the pages of the Bible. Regardless of whatever english version you may have there in front of you, beit in your lap or on the dusty shelf over there, when we do get to the point of actually reading Scripture in our modern translations (the primary language today being english, but this is relevant to all languages), we tend miss a great deal of nuances and tidbits that are very much present in the original language. Xhosa, and Bantu languages in general, are very good examples of this, Hebrew, being nothing more than a carrier language and a close relative to Arabic, struggles just as much as english to get inherent and cultural meanings transferred back over again to the preferred language of the day. I know, very confusing, regardless of the confusion, this becomes especially true when using the different word describing the parts of the human body.


Reflecting on Part I this study, we first looked at the heart (ntliziyo), how it connects and acts as the mind, the seat of your thoughts, then in Part II we had a closer look at the kidneys (izintso) and their connection to the emotions. Moving on, we shall examine the liver (sibindi).

Chances are you may not have checked the number of times and the different places the liver is mentioned in Scripture, and too be honest, not that many do know much at all about why the organ is being mentioned in the first place, or indeed its relevant function(s). People rely solely on wikipedia medicine in trying to understand how their liver operates, on a platonic level... You follow? There is way more to this than mets the eye.


And if people did take an active interest in trying to understand some of the so-called metaphysical aspects, now long forgotten, they would most certainly begin the process of helping the liver to cope better, perhaps by staying away from certain types of food, not overeating, not eating at a late hour or cutting back on wrong fats and alcohol. And staying away from harlots and women that are after your courage and honour, aka your liver. Ok, so I might have lost you there. Anyways, the liver is indeed mentioned enough in Scripture for us to make a study of it, both in terms of cognates; related words, Xhosa culture and its context.


If we break down this African word, it is often associated with boldness and fearlessness, straight up courage, you could even say `He`s got liver` (unesibindi), not scared to take on a problem or facing a situation. If you look up in the concordances, you will find that the word `sibindi` occurs (with the exceptions where the scribes have managed to mistranslate or misinterpret with the word heart), about 14 times in the Old Books of the Bible. Only 3 of these refer to the liver being used in animal sacrifices, then again we want to be further than the physical aspects of the word. To do this, we need to chart the other mentioning of the word in the Good Book :)


Lamentations 2,11:


`Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city.`


`Amehlo am aphela ziinyembezi, ziyabila izibilini zam, Isibindi sam siphalalele emhlabeni, ngenxa yokwaphuka kwentombi yabantu bakowethu, Ngokutyhafa kwabantwana, nabasemabeleni, ezitratweni zomzi.`

Proverbs 7,23:


`Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.` (KJV)

`Njengentaka ikhawulezela esibatheni; Ingazi ukuba oko kuyingozi kumphefumlo wayo, Lude utolo lusicande isibindi sakhe.`

`As a bird hastens to the snare; I do not know that that's dangerous to her soul, till the dream breaks her courage (sibindi).` (direct translation from Xhosa)


From the two verses above, it is rather easy to glean the underlying intended meaning, with what we discussed above (boldness of the liver). However, after further examining the word (isibindi), lets go back to these verses and see if we can't reveal some deeper truths. For now lets look at a third verse, to get some culture and history of the word itself. The boldness and fearlessness of the liver has been established as being a possibility, the liver is also the bodys largest organ know today. How was the liver viewed then, as an organ, in the ancient days?


Ezekiel 21,21, does give us a few clues:


`For the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination: he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver.`

`Kuba ukumkani waseBhabheli umise ekwahlukaneni kweendlela, emantloko eendlela zombini, ukuze ahlabe isihlabo; uhlukuhla iintolo, ubuza kwimilondekhaya, ukhangela esibindini.`

It is up for debate wether this divination technique actually does work, thats not the point though is it? I mean, we are told not to use theses methods of trying to figure out things of the future, for information or personal gain. One of the reasons for us to stay away from these things as believers, is that there are beings in the heavenly realms that (still) has certain levels of access, but demands specific tributes to divulge information to the seeking diviner.

On the right is a sheep's liver with Etruscan inscriptions. It sure is detailed BS, though very real to them that believe this stuff. Needless to say, these practices are well-attested in ancient African cultic practices, and when Ezekiel mentions them, he is talking about the different forms of divination and sorcery available to the Babylonians. Shaking arrows, seeking the counsel of household idols made from wood or stone, resembling a Terafi (a kind of shrunken head), and examination of the animal entrails, are the most common ones practised back in the day. Lets look at some more Scriptural contexts.


Lamentations 2,11, lets us know:


`Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured upon the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people; because the children and the sucklings swoon in the streets of the city.`

`Amehlo am aphela ziinyembezi, ziyabila izibilini zam, Isibindi sam siphalalele emhlabeni, ngenxa yokwaphuka kwentombi yabantu bakowethu, Ngokutyhafa kwabantwana, nabasemabeleni, ezitratweni zomzi.`

Now, whether you are familiar with ancient African (and adopted Semitic, Near Eastern religious practices), just pagan practices in general really, the task of sorting through the dead animals (and sometimes humans, yeah cringe) entrails and organs is actually called haruspex or hepatomancy (haruspicy). And became widespread due mostly to the Etruscans and the Romans, though also a common theme among Babylonians and the Hittites.

Essentially, the dead animal was sacrificed by the diviner (haruspector or hepatomancer), and its liver was thusly examined. And upon closer inspection, the diviner would look for signs and messages within the liver, that the diviner believed (he or she) would tell them about a persons illness or other prepared questions for the session. A session could sound like this, a young girl becomes ill, nobody knows why, modern medicine or naturopaths can't seem to give any answers or make her better. Then the parents of the young girl calls upon the diviner (The Baru, Heptomancer or whatever). A goat is promptly sacrificed and its liver gets examined and considered according to its condition, certain paths of the veins, size, shape and colour, all play a part in this divining. Then the Baru (diviner) tells parents which treatment to try (probably some lions fat or tear of a breastfeeding donkey, or something like that), to be used after the interpretation of what the liver told the diviner. Sounds strange, to me anyways...

Moving on, and in trying to unravel what kind of (level of) sin this really is, and why the phrase `arrows through your liver (aka your courage)`, is so profound. We must consider what we have learned thus far. For just as the heart (ntliziyo) is the seat of the mind (Part I), and the kidneys (zintso) are the seat of the emotions (Part II), the liver (sibindi) is the seat of the courage and in many ways, your honour or even glory. If we look back to the verses from earlier, from Lamentations and Proverbs, your liver can get pierced by a dart or by arrows. This is given to us by the Prophet Jeremiah, while watching impending doom and destruction of Jerusalem and the Great Temple, he sees the courage of Israel itself being poured out on the earth. He is not speaking about his heart (mind), nor the kidneys (emotions), but that of his courage, his liver (isibindi sakhe), being poured out.

The point is, that in Proverbs 7, we find the chapter that should strike fear into most young men, we meet the dreaded harlot and her ways are laid out in great detail the the Ways of the Harlot. This entire chapter is about adultery and about the adulteress, her ways, how she seeks, seduces and draws away the hearts and minds, stealing the courage of unsuspecting men. Reading the context from verse 5 and on through the end of the chapter shows how she works, in fact the opposite of how the female character from the wisdom books operates, she is subtile, the adulteress is loud. Wisdom is full of joy, the adulteress brings the opposite in sadness, even death. The adulteress waits until her husband leaves, sits outside and waits for the young man that passes by, before she seduces him with her words.


Verse 22 goes like this:


`He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks;`

`22 Wamlandela ke ngesiquphe, Njengenkomo isiya ekuxhelweni, Njengesimathane sisiya kuqinwa ngamakhamandela,`

So, following the adulteress the young man goes, as an ox goes to the slaughter, as a fool stepping into a noose. Following her does indeed lead to death. Most of us think this in a sense of a physical death, but this implies a spiritual death, which believe it or not is actually worse.


Verse 23 goes on:


`Till a dart (arrow) strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.`

`23 Njengentaka ikhawulezela esibatheni; Ingazi ukuba oko kuyingozi kumphefumlo wayo, Lude utolo lusicande isibindi sakhe.`

There is that arrow and it strikes through the young mans liver. What is this? Is this to be taken literal and then physical, or is this yet another metaphor and being of spiritual nature? Or is it both. The deeper lesson here is that going into the offered lustful attraction lead on by the adulteress leads to spiritual death. It leads to the destruction of a mans honour and courage, and even his glory.

So, whats Paul gotta say about all this?


1. Corintihans 6,18-20:


`Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.` (NKJV)

`Wubalekeni umbulo. Zonke izono athe umntu wazenza, zingaphandle komzimba; ke lowo wenza umbulo, wona owakhe umzimba. Anazi na, ukuba umzimba wenu uyitempile yoMoya oyiNgcwele ongaphakathi kwenu, eninaye evela kuThixo; nokuba ke aningabenu? Kuba nathengwa ngexabiso. Mzukiseni ke uThixo ngomzimba wenu nangomoya wenu, izinto ezizezikaThixo ezo.`

Notice Paul connects sexual sin with a sin against the Temple, so then if the temple (your body) is the house of glory or even So NiNi`s glory. But that might be another topic altogether. From proverbs 7 we see that sexual sin destroy the liver of man, can we assume a parallel here? Between the temple (your body) and your glory/honour (liver). Perhaps this is a reach and nothing here, it does seem to be a connection between sexual sin and the loss of courage, honour and glory.


Take King David, his sexual sins resulted in his household being severely punished, one of his sons Amnon raped his daughter Tamar, and Absalom (the one with hair weighing several pounds) murdered his half-brother (Amnon), and then tried to usurp the throne, then his nephew (Joab) killed Absalom, then Solomon had to kill his brother for the throne, etc., So, David did loose honour and glory as a result of sexual sin with his encounter with Bathsheba, and his son Solomon also lost honour and glory because of sexual sin(s), the man had several hundred wives and more than enough concubines. This eventually lead him astray. And despite having the greatest kingdom in the World and the time, the kingdom of peace, this was lost after his death and torn to pieces. This happened because he let his sexual sins (his multiple wives and concubines) lead his heart astray, meaning he built altars to other gods in high places.

So then, we may connect honour and glory to the liver, just as the mind and thoughts are connected to the heart, and emotions to the kidneys. And you can just as easily ruin the liver, as you can harbour evil thoughts of the heart or have frightened and worried kidneys. The destruction of the liver is something seen far to often in the modern, especially western, societies where spirits and alcohol are frequently used in social gatherings. One of the leading causes of complete liver failure is alcoholism, or something called cirrhosis. This gets very interesting when we correlated this study, in regards to words such as courage and honour. Name one drunkard that has his honour intact. If you ask what the opposite of honour might be, most people would say shame. And it is, the opposite of honour and glory is shame and dishonour. It does stand to reason that those things that damage the liver (both physical and spiritual), damage the honour and inherent glory a precious and healthy liver has.

Drunkenness and alcoholism does indeed bring shame and dishonour, it destroys the liver physically and spiritually. Observe Noah in Genesis 9, he became drunk on his own wine and was shamed by his son Ham. So the sins in the physical harm us physically, the sins in the spiritual harms us in spirit.


In closing, Hahakkuk 2,15-16, may shed some light on this:


“Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbour, Pressing him to your bottle, Even to make him drunk,That you may look on his nakedness! You are filled with shame instead of glory. You also—drink! And be exposed as uncircumcised! The cup of So NiNi`s right hand will be turned against you, And utter shame will `be on your glory`." (NKJV)

`Yeha, wena useza ummelwane wakho, usongezelela ubushushu bakho kuye, umnxilisa nokumnxilisa, ukuze ubondele ubuze bakhe! Uya kuhluthiswa ngocukucezo, kungabi luzuko; sela nawe, kubonakale ukungaluki kwakho. Iya kujikela kuwe indebe yesokunene isandla sika So NiNi, ucukucezo olukhulu lube phezu kozuko lwakho.`

Interesting turn of phrase right, shame will be on your glory... No trace of sibindi here, still, its an interesting turn of phrase. And it does help to build up the case against adultery and the liver being the centre of courage and honour, so very precious and plays a vital part of his internal being. So, in rounding up, all of the internal organs in the body, the liver is actually one of the few that (in human beings) is capable of naturally regenerate massive amounts of tissue. Meaning as little as 25% can regenerate into a whole liver (this is function and not form, meaning it will not get as big as the previous liver, but will operate just as well as a normal sized liver). Strange but true :)


Up next, we will discuss the breath or more specific, the Nose



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