The Sacrifices of God: the Broken Heart in the Psalms
The term “broken heart” appears seven times in the Old Testament. It is notable that four of the seven occurrences are in the Psalms. The phrase is included in three Davidic psalms (34, 51, 69) and one untitled psalm (147). Each of these psalms expresses the broken heart in a slightly different way. This paper will demonstrate that the broken heart is a specialized term embedded in the Psalms’ narrative of repentance and forgiveness. In order to elucidate this phrase, this paper will first examine the concept of the Hebrew word לֵב (“heart”). It will note correlations as well as divergences from the English concept of “heart.” It will do this by exploring the key aspects of the לֵב—that is, the physical heart, as well as concepts of the intellect, emotion, and will. While doing so, this paper will especially examine the usage of לֵב in the Hebrew book of Psalms. The latter portion of this paper will then examine the psalms which express the idiom “brokenhearted.” In order to fill in the gaps and provide a clearer picture of the penitent sinner’s thoughts, feelings, and motives, this paper will also examine additional penitential psalms where there are significant similarities.