I recently chose to do a word study based on Psalm 51:10. That passage of scripture states, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me”. This was chosen because it is part of my daily prayer life. It also has significance from my childhood as the first time I heard it is when we were singing it. It is also derived from the Hebrew word lebab that also means heart or inner.
The word for heart in this passage is what will be examined. In Hebrew the word is leb and used a total of 593 times in the Old Testament. The amount of times that the word is used points to its significance . What is interesting in this word is the variance of meaning that it provides in English. The main way it is used here is for heart as it is used that way 509 times. However it can also mean mind, friendly, understanding, well, care, or wisdom.
As with all things in scripture one has to deduce the best meaning by the context of the passage. In this case “heart” best fits the passage for a couple reasons. In the ancient world the heart was considered to the center of man and was also used figuratively as it was seen as the center of feelings and emotion. We can see this from one of the other english meanings such as wisdom. In this case King David is repenting and asking the Lord for forgiveness and for his soul to be cleansed. He is asking for his heart to be renewed and to focus on the Lord.
1. Roden, Chet. Elementary Biblical Hebrew. (Cognella Academic Publishing, San Diego:), 56.