BOWELS. In the KJV the word occurs thirty-six times and in three principal senses:

1. Literally (2Chr.21.15-2Chr.21.19; Acts.1.18).

2. As the generative parts of the body, whether male or female (Gen.15.4; Ps.71.6).

3. The seat of the emotions, as we use the word “heart.” See Lam.1.20 (asv, niv “heart”); Phil.1.8(asv “tender mercies”; niv “affection”).

In the NT the psychosomatic use was common, as represented by the Gr. word splanchnizomai, “to feel pity,” “be compassionate” (cf. Luke 10:33; Phil 1:8; 1 John 3:17). The KJV rendering “bowels of mercies” (Col 3:12) reflects metaphorical OT usage.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(me`ah, plural me`im, rechem, plural rachamim; splagchnion):

(1) Literal: The literal meaning of these words is intestines, then the abdomen, the womb (matrix and uterus). As will be seen there is not much definiteness in the use of these expressions from the standpoint of physiology; but not less so than in modern oriental languages and even in many occidental languages, as popularly used. The remarkable phrases used in 2Ch 21:18,19, "Yahweh smote him in his bowels" and "His bowels fell out by reason of his sickness," refer to a severe and fatal case of hemorrh oids.