International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
The word is usually joined with the Hebrew yothereth (see Caul) (Ex 29:13,22; Le 9:10,19) as a special portion set aside for the burnt offering.
This represents the large lobe or flap of the liver, Lobos tou hepatos (thus, Septuagint and Josephus, Ant, III, ix, 2, (228)). Others, however, interpret it as the membrane which covers the upper part of the liver, sometimes called the "lesser omenturn." Thus, the Vulgate: reticulurn iecoris. It extends from the fissures of the liver to the curve of the stomach. Still others consider it to be the "fatty mass at the opening of the liver, which reaches to the kidneys and becomes visible upon the removal of the lesser omentum or membrane" (Driver and White, Leviticus, 65).
As in the scholastic psychology of the Middle Ages, the liver played an important part in the science of Semitic peoples. It was the seat of feeling, and thus became synonymous with temper, disposition, character (compare Assyrian kabittu, "liver", "temper," "character," and Arabic kabid, vulgar kibdi). Thus, Jeremiah expresses his profound grief with the words: "My liver is poured upon the earth, because of the destruction of the daughter of my people" (La 2:11). The liver is also considered one of the most important and vital parts of the body (compare Virgil, cerebrum, iecur domicilia vitae). A hurt in it is equivalent to death. So we find the fate of a man enticed by the flattering of a loose woman compared to that of the ox that "goeth to the slaughter .... till an arrow strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life" (Pr 7:22,23; the rest of the verse is obscure as to its meaning).
In a few passages of the Old Testament, kabhedh ("liver") and kabhodh ("glory") have been confounded, and we are in uncertainty as to the right translation Several authors, to give but one example, would read kabhedh in Ps 16:9, for reasons of Hebrew poetical parallelism: "Therefore my heart is glad and my liver (English Versions of the Bible, "glory") rejoiceth." While this is quite possible, it is not easy to decide, as according to Jewish interpretation "my glory" is synonymous with "my soul," which would present as proper a parallelism.
The liver has always played an important role in heathen divination, of which we have many examples in old and modern times among the Greeks, Etrurians, Romans and now among African tribes. The prophet Ezekiel gives us a Biblical instance. The king of Babylon, who had been seeking to find out whether he should attack Jerusalem, inquired by shaking "arrows to and fro, he consulted the teraphim, he looked in the liver" (Eze 21:21 (Hebrew 21:26); compare Tobit 6:4 ff; 8:2).
See Astrology, 3; DIVINATION.