Ecclesiates 1:13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! [NIV]

Ecclesiates 1:13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. [KJV]

The Hebrew word translated by the bold above is לבי, libbi, which literally means "my heart." However, many modern translations understand it as mind (however, the Douay-Rheims Bible, with the OT published in 1609, uses 'mind'1).

Libbi comes from leb which means "heart." Obviously, it is used figuratively in this case. How are the translators concluding that libbi is better understood as "my mind" instead of "my heart"? What other verses use libbi in such a manner?

1The 1609 DR may not have had "mind." The 1609 version, though in English, was so latinized as to be unreadable. Challoner's later recensions (beginning in 1750 for the OT) kept the DR name.

  • Just by looking at usage in the Bible, you'll find there's no essential difference between how we use "mind" today and how they used "heart" then. What distinction do you think there is? Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 2:47
  • @davidbrainerd, I was thinking more of how we understand heart now (emotional) and people reading this in one of the older translations.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 3:02
  • Jer 7:31 comes to mind (pardon the pun). Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 4:10

1 Answer 1


Hebrew has two-letter 'gates' which carry meaning like roots. When two letters are reversed, the meaning is reversed in some sense.

Both gates, לב and בל are translated mind and heart. This is unfortunate for English readers.

Leb, similar to the lobe of a heart, indicates a love for something.

Bal, is the gate which forms the root bala, meaning to wear out. It has the sense of the guilty conscience making you do things you really don't want to do. The one who gives his mind has chosen to do it, rather than doing it from a natural love of doing it.

The preacher gave his lobe.

In the act of love, putting another first, it may very well be from a choice against ones own nature; it may be of the mind.

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