Liver (כָּבֵד, akbesd', so called as being the heaviest of the viscera) occurs in Ex 29:13,22; Le 3:4,10,15; Le 4:9; Le 7:4; Le 8:16,25; Le 9:10,19; Pr 7:23; La 2:11; Eze 21:21. In the Pentateuch it forms part of the phrase translated in the Authorized Version "the caul that is above the liver," but which Gesenius (Thesaur. Heb. pages 645, 646), reasoning from the root, understands to be the great lobe of the liver itself rather than the caul over it, which latter, he observes, is inconsiderable in size, and has but little fat. Jahn thinks the smaller lobe to be meant. The phrase is also rendered in the Sept. "the lobe or lower pendent of the liver," the chief object of attention in the art of hepatoscopy, or divination by the liver, among the ancients. (Jerome gives "the net of the liver," "the suet," and "the fat;" see Bochart. Hieroz. 1:498.) SEE CAUL. It appears from the same passages that it was burnt upon the altar, and not eaten as sacrificial food (Jahn, Bibl. Archaeol. § 378, n. 7). The liver was supposed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to be the seat of the passions pride, love, etc. (see Anacreon, Ode 3, fin.; Theocritus, Idyll. 11:16; Horace, Carri. 1:13, 4; 25, 15; 4:1, 12; and the Notes of the Delphin edition. Comp. also Persius, Sat. v. 129; Juvenal, Sat. 5:647). Some have argued that the same symbol prevailed among the Jews (rendering כּבֹדַי, in Ge 49:6, "my liver," instead of "my honor," Sept. τὰ ἣπατακ; compare the Hebrew of Ps 16:9; Ps 57:9; Ps 108:2), but Gesenius (Hebr. Lex. s.v. כָּבוֹד) denies this signification in those passages. Wounds in the liver were supposed to be mortal; thus the expression in Pr 7:23, "a dart through his liver," and La 2:11, "my liver is poured out upon the earth," are each of them a periphrasis for death itself. tEschylus uses a similar phrase to describe a mortal wound (Agamemnon, 1:442). SEE HEART.
The passage in Eze 21:21 contains an interesting reference to the most ancient of all modes of divination, by the inspection of the viscera of animals, and even of mankind, sacrificially slaughtered for the purpose. It is there said that the king of Babylon, among other modes of divination referred to in the same verse, "looked upon the liver." The liver was always considered the most important organ in the ancient art of Extispicium, or divination by the entrails. Philostratus felicitously describes it as "the prophesying tripod of all divination" (Life of Apollonius, 8:7, 5). The rules by which the Greeks and Romans judged of it are amply detailed in Adams's Romuan Antiquities, page 261 sq. (Lond. 1834), and in Potter's Archaologia Graeca, 1:316 (Lond. 1775). Vitruvius suggests a plausible theory of the first rise of hepatoscopy. He says the ancients inspected the livers of those animals which frequented the places where they wished to settle, and if they found the liver, to which they chiefly ascribed the process of sangnification, was injured, they concluded that the water and nourishment collected in such localities were unwholesome (1:4). But divination is coeval and coextensive with a belief in the divinity. Cicero ascribes divination by this and other means to what he calls "the heroic ages," by which term we know he means a period antecedent to all historical documents (De Dirinationze). Prometheus, in the play of that title (1:474 sq.), lays claim to having taught mankind the different kinds of divination, and that of extispicy among the rest; and Prometheus, according to Servius (ad Virg. Ecl. 6:42), instructed the Assyrians; and we know from sacred record that Assyria was one, of the countries first peopled. It is further important to remark that the first recorded instance of divination is that of the teraphim of Laban, a native of Padan-Aram, a district bordering on that country (1Sa 19:13,16), but by which teraphim both the Sept. and Josephus understood "the liver of goats" (Ant. 6:11, 4). SEE TERAPEISM. See generally Whiston's Josephus, page 169, note (Edinb. 1828); Bochart, 1:41, De Caprarum Nominibus; Encyclopaedia Metropolitanal , s.v. Divination; Rosenmüller's Scholia on the several passages referred to; Perizonius, ad AElian. 2:31; Peucer, De Praecipuis Divinationum Generibus, etc. (Wittemberg, 1560). SEE DIVINATION.