Only four verses in the Scriptures use the exact phrase “breath of life”, but this phrase is translated from three different Hebrew phrases: twice from “ruwach chay”, once from “neshamah chay”, and once from “neshamah ruwach chay”. If these three different Hebrew phrases are all translated into “breath of life”, then it is reasonable to ask whether there are any nuances of meaning in the interpretation of “breath of life”.

This commentary was developed to answer that question.

Continue reading to discover hidden clues in Old Testament Hebrew that reveal the single property that distinguishes Man from animals and makes it possible for Man to fellowship with God.

Scriptures with “Breath of Life”

Here are the four verses, all from Genesis; the [Hebrew words] are included for clarity:

Genesis 2:7 — “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath [neshamah] of life [chay]; and man became a living soul.”

Genesis 6:17 — “And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath [ruwach] of life [chay], from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.”

Genesis 7:14-15 — “They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath [ruwach] of life [chay].”

Genesis 7:21-22 — “And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath [neshamah ruwach] of life [chay], of all that was in the dry land, died.”

Notice, depending from which Hebrew phrase it is translated, “breath of life” may refer to Man, or to animals, or to both:

In Genesis 2:7, the Hebrew phrase “neshamah chay” refers explicitly to Man.

In Genesis 6:17, the Hebrew phrase “ruwach chay” refers implicitly to both Man and animals.

In Genesis 7:14-15, the Hebrew phrase “ruwach chay” refers explicitly to animals.

In Genesis 7:21-22, the Hebrew phrase “neshamah ruwach chay” refers explicitly to both Man and animals.

From the four scriptural references in Genesis, we learned that “neshamah ruwach chay” refers to Man and animals. Likewise, “ruwach chay” refers to Man and animals. However, “neshamah chay” refers only to Man. Yet, all three Hebrew phrases are translated into “breath of life”.

Now, let’s translate each of the words in the phrase “neshamah ruwach chay”.

Translating Neshamah, Ruwach, and Chay

The Scriptures provide a clue to help identify the distinction between Man and animals. It does so by its application of the Hebrew phrase “neshamah ruwach chay”, which is translated “breath of life” and appears only once in the Scriptures: Genesis 7:21-22.

There are two other Hebrew phrases, “ruwach chay” and “neshamah chay”. These, also, are translated “breath of life”.

Here is how each Hebrew word, in these phrases, is translated:

Chay (Strong’s H2416) is translated: life.

Ruwach (Strong’s H7307) is translated: spirit, wind, breath, mind, blast.
“Ruwach chay” is translated “breath of life”.

Neshamah (Strong’s H5397) is translated: breath, blast, spirit, inspiration, or soul.
“Neshamah chay” is translated “breath of life”.

From what we have already learned we can move forward with interpreting “neshamah ruwach chay”.

Interpreting “Neshamah Ruwach Chay”

To properly interpret “neshamah ruwach chay”, we need to better understand the usage of “neshamah” and “ruwach” in the Scriptures.

Of the 24 times “neshamah” is used in the Scriptures, 23 times it refers exclusively to God (6x) or Man (17x). Only one time is “neshamah” used with words of animals; and in this instance, it appears as “neshamah ruwach chay” (Genesis 7:21-22). However, Man is also mentioned in the same verse. So, to be consistent with the rest of the Scriptures, it is reasonable that the word “neshamah”, in “neshamah ruwach chay”, refers exclusively to Man. If this is true, then “ruwach” refers to either Man or animals or both, as shown in Genesis 6:17 and Genesis 7:14-15.

Again, “ruwach chay” refers to either Man, or animals, or both. And, “neshamah chay” refers exclusively to Man. Now, because “neshamah” is juxtaposed with “ruwach” in the phrase “neshamah ruwach chay”, one reasonable interpretation is that Man is the only “ruwach” creature receiving the “breath of life” that also possesses “neshamah”. In other words, Genesis 7:21-22 is the single verse in the Scriptures that explicitly demonstrates that Man possesses “ruwach” (like animals) but also possesses “neshamah” (like God).

Based on the Scripture references above, we can conclude the following: 1) all creatures possessing the “breath of life” (Man and animals) receive the “ruwach chay”; 2) animals are only ever described as receiving the “ruwach chay” and never the “neshamah chay”; and 3) Man is unique in receiving the “neshamah chay”. This distinction between the “ruwach chay” and “neshamah chay” is fundamental to distinguishing between the natures of Man and animals; while suggesting something shared within the natures of Man and God.

To reiterate, the Hebrew phrase “neshamah ruwach chay”, translated as “breath of life”, suggests that Man is the only “ruwach” creature receiving the “breath of life” that also possesses “neshamah”.

This interpretation is not only consistent with the Scriptures, but what follows demonstrates that conventional scientific understanding has reached the same conclusion, notwithstanding the use of different vernacular. Depending on whether it is translated from “ruwach chay” or “neshamah chay”, the “breath of life” creates one or two mental faculties that the vernacular of science would call distinct processes of the mind.

Keep reading to see how the Scriptures and science agree (at least in this case).

“Ruwach Chay” and Consciousness

Genesis 1:21 — “And God created great whales, and every living [chay] creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:24 — “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living [chay] creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”

Genesis 7:14-15 — “They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath [ruwach] of life [chay].”

Job 12:10 — “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath [ruwach] of all mankind.”

Ezekiel 37:5-6 — “Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath [ruwach] to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath [ruwach] in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.”

When considered as a whole, these Scriptures suggest that the “ruwach chay” flows from God and creates consciousness in Man and any animal imbued with the “breath of life”. It is the “ruwach chay” that animates the lifeless body of flesh into a living, breathing, conscious Man or animal.

Note: Ezekiel 37:5-6 is not literally describing the creation of Man. In fact, it is a metaphor of the creation of Man, as applied to the covenant people of Israel. This will be explained in Addendum 1.

Now, let’s consider some biblical examples to demonstrate that the possession of “ruwach” indeed implies consciousness.

“Ruwach” and Consciousness

Genesis 41:8 — “And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit [ruwach] was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.”

Ezra 1:1 — “the LORD stirred up the spirit [ruwach] of Cyrus king of Persia,”

Proverbs 11:13 — “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit [ruwach] concealeth the matter.”

Ecclesiastes 7:8 — “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit [ruwach] is better than the proud in spirit [ruwach]”

In these verses, “ruwach” is translated “spirit” or “mind”. Also, “ruwach” is described as being “troubled”, being “stirred up”, being “faithful”, being “patient”, and being “proud” – all states of awareness that demonstrate a distinction between one’s self and the environment. In scientific vernacular, these expressions of “ruwach” are the same mental processes that imply consciousness.

If this interpretation is true, the “ruwach chay” of God is what creates consciousness (ruwach) in any creature receiving the “breath of life”. Although these verses refer exclusively to Man, it is scientifically accepted that higher animals – those described in the Scriptures as receiving the “ruwach chay” — also possess consciousness (ruwach).

To illustrate, even pet dogs manifest an awareness that helps them distinguish themselves from their environment. The dog is “troubled” that he lost his bone. The dog is “stirred up” by the cat sneaking through the backyard. The dog proved her “faithfulness” by walking 100 miles to get back home. The dog sits “patiently” waiting to go for a walk. Finally, the little dog, “proud in spirit” (and foolish, too), chases after a larger, more aggressive dog. In all these cases, possessing consciousness (ruwach) makes a creature capable of interacting with its surroundings in a deliberate manner, as opposed to the interaction being determined by random processes.

So, the interpretation that the “ruwach chay” (breath of life) confers “ruwach” agrees with what conventional science believes about consciousness. In other words, “ruwach” can be interpreted as the consciousness of spirit or mind.

Have you ever wondered about the fate of animals after they die? Let’s see what the Scriptures say.

Fate of Consciousness in Man and Animals

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 — “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath [ruwach]; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”

Ecclesiastes 3:21 — “Who knoweth the spirit [ruwach] of man that goeth upward, and the spirit [ruwach] of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?”

Ecclesiastes 12:7 — “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit [ruwach] shall return unto God who gave it.”

These verses show that the spirit (ruwach) of Man and the spirit (ruwach) of animals do not share the same fate after death. What they have in common is that when any living creature (Man or animal) dies, its body of flesh returns to the dust of the ground (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20). What is not common is that the spirit (ruwach) of each animal goes down to the earth (Ecclesiastes 3:21), but the spirit (ruwach) of Man goes upward to God (Ecclesiastes 3:21, Ecclesiastes 12:7). If the spirit (ruwach) is the consciousness, then at the death of the body, the consciousness (ruwach) of the animal dissolves into nothingness, but the consciousness (ruwach) of Man returns to God.

This does not mean there are no animals in Heaven. It just means that animals in Heaven do not possess the consciousness of any animal that died on earth.

Summary of “Ruwach Chay”

So far, we have learned that the “breath of life”, when translated from “ruwach chay”, creates consciousness (ruwach) in Man and animals. Furthermore, the consciousness (ruwach) of animals dissolves at death, but the consciousness (ruwach) of Man returns to God. The reason for the latter is because “breath of life”, when translated from “neshamah chay”, takes on a different meaning that affects the moral nature and destination of the conscious being to which it was given.

Before exploring the meaning of “neshamah chay”, first we need to introduce another important biblical phrase: the “image of God”.

Introducing “Image of God”

The exact phrase “image of God” occurs only three times (3x) in the Scriptures, two times in the Old Testament (2x) and one time in the New Testament (1x), though a few variations exist in the New Testament: for example “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

Genesis 1:27 — “So God created man in his own image [selem], in the image [selem] of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Genesis 9:6 — “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image [selem] of God made he man.”

2 Corinthians 4:4 — In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image [eikon] of God, should shine unto them.”

Romans 8:28-29 — “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image [eikon] of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

In Hebrew, “image” is:
Selem (Strong’s H6754) translated: image.

In Greek, “image” is:
Eicon (Strong’s G1504) translated: image.
Eicon can be interpreted as image, figure, or likeness.

In the Old Testament, “image of God” is attributed only to Man. In Genesis 1:27, God created Man (male and female) in the “image of God”. The consequence of this special status for Man becomes clear in Genesis 9:6, where the taking of human life is declared a capital offense, deserving of death.

In the New Testament, “image of God” (or a variant thereof) is attributed only to Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is identified as the “image of God”. In Romans 8:28-29, those that love God are predestined to become “conformed” to the “image of his Son”, Jesus Christ.

Whether in the Old or New Testament, the “image of God” is attributed exclusively to Man or Jesus Christ and never to animals.

Note: Man was “made in the image of God”; while Jesus Christ “is the image of God”. This distinction is explained in Addendum 5.

What is so special about one to whom the “image of God” is attributed? To answer that question, we can now begin our examination of the Hebrew phrase “neshamah chay”.

“Image of God” and “Neshamah Chay”

Genesis 2:7 — “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath [neshamah] of life [chay]; and man became a living soul.”

Genesis 1:27 — “So God created man in his own image [selem], in the image [selem] of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Although these verses come from different chapters, they describe the same event: God forms Adam from the dust of the ground, breathes into him the “neshamah chay”, and Adam becomes a living soul (Genesis 2:7) made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:27).

We have already learned from the Scriptures that any creature (Man or animal) having the “breath of life” also received the “ruwach chay”, but the very place in the Scriptures where God creates Man, there is no mention of “ruwach chay”. Instead, Man receives the “neshamah chay”, by which Man is made into the “image of God”.

Therefore, the “image of God” is made innate to Man by the “neshamah chay” of God.

Now, some may be wondering if “neshamah chay” creates the soul. Or, if the “neshamah chay” is just the spirit. These are good questions, and they are addressed in Addendum 3. For now, just accept the proposition that the “neshamah chay” imparts the “image of God” to Man. For the rest of this commentary, we will reveal and explain the underlying meanings of “neshamah chay” and “image of God.”

Neshamah and Moral Authority

2 Samuel 22:14-16 — “The LORD thundered from heaven, and the most High uttered his voice. And he sent out arrows, and scattered them; lightning, and discomfited them. And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations of the world were discovered, at the rebuking of the LORD, at the blast [neshamah] of the breath of his nostrils.”

Job 4:7-9 — “Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast [neshamah] of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.”

Job 37:10-12 — “By the breath [neshamah] of God frost is given: and the breadth of the waters is straitened. Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud: And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth.”

In each of these verses, through His “neshamah”, God exercises moral authority over earth and Man:

In 2 Samuel 22:14-16, David praises the moral authority of the Lord who “delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies” (2 Samuel 22:1). Notice the rebuke of God billowed forth from the “blast [neshamah] of the breath of His nostrils”.

In Job 4:7-9, Eliphaz proclaims: “By the blast [neshamah] of God” the moral authority of God is executed upon those who “plow iniquity, and sow wickedness”.

Finally, in Job 37:10-12, Elihu describes the mighty “breath [neshamah] of God” that agitates a powerful storm to demonstrate His moral authority over Man.

The Almighty Creator is a righteous God who, by the power of His “neshamah”, exercises moral authority over His entire Creation. If Man was made in the “image of God” by the “neshamah chay” of God, one might wonder if Man also possesses moral authority.

What do the Scriptures say?

Man and Moral Authority

Genesis 1:27 — “So God created man in his own image [selem], in the image [selem] of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Genesis 1:28 — “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue [kabash] it: and have dominion [radah] over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Genesis 2:15 — “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress [abad] it and to keep [shamar] it.”

Proverbs 12:10 — “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”

Proverbs 14:31 — “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.”

In Genesis 1:27-28, after making Man in the “image of God”, God told them to “subdue” (kabash) the earth and to have “dominion” (radah) over all animals.

In Hebrew, “to subdue” is:
Kabash (Strong’s H3533) translated: to subdue, bring into subjection, bring into bondage, or keep under.

In Hebrew, “to have dominion” is:
Radah (Strong’s H7287) translated: to rule, have dominion, take, prevaileth, or reign.

To subdue the earth means to use its resources for one’s needs. Exercising dominion over the animals means to rule them. To subdue and have dominion implies a moral authority to do so. How one chooses to exercise that moral authority is another matter. These broad definitions of subdue and dominion allow anything from responsible stewardship to ravenous exploitation.

Do the Scriptures qualify what the Lord expects from the moral authority delegated to Man?

In Genesis 2:15, God put Man into the garden “to dress [abad] it and keep [shamar] it”. Consider the verbs, “to dress” and “to keep”:

Abad (Strong’s H5647) is translated as “to serve, do, till, or work” and can be interpreted as “to work for another [or] serve another by labor” (I.A.ii.). In other words, by “dressing” the garden, Man was expected to perform this work in “service to God” (I.A.iv.).

Shamar (Strong’s H8104) is translated as “to keep, observe, heed, or preserve” and can be interpreted as “preserve and protect” (I.A.viii.). In other words, by “keeping” the garden, Man was expected to act in an ecologically sustainable and healthy manner.

As for dominion over the animals, in Proverbs 12:10, the righteous is commended for the humane treatment of his beast, while any cruel treatment is condemned.

Although Man’s dominion did not extend to fellow human beings; nonetheless, it honors God to show mercy to the poor, but one who oppresses the poor reproaches God (Proverbs 14:31).

The Scriptures suggests that the “neshamah chay” imparts to each man and woman the “image of God”, by means of which each individual is endowed with moral authority on earth as a representative of God.

However, this moral authority is not absolute: it is subject to the authority of God.

Man and Moral Accountability

Proverbs 20:27 — “The spirit [neshamah] of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.”

Isaiah 2:22 — “Cease ye from man, whose breath [neshamah] is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?”

Isaiah 30:33 — “For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath [neshamah] of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.”

Genesis 9:6 — “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”

Revelation 11:18 — “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.”

Revelation 21:8 — “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Proverbs 20:27 depicts the “neshamah” as a candle of God that illuminates a person’s most dark and deep secrets, with the purpose of getting them to ponder the consequences of their thoughts and actions.

Isaiah 2:22 shows that through Man’s “neshamah”, the Lord will make a reckoning or accounting of his choices.

Isaiah 30:33 says “the breath [neshamah] of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle” judgment.

From Genesis 9:6, the Lord makes clear what is at stake for those made in the “image of God”: how one represents God is nothing short of a life and death proposition.

Finally, the moral authority of Man comes full circle. Revelation 11:18 and Revelation 21:8 describe a future event when the nations are angry at the wrath of God, who judges “them which destroyed the earth” and which practiced unbelief. The Scriptures are very clear about how Man is to subdue and have dominion over God’s Creation.

Being made in the “image of God” by the “neshamah chay”, each man and woman is not only delegated moral authority, but each is also held morally accountable for the choices one makes.

Therefore, the source of moral accountability in Man is the “image of God” imparted unto him by the “neshamah chay” (breath of life) of God Himself.

Together, moral authority and moral accountability can simply be called moral agency: the capacity of making moral decisions and being held accountable for the decisions one makes.

Moral Agency and Free-will Conscience

Job 32:8 — “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration [neshamah] of the Almighty giveth them understanding.”

Romans 1:19 — “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.”

Isaiah 1:18-20 — “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”

Romans 2:13-15 — “(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)”

Psalm 150:6 — “Let every thing that hath breath [neshamah] praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.”

From Job 32:8, we learn that through the inspiration of “neshamah”, God teaches Man understanding. Romans 1:19 says “that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them”.

Next, in Isaiah 1:18-20, the Lord implores Man to “reason” with Him and to choose whether to “obey” or “rebel” against the authority of God.

Then, in Romans 2:13-15, the Apostle Paul makes an important point: it is not the hearers of God’s law that are just before God, but the doers of God’s law; and the doers of God’s law are those who obey the witness of their conscience and show the work of God’s law written on their hearts.

Finally, in Psalm 150:6, it is declared, “Let every thing that hath breath [neshamah] praise the Lord”. One should reserve worship for one worthy to receive praise (Revelation 4:11). This implies the ability to reasonably determine who is worthy to be praised.

To summarize, possessing “neshamah” makes Man capable of receiving truth, knowing truth, resolving truth, choosing truth, and praising God for the truth of His Word. In other words, “neshamah” entails the ability to learn and to freely choose right from wrong. And, science would call that mental faculty a free-will conscience.

So Man received the “neshamah chay” (breath of life), which imparted to him the “image of God”. Because Man was made in the “image of God”, he was made a moral agent, which implies possession of free-will conscience (neshamah).

Moral Agency: Consciousness + Free-will Conscience

Job 27:3 — “All the while my breath [neshamah] is in me, and the spirit [ruwach] of God is in my nostrils;”

Job 33:4 — “The Spirit [ruwach] of God hath made me, and the breath [neshamah] of the Almighty hath given me life.”

Isaiah 42:5 — “Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath [neshamah] unto the people upon it, and spirit [ruwach] to them that walk therein:”

Isaiah 57:15-16 — “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit [ruwach], to revive the spirit [ruwach] of the humble, and to revive the heart [conscience] of the contrite ones. For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit [ruwach] should fail before me, and the souls [neshamah] which I have made.”

Titus 1:15-16 — “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”

Job 34:14-15 — “If he set his heart [conscience] upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit [ruwach] and his breath [neshamah]; All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.”

In Hebrew, “heart” is:
Leb (Strong’s H3820) translated: heart, mind, or understanding.
Leb can be interpreted as “inner man” (I.) or “conscience” (I.A.vi.).

In the beginning, God created Man with consciousness (ruwach) plus free-will conscience (neshamah) to recognize and respond to the moral authority of God (Job 27:3, Job 33:4, Isaiah 42:5). Then, during Man’s life on earth, the Lord promises to revive the spirit (consciousness) and heart (conscience) of the humble and contrite souls (Isaiah 57:15-16).

Next, Titus 1:15-16 shows the moral consequences of those who deny the witness of a pure conscience: their conscience becomes defiled; their works deny the Lord; and they become abominable, disobedient, and reprobate.

In the end, at death, the body of flesh returns to the dust, and God gathers unto Himself both the consciousness (ruwach) plus the free-will conscience (neshamah) of the human spirit, for it shall be held morally accountable for the choices made during life on earth (Job 34:14-15).

Being made by the “neshamah chay” of God makes Man a moral agent with both moral authority and moral accountability, each of which implies the possession of consciousness plus free-will conscience

Conclusion

It is by means of the “breath of life” that Man is given consciousness (ruwach) plus free-will conscience (neshamah). Thus, by possessing these two features of the mind, it can be said: Man is made a moral agent like his Creator; but because animals lack “neshamah”, they also lack moral agency.

Now, we can finally answer this question: If “ruwach chay”, “neshamah chay”, and “neshamah ruwach chay” are all translated into the same phrase, “breath of life”, then are there any nuances of meaning in the interpretation of “breath of life”?

This commentary on Breath of Life has provided evidence to support the following: the “breath of life” has three distinct nuanced meanings, depending on the particular Hebrew phrases from which they are translated.

If translated from “ruwach chay” . . . receiving the “breath of life” means to receive consciousness (ruwach), which is possessed by both Man and animals.

If translated from “neshamah chay” . . . receiving the “breath of life” means to receive consciousness (ruwach) plus free-will conscience (neshamah), the two of which confer moral agency to Man. Moral agency is exclusive to Man and to God.

If translated from “neshamah ruwach chay” . . . the “breath of life” means that Man is the only conscious (ruwach) creature that also possesses free-will conscience (neshamah).

Therefore, only Man received consciousness plus free-will conscience, and he did so because only Man was made in the “image of God” by the “neshamah chay”. Being made in the “image of God” makes Man a moral agent who is capable of recognizing, responding, and being accountable to the authority of God.

Why must it be this way?

For to be legally accountable for one’s choices, one must possess a free-will conscience with which to know and to make moral choices, and one must be consciously aware of the choices one makes.

Addendum 1: Knowing God more than Consciousness

Ezekiel 37:5-6 — “Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath [ruwach] to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath [ruwach] in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know [yada’] that I am the LORD.”

At first reading, it may appear that Ezekiel 37:5-6 indicates that having consciousness (ruwach) gives Man the capacity of knowing God. Let’s consider if there is a better interpretation and one consistent with what we have already learned.

Although a bit complicated in form, Ezekiel 37:5-6 essentially describes three consecutive divine acts, each act building upon the previous one. Act 1: God puts together the body of bones, sinews, flesh, and skin. Act 2: God breathes the “breath of life” (consciousness) into the fully formed body, saying the words “and ye shall live”. Act 3: God concludes by saying the words “and ye shall ‘know’ that I am the Lord”.

Notice that the first two acts are contained in a single independent clause, and the last act is its own independent clause. Grammatically, this indicates that the first two acts describe a single concept: forming a living body. The third act describes another concept that happens only after the first two acts are complete: the living body (Act 1 and Act 2) will then be made to “know” God (Act 3).

That word, to “know”, in Hebrew, is the word yada’ (Strong’s H3045). In Ezekiel 37:6, the phrase “ye shall know [yada’] that I am the LORD” means “to be acquainted with” (I.A.ii.). In other words, Ezekiel describes that after Man is made alive, God makes Man capable of knowing God.

To summarize, Ezekiel 37:5-6 describes the formation of a body of flesh (Act 1), which is made into a living, breathing, conscious being (Act 2). Then, this living, breathing, conscious being is given a free-will conscience (Act 3). As we have already concluded, Man must possess both consciousness (ruwach) plus a free-will conscience (neshamah) to be considered a moral agent. Lastly, only moral agents can know God.

Note: Ezekiel 37:5-6 is not literally describing the creation of Man. In fact, it is a metaphor of the creation of Man, as applied to the covenant people of Israel. The Dry Bones Prophecy was spoken by the prophet Ezekiel to the Hebrew captives living in Babylon after the capture of Israel in 597 BC by King Nebuchadnezzar. It foretells of the nation being put back together, the nation being brought back to life in its ancestral lands, and the restoration of fellowship between Israel and God. Notwithstanding its application to Israel, it accurately describes the elements (body, consciousness, and free-will conscience) required for fellowship with God, either by a person or a nation of people.

Addendum 2: Non-living Things not Conscious

Jeremiah 10:14 — “Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath [ruwach] in them.”

Habakkuk 2:19 — “Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath [ruwach] at all in the midst of it.”

The non-living things of the created world – wood, stone, gold, silver, etc. – did not receive the “ruwach chay” (breath of life) and thus do not possess consciousness. Moreover, those described as worshipping the earth, the stars or the material elements are condemned as brutish in knowledge; that is, one who behaves as if an animal, devoid of free-will conscience.

Addendum 3: Body, Spirit, and Soul

We have already learned that God formed Man from the dust of the ground, breathed into him the “neshamah chay”, and Man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7) made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:27).

The interpretation proposed is that the “neshamah chay” imparts the “image of God” to Man.

Here’s the logic. Since God is spirit (John 4:24), and if Man was made in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:27), then Man must possess a spirit (Genesis 2:7) that entails the same moral agency of God (Isaiah 1:18-20).

Here are two common questions that arise:

Question 1:
Does Genesis 2:7 suggest that the “neshamah chay” creates the soul?

Answer 1:
No, the “neshamah chay” creates the human spirit, which comprises consciousness (ruwach) plus free-will conscience (neshamah). The soul (nephesh) is the union of the body and the spirit.

In Hebrew, “soul” is:
Nephesh (Strong’s H5315) translated: soul, life, person, mind, heart, creature, or body.

Question 2:
Is the “neshamah chay” just the spirit?

Answer 2:
Not quite. The “neshamah chay” is “the breath that gives life to the spirit of Man”. Only Man receives the “neshamah chay” which conveys the “ruwach” (consciousness) plus the “neshamah” (free-will conscience). In other words, the “neshamah chay” creates a human spirit with “ruwach” (consciousness) plus “neshamah” (free-will conscience). The “ruwach chay”, alone, creates an animal spirit with “ruwach” (consciousness) but no “neshamah” (free-will conscience).

Both questions can be answered by defining the body, spirit, and soul of Adam with reference to what was covered in this commentary:

The body of Adam is the material flesh and bone, which was formed out of the dust of the ground by God. It is the “user interface” with which Adam would interact with the earth and its creatures. God breathed the “breath of life” (neshamah chay) into the lifeless body to create Adam’s immaterial spirit (ruwach + neshamah). Adam’s spirit (ruwach + neshamah) was created in the “image of God” with consciousness (ruwach) plus free-will conscience (neshamah), which confers moral agency to Adam. Only after flesh and bone embody the spirit (ruwach + neshamah) do the material and immaterial become the human soul (nephesh).

For what purpose did God fashion Man in this way? Man was made with a body of flesh and bone to teach him dependence on God’s grace. Man was given a spirit in the “image of God” with consciousness plus free-will conscience to teach him to recognize, respond, and be accountable to the authority of God.

See Addendum 4 for insight into one purpose of the soul.

Addendum 4: Purpose of Human Soul

So what is the purpose of the human soul?

Although there are several reasons why God fashioned Man as a soul, one is particularly interesting.

To start, the selfish pride of rejecting the authority of God (Psalm 10:4, Proverbs 16:18) is the fundamental reason a human soul is condemned to Hell. In effect, each soul proudly boasts that it is God, the ultimate arbiter of truth (Romans 1:25). So, God grants the direct consequence of this blasphemous proclamation (Mark 3:29).

The consequence is stark: after death, the condemned soul is disembodied like a demon (Matthew 10:28) and given the opportunity to prove it is God. And what is God?

God is a spirit (John 4:24), who thought into existence the entire universe: all of it, that which is seen and that which is not seen (John 1:1-3). Any spirit condemned to Hell is given the opportunity to perform the same feat. And how is this opportunity presented?

Hell is an environment without space, time, energy, or any material matter. There is no light, no resources, no people, and no places. Hell is devoid of anything except the spirit of the condemned and its memories of life on earth. The lone spirit is cast into the nothingness of the “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30), where it is left to create the universe of its liking.

So one purpose of the human soul is to show those without one (i.e. disembodied spirits) what it means to be God before the creation of “the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). In other words, the human soul loses the body of flesh through which it would otherwise exert power or authority, through which it would experience the pleasures of a material world. You see, the illusory power of Man comes from his flesh, but the flesh is weak (Jeremiah 17:5). And in Hell there is no bone, no sinews, no flesh, no skin; only the immaterial mind of a spirit alienated from the source of all good things (James 1:17).

The effect is profound: each spirit in Hell is put into solitary confinement, punished from the presence and blessings of God and His Creation (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Nothing could be more hellish. Please understand. God does not contrive ways to torture lost souls; He merely gives them the desire of their heart, to be as gods (Genesis 3:4-5). And when they are confronted by the truth of their illusion, torment ensues.

In a future commentary on Heaven and Hell, we will cover at length the concept of Hell, regarded as the place “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44); or where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51); or where “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever” (Revelation 14:11). There is much more to say, God willing.

In the meantime, please ponder the purpose of the human soul. It may very well change your life.

Addendum 5: Jesus Christ the “Image of God”

In the New Testament, “image of God” (or a variant thereof) is attributed exclusively to Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is called the “image of God”. In Romans 8:28-29, those that love God are predestined to become “conformed” to the “image of his Son”, Jesus Christ.

There is only One who possesses all the attributes of God and all the attributes of Man. He is called the Word, and His name is Jesus Christ:

John 1:1-3 — “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

John 1:14 — “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

Colossians 1:14-15 — “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:”

Romans 8:28-29 — “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

Jesus Christ “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), which means God in the flesh. Jesus came to earth in the form of man for the purpose of saving Man from sin. Jesus is the perfect example, for Man must be conformed (by God) to the “image of his Son” to be a faithful representative of God on earth.

Being made in the “image of God” can be described as making a reflection of the character of God. By this analogy, the human spirit is a reflection of God’s spirit. The reflection exists only by virtue of its source, which is God. If any man or woman is to realize their full spiritual potential, then they must live by the spirit of God, not by the spirit of the world (1 Corinthians 2:12). Meaning: one can choose to live in the “image of God” or not.

How is it possible for Jesus Christ to be fully God and fully man?

The answer has two parts:

1) Did Jesus (Son of man) have a body of flesh, a spirit in the “image of God”, both united as a human soul? The answer is yes: therefore, Jesus is fully man.

2) Did Jesus (Son of God) have a spirit of God? The answer is yes: it is the spirit of the second person of the Trinity; thus, Jesus is fully God.

Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God.

That is the very reason why only Jesus Christ can save Man from his sins:

Acts 4:12 — “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

THE END