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Soul Life │Spirit Lives

Genesis 2:7

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Section One

Creation of Man

1.1 Created. In the beginning Elohim created (“בָּרָ֣א“) the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Although some people like to use the Latin phrase “ex nihilo” to describe creation from nothing, the same verb “created” (“בָּרָ֣א“) is used in Genesis 1:27  to describe Elohim creating the man in His image (see also Genesis 5:1; Deuteronomy 4:32; Isaiah 40:26). Therefore, the Hebrew verb may not always mean created from nothing. Likewise in Psalm 51:10, David prayed that Elohim would create (“בָּרָ֣א“)  a clean heart (“לֵ֣ב“) in him, and renew (“חַדֵּ֥שׁ“) a steadfast spirit spirit (“ר֥וּחַ“) within him. David may have been speaking about creating something new from nothing, but maybe not. In Ezekiel 21:19, Yahweh commanded Ezekiel to create (“בָּרָ֣א“) a sign post from existing material. Therefore, postulating creation from nothing merely from the use of the verb “created” (“בָּרָ֣א“) in Genesis 1:1 seems a frail foundation for such a doctrine, without more support. More importantly, while God formed (“יִּצֶר֩“) the body of man from the dust of the earth, in Genesis 5:1 God created (“בָּרָ֣א“) man in His image.

Section Two

Steps in the Creation of Man

2.1 The Three Steps of Creating Man. Yahweh Elohim created Adam, the first man, in several steps (Genesis 2:7). First, Yahweh Elohim formed the body of Adam from the dust of the earth. Second, Yahweh Elohim blew into Adam’s nose the breath of lives. The breath of lives came from Yahweh Elohim and was blown into the nose of Adam. Therefore, the breath of lives existed in Yahweh Elohim before He gave it to Adam. Third, the Adam became to soul life. Those steps help us understand the basics of exegetical psychology. We can review each step in more detail. 

2.2 The Formation of Adam’s Body. Yahweh Elohim began by creating the body of Adam using the dust of the earth. Elohim had already created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Yahweh Elohim took some previously created dust of the ground and formed (“יִּיצֶר֩“) the body of Adam from it. The dust was formed into Adam, speaking of his body. Other uses of the term “formed” (“יִּצֶר֩“) help us understand Yahweh Elohim forming the body of Adam from the dust of the ground.

2.2.1 Animals and Birds. Elohim formed (“יִּצֶר֩“) the bodies of animals and birds (Genesis 2:19). 

2.2.2 Spirit of Man. Yahweh forms the spirit of man within him (Zechariah 12:1). Zechariah used the term “formed” (“יֹצֵ֥ר“)–qal participle (indicating ongoing action of forming the spirit of each man born on earth). Zechariah was specific that Yahweh forms the spirit of man in the abdomen of man. Therefore, we know that just like Yahweh breathed the breath of lives into Adam, so also Yahweh forms the spirit of man in the body He already formed from the dust of the ground (compare Zechariah 12:1 with Genesis 2:7).  God is forming (“יֹצֵ֥ר“) (not created בָּרָ֣א) a particular spirit for each particular person. The spirit of man does not pass down from parents to child at the moment of conception. God forms the spirit in the child, just as God formed man from the dust of the earth. Notice that God did not create the spirit out of nothing, but formed it out of something already created. God created (“בָּרָ֣א“) the heavens and the earth (see also Genesis 1:27; 2:3; Deuteronomy 4:32; Psalm 51:10). Compare the use of the term “formed” (“יִּיצֶר֩“) to describe making a new arrangement of existing creation into a new shape (Genesis 2:7-8). Even so, God created (“בָּרָ֣א“) man in His own image, male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27). Therefore, every human has a God-formed, unique spirit within them. Yahweh gives breath (“נְשָׁמָה֙“) to the people on earth and spirit (“ר֖וּחַ“) to those who walk in it (Isaiah 42:5). Compare the difference between breathed, the breath of life, and soul life in Genesis 2:7.

Section Three

Background of Lives

3.1 Lives. Some background for the term “lives” (חַיִּ֜ים) may provide insight into its use in Genesis. I selected a few verses to highlight some of the various uses of “lives” (“חַיִּ֜ים“).

3.1.1 Human Lives. Moses wanted to return to his brethren in Egypt to see if any of them were still lives (“חַיִּ֜ים“) (Exodus 4:18).

3.1.2 Bitter Lives. The Egyptians made bitter the lives (“חַיִּ֜ים“) of the people of Israel (Exodus 1:14).

3.1.3 Animals. Animals also had lives (“חַיִּ֜ים“) (Exodus 22:4). 

3.1.4 Delights in Lives. The Psalmist asked: Who is the man who delights in lives (“הַיֹּ֖ום“), loving days to see good (“לִרְאֹ֥ות טֹֽוב“)? (Psalm 34:12).

3.1.5 Asking for Lives. The king asked Yahweh for lives (“חַיִּ֜ים“) from Yahweh and Yahweh gave it to him–length of days forever and ever (“עֹולָ֥ם וָעֶֽד“) (Psalm 21:4). In this verse, David may have asked for “life” using the same term as lives. In the alternative, David may have asked for offspring, so that his house would continue forever.

3.1.6 Destruction. Moses described the destruction of the wicked at Baal-Peor, but reminded the people that because they held fast to Yahweh your Elohim, all of them remained lives today (“הַיֹּ֖ום“) (Deuteronomy 4:4).  

3.1.7  Covenant with All Lives Today. Moses reminded the people that Yahweh did not make the covenant with the fathers, but with all the lives (“חַיִּ֜ים“) here today (“הַיֹּ֖ום“) (Deuteronomy 5:3). The lives refers to the people presently alive on that day.

3.1.8 Kept Alive. Ben-Hadad commanded his men to take hold of the lives (“הַיֹּ֖ום“), referring to men who had come out to oppose him (1 Kings 20:18; see also 2 Kings 7:12). The text indicates they were to be kept alive. 

3.1.9 Lives Taken and Killed. Ahab’s descendants were lives (“הַיֹּ֖ום“) taken and then killed at the pit of Beth-Eked (2 Kings 10:14).

3.1.10 Lives Dashed.  The sons of Judah captured some 10,000 lives (“הַיֹּ֖ום“)  and threw them down from a cliff and they were dashed to pieces (2 Chronicles 25:12). 

3.1.11 Flowing Water. The term “lives”  (“חַיִּ֜ים“) also applied to flowing water (for example, Leviticus 15:13).

3.1.12 Fountain of Lives. David wrote that in Elohim is the fountain of lives (“הַיֹּ֖ום“); in your light we see light (Psalm 36:9). 

3.1.13  Lives and Sheol. Moses prophesied about the ground opening and the rebels as lives (“חַיִּ֜ים“) descending to Sheol (Numbers 16:30).  The prophecy of Moses was fulfilled and the rebels and all that belonged to them descended as lives (“חַיִּ֜ים“) to Sheol (Numbers 16:33). Likewise, David prayed to Yahweh that death (“מָ֨וֶת”) may come upon the evil people, that they go down as lives (”חַיִּ֑ים“) to Sheol, for evil in their dwelling places among them (“כִּֽי־רָעֹ֖ות בִּמְגוּרָ֣ם בְּקִרְבָּֽם“) (Psalm 55:15). 1The evil could also be inside them (בְּקִרְבָּֽם).

3.1.14  Lives upon the Earth. Moses reminded the people of the day at Horeb when they heard the words of Yahweh so that they may learn to fear Yahweh all the days which they are lives (“חַיִּ֜ים“) upon the earth (“עַל־הָאֲדָמָֽה“) (Deuteronomy 4:10). Likewise, the people of Israel were given the land to possess as long as they are lives (“חַיִּ֜ים“) upon the earth (“עַל־הָאֲדָמָֽה“) (Deuteronomy 12:1). Also, the children will learn the fear of Yahweh your Elohim as long as you are lives on the earth (“חַיִּים֙ עַל־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה“) as they were about to possess beyond the Jordan (Deuteronomy 31:13; see also 1 Kings 8:40). 2Some may prefer to translate the word as “land” instead of “earth” because of the context. I seek to emphasize the continuity of the terms to describe people as lives on the earth at that time. At the dedication of the first temple, Solomon prayed to Yahweh Elohai (“יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהָ֑י“) (2 Chronicles 6:12).  He specifically asked that all the people walk in the ways of Yahweh Elohai as long as they are lives upon the face of the land (“חַיִּ֖ים עַל־פְּנֵ֣י הָאֲדָמָ֑ה“) which Yahweh Eloai gave to our fathers (2 Chronicles 6:31).  

3.1.15 Land of Lives. David observed: I would have despaired unless I caused to believe (“הֶ֭אֱמַנְתִּי“) that I would see the goodness of Yahweh in the land of lives (“בְּאֶ֣רֶץ חַיִּֽים“). David also proclaimed that El will uproot Doeg the Edomite from the land of the lives (“וְשֵֽׁרֶשְׁךָ֙ מֵאֶ֖רֶץ חַיִּ֣ים“) for his sins against David and God (Psalm 52:5).  David also took heart that he believed that he would see in good of Yahweh in the land of the lives (בְּאֶ֣רֶץ חַיִּֽים) (Psalm 27:12-13). 

3.1.16 Elohim Lives. Moses described Elohim Lives (“אֱלֹהִ֨ים חַיִּ֜ים“) speaking from the midst of the fire and marveled that he heard and he lived (“וַיֶּֽחִי“) (Deuteronomy 5:26). 3The term “lived” (וַיֶּֽחִי) occurs as Qal consecutive imperfect. Therefore, the term lives also applies to Elohim,  translated as Elohim Lives. Likewise, David described the armies of Israel as the armies of Elohim Lives (מַעַרְכ֖וֹת אֱלֹהִ֥ים חַיִּֽים) (1 Samuel 17:26).  Also, in 1 Samuel 17:26 David referred to the ranks of Elohim Lives (“מַעַרְכֹ֖ות אֱלֹהִ֥ים חַיִּֽים“), referring the army of Israel (see the similar construction (מַעַרְכֹ֖ת אֱלֹהִ֥ים חַיִּֽים) in 1 Samuel 17:36). 

3.1.17 Path of Lives. David declared that Yahweh would also make my flesh (“אַף־בְּ֝שָׂרִ֗י“) dwell in security (“יִשְׁכֹּ֥ן לָבֶֽטַח“) (Psalm 16:9). David continued that Yahweh would not forsake my soul (“לֹא־תַעֲזֹ֣ב נַפְשִׁ֣י“) to Sheol  nor give Your Holy One (“חֲ֝סִידְךָ֗“–see also Psalm 30:4 and the article related to holy ones) to see destruction (“לִרְאֹ֥ות שָֽׁחַת“). David then declared that Yahweh would cause me to know “path of lives” (“אֹ֤רַח חַ֫יִּ֥ים“), where in Your face fullness of joy (“שְׂ֭מָחֹות אֶת־פָּנֶ֑יךָ“) and at Yahweh’s right hand enduring  pleasures (“נְעִמֹ֖ות בִּימִינְךָ֣ נֶֽצַח“) (Psalm 16:11). 

3.1.18 Favor of Yahweh.  The Psalmist observed regarding Yahweh that for a moment His nose anger (“בְּאַפֹּו֮“–see The Angers of God);  lives (חַיִּ֪ים) in His favor in the evening will pass the night weeping, and to the morning shout of joy (“רִנָּֽה“) (Psalm 30:5). 


Section Four

Breath of Lives

4.1 The Breath of Lives. Yahweh Elohim blew into the nose of Adam the breath of lives (נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים) and the Adam became to “soul life” (וַֽיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה׃) (Genesis 2:7). I chose the translation “lives” (חַיִּ֑ים–plural) because of the contrast to “soul life” (חַיָּֽה–singular). Please take notice that the term “life” (חַיָּֽה) occurs as a feminine singular adjective. This term may be translated as “life” (Genesis 2:9, 3:14) or as “living” (Genesis 2:19). God blew the breath of lives into the nose of Adam and only then did Adam become to soul life. Therefore, we may distinguish “breath of lives” from “soul life.”   Adam joined the group of animals and other fleshly creatures sharing the breath of lives. 4As a side note, in Proverbs 20:27, the breath of man (“נִשְׁמַ֣ת אָדָ֑ם“) is the lamp of Yahweh, searching the all the rooms of the abdomen (“חֹ֝פֵ֗שׂ כָּל־חַדְרֵי־בָֽטֶן“). Therefore, the term “breath” refers to an active presence in man which searches his innermost being as the lamp of Yahweh. In Isaiah 30:33 the breath of Yahweh (“נִשְׁמַ֤ת יְהוָה֙“), like a torrent of brimstone, sets ablaze a pyre. The breath of spirit lives continues to live in the nose of man once breathed into him. Furthermore, the body of man holds the breath of the lives, and when the body dies, the breath also leaves.

Section Five

Breath of Spirit Lives

5.1 Breath of Spirit Lives. Elohim also described breath of spirit lives (נִשְׁמַת־ר֨וּחַ חַיִּ֜ים) (Genesis 7:22). In Genesis 6:17, Elohim declared He was bringing a flood upon the earth to destroy all flesh which in it spirit lives (כָּל־בָּשָׂ֗ר אֲשֶׁר־בּוֹ֙ ר֣וּחַ חַיִּ֔ים) under heavens. The spirit lives reside in the flesh of man and other creatures.  Before Yahweh sent the flood upon the earth, He sent all kinds of creatures into the ark, and all of them had flesh which in it spirit lives ( כֹּ֡ל אֲשֶׁר֩ נִשְׁמַת־ר֨וּחַ חַיִּ֜ים) (Genesis 7:15). Likewise, every creature outside the ark with the breath of spirit lives in its nose (נִשְׁמַת־ר֨וּחַ חַיִּ֜ים בְּאַפָּ֗יו ) died in the flood (Genesis 7:22).  Please take notice that in Genesis 6:17 Elohim declared to Noah that the end of “all flesh” (“כָּל־בָּשָׂר֙“) on earth had come before Him. Elohim then specified that He would destroy all flesh in which spirit lives (“כָּל־בָּשָׂ֗ר אֲשֶׁר־בֹּו֙ ר֣וּחַ חַיִּ֔ים“) from under heaven. The verb “died” (“מֵֽתוּ“) referred to the death of the flesh. Because God chose each word Moses wrote, here the spirit lives dwell in the flesh. Notice the contrast between the “spirit lives” and “the breath of spirit.”  God specifically said He would end the flesh; the spirit live does not necessarily perish at that time. Remember that the flesh exists independently of the spirit; the flesh dies, but the spirit continues.  

Section Six

Soul Lives

6.1 To Soul Life. The Hebrew text in Genesis 2:7 raises significant alternatives for translation of the phrase “and Adam came to soul life.” Other uses of key terms may help resolve the best translation of “soul life.” So, I will focus upon the uses of some of the terms in Genesis 2:7, namely  “came,” “to soul,” and “life” as used other Old Testament passages.

6.2 Let Come and Became. In the creation narrative, the Hebrew term “came” can be translated in many ways. To narrow down that meaning, the near context would provide the best understanding. How did Moses use the term “came” (יְהִ֣י) in the creation narrative? In Genesis 1:3, we read that “Let come light and became light” (“יְהִ֣י אֹ֑ור וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור“). 5I appreciate that some translators see an imperative jussive יְהִ֣י followed by a Qal consecutive imperfect  וַֽיְהִי. In the creation narrative, we find this phrase וַֽיְהִי  and וַֽיְהִי repeated several times to describe specific times and actions related directly to the creation commands of Elohim (“וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר“) (Genesis 1:5; see also Genesis 1:8,13).

6.3 Came to Soul Life. Elohim used the preposition “to” before the term soul ( וַיִּפַּ֥ח בְּאַפָּ֖יו נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים וַֽיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה). 6The  exact Hebrew phrase reads “and came Adam to soul life.”

6.3.1 Soul Life Usage. The term “soul life” occurs eight times in the Old Testament, six times in Genesis, once in Leviticus, and once in Ezekiel.

6.3.2 Waters. Elohim commanded the the waters abound with soul life ( נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה) (Genesis 1:20).

6.3.3 Kind. Elohim commanded that soul life ( נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה) bring forth after its kind (Genesis 1:24).

6.3.4 Gifts of CreaturesElohim gave to Adam all kinds of creatures for food, including everything with soul life ( נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה) (Genesis 1:30).

6.3.5 Adam Soul Life. Yahweh Elohim breathed into Adam’s nostrils breath of lives and he became the man to soul life (וַֽיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה)  (Genesis 2:7).

6.3.6 Names. Yahweh Elohim formed the all beasts of the field and birds of the air and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them and Adam named all the soul life ( נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה (Genesis 2:19). 

6.3.7 Swarms in the River. Ezekiel described water flowing from the future house of Yahweh bringing life to every soul life ( נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה) which swarms in every place the river goes (Ezekiel 47:9).

6.4 Animals and Birds. Yahweh Elohim formed from the dust of the earth all living of the field and all birds of the heavens. 7Yahweh Elohim likewise formed (“יִּצֶר֩“) all living of the field (“כָּל־חַיַּ֤ת הַשָּׂדֶה֙“–notice the singular construct form) and all the birds of the heavens (“וְאֵת֙ כָּל־עֹ֣וף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם“)) (Genesis 2:19).  God then brought to Adam all of them to see what he would call them. Whatever Adam called living soul, that was its name. 8The phrase “living soul” (“נֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּ֖ה“) described both the living of the field and the birds of the heavens.

Section Seven


7.1 Yahweh Elohim breathed into the nostrils of Adam breath of lives. So, Adam joined the group of soul lives on earth. He also joined the group of lives presently living on earth. God described precise details about the effects of breath of lives and soul lives on earth. He also described the blessings of soul life and being part of the group of lives. God created breath of lives and soul life so that humans would know Him, love Him and rejoice in Him.



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