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Volume 19 - Page 133 of 154 Index | Zoom | |
The breath of life.
pp. 65 - 69
In our previous article we saw that man, equally with lower creation, is called
"a living soul", but we also saw enough in the record of Gen. 1: 26-28 to prevent us from
concluding that he was that and nothing more. It is sometimes said that "man is like the
beasts that perish", but we should remember that the full statement is: "Man that is in
honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish" (Psa. 49: 12, 20), which is
a somewhat different thought. Eph. 4: 17, 18 says of the Gentiles, that they have "the
understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that
is in them", which cannot be true of the lower creation.
When writing the article previously quoted from Volume I, and confining ourselves
largely to the usage and meaning of nephesh = "soul", we referred to Gen. 7: 21, 22 as
using the expression "the breath of life" both of man, cattle and creeping thing. This,
however, was too general in its sweep, and while it is true that both man and beast "have
all one breath" (ruach), there is in Gen. 7: 21, 22 another word which seems peculiar to
man alone, and therefore establishes an essential difference.
This word n'shamah is generally translated "breath" or "breathe" in the A.V. its other
renderings being "blast", "inspiration", "soul" and "spirit". The word occurs 24 times,
and we believe in 23 of the occurrences man only is the subject. The one passage which
demands a more lengthy analysis is Gen. 7: 21, 22.
We propose, therefore, to pass in review the 23 passages, and then consider
Gen. 7: 21, 22 to see whether this particular word does, or does not, mark off man from
all other creatures. For easy reference we will number each occurrence. Appendix 16 of
The Companion Bible gives all references.
1. "And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul"
(Gen. 2: 7).--It may be queried who it is that is said to breathe, God or Adam, for the
pronoun "he" does not decide the question. This breath is by the nostrils, and therefore
differs in nothing from that of the lower creatures. Be the answers to these questions
what they may, here is the introduction of something special in the process of creation,
something quite exceptional, occurring nowhere in the record of Gen. 1:, but finding
somewhat of a parallel in the equally distinctive pause and counsel of Gen. 1: 26.
2. "Thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth" (Deut. 20: 16).--We know that
sometimes both man and beast were destroyed by the advancing Israelites, as was the
case at Jericho. But when taking the next city, Ai, Israel were, by divine command,
expressly told to spare the cattle. "And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst
unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof shall ye take for