International Standard Version Job 32:8 However, a spirit exists in mankind, and the Almighty's breath gives him insight." https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/Job/32/8

New International Version Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.


3 Answers 3


Browsing through the questions presented, I have found this very interesting one (by Ruminator).

It seems to me it deserves a more detailed answer, especially explaining – in Job 32:8 - the difference between the terms רוח (commonly translated, ‘spirit’) and נשמת (commonly translated, ‘breath’).

First of all, let’s cast our eyes on Job 32:7 Hebrew text:

אכן רוח־היא באנושׁ ונשׁמת שׁדי תבינם

Starting with the first term (רוח) at issue, it is necessary to enhance that it was utilized to describe something that was/is ‘on the edge’ of the human sensory capability. In fact, we can get only a ‘partial’ knowledge of all things we cannot see (since our eyes have a limited range of wavelengths to capture). The majority of knowledge-inputs we receive – every day - passes through our sight, but not everything existing in the Universe we are able to see with our eyes…

As regards the meaning of רוח (as well as the homologous Greek term) throughout the Bible, what we are able to do – as men – is only to consider the Bible (micro- and macro-)context to understanding what a given text says, really.

A list of רוח-related deducted-by-context’s meanings we may find in the Bible are the following five:

  1. An individual רוח belonging to God, personally (e.g. Gen 1:2)
  2. A physical wind (e.g. Gen 8:1)
  3. A biological energy inside man/animal (e.g. Gen 6:17/Jdg 15:19)
  4. A mental attitude (e.g. Gen 26:36; Psa 34:19)
  5. A spiritual (‘spirit-made’) person (e.g. Psa 104:4).

Now, we have to ask ourselves the pivotal question: Since all these listed ‘things’ – we must not forget it - were identified with the same Hebrew term (רוח), what have in common all these meanings?

Whether you like it or not, the mintage of the term רוח was made with the purpose to describe ‘something invisible, an issued dynamic force/energy (moving briskly, or fluctuating) that – guided by the possessor of it - is able to perform an amount of actions’. A more precise (less generic) definition - I’m afraid – belongs to the ‘angel’s tongue’ - 1 Cor 13:1).

What about the Job 32’8’s second term (נשמת/ נשמה)? The concept behind this term is ‘to blow, to eject’ (e.g. Gen 2:7).

Although the two terms we are analyzed (רוח and נשמת/ נשמה) are put - sometimes - in a parallelistic structure (e.g. Job 4:9; interestingly, also Lord Jesus make a similar analogy. You may see it in Joh 20:22, linking ‘to blow’ [εμφυσαω] with ‘spirit’ [πνευμα]), this fact does not indicate that they are absolute synonyms, but only relative ones. Technically – using the analogical structure of math sets – the semantic fields of each of these terms superimposing themselves only for a certain area (this area is named intersection). So, the intersection between two sets must include, necessarily, the common elements between the two semantic areas (where the semantic field of נשמת/ נשמהis clearly narrower that רוח ‘s).

Also in this case, we ask ourselves: What are these common elements between רוח and נשמת/ נשמה?

The answer is: the ejection/blowing/emitting/exhaling of this ‘something’ we are speaking of (see, for an example, Isa 42:14, where we ascertain the usage of 3 different verbal forms [one of it is נשם], but all of them linked by the concept of ‘to eject/to blow/to emit/to issue/to exhale’).

Solomon Mandelkern’s Concordantiae lists 24 occurrences of verses that including נשם, plus 3 others that are correlated to an a couple of specific animals (we will see it forward). Since they are relatively few, I present now the list of the first 24 occurrences of נשם, as well as an ultra-synthetic definition of each of them:

Gen 2:7 correlated to the breath God gave Adam > humankind

Gen 7:22 correlated to what is in the ‘nostrils’ of men/animals

Deu 20:16 correlated to everything who ‘breaths’ (through a physical mechanism)

Jos 10:40 correlated to everything who ‘breaths’ (through a physical mechanism)

Jos 11:11 correlated to everything who ‘breaths’ (through a physical mechanism)

Jos 11:14 correlated to everything who ‘breaths’ (through a physical mechanism)

2 Sam 22:16 correlated to the God’s breath (an anthropomorphism)

I Kin 15:29 correlated to everything who ‘breaths’ (through a physical mechanism)

1Kin 17:17 correlated to the human breathing mechanism

Job 4:9 correlated to the God’s breath (an anthropomorphism)

Job 26:4 correlated to an issuing (of declarations) from man

Job 27:3 correlated to the human breathing mechanism

Job 32:8 the passage now at issue

Job 33:4 correlated to the human breathing mechanism

Job 34:14 correlated to the human breathing mechanism

Job 37:10 correlated to the God’s breath (an anthropomorphism)

Psa 18:16 (15) correlated to the God’s breath (an anthropomorphism)

Psa 150:6 correlated to everything who ‘breaths’ (through a physical mechanism)

Pro 20:27 correlated to the figurative ‘breathing’ man’s activity, namely ‘what push/drive a man to do a given thing’ (as a sailing boat under the effects of the winds).

Isa 2:22 correlated to the human breathing mechanism

Isa 30:33 correlated to the God’s breath (an anthropomorphism)

Isa 42:5 correlated to the breath God gave Adam > humankind

Isa 57:16 correlated to everything who ‘breaths’ (through a physical mechanism)

Dan 10:17 correlated to the human breathing mechanism.

I hope that are appearing clear – now – the differences/similarities between the term רוח and נשמת/ נשמה.

So, נשמת/ נשמה is more restricted to a physical area.

Differently, רוח can include a physical, or a non-physical area. In fact, for an example, נשמת/ נשמה is never related with some spiritual (‘spirit-made’) person (angels, demons), as רוח does.

Moreover, the following datum is the icing on the cake. Do you remember I spoke about a couple of animal’s names taken from the MT root נשם (the above-mentioned 3 more occurrences)?

Well, all these passages (Lev 11:18 + Deu 14:16 [the same bird]; Lev 11:30 [a terricolous animal]) refer to a couple of animals possessing some peculiar characteristics linked with an ejecting/emitting mechanism.

Although we cannot be dogmatic regards what is the exact species of animal these passages speak of, we note a clear confirmation of the basic meaning of נשם, as we illustrated before.

In the first cases – the animal quoted in Lev 11:18 + Deu 14:16 – the bird there quoted (תנשמת) was probably the swan (Vulgate has cycnum, ‘a swan’; LXX has κυκνος, ‘a swan’), that emits, when is angry, a series of blows of threat (similar to those cat’s) against the object of menace (there are a number of nice videos, on YouTube, illustrating this swan’s behaviour).

The second animal (תנשמת), quoted in Lev 11:30, refers – with all probabilities - to the chameleon. All of us is aware the characteristic manner of this animal to pick up his (animal and living) food, extruding – flashly - his tongue to reach its prey. However - more probably - his name refers to an another behaviour of this animal. Some species of chameleons, when they are engaged in a territorial competition (two males specimens, obviously…), swallow up some air, swelling their bodies, and emitting a threatening hiss (hair blow).

Last remarks following.

Having understood the semantic difference between the two terms at issue, we may return to Job 32:8. Even if we would see in it a parallelism it seems to me we have to read it as antithetical, instead to be synonymical.

In fact, Bishop (XVI c.) translated (bold is mine): “Every man no doubt hath a mynde, but is the inspiration of the almightie that geueth vnderstanding.”. Similarly, the Geneva translation (bold is mine): “Surely there is a spirite in man, but the inspiration of the Almightie giueth vnderstanding.”

These readings are consistent with an ו usage as adversative particle, which, in these cases means ‘but’, ‘yet’, ‘otherwise’, ‘but yet’, et cetera (instead of the commoner meaning of ‘and’, et cetera; you may see an example of this particular usage in Zep 1:13).

The last point is around the particular lessical construction of the verse, formed in the following manner: ו […] אכן.

We may encounter in the TaNaKh this contruction a number of times. You yourself may notice the adversative sense in some Bible passages (the bold is mine, in all the passages):

Gen 28:16: “When Jacob woke from his sleep, he thought to himself, The LORD is definitely (אכן) in this place, but (ו) I didn't know it” (Common English Bible)

“Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely (אכן) the Lord is in this place, but (ו) I did not know it’” (New Century Version).

Isa 40:7-8: “[…] surely (אכן) the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but (ו) the word of our God will stand forever.” (ESV)

… along with the large majority of Bible translations.

Jer 4:10: “Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD, surely (אכן) you have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘It shall be well with you’, whereas (ו) the sword has reached their very life.” (ESV)

“I said, ‘Almighty LORD, you certainly (אכן) have deceived these people and Jerusalem. You said that everything would go well for them, but (ו) a sword is held at their throats.” (God’s Word)

“Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! surely (אכן) you have greatly deceived this people and Yerushalayim, saying, You shall have shalom; whereas (ו) the sword reaches to the life” (Hebrew Name Version),

… along with other translations.

So, on the basis of that we’ve examined, and answering to your question, directly, “Is Job 32:8 equating ‘the breath of life’ of Genesis 2:7 with the Holy Spirit?”, the answer is No.

  • Thank you Saro for assembling all that relevant data and analysis, so +1 for that. However, I don't see how it leads one necessarily to the conclusion that you draw. If it was just air, how did it make the clay come to life and be immediately intelligent? Should we understand that Adam already had human breath before God breathed into him, so he had two breaths, one human and one divine? Or is it all just symbolism?
    – Ruminator
    Aug 30, 2020 at 13:08
  • Your remarks deserve a clarification. I said: “נשמת/ נשמה is more restricted to a physical area.” (remember the Gen 2:7’s expression “in his nostrils”, too). Yet, this fact does not means that any object inflated with air becomes an individual, automatically. Besides, also a bicycle pump has – in itself – a kind of gas (air) exchange, without necessarily becoming an individual… Moreover, the Bible does not attach the sense of ‘an individual’ (נפש) to the plants, but only to the animals and the humans, even if the majority of plants possess a kind of ‘breathing’-mechanism. Aug 30, 2020 at 18:07
  • So, what? It is not simply the air (a gas mix) to transform an inanimate object in an individual. To be an individual (נפש), an ens must possess: (a) an inner bio-mechanism to manage the in-take/out-take import of air, so that the life can be supported through it; and (b) an amount of self-referentiality (animals possess it in a partial amount, humans in a full amount). Aug 30, 2020 at 18:07
  • To not dilate my argument in this comment I will use an analogy. Imagine a new beautiful car, fully equipped, except the petrol in the tank (obviously, we have to start the car, too…). It is not the petrol for itself to make the car fully operational (besides, I can add fuel on my writing desk, but I will not never see it to speed away…). It is the complete project of that car, along with the necessary fuel to make the car fully operational. Aug 30, 2020 at 18:08
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    You have perfectly understood. Thanks for your interest. Aug 30, 2020 at 20:00

Your link leads to this translation by Robert Young :

Surely a spirit is in man, And the breath of the Mighty One doth cause them to understand.

If we get rid of the indefinite article (which is not present in the Hebrew) :

Surely spirit is in man, and the breath of the Mighty One doth cause them to understand.

God breathed, originally, into Adam's nostrils, the breath of life. And that was a creative act. Thus - surely spirit is in man. Man has a living spirit because of the gift of creation. The gift of an existence.

But beyond that, more than that, the Mighty One breathes to give understanding. Yet is it not without intelligence; therefore with word. Communication. The breathing is associated with communication - in order to give understanding.

The word of God is conveyed - not just by bare transfer of data to the carnal mind - but is breathed into a man. Word and Spirit.

God conveys Word and Spirit into a man. The hearing of faith by the power of God's Spirit.

Thus is Christ formed within, intelligently and spiritually. This is the work of the Father. It is a begetting.

I say this not to state an opinion. It is my experience. And a multitude of scriptures agree with what I am saying.

In answer to your question : Yes. Most definitely; the breath of the Mighty One is, here, a matter of the Person of the Holy Spirit.

But this is above and beyond the creative act of breathing natural life into the nostrils. That, first, natural spirit is of the first creation.

The breathing of the Mighty One - to give understanding - is a new creation and a new begetting.

  • So is what you are saying that what Job is describing is the giving of the Holy Spirit but this is something other than the initial breath that man received?
    – Ruminator
    Oct 26, 2017 at 13:29
  • @Ruminator Yes, indeed.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 26, 2017 at 13:39
  • So would you say that what Job is referring to is just air? If so, why does he relate it to understanding?
    – Ruminator
    Oct 26, 2017 at 13:41
  • @Ruminator I think my answer is very clear. I would like to leave the matter there.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 26, 2017 at 14:07
  • "Christ"? In Job? The book is perfectly understandable in its original context, which is far removed from the New Testament.
    – user2672
    Sep 11, 2018 at 16:55

No, I believe Elihu in Job 32:8 is not equating the use of the word spirit with the Holy Spirit. The simple context will tell you this is true.

Verse 1: This verse is key to understand the context of the entire book of Job. "So these three men ceased to answer Job because he was righteous in his own eyes". God was not dealing with any outward action of Job for God declared them as righteous. God however was dealing with Job's inherent sin nature, ie his self righteousness.

In verses 2-3, you see Elihu's is angry with Job and his three friends. Why? Because they all did not understand how God was dealing with Job. Job defended himself and the three friends judged him for his actions when God called Job righteous. God was not dealing with Job's lifestyle or outward actions, He was dealing with his self righteous sin nature.

Elihu then deals with the fact that these three men are not wise (ref verse 9, "Great (old) men are no always wise")

In verses 4-6, we see that Elihu waited to speak in order to let the older and supposed wiser men a chance to speak first.

Then in verse 7 Elihu says, "Days (older men) should speak and multitude of years should teach wisdom." In this verse Elihu is waiting for the elders to bring forth wisdom before he would speak. However, according to Elihu, these men did not bring forth wisdom and that is the context leading into verse 8.

Verses 7 and 8 together: "...and multitude of years should teach wisdom BUT there is a spirit in man..."

Please notice the "but" at the beginning of verse 8. This tells you that there is a contrast here. Wisdom was supposed to come in verse 7 BUT that is not true in the speech of the three friends because they are subject to the spirit of man and not the spirit of God. Verse 8 goes on to say that only God can give proper inspiration and understanding. These three men answered out of their own spirit and wisdom and not the wisdom of God.

  • So would he be referring to air?
    – Ruminator
    Nov 10, 2017 at 0:35
  • Not air as in atmosphere; but the breath of life. However, that does not mean the Spirit of God. Man is born with the spirit of the world and regeneration provides the ability to know God and that revelation comes only through His Holy Spirit. 1 Cor 2:11,14 For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
    – alb
    Nov 10, 2017 at 23:00
  • So "the breath of life" was more than air. Does each person have a unique "spirit" given to them or is it the same substance - the same "breath of life" given to all men?
    – Ruminator
    Nov 10, 2017 at 23:14
  • Gen 2:7 says God breathed the breath of life into man and man became a living soul. So, yes, everyone has the same miraculous life force that came from God. I would say that each person's soul (seat of emotion) is different hence different personalities. But as far as the God given spirit that sustains life, I would say that would be the same for all.
    – alb
    Nov 10, 2017 at 23:31
  • In thinking through this further, if you view man as a two part being (body and soul/spirit) then you might say that each person has a unique soul/spirit since the soul is subject to the person's emotion and will. If you view man as a three part being (body, soul and spirit) then my original answer would hold.
    – alb
    Nov 11, 2017 at 0:05

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