Genesis 2:7 in English it reads God breathe the breath of life(singular) but in Hebrew it reads lives(plural)

What is significant that ‘Adam’ received a plurality of lives breathe into him? Eve didn’t receive her breath of life from God, certainly it doesn’t say God breath into her nostril life nor lives.

“Then ADONAI, God, formed a person from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living being.” (Gen)‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭

The Hebrew

“וַיִּיצֶר֩ יְהוָ֨ה אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֗ם עָפָר֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה וַיִּפַּ֥ח בְּאַפָּ֖יו נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים וַֽיְהִ֥י הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה׃” ‮‮בראשית‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭WLC‬‬

Elsewhere where this word is used in Hebrew it’s always in the context of plural persons but here there was just one body/corpse.


Some ideas

  • both Adam and Eve were housed in the same body initially? And later Eve was removed and given her own housing/body? Genesis 1:27
  • Adam was given the breath from which all subsequent human lives would come from? He being the first Adam/human
  • both?
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim made an excellent point in the comment section which he might like to expound as an answer “some people suggest that רחמים is another such word where the ים suffix in these words expresses not plurality but the predominant property or characteristic, the ful-ness of the verb רחם, merciful.” This would render the meaning of Genesis 2:7 as God breath fullness of life into Adam’s nostrils thank you for the comment
  • 7
    This is a Hebrew 101 question, first semester. Some Hebrew nouns have plural form; מים, חיים, פנים, שמיים... There is no theological message in this. Its just the way the language works.
    – user17080
    Mar 17, 2019 at 21:03
  • 1
    I understand that, we can liken it to clothes, and pants, not having a singular use in English but is this a proto-Hebrew anthropological holdover? Is it connected to Elohim, it being a plural noun but connected to created third person singular in Genesis 1:1. Mar 18, 2019 at 1:54
  • 2
    Other singular usages of חיים, not counting "מים חיים" and "אלוהים חיים" are Genesis 6:17, 7:15, 7:22, 27:46, Isaiah 53:8, Jeremiah 11:19, many in Psalms... so חיים actually appears very commonly in singular forms in the OT, both as a noun and as an adjective. A little bit of concordance work would have shown this.
    – user17080
    Mar 18, 2019 at 6:10
  • 1
    BTW, some people suggest that רחמים is another such word where the ים suffix in these words expresses not plurality but the predominant property or characteristic, the ful-ness of the verb רחם, merciful. In modern Hebrew we have also בעלים, the owner or owners of something, used also when there is only one owner. This is also indicative of a property or characteristic of someone, that they are the owner of something.
    – user17080
    Mar 18, 2019 at 10:40
  • 1
    @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim The comments you are making are valuable and informative. If you express them in an answer, they will be fixed and not subject to deletion and also I would up-vote.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 18, 2019 at 12:17

6 Answers 6


The singular and plural forms are used selectively throughout the creation narratives. In Genesis 1 (1:20, 1:21, 1:24 [2x], 1:25, 1:28, 1:30 [2x]), חַי is written in the singular when describing what would be considered as a plural condition.

This pattern is also found in Genesis 2:

Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19) [ESV]

וַיִּצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָה כָּל־חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה וְאֵת כָּל־עֹוף הַשָּׁמַיִם וַיָּבֵא אֶל־הָאָדָם לִרְאֹות מַה־יִּקְרָא־לֹו וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָא־לֹו הָֽאָדָם נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה הוּא שְׁמֹֽו

The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. (Genesis 2:20)

וַיִּקְרָא הָֽאָדָם שֵׁמֹות לְכָל־הַבְּהֵמָה וּלְעֹוף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּלְכֹל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה וּלְאָדָם לֹֽא־מָצָא עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדֹּֽו

Livestock, birds, and beast of the field (literally "living of the field") are always singular. Even "them" in "...to see what he would call them..." is singular.

The first plural use is in the creation of the first man:

then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7)

יִּיצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָֽאָדָם עָפָר מִן־הָאֲדָמָה וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים וַֽיְהִי הָֽאָדָם לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּֽה

Man (singular) received the breath of life (plural).

The man's body would later be used to form the first woman. In creating her, there is no mention of the LORD God breathing the breath of life in her. Therefore, this plural use occurs when that which received it would be used to bring forth another life during the period of the creation:

man (singular) breath of life(s) --> man and woman are one with breath of life(s)

The silence of the breath of life passing from the man and/or shared with the woman follows how it is passed on from the woman to her children, and so from all women to all children. She is the mother of all the living (3:20) whose "breath of life" will originate inside women.

The second plural use occurs in describing the tree of life:

And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9)

וַיַּצְמַח יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים מִן־הָאֲדָמָה כָּל־עֵץ נֶחְמָד לְמַרְאֶה וְטֹוב לְמַאֲכָל וְעֵץ הַֽחַיִּים בְּתֹוךְ הַגָּן וְעֵץ הַדַּעַת טֹוב וָרָֽע

The tree of life is always written as plural (Genesis 2:9, 3:17, 3:22, 3:24, Proverbs 3:18, 11:30, 13:12, 15:4). This plural use fits how this tree is described in the New Testament:

through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2)

The single tree will have 12 kinds of fruit for those having eternal life to eat.

Thus the two plural uses in Genesis 2 function prophetically. The tree of life(s) will be for eternal life and the breath of life(s) will be for both the man and the woman, and subsequently for all the living.

  • חיה is actually a completely different word than חיים. It means "animal"; whereas, חיים means "life."
    – aefrrs
    Nov 3, 2020 at 4:14
  • @aefrrs Thank you for pointing that out. I believe I have corrected the highlighted words which are singular. Nov 3, 2020 at 17:22
  • חית is the same word as חיה, also you highlighted words such as עוף which are completely different.
    – aefrrs
    Nov 3, 2020 at 17:24
  • @aefrrs And is singular where the tree of life is actually lives, plural. The question is why in this particular case the plural was used. Even if it is "almost always" plural, the fact one can make a distinction indicates a distinction is made. It is not the tree of life it is the tree (singular) of life(s) plural. Your example of David is dismissive of the promise which will be made and is likewise prophetic as it relates to the Davidic kingship (i.e. future living kings). Nov 3, 2020 at 17:38
  • I can find countless other examples. Such as for Sarah in Genesis 23:1. I just added this one to my answer. Also in Deuteronomy 4:9.
    – aefrrs
    Nov 3, 2020 at 20:10

Elsewhere where this word is used in Hebrew it’s always in the context of plural persons but here there was just one body/corpse.

Not so. There are many plural uses of ‎ חַיִּ֑ים referring to one person as pointed out by Abu.

Tree of life in Gen 2:9, etc.
Spirit, ruach, of life in Gen 6:17, etc
Gen 27:46 referring to Rebecca.
Deu 30:15 I set before you this day life

As FlyingDragon pointed out, it is the "breath of life". The plural life goes with breath.

I have not looked at all the plural instances of "life" but it seems that when "life" is not a person's life, but just "life", then it is plural.
This is the case for tree of life, spirit of life, breath of life, and I set before you life

DBY Genesis 27:46 And Rebecca said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth. If Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these, of the daughters of the land, what good should my life do me?

The above verse seems to be an exception, but not really.
Rebecca actually says, What [good] is life to me?

  • I don’t know that it’s accidentally plural or purely linguistic. Apostle Paul speaks of the inner and outer man. They are in conflict with each other but belong to the same individual. We are made in God’s image. Three persons in one or echâd, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. May just be that it’s intentionally plural. Body, soul and spirit all separate and yet all echâd. May 21, 2019 at 2:03
  • You cannot leave Gen 5:1-2 out of this matter. Clearly, as to their spirit being created**(v. 1), It was created "male and female" when Adam was created--**before Eve was "formed"--and the LORD God called "their"" name ** Adam, not Adam and Eve. Oct 4, 2020 at 17:24
  • Created refers to the finished product. God hand not completed the creation of man until He split Adam into male and female. Adam was not "male and female" before Eve was built. Oct 5, 2020 at 23:01

חיים has also singular forms in the Hebrew bible, for example כל חי (all living) Gen 3,20; 8,21 or נפש חיה (living creatures) Gen 1,21.

חיים stands together with נשמה (breath, soul), in the Hebrew text 'breath' is also a plural, therefor we need 'living' as plural. Now is the question, why 'breath' is a plural. נשמה (breath, , soul) changes his connotation depending on singular or plural. The plural means the 'breath of God', the singular is the 'breath of humans', or 'blow of wind'.

Gen 2,7 refers to the breath of God, who makes Adam to a living being, thus חיים is plural.

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    Breath is not plural in Gen 2:7. It is singular. Apr 20, 2019 at 22:39

In Hebrew, there are nouns which sound like חיים such as חי and חיה; however, these are not alternative forms of חיים as they mean different things. The first means living creature, and the second means animal. Examples of each are Genesis 8:12 and Genesis 1:28 respectively. The only noun which means the general object "life" is חיים. This noun is always in the plural regardless of how many objects are being discussed. In this manner, it acts similarly to the word מים which means water, פנים which means face and so on. We see countless examples of the plural form חיים throughout the Hebrew Bible being used to refer to one life. The following are a few examples:

"מִ֤י אָֽנֹכִי֙ וּמִ֣י חַיַּ֔י מִשְׁפַּ֥חַת אָבִ֖י בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל כִּֽי־אֶהְיֶ֥ה חָתָ֖ן לַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃" "Who am I, and what is my life (חיי which means to my חיים) and the family of my father in Israel that I should become the son in law of the King?" (1 Samuel 18:18).

Another example is "וַיִּהְיוּ֙ חַיֵּ֣י שָׂרָ֔ה מֵאָ֥ה שָׁנָ֛ה וְעֶשְׂרִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה וְשֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֑ים שְׁנֵ֖י חַיֵּ֥י שָׂרָֽה׃" "Sarah's lifetime--the span of her life (חיי which is the construct form of חיים)--was 127 years" (Genesis 23:1). This cannot be other people inside Sarah as if it was referring to future generations, why would it be Sarah's lifespan.

Another example is "רַ֡ק הִשָּׁ֣מֶר לְךָ֩ וּשְׁמֹ֨ר נַפְשְׁךָ֜ מְאֹ֗ד פֶּן־תִּשְׁכַּ֨ח אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֜ים אֲשֶׁר־רָא֣וּ עֵינֶ֗יךָ וּפֶן־יָס֙וּרוּ֙ מִלְּבָ֣בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֣י חַיֶּ֑יךָ וְהוֹדַעְתָּ֥ם לְבָנֶ֖יךָ וְלִבְנֵ֥י בָנֶֽיךָ׃" "But watch yourself with upmost care and protect your life lest you forget the things which your eyes say and you turn from your heart all the days of your life (חייך which means your חיים) and you shall tell them to your sons and your children's sons" (Deuteronomy 4:9).


The Hebrew, "the breath of lives", simply points to the fact that Adam was not one man among many men, but in him the whole human race was gathered up. That is to say that when God created Adam He was not creating just an individual, but rather in that one man He created all men. We can see this in Genesis 2:22,23 because Eve was taken from Adam. And in Acts 17:27 we read that "From one man (Adam) He (God) made every nation of the human race."

This truth has many implications: If God created us when our mother conceived us then you can blame God for creating you a sinner, but if God created your life when He created Adam then "in Adam" God created you "in the likeness and image of God". That is to say that God created you perfect in Adam and when the individual Adam fell into sin your life in him also became polluted with iniquity (sin). Sin ruined the whole human race in Adam. See Romans 5:12

This truth is very important in understanding the gospel. When Christ died on the cross of Calvary it wasn't just one man (Christ, "the last Adam") dying instead of all men; rather it was "all men" dying "in Christ"! Paul brings this out in 2 Corinthians 5:14: "One (the man Christ Jesus) died for all; therefore, all died."

"So, my brothers and sisters (plural), you also died to the law through the body of Christ..." Romans 7:4 Thus "in Christ" the whole human race died. Why? Because God's law demands the death of the sinner! Either we accept our death "in Christ" by faith or we take the curse of the law on ourselves in the coming judgment.

The believer has been legally delivered from under the law because he/she has accepted his/her death "in Christ" approximately 2,000 years ago. Hence, "we have been released from the law, having died to that by which we were bound". Romans 7:6 Therefore "in Christ" (the gospel) the justice of God's law has been satisfied seeing that "our old self was crucified with Him". Romans 6:6

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    – agarza
    Jun 24, 2021 at 20:35
  • Had to be pointed to this A. of yours through "Review Queues", as the Q. had obviously not peaked my interest when your A. was given. Very good first contribution. You have my vote. Good paragraph differentiation. I would recommend in the future (if you have not already been discouraged at the lack of response) that you start of your answers with the Q. highlighted/bolded and then bold all verse references, while at the same time identifying the source bible. And of course, check out other proponents Q's and A's for further presentation ideas. Jul 1, 2021 at 16:04

Peace unto you.

The “breath of lives” speaks of the Holy Spirit of God that was breathed into Adam who was the first man to receive His Spirit….the first to know God . There were other men at the time…natural, earthy men (the “adamah”) from which Adam was formed from.

The first Adam was to preach with the received Spirit of God to others (with the “breath of lives”…the life-giving Spirit) so that mankind might know God as well (becoming “alive” also). Adam was to breathe the Holy Spirit to others by speaking words of life and spirit so that that the "adamah"..can live also.

Adam, the Son of God, was to preach the words of the Spirit to others (the “adamah”…fleshly-minded, earthy men) as the Spirit makes others alive. The Spirit makes alive while the flesh (the words of the “adamah”) profits nothing.

John 6:63 KJV (63) It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

Adam’s (the Son of God) purpose was to give the “adamah”…the natural man….an understanding so that they might know Him who is true. This is the same purpose that the “last Adam” fulfills.

1 John 5:19-20 KJV (19) And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. (20) And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

The first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam (Jesus) was made a life-giving spirit as He fulfills the main purpose that the original Adam was supposed to do.

Adam was to preach to others with the Spirit thereby giving others the life of God in this earth. As Jesus (the last Adam) said, He came to this earth so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10).

1 Corinthians 15:45 KJV (45) And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

The LORD God formed man (Adam) from the “dust of the ground”.

The “ground” = the “adamah” which were the natural men in the beginning. The “adamah” is alienated in his empty mind from the life of God and has no understanding…no knowledge of God. The understanding is darkened as the "mist" rises up from the earth.

Adam was taken from among the earthly men as the receiving of the Spirit of God set him apart from the rest… from the natural, fleshly, unregenerate mankind of the time.

The LORD God “formed” …to mold into form as a potter….the Adam. Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? (Romans 9:21). God took the first Adam from the same lump: the worldly, natural man.

He was of the “dust” of the ground as the first Adam was a humble man among worldly men (among the “adamah” of the world). He was in a low position in this world. He was humble… "dust”.

For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh (the “adamah”), not many mighty, not many noble, are called… (1 Corinthians 1:26).

Genesis 2: (7) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

The origins of the 2 Adams: the first man ( the first Adam) was taken from the earth…from among the earthly men (the “adamah”) while the second man (the last Adam) was sent from Heaven and made like unto earthly men.

The first Adam was taken from among the natural, earthy men in this world and received the Holy Spirit of God which elevated him above natural, fleshly-minded mankind as he knew God through the Spirit within him.

The “last Adam”…the second man…the Lord from Heaven…was not taken from among the earthly men of this world (the “adamah”) as He was sent from Heaven and was fashioned like the earthly men of this world as He partook in the flesh and blood that all do here.

1 Corinthians 15:47-49 KJV (47) The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. (48) As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

We wear the image of the earthy for we have all been a part of the “adamah” before we received the Spirit of God.

We through the receiving of His Spirit from Heaven are to also put on Jesus the Christ….the “second man” from Heaven. We are to bear the image of the heavenly Man now by putting Him on in this earthen vessel.

(49) And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

He…the Lord from Heaven….the second man…the last “Adam” was sent to this world as a partaker of a flesh and blood man so that through death He might destroy him that has the power of death so that we might have life in this earth as a human being.

Jesus was not taken from among the natural men (the “adamah”) as we all have but came from Heaven and was made like unto sinful flesh.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh. (Rom 8:3).

This is not about “dying and going to Heaven” that is universally preached by those who continue to perish from this earth but about having His eternal life in this earth in this earthen vessel as He was sent from Heaven and made like us and so we must put Him on to live His heavenly life in this earth.

Hebrews 2:14: Since then the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

The “first Adam” was taken from among the natural man…the “adamah” mankind.

He was a humble man (of the “dust” of the adamah) living as the rest of the world in the carnal mind (the nostrils = the wrath of man that does not do the righteousness of God) but the Spirit of God that was breathed into him made him a “living soul” which is the “spiritual body” spoken of by Paul here in 1st Corinthians. The Spirit of God gave the first Adam life and peace as the Spirit was breathed into his "nostrils"...the wrath of man...so that he could do the righteousness of God.

The first Adam was a natural body first….as we all were when we did things always in the carnal mind living as the rest…and then the “spiritual body” came as the Spirit of God was breathed into Adam and he became a living soul (by the receiving of His Spirit within the earthen vessel).

1 Corinthians 15:44-46 KJV (44) It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (45) And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

We are all part of the “adamah”….doing the works of the carnal mind always sowing after the flesh…until the receiving of the Spirit of God which makes us alive in this earthen vessel. The "spiritual body" comes to us by the receiving of His Spirit which can then make our mortal bodies alive.

(46) Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.

The “adamah” is carnally minded. Those who are in the flesh…the adamah…. cannot please God.

Romans 8:6-14 KJV (6) For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (7) Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (8) So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

We are not in the flesh (behaving like the “adamah”) any longer as we have received the Spirit of God by which we are to crucify the flesh so that our mortal bodies may live in this earth.

(9) But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

We are a “natural body” first that is dead because of sin but we can live now in this earthen vessel as the Spirit that we have received gives our mortal bodies His eternal life now. The "natural body" is made alive by the "spiritual body" of righteousness.

(10) And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

The Spirit of God that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken….make alive…our MORTAL BODIES in this earth by His Spirit that dwells in us. The "natural body" is raised by the spiritual as this mortal body is kept alive by living after the Spirit always.

(11) But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

But before this can happen, we have to deaden the deeds of the body through that Spirit that we have received. The natural body is raised by the spiritual body. If we continue to live after the flesh, our mortal bodies shall die but if through the Spirit do we deaden the deeds of the flesh, then our mortal bodies shall live.

(12) Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. (13) For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (14) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

In the beginning (Genesis 2) , righteousness had not sprung up from the earth yet as the LORD God had not caused it to “rain” (His living words…His teaching) upon the earth. The words of Genesis 2 are metaphoric for spiritual things.

Genesis 2:4-7 KJV (4) These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,

This is about the lack of His righteousness being done by earthy men in this time as man did not have an understanding as a “mist” (a fog) rose up from the earth to water all of the faces of the “adamah”. The earthly mind of men did not have any knowledge of God. The carnal mind has no understanding.

There was not a man (a “Adam”) to work the ground (the “adamah”) yet.

The “adamah” did not have an “Adam” (the Son of God) to work it yet….that is, to preach His words of life and spirit to others so that they might know God.

There was no “rain”….the teachings from above to drop from Heaven upon the earth: Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass… (Deu 32).

Upon hearing the heavenly teachings of God....the "rain" from Heaven, the earthly men (the “adamah”) then can bring forth works of His righteousness...every herb.

For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations (Isa 61:11).

(5) And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. (6) But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. (7) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

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