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A related question is Are the three distinctive Hebrew terms, translated "breath of life," suggesting there was a different mankind at creation than there was at the flood?.

Berean Study Bible, Genesis 1:30

And to every beast [chay] of the earth and every bird of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth—everything that has the breath [h5315 נָ֫פֶשׁ nephesh] of life [h2416 חָי chay] in it—I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

The breath of life here is nephesh chay נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֔ה

Berean Study Bible, Genesis 2:7

Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath [h5397 נְשָׁמָה neshamah] of life [h2416 חָי chay] into his nostrils, and the man became a living [chay] being [nephesh].

Now, the breath of life is neshamah chay נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים

What is the difference between these 2 instances of "breath of life"?

How are they different from living being (chay nephesh)?

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The Distinction between "Nephesh cHayah" (נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֔ה) & "Nishemat Chayim" (נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים):

In [Bereishit (Genesis) 1:30] * "Nephesh cHayah" (נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֔ה) is translated literally in English as Spirit-of Living or "Living Spirit".

  1. "Nephesh cHayah" is given to all of the Beasts (חַיַּ֣ת) of the earth (הָ֠אָ֠רֶץ).
  2. "Nephesh cHayah" is then given to the Birds (ע֨וֹף) of the skies ( הַשָּׁמַ֜יִם).
  3. "Nephesh cHayah" is then given to "everything moving" ( כֹ֣ל רוֹמֵ֣שׂ) upon-the earth ( עַל־הָאָ֗רֶץ).

In [Bereishit (Genesis) 2:7] * "Nishemat Chayim" (נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים) is literally translated in English as "Soul-of Life".

  1. God breathed the "Soul of Life" (נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים) into man's nostrils.
  2. Making "The-Man into-a Living Spirit" (הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ חַיָּֽה).

// The Distinction is "Nishemat Chayim" (נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים) comes from God, but animate creatures become "Nephesh cHayah" (נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֔ה) after receiving God's "Nishemat Chayim". - Thus all living creatures have extensions of God's Soul of Life in them.

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  • another superb answer very similar to the one I might have provided but you beat me to it! Many thanks. I particularly liked the way you correctly emphasized that all breathing creatures have this breath of life. – Dottard Aug 25 '20 at 20:54
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Strong’s Definitions נֶפֶשׁ nephesh, neh'-fesh; from H5314; properly, a breathing creature, i.e. animal of (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental):—any, appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, × dead(-ly), desire, × (dis-) contented, × fish, ghost, greedy, he, heart(-y), (hath, × jeopardy of) life (× in jeopardy), lust, man, me, mind, mortally, one, own, person, pleasure, (her-, him-, my-, thy-) self, them (your) -selves, slay, soul, tablet, they, thing, (× she) will, × would have it.

KJV Translation Count — Total: 753x The KJV translates Strong's H5315 in the following manner: soul (475x), life (117x), person (29x), mind (15x), heart (15x), creature (9x), body (8x), himself (8x), yourselves (6x), dead (5x), will (4x), desire (4x), man (3x), themselves (3x), any (3x), appetite (2x), miscellaneous (47x).

Strong’s Definitions נְשָׁמָה nᵉshâmâh, nesh-aw-maw'; from H5395; a puff, i.e. wind, angry or vital breath, divine inspiration, intellect. or (concretely) an animal:—blast, (that) breath(-eth), inspiration, soul, spirit.

KJV Translation Count — Total: 24x The KJV translates Strong's H5397 in the following manner: breath (17x), blast (3x), spirit (2x), inspiration (1x), souls (1x).

By far nephesh appears more often than neshamah. nephesh is anything that breathes while neshamah is more for human beings. neshamah is the stronger breath of life.

It is important to note that nephesh is translated as soul 475 times, NOT even once as spirit. Only neshamah has spiritual life.

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