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].

The neshamah here seems to be the uncreated breath/spirit of God that powers life.

Isaiah 57:16 English Standard Version

For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath [neshamah] of life that I made.

Here neshamah is created.

Can neshamah be destroyed?

1 Answer 1


The Hebrew word נְשָׁמָה (neshamah) occurs about 23 times in the OT. It is used in various ways:

  • It is used of the breath of God either as very hot lighting a flame (Isa 30:33), or a judgmental destroying wind (2 Sam 22:16, Ps 18:16, Isa 30:33) or even a cold wind producing ice (Job 32:8, 33:4)
  • It is used of the breath of humans in 1 Kings 17:17, isa 42:5
  • It is used as the breath in air-breathing animals in Gen 2:7, Deut 20:16, Ps 150:6, etc.

It is also used metaphorically of the difference between a living thing and dead thing in places such as Gen 2:7, Josh 10:40, 11:11, 1 Kings 15:29, 17:17, Job 27:3, Isa 2:22, etc.

The NT repeatedly teaches that life for humans and all else is dependent upon God; that is without the sustaining power of God we cannot live or exist, see Acts 17:28, Col 1:17, etc. The same is true in the OT using this same Hebrew word such as:

  • Isa 42:5 - Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it
  • Job 33:4 - The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
  • Job 32:4 - But it is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.
  • Gen 2:7 - Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Thus, נְשָׁמָה (neshamah) is something that is given to mankind and all creatures and can be withdrawn, whereupon, we die. Note Job 34:14, 15 -

If He were to set His heart to it and withdraw His Spirit and breath, all flesh would perish together and mankind would return to the dust.

Thus, we find that God's "breath" plus the body creates the living being. There is no reference to נְשָׁמָה (neshamah) being indestructible nor "uncreated". Quite the reverse, in Isa 57:16, we have:

"For I will not contend forever, Nor will I always be angry; For the spirit would grow faint before Me, And the breath of those whom I have made.

Note that in this verse as in Job 34:14 God's spirit/breat (רוּחַ ruach) and His breath (נְשָׁמָה neshamah) are used synonymously. That is, there are two words for the same thing at least in these verses. See also Gen 7:22, Job 27:3, etc.

Thus, there is nothing mystical about נְשָׁמָה (neshamah) except that it is that gift of God that makes us alive.

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