enter image description hereA person consists of:

  1. Physical body (from the dust of the earth)
  2. The breath of life (נְשָׁמָה)
  3. The living soul (נֶפֶשׁ)

What does the breath of life (נְשָׁמָה) mean in Genesis 2:7?

1 Answer 1


The three components of a person as listed by the OP is at variance with the text of Gen 2:7. The actual text of Gen 2:7 is (NASB):

Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [chay = life]; and the man became a living [chay = life] person [nephesh = soul].

According this verse, a person is a living being or living soul and we can summarize by saying (according to Gen 2:7)

  • man formed from dust + breath of life = living being/soul

The breath of life, whatever that is, is something that mankind shares with all living creatures that breathe. For instance:

  • Gen 1:30 - all the creatures created on the sixth day have the breath of life
  • Gen 6:17 - all the creatures destroyed by the flood had the breath of life
  • Gen 7:22, 15 - all the animals on Noah's ark had the breath of life
  • Num 16:22, 27:16 - breath of life exists in all people
  • Josh 10:40 - Joshua destroyed all the cattle and animals that had the breath of life
  • Eccl 3:19 - all men and beasts have the same breath of life
  • Eccl 11:5 - we do not understand the breath of life

Now, according to Gen 2:7, God gives the breath of life to initiate a living being/soul. However, at death, the breath of life returns to God who gave it, Job 34:14, Eccl 12:7.

This is confirmed by Stephen's prayer to Jesus to receive his breath at death, Acts 7:59, which essentially quotes Ps 31:5.


It is well-known that humans cannot create life - but God can! The "breath of life" appears to be the difference between a dead body and a living person/soul. Beyond that we cannot go because the Bible is silent and has no further information.

  • Thank for answer. How do you explain the text of Job 32:8 -The Neshama of God gives understanding? May 24 at 12:34
  • 1
    @SebastianElishav - without the breath of God, there can be no understanding - a dead person cannot think.
    – Dottard
    May 24 at 21:31

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