Neshama and Ruach are the essential constituents that endow humans with their singularities and functions. Together they differentiate humans from animals and explain the insurmountable gulf that separates these two types of living beings.
Here’s a summary of what we’ve covered in Genesis 2:7 so far about the creation of the first man. Yahveh formed man out of dust, the most sterile part of the ground. Yahveh, the Potter, the future Jesus, then breathed into his nostrils. That man is called a living soul composed of a material body and an immaterial singularity, akin to the mind, that only humans possess; this is a result of the breath of life which is the neshama, which again, only humans and God possess, revealing a relationship between humans and God. This neshama confers lives (plural) on humans, confirmed by continual Bible reference to resurrections (plural). Hence breath of life is better rendered by the divine essence of lives.
We’re focusing on the creation of humans. Specifically on human singularities, which I enumerated in chapter 10. What makes humans human? Why are they light-years ahead of animals when it comes to mental capacity and cognitive capabilities? Humans and animals have bodies and brains. Some animals have similar size brains to humans. The brain alone cannot justify the separating chasm.
The Bible presents the neshama and the ruach as imparted by God to humans. We are going to take an in-depth look at both of these components.
We’ll start by seeing this duo (neshama and ruach) as an inseparable twosome. We saw this, three articles ago but it is so important that we need to see it again. In English (where the KJV translators omitted the translation for one of the Hebrew words) and in Biblical Hebrew, where you can again see that BOTH ruach and neshama appear and are BOTH associated with humans.
All [humans] in whose nostrils was the breath (H7307 of H5397) life, of all that was in the dry land, died.
The New King James Version has:
All in whose nostrils was the breath [a] of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died.
Footnotes: Genesis 7:22 LXX, Vg. omit of the spirit
Genesis 7:21–22 Notice the two Biblical Hebrew words nishmat ruach (breath of the spirit). You don’t see this in most English translations.
Straight away, we see a significant issue that is going to confront us throughout our study of ruach, that of its translation. In Gen 6:17 ruach chayim (ר֣וּחַ חַיִּ֔ים) is translated breath of life. In Gen. 2:7 nishmat chayim (נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֔ים) is ALSO translated identically in English breath of life. You cannot translate two different Hebrew words with the identical English word. In English, it is impossible to see this and certainly impossible to understand what the Word of God is telling us.
Let me be quite straight forward with you. The KJV translators did not understand, as with most people today, the role of the ruach. Similarly, they didn’t realize that of the neshama, either. And, to top it off, who understands the relationship between ruach and neshama? In Genesis 7:22, the ruach and neshama are side-by-side. They are different and, at the same time, both are interconnected and directly involved with human life.
The Explanation will make this clear, but it is a much bigger subject than you think, and it is going to take about 6–8 future blogs to develop this and get a full picture. So, please be patient and don’t draw hasty conclusions with only PART of the contours of this puzzle piece in place. We immediately see that for human beings, there are TWO associated, inseparable pieces, neshama, and ruach.
This association is so important for comprehension that we’re going to look at all ten verses where we find this twosome. I dare say that very few Bible readers are aware of the association of neshama and ruach. Even fewer know there are numerous Biblical references to this duo. We’ll see them in Bible book order.
2 Samuel 22:16
And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations of the world were discovered, at the rebuking of the LORD, at the blast (H5397 — neshama) of the breath (H7307 — ruach) of his nostrils.
As we go through these verses:
- See who possesses neshama and ruach. In this case, God.
- See for what and how God uses neshama and ruach. In this case, to literally shake Earth to protect His servant David.
By the blast (H5397 — neshama) of God they perish, and by the breath (H7307 — ruach) of his nostrils are they consumed.
Eliphaz, Job’s friend, is reminding him how these Godly attributes put down enemies. Both of these terms can have both a positive and negative effect, depending on the context; this is the 2nd Key to Master Biblical Hebrew.
All the while my [Job] breath (H5397 — neshama) is in me, and the spirit (H7307 — ruach) of God is in my nostrils;
Job, during his trial, confirms he still possesses neshama and ruach, and he would not speak wickedness (see the context). Job knew the difference between these two elements and also knew that he, a human being, possessed both of them.
But there is a spirit (H7307 — ruach) in man: and the inspiration (H5397 — neshama) of the Almighty gives them understanding.
Important verse. Humans possess the ruach. It is a human component. Neshama, given by God as we saw in Gen. 2:7, is directly related to the ability to understand; this is one of the singularities that ONLY humans possess. It is a result of this God-given duo.
The Spirit (H7307 — ruach) of God hath made me, and the breath (H5397 — neshama) of the Almighty hath given me life.
Important verse; this is identical to Genesis 2:7. Job points out God’s attribute of using the Ruach to CREATE and TRANSFORM and the Neshama to GIVE LIFE.
If he [God] set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit (H7307 — ruach) and his breath (H5397 — neshama).
Important verse. If, or rather when a human dies, God collects each human’s ruach and neshama. The neshama, our ability to understand, our intellect (Job 32:8 above) AND the spirit that animated us RETURN TO GOD on our death. God gave them to us to live our life; on death, they return to Him. Why? We shall see but for now, retain that both neshama and ruach return to God. Not just the ruach, which is what most Bible readers know. God gave both neshama and ruach. On death, both return to Him.
Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast (H5397 — neshama) of the breath (H7307 — ruach) of your nostrils.
This verse is similar to 2 Samuel 22:16 above, about how God can deal with enemies.
Thus says God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it; he that gives breath (H5397 — neshama) unto the people upon it, and spirit (H7307 — ruach) to them that walk therein:
God is Creator of Earth, flora, and fauna (what comes out of it), and at the pinnacle, he gives both neshama and ruach to humans. This verse is clear that ALL human beings receive neshama and ruach. Nowhere does it say animals receive BOTH these components. The Explanation has elaborated on how the Bible shows neshama is for humans alone. While animals do possess ruach (see above, Genesis 7:15).
For I [God] will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit (H7307 — ruach) should fail before me, and the souls (H5397 — neshama) which I have made.
God will not be upset with humankind continually. He’s angry because humankind is MISusing the neshama and ruach God has given them. In other words, humans are not using their God-given components to rule for peace and prosperity, to the contrary. But God says, in this verse and context, that He will straighten this situation out. He will not continue in His wrath; this is the last verse with neshama and ruach together.
Notice how, throughout these passages, the translations of neshama and ruach are continually changing and sometimes switching from one to the other. Notice the translation of this last neshama is soul, the same as nefesh. Indeed, the KJV translators were at a loss with these Biblical Hebrew words. And, in all translations, it is impossible to understand what’s going on.
Remember we’re explaining a fundamental component of each human being worldwide. Yet, readers and scholars are at a loss to know what the comprehension is. When you get down to it, that means we don’t understand what a human being really is. Amazing. But you will learn the answer to this enigma from The Explanation.
From these verses, we can understand at least three essential points about the components of each and every human being.
- Neshama and ruach, the latter, in particular, include breath (breathing) but represent something much deeper than that.
- Since God possesses them, in one way or another, we shall see, they can NOT BE PHYSICAL. Neshama and ruach have spiritual counterparts with humans. Therefore humans possess spiritual components.
- Since neshama and ruach, being spiritual, are invisible to and unmeasurable by any physical devices, this means they are inaccessible to science. We’re into the realm of the meeting of theology and science, even if science doesn’t know it. The neshama and particularly the ruach are the missing links between these two disciplines — what a fascinating subject. Stay with The Explanation over the next few articles because ruach has much to do with science.
God has ruach; it is, therefore, clearly more than the physical breath that humans AND animals have. When the ruach is associated with the neshama, this is reserved solely for humans. Combined, they endow each human being with their spiritual component, which differentiates and places them mountains above animals.
In the next article we’ll see the specific role of neshama with two examples, a king transformed into a beast and an animal endowed with human singularities.
This article is an excerpt from chapter 3.8 of the book Origin of Humankind.
I doubt you’ve ever seen neshama and ruach ever associated this way before; yet, this is fundamental to understanding who humans are. I suggest you do a study to check that the verses above are indeed in your Bible with these words in Hebrew. Seeing is believing. Verify this at UnlockBibleMeaning.com (UBM)
- UBM will display Genesis 1. In the dropdown menu on the right, choose, and click on Strong’s Concordance.
- In Gen. 1:2, you’ll see the word spirit with Strong’s corresponding number H7307. Click on that, and it will open up the annotation on the right. You’ll know that it is ruach.
- Move your mouse over just below the text annotation, and you’ll see a link for Hebrew Concordance for H7307. Click on that. All the Bible verses containing the Biblical Hebrew word ruach (H7307) will display in the left column.
- What interests us right now is the combination of ruach and neshama (H5397). Do a search (on a PC, ctrl+F) for H5397. Et voila, you’ll have all the verses above, those with both these Biblical Hebrew words.