Explain the usage of nephesh and ruach in the Bible

This Hebrew word, nephesh, occurs more than 700 times in the Old Testament and have been variously translated 'soul' (Genesis 1:21, 2:7; 12:5; etc.). 'Creature' (Genesis 1:21,24; 2:19; Leviticus 11:46; etc.), 'person' (Genesis 14:21; Joshua 20:9; Jeremiah 43:6; etc.), 'life' (Genesis 9:4; Exodus 4:19; Joshua 2:14; etc.), 'dead' (Leviticus 19:28; Numbers 9:6, 7, 10; etc.), 'self' (Leviticus 11:43; 1 Kings 19:4; Isaiah 46:2; etc.), and a number of other ways. Of all the various renderings, the translation 'life' would probably be the most suitable in the text you asked about (1 Kings 17:21-22). The translation 'soul' is misleading and conveys to many the idea of an immortal entity, capable of a conscious existence separate from the body. This idea is not resident in the word nephesh.

In all of the more than 700 occurrences of the word, never once is such an idea attached to it or even implied. Not once is a nephesh called immortal. To translate nephesh 'life' is in harmony with what the translators of our Bible have done in the 110 instances. A notable example is 1Kings 19:4, in which Elijah declared: 'O Master, take away my life [Heb. nephesh].' Here the translators have correctly employed the word 'life.'

In Ecclesiastes 12:7 another Hebrew word is used: ruach. Ruach is translated 'breath' of the body 33 times, as in Ezekiel 37:5; 'wind' 117 times, as in Genesis 8:1; 'spirit' 76 times, in the sense of vitality (Judges 15:19), 'courage' (Joshua 2:11), temper, or 'anger' (Judges 8:3), and in reference to the disposition (Isaiah 54:6). Ruach is also used to describe the living principle in men and animals 25 times, as in Psalms 146:4; the seat of emotions 3 times, as in 1 Samuel 1:15; the 'mind' 9 times, as in Ezekiel 11:5; 'heart' (2 Chronicles 29:13) 3 times; moral character 16 times, as in Ezekiel 11:19; and of the Spirit of Yahuwah 94 times, as in Isaiah 63:10. In not one of the 379 instances of its use throughout the Old Testament does ruach denote an intelligent entity capable of existence apart from a physical body, so as a man is concerned, and it must therefore be clear that such a concept is without basis so far as the teachings of the Scriptures themselves are concerned. That which here in this verse returns to Yahuwah is simply the life principle imparted by Yahuwah to both man and beast. You can see this in clearly in Ecclesiastes 3:19-21, where ruach is translated 'breath.'

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