In Genesis chapter two verse seven God created man from the dust and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils;

Genesis 2:7 KJV And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

The original words used in the Hebrew were:



nshamah (nesh-aw-maw') n-f.

  1. a puff, i.e. wind, angry or vital breath, divine inspiration, intellect. or (concretely) an animal

KJV: blast, (that) breath(-eth), inspiration, soul, spirit.

and life:


chay (khah'-ee) adj.

  1. alive

  2. (hence) raw (flesh)

  3. fresh (plant, water, year), strong

  4. (as noun, especially in the feminine singular and masculine plural) life (or living thing), whether literally or figuratively

KJV: + age, alive, appetite, (wild) beast, company, congregation, life(-time), live(-ly), living (creature, thing), maintenance, + merry, multitude, + (be) old, quick, raw, running, springing, troop.

Chay Is the same word used in 1Kings 17:17 which is just breath.

Since נְשָׁמָה can also be interpreted as soul, could breath be a mistranslation in light of the second part of the verse "and man became a living soul".

Or is there some other explanation for the breath of life, such as oxygen absorption, which has been prove to be the case of a fetus in the womb?

Please make you answer as Biblical as possible.

Thank you.

If you want to down vote any of my questions or answers that is fine, but at least be courteous enough to tell me what is unacceptable about my question or answer. Otherwise I must assume you really don't have a reason and are just a mean person.

  • 4
    Would this not be better asked on Hermeneutics? Jan 23, 2014 at 17:01
  • @ Andrew Leach probably so I will also ask it there.
    – BYE
    Jan 23, 2014 at 17:13
  • @ Andrew Leach I checked the Hermeneutics site and found a similar question asking about spirit, and much amplification of the word nshamah, but it didn't include the possibility of a misinterpretation of the word. Please look at it, and if you feel my question is answered there I will delete my question.
    – BYE
    Jan 23, 2014 at 17:31
  • I think Ezekiel 37 may have the answer you seek.
    – Dan H
    Jan 23, 2014 at 20:30
  • Do you have a suggestion for how it should be translated differently?
    – mojo
    Jan 24, 2014 at 5:11

3 Answers 3


In Hebrew thinking/usage "breath" is what separates animals from plants. Plants have no "breath," but animals do.

This same phrase is used in the account of the flood.

Genesis 7:15 (KJV)
And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.

This phrase is used of everything that got on the ark (Ge 7:15), as well as the animals and humans that didn't get on the ark (Ge 7:22).

Hebrew writers liked to employ parallelism, and it seems that the way things are phrased in Genesis 2:7 is little more than an example of that: saying two things that essentially mean the same thing but are stated in different ways.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Ps 119:105)

O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? (Ps 15:1)

  • @ mojo In the genesis account of creation God breathed the breath of life not only into man, but also into the animals, and he did not breathe the breath of life into even Eve since life already existed in the rib taken from Adam. Also all progeny after creation whether man or the animals have inherited life through the parents and God has not to my knowledge ever breathed the breath of any progeny, but it was inherited.
    – BYE
    Jan 24, 2014 at 19:36
  • @CecilBeckum, I'm not understanding your point. If God gives life to progeny, they still have the "breath of life" don't they?
    – mojo
    Jan 24, 2014 at 20:54

The understanding for this is actually quite simple - as long as you don’t ‘add’. Add ‘meaning’ that isn’t actually there. Let’s look a little closer ...

GEN 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

First, it says man, not Adam. (Yes I know the Hebrew for ‘man’ is ‘a-dam’’).

And ‘man’ is....

GEN 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

... both male and female.

This is why Eve had to ‘come’ out from/of Adam. Had to be ‘formed’ from ‘out of Adam’. (Side note: ‘RIB is an unfortunate translation in some Bibles. What’s needed is a Hebraic understanding of what the translated word means, not just what it is).

Now, also important - God ‘breathed’ on man, not animals. You can’t find this ‘said’ anywhere. Because He didn’t. So - The ‘breath of life’ does not come as a result of God breathing. The result of God breathing on Man was that man became a ‘living soul’. A ‘living soul’ [does not equal] a ‘living creature’!

A living creature is referring to a physical body. (Beast). A physical body has breath, the breath of life, until it doesn’t anymore. Man soul does not get life from whichever ‘body’ it’s in - it gets ‘life’ from what God breathed.

So God ‘breathing’ equates to imparting mans spirit. We see this, can learn this from John 20, where Jesus ‘breathed’ on the disciples.

And you need to understand your spirit, and it’s [crucial] role - especially believers! - BUT - you also need to understanding our uniqueness, that the ‘you’, comes from, ‘is’ your soul. And that ‘you’ live ‘in’ a body, for as long as your ‘body’ has breath - but - the bodies ‘breath’ is not Gods. It’s yours. Gods ‘breath’ is spirit.


It is a life giving breath that only sources from God. It gives dead creation life.

Before Adam received this breath of life from God, he was lifeless and was like a dead person. This event is a parallel to what happened to the two witnesses in Revelation who visit the earth during the reign of the beast to preach repentance, they are killed and their bodies lie dead before the beast but the breath of life from God, the same breath that Adam received enters into their bodies and they become living souls again.

Revelation 11:11

But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.

This same breath of life is what the same that Adam received, so it is a life giving breath that only sources from God. It gives dead creation life.

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