Does the Bible not teach that a soul is a living being and
that it cannot
die? (Pt. 2).
The word for soul
in the Old Testament is nephesh. A clear study of this word nephesh shows that
it refers to an organism or creature that has life; that is alive. It in no way
refers to an entity that lives within the person or creature and that is
independent of the body. The different meanings of this Hebrew word are the
following: "creature, being, i.e., an animal of any kind, as a living thing
in creation (Gen. 1:20); heart, the inner self, i.e., the essence of life,
including thinking, feeling, willing, desiring (Gen. 34:3).1"
In none of these meanings do we find "soul" or "nephesh" used to mean an entity
that lives independent of the body. Let us, for example, look at the very first
use of this word in the Bible. We turn to the book of Genesis, chapter 1:20. The
text reads, "And God said, Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures,
and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens." (NASB).
The word "living creatures" is the translation of the word "soul" or "nephesh."
Clearly, the word soul or nephesh refers to the living entity itself.
Here is another
example: in Genesis 1:21 we read: "And God created great whales, and every
living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after
their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good."
Here in this verse "every living creature" refers to all life forms, and these
life forms God called nephesh or soul. The word "life" or "living" is the word
nephesh or soul. In other words, "soul" or "nephesh," simply refers to the
living creature. So animals are called souls or nephesh, meaning living
creatures. There is no indication that there is a separate entity living in
these creatures. Again, here is another use of the word soul or nephesh, we look
at Genesis 9:4. The text reads, "But flesh with its life, which is the blood,
you shall not eat thereof." In other words, before the Israelites could cook
meat for food, they had to drain out all the blood. This was in respect for the
life of the animal. And since life was maintained by the blood, they were to
abstain from eating blood. Verse 5 goes on to make this even clearer. The word
"life" in this text is the same used for "soul" or "nephesh." Again we see the
word soul meaning life, living. Let us look at another text. We turn next to
Genesis 12:5. In this text we read that when Abraham left Haran for the Land of
Canaan, he took all "the souls he had gotten in Haran" and journeyed forth at
the Lordís command. The word "souls" here refers to the children born to him
there in Haran. Again we see the interchangeable use of soul and individual.
Again, here is
another text with a different slant. In Exodus 23:9 we read: "And you shall not
oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for
you also were strangers in the land of Egypt. (NASB). The word "feelings"
(heart in Hebrew) is nephesh or soul. Again we see how soul or nephesh is
used to refer to the individual or to a quality of the individual and not to a
separate, living entity within the body. This is the general interpretation of
nephesh or soul through out the Bible. There are a few texts in the Bible that
some individuals use to defend the idea that the soul in immortal; in my next
article we will look at these texts. God is a loving God and when He does
anything it is always for the best of humanity. In His mercy he made sinful man
subject to death. Can you imagine a sick, suffering, individual living forever?
Or can you imagine a violent criminal living forever? And of course if man lived
forever he would have quickly over populated the earth. God is wise and prudent,
letís keep on trusting Him until He returns to earth for His people. God bless.
1Swanson, James, A Dictionary
of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament), (Oak Harbor,
WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997.
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