When God created Adam, after forming him from the dust of the ground, He breathed the breath of lives into his nostrils and Adam became a living soul1. Neshamah is used twenty-five times in Scripture to describe the breath of those who are living; however, it is only used twice with lives. God breathed the breath of life into Adam and during the description of the devastation of the flood upon the earth, all flesh that was upon the dry land died; all that had the breath of the spirit of lives within it, Genesis 7:22. This includes humans, birds, cattle, and beasts along with the Nephilim, who would also have possessed the breath of lives because they are a perversion of spirit and human beings that have a physical body. Animals are included because they have a fleshly based body and therefore must breathe just as the human body requires breath to live.

Breath by itself is primarily used concerning the breath in humans. In Joshua 11:11-14 all those who had breath were destroyed, but the animals were not. When God brought Israel into the land, the wicked inhabitants of the land was destroyed. As Joshua led them into the land, they fought against the kings and left none with breath alive2. Sometimes they wiped out the animals along with the humans, and other times they were permitted to take possession of the animals.

Ruach (רוּחַ) describes the spirit of a human, Job 32:8, Nephesh (נֶפֶשׁ) describes the soul, and Neshamah (נְשָׁמָה) relates to the life within the physical body. When God breathed the breath of lives into Adam, he became a living soul; therefore, the breath of life is not the soul, but the breath giving the physical body life. When a person loses the breath, it is described as breathing their last3. They do not cease to exist, but the physical body stops breathing and therefore the life within it ceases and the spirit and soul are transferred to an intermediate body, awaiting judgment or resurrection. All who have breath are to praise God, Psalm 150:6, for it is God who gives us breath and God who chooses when to take that breath from us, Isaiah 42:5.

Our breath comes from God, Job 33:4, and within it is given understanding of the Almighty, Job 32:8. However, it is only with Adam that we see God breathing the breath of lives into him. After that point, just as with the body, soul, and spirit, the breath is transferred to his offspring. Therefore, the breath of lives refers to the physical life of the body, not the immaterial parts of the human for the physical body requires breath to remain alive. This is not the case with the soul and spirit, for their life does not depend upon breath.

Does a child become alive only when they breathe for the first time? When God created Adam, He created His soul and spirit out of nothing, while forming His body from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of lives into it so that his physical body came to life4. This breath is passed down through propagation in both animals and humans. When a person breathes their last breath, they do not cease to exist; therefore, the breath does not relate to the immaterial parts of a human. It is only the physical body that dies, not the soul or spirit. We also see within Scripture that within the womb a child is known and expresses emotions, demonstrating the person exists at this time, not at the point of breath5. In addition, there are several instances in Scripture of people still existing after their physical body has died. The rich man and Lazarus6. Jonah calling out from Hades7. Samuel being called from Paradise within Hades by Saul8. Paul entering Paradise at the edge of the third heaven9. All this shows that our life is not dependent upon our physical bodies and therefore the breath of lives does not relate to the soul or spirit of a human. It is limited to only the body in which the person, soul, and spirit are housed. Therefore, it also does not relate to when a child becomes alive, for within the womb the soul, spirit, body, and person already exist and when a child does not see the light, they are seen as at rest, not ceasing to exist10.

1 Genesis 2:7

2 Deuteronomy 20:16; Joshua 10:40; Joshua 11:11,14

3 1 Kings 15:29; 17:17

4 Genesis 1:27; 2:7

5 Luke 1:44; Jeremiah 1:5; Job 31:15

6 Luke 16:22-28

7 Jonah 2:1-2

8 1 Samuel 28:7-15

9 2 Corinthians 12:1-4

10 Job 3:16-19