John T. Willis

Friday, March 24, 2006


A second major meaning of the Hebrew word "ruach" is "breath."

1. "Ruach" may refer to the "breath" of animals and of human beings.
When Yahweh announces to Noah that he was going to destroy the inhabitants of the earth by water, he says in Genesis 6:15: "For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the BREATH [Hebrew RUACH] of life; everything that is on the earth shall die."
Later, in this same story of the flood, Genesis 7:15 says concerning wild animals, domestic animals, creeping things, and birds [see verse 14]: "They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the BREATH [Hebrew RUACH] of life."

2. "Ruach" may refer to God's "breath" which he exhales to create the world or to part the waters of the Red Sea so the Israelites can cross over on dry land.
Psalm 33:6 says:
"By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and all their host by the BREATH [Hebrew RUACH] of his mouth.
Psalm 18:15 says:
"Then [that is, after Yahweh had defeated the Egyptians--verse 14)
the channels of the [Red] sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the BREATH [Hebrew RUACH] of your nostrils."

Two passage deserve special attention here, because often they are misunderstood.
3. Psalm 104:29-30:
"When you [Yahweh] hide your face, they [all of God's creatures, including
human beings] are dismayed;
when you take away their BREATH [Hebrew RUACH], they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your BREATH [Hebrew RUACH], they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground."
Some English versions translate "ruach" in the first line of verse 30 by "spirit" [notice the small "s"], and some people conclude from this that the psalmist has in mind the New Testament Holy Spirit [capital "S"]. However, the context of Psalm 104 shows this is incorrect. Psalm 104:29-30 teaches that Yahweh takes away the breath of animals and human beings [which he gives them when they are born--see Genesis 2:7] and thus they die; and Yahweh also gives each new animal and human being breath as he creates them, enabling them to live on the earth.

4. Ecclesiastes 12:7--The author of Ecclesiastes describes aging and dying in Ecclesiastes 12:1-8. Toward the end of this paragraph, the composer says in verse 7:
"and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the BREATH [Hebrew RUACH] returns to God who gave it."
Some English versions translate "ruach" in the second line of this verse by "spirit," but the context makes it quite clear that the author has in mind Genesis 2:7, observing that in death the revese of Genesis 2:7 happens, that is, God takes away the "breath" he gave the human being when that human being was born. The Bible does not teach that a human being consists of two [or three] parts: body and spirit [or soul]. This is a Greek idea called dualism, not a biblical idea. The Bible teaches that a human being is a unified whole, and uses a variety of terms to describe the whole person, as body, soul, spirit, heart, etc.

More to come

John Willis