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Nephesh (נֶ֫פֶשׁ nép̄eš) is a Biblical Hebrew word which occurs in the Hebrew Bible. The word refers to the aspects of sentience, and human beings and other animals are both described as having nephesh.[1][2] Plants, as an example of live organisms, are not referred in the Bible as having nephesh. The term נפש is literally "soul", although it is commonly rendered as "life" in English translations.[3] One view is that nephesh relates to sentient being without the idea of life and that, rather than having a nephesh, a sentient creation of God is a nephesh. In Genesis 2:7 the text is that Adam was not given a nephesh but "became a living nephesh." Nephesh then is better understood as person, seeing that Leviticus 21:11 and Numbers 6:6 speak of a "dead body", which in Hebrew is a nép̄eš mêṯ, a dead nephesh. [4] Nephesh when put with another word can detail aspects related to the concept of nephesh; with רוּחַ rûach ("spirit") it describes a part of mankind that is immaterial, like one's mind, emotions, will, intellect, personality, and conscience, as in Job 7:11. [5][6]

Biblical use[edit]

The word nephesh occurs 754 times in the Hebrew Bible. The first four times nephesh is used in the Bible, it is used exclusively to describe animals: Gen 1:20 (sea life), Gen 1:21 (great sea life), Gen 1:24 (land creatures), Gen 1:30 (birds and land creatures). At Gen 2:7 nephesh is used as description of man.

Job 12:7-10 offers a distinct similarity between רוח (ruah) and נפׁש (nephesh): “In His hand is the life (nephesh) of every living thing and the spirit (ruah) of every human being.”

The Hebrew term, nephesh chayyah is often translated "living soul".[7] Chayyah alone is often translated living thing or animal.[8] The Hebrew word tsiyyi is translated wild animal.[9]

Often nephesh is used as saving your life, nephesh then is referring to complete person's life as in Joshua 2:13; Isaiah 44:20; 1 Samuel 19:11; Psalm 6:5; 49:15; 72:13.

In Greek the word ψυχή (psyche) is the closest equivalent to the Hebrew nephesh.[10] In its turn, the Latin word for ψυχή is anima, etymon of the word animal.

See also[edit]


  1. ^, Nephesh
  2. ^, Nephesh
  3. ^ lexicons, Hebrew word Nephesh use count
  4. ^ Repentance today ( Yâwhu), May 6, 2016
  5. ^, nephesh
  6. ^, Lexicon: Strong's H5315 - nephesh
  7. ^, Living Creature
  8. ^ Strong's Lexicon #2421b
  9. ^ Strong's Concordance, tsiyyi
  10. ^ Compare Psalm 16:10 and Acts 2:27; Also, SDA Bible Commentary (Review and Herald; Washington DC, 1960), Vol.8, Bible Dictionary, p.1037 notes "The usage of the Greek word psuche in the NT is similar to that of nephesh in the OT."
  11. ^ a b Numbers come from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Zondervan’s Exhaustive NIV Concordance.
  • Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (3 Volume Set), March, 1993, by Horst Balz
  • A.B.Davidson (Professor of Hebrew & O.T. exegesis, Edinburgh), The Theology of the Old Testament, Edinburgh: T.& T. Clark, 1904/25, p.200-201