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For other uses, see Nefesh (disambiguation).

Nephesh (נֶפֶשnep̄eš) is a Biblical Hebrew word which occurs in the Hebrew Bible. The word refers to the aspects of life, and human beings and higher animals are both described as having a nephesh.[1][2] The Hebrew term נפש‎ is literally "living being", although it is commonly rendered as soul in English translations.[3] A different view is that nephesh relates to being without the idea of life and that rather than having a nephesh a 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 translated as person or being, seeing that Numbers 6:6 speaks of a dead body which in Hebrew is a nephesh mooth, a dead nephesh. [4] Nephesh when put with another word can define the meaning of the word nephesh, as in נֶפֶשׁ‎ nephesh, as with רוּחַ‎ rûach "spirit", describes part of mankind that is immaterial, like a man'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.” Although this passage could indicate that only humans have a spirit, while animals are only imbued with life.

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.

The Greek the word ψυχή (psyche) is the closest equivalent to the Hebrew nephesh.[10]

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