For other uses, see Nefesh (disambiguation).

Nephesh (נֶפֶש nep̄eš) 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

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]

For a list of words relating to Nephesh, see the Nephesh category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Hebrew edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hebrew edition of Wikisource, the free library

See also


  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. 1 2 Numbers come from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Zondervan’s Exhaustive NIV Concordance.
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