I received the following question:

One verse I have a bit of trouble understanding is from Isaiah 40:7 which says “The grass withers, and the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass.”  I don’t understand the breath here, because it usually seems like the breath of the Lord is what gives life not takes it away or giving more of God’s spirit as when Jesus breaths on His disciples.  I know Isaiah is a lot of poetry so maybe that’s where I’m having a difficult understanding.  Well thanks for your thoughts!  

The word in Isaiah 40:7 is the Hebrew word ruwach, which you might recognize as being the word for “spirit.” As I pointed out in my message on “Spirits in Genesis,” the word ruwach can be used for the wind. Isaiah is speaking poetically here, as you say, and he is picturing the cold winds of winter blowing upon the grass and the flowers as “the spirit of the LORD.” It is this cold wind that causes the grass to wither and the flower to fade.

You were probably assuming that the word was the neshamah, the breath that God breathed into the nostrils of Adam to make him into a living soul. It would not make sense for the neshamah to take away life rather than giving it. However, the word is not neshamah, but ruwach, the word for spirit, or the word for wind, and it is as “wind” that it is used here.

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