In our previous articles in this series, “Souls in Genesis” and “Souls in Exodus,” we examined all the occurrences of the Hebrew word for “soul,” nephesh, in the first two books of the Bible. We discovered six possible meanings for this word from our examinations of Genesis and Exodus, which are as follows:
1. Any creature of the land, sea, or air.
2. What man is as a product of his body and his breath of life being mixed together.
3. The blood of men, or something connected to the blood of men.
5. A person’s self or being.
6. The emotions, strong feelings, and desires of men.
In Exodus particularly, we saw that the soul could be in danger of death, and could be taken away by death as a punishment for certain crimes committed. Now, let us continue into Leviticus, and see how the word nephesh is used there.
Leviticus 2:1. ‘When anyone offers a grain offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it.
This speaks of when a nephesh offers a grain offering to the LORD. The word nephesh is indistinguishable from “person” in this case.
Leviticus 4:2. “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the LORD in anything which ought not to be done, and does any of them,
The LORD here speaks of a soul sinning unintentionally. Again nephesh means person.
Leviticus 4:27. ‘If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally by doing something against any of the commandments of the LORD in anything which ought not to be done, and is guilty,
Now He speaks of any soul of the common people sinning unintentionally. The nephesh is put for the person.
Leviticus 5:1. ‘If a person sins in hearing the utterance of an oath, and is a witness, whether he has seen or known of the matter—if he does not tell it, he bears guilt.
This speaks of a soul sinning by not testifying to what he knows. Nephesh means “person” again here.
Leviticus 5:2. ‘Or if a person touches any unclean thing, whether it is the carcass of an unclean beast, or the carcass of unclean livestock, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and he is unaware of it, he also shall be unclean and guilty.
Now He speaks of a soul touching an unclean thing. The nephesh stands for the whole person again.
Leviticus 5:4. ‘Or if a person swears, speaking thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, whatever it is that a man may pronounce by an oath, and he is unaware of it—when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty in any of these matters.
This speaks of a soul swearing thoughtlessly. The soul here is the person.
Leviticus 5:15. “If a person commits a trespass, and sins unintentionally in regard to the holy things of the LORD, then he shall bring to the LORD as his trespass offering a ram without blemish from the flocks, with your valuation in shekels of silver according to the shekel of the sanctuary, as a trespass offering.
This speaks of a nephesh committing a trespass unintentionally. The soul is the person.
Leviticus 5:17. “If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity.
This sums up all that is said before about a soul sinning without realizing it. The word nephesh means a person in all these verses.
Leviticus 6:2. “If a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD by lying to his neighbor about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbor,
This is along the same lines, speaking of a soul sinning by lying to his neighbor about something that belongs to him. The nephesh is again the person himself.
Leviticus 7:18. And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, nor shall it be imputed to him; it shall be an abomination to him who offers it, and the person who eats of it shall bear guilt.
The soul who eats the peace offering after the allotted time shall bear guilt. The nephesh is put again for the whole person.
Leviticus 7:20. But the person who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of the peace offering that belongs to the LORD, while he is unclean, that person shall be cut off from his people.
The word “soul” occurs twice in this verse, repeated for emphasis. The soul who eats the peace offering that indicates a true union with the LORD while he is unclean dishonors the LORD, and therefore should be cut off from his people. The nephesh is the person.
Leviticus 7:21. Moreover the person who touches any unclean thing, such as human uncleanness, an unclean animal, or any abominable unclean thing, and who eats the flesh of the sacrifice of the peace offering that belongs to the LORD, that person shall be cut off from his people.’”
This verse is more or less a repetition of the previous verse, saying the same thing. Again the word nephesh is repeated twice.
Leviticus 7:25. For whoever eats the fat of the animal of which men offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, the person who eats it shall be cut off from his people.
The fat of the animal belonged to the LORD, so any soul who ate it should be cut off from his people. The soul is again the person himself.
Leviticus 7:27. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.’”
The word nephesh occurs twice here, again for emphasis. Whatever soul eats any blood, that soul should be cut off from his people. The soul here is the person.
Leviticus 11:10. But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you.
The translation of nephesh by “thing” here seems hardly to be honest. The living souls which are in the water are all sea creatures which do not have fins and scales, like shrimp or lobster. So our word “soul” here takes on the meaning of any living creature of the land, sea, or air, in this case specifically the sea.
Leviticus 11:43. You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them.
They are not to make their souls abominable by eating any creeping thing that creeps. The nephesh here is the self, the person.
Leviticus 11:44. For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
Instead of making their souls abominable, they are to consecrate their souls and be holy. The soul here is put for the self.
Leviticus 11:46. ‘This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth,
The word nephesh occurs twice here, speaking of the soul that moves in the waters, and the soul that creeps on the earth. These are animals of the sea and of the land, nephesh or souls every one.
Leviticus 16:29. “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you.
On the tenth day of the seventh month, they are to afflict their souls by fasting. This has to do with restraining the natural desire for food and urge to eat, so the nephesh here speaks of the desires and holding back what would fulfill those desires.
Leviticus 16:31. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.
The yearly fast was also to be a Sabbath of solemn rest for them. Again, He charges them to afflict their souls (by fasting) on that day. The explanation for nephesh is the same as in the previous occurrence.
Leviticus 17:10. ‘And whatever man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell among you, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people.
The LORD promises to set His face against any soul who eats blood. The nephesh is the person he is referring to here who eats blood.
Leviticus 17:11. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’
The word nephesh occurs three times in this verse, but our translators have hidden the truth from us by only translating it as “soul” twice. The soul of the flesh is in the blood, we are told here. This confirms and strengthens our definition of soul as something that is connected with the blood of men. If the soul is in the blood, this would also inform us as to the definition of what has soul-life in God’s perspective. We know that many creatures have blood. There are those that do not, however. The ones without blood would not be souls, then, but those with blood are souls. This might not fit with modern Christian philosophy, which ascribes souls as belonging to man alone among the creatures, but this fits exactly with what the Bible teaches when properly interpreted. All animals that have blood are souls, including man.
Now because the soul of the flesh is in the blood, the LORD has given them blood upon the altar to make atonement for their souls. Since the soul is in the blood, the blood is what makes atonement for the soul. So this verse adds to the knot that ties the nephesh and the blood together.
Leviticus 17:12. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’
Because the soul is in the blood and the blood is used for atonement, the LORD commanded the sons of Israel not to eat blood. Notice this is not talking about drinking blood, but about eating it. This seems to refer to an ancient custom, still practiced among many native peoples, of eating the still-living flesh, or else the recently-killed flesh, of an animal or man to attempt to take into yourself some of the strength or characteristics of that one. The LORD forbade His people from doing any such thing, and explained that this was not how He intended blood to be used. Blood was meant to be shed as an atonement for sin. To ingest it was to twist this reality. But the bottom line for our study is that no soul or nephesh among them was to eat blood.
Leviticus 17:14. for it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.’
Again the word nephesh occurs three times here, but all three are obscured by the translators. Blood is to be poured on the ground before an animal is eaten because it is the soul of all flesh. Its blood sustains its soul. That is why the LORD told them not to eat it because the soul of all flesh is its blood. The fact that animals as well as men are soul-beings may be almost universally denied by Christendom, but it cannot be denied by anyone who takes seriously the Word of God. All creatures who have blood are souls.
Leviticus 17:15. “And every person who eats what died naturally or what was torn by beasts, whether he is a native of your own country or a stranger, he shall both wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. Then he shall be clean.
Every soul who eats something that died on its own or was killed by another animal rather than being slaughtered by men for food would become unclean by doing this. The nephesh is the person once again.
Leviticus 18:29. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.
The souls who commit any of the abominations listed in this chapter are to be cut off from among their people. Again the nephesh refers to the whole person.
Leviticus 19:8. Therefore everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned the hallowed offering of the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from his people.
The command not to eat the peace offering after the time allotted is repeated. The soul who does this should be cut off from his people. The nephesh is the person.
Leviticus 19:28. You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD.
The LORD commands them not to make any cuttings in their flesh for dead souls. This is our first occurrence of the phrase “a dead soul.” This phrase flies in the face of the modern anti-Biblical concept of the natural immortality of the human soul. In order to hide the bankruptcy of this doctrine, our translators have ignored the word nephesh in this passage, and have merely translated this “the dead.” Yet remember that they have translated nephesh as “life” many times back two chapters ago in Leviticus 17! How can this be speaking of a “dead life”? Their object in translating these passages seems to be to maintain the illusion that the lies of human philosophy and tradition are Biblical. Yet their translation covers up the light of God’s truth. A soul is fully capable of being dead, and is not in fact immortal unless God wills it to be so.
It is worth noting that the word “I” here is emphatic. The reason the LORD was outlawing both cuttings for the dead and tattoos here was that they were part of heathen worship of false gods at the time. For the same reason bowl cuts and goatees are outlawed in the previous verse. Three of these four (with the exception of cuttings for the dead) are done today, but have no religious connotation in our society. Therefore, in the dispensation of grace, we see no reason to bind these things on people at all. In a society where they were viewed as religious, they should of course be avoided, but the same could be said for many things that some view as religious.
So from this verse, we have again added to our knowledge of the word nephesh. A nephesh might be dead, and a dead person may be properly referred to as a dead soul. Anyone who has seen a dead body of man or beast has seen a dead soul. It is not logical nor correct to insist that dead souls do not exist.
Leviticus 20:6. ‘And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people.
The soul who turns to mediums with their spirit guides is considered as prostituting himself with them. The LORD promises to oppose that soul, and the Israelites should cut him off from his people. This shows the extent of Saul’s sin in doing this in I Samuel 28. The nephesh is again the person.
Leviticus 20:25. You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean.
They were not to make their souls abominable by eating any unclean animal. The nephesh here is the self, the person.
Leviticus 21:1. And the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: ‘None shall defile himself for the dead among his people,
The priests are not to defile themselves by making themselves unclean for a dead soul among his people. The following verses allow the exception of close relatives. Yet again the LORD speaks of dead nephesh. This is not a figure of speech, but is the reality: souls can die. If this is a figure, then where is the literal fact of “eternal souls” ever mentioned? Not in Scripture! This comes from Platonic philosophy, and is engrained in the doctrines and superstitions of men. Yet this is not Scriptural. The Bible never mentions an eternal nephesh, but it does mention dead ones. If one is a true “Bible-believing Christian,” this is what he will be believing.
Leviticus 21:11. nor shall he go near any dead body, nor defile himself for his father or his mother;
The high priest is not to go near any dead soul, even if that dead soul is his father or mother, for he is the anointed priest. Again the dead person is called a dead nephesh.
Leviticus 22:3. Say to them: ‘Whoever of all your descendants throughout your generations, who goes near the holy things which the children of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has uncleanness upon him, that person shall be cut off from My presence: I am the LORD.
The soul who goes near the holy things of the LORD while unclean is to be cut off from the LORD’s presence. The nephesh is the person.
Leviticus 22:4. ‘Whatever man of the descendants of Aaron, who is a leper or has a discharge, shall not eat the holy offerings until he is clean. And whoever touches anything made unclean by a corpse, or a man who has had an emission of semen,
This speaks of that which is made unclean by a dead soul, falsely translated as “corpse” here. The dead soul could be that of man or beast, but this again proves that a nephesh can die. Therefore, souls are mortal, not immortal.
Leviticus 22:6. the person who has touched any such thing shall be unclean until evening, and shall not eat the holy offerings unless he washes his body with water.
The soul who touches the things listed that can make one unclean shall be unclean until evening. The nephesh is the person.
Leviticus 22:11. But if the priest buys a person with his money, he may eat it; and one who is born in his house may eat his food.
This speaks of the priest buying a soul with his money. Of course, this is referring to a slave, and showing that a soul can be bought. This is another way of proving to us that the nephesh is the person.
Leviticus 23:27. “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.
The LORD reiterates that the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement on which they are to afflict their souls by fasting. Again, this means they will deny their desire for food, and the nephesh is the desires here.
Leviticus 23:29. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people.
The soul who refuses to be humbled on this day should be cut off from his people. The nephesh is the person here, but is also connected with the emotions and desires of the person, which might refuse to be humbled by abstaining from food.
Leviticus 23:30. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.
Any soul who does work on the Day of Atonement, the LORD promises to destroy. Here we see that souls can be destroyed, for the LORD Himself promises to do this! So much for the idea that a soul, once created, can never be destroyed. This idea does not match up with the testimony of Scripture.
Leviticus 23:32. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.”
The LORD again repeats that they are to afflict their souls (by fasting) on this day, specifying that this starts at evening on the ninth day of the month and goes until the following evening on the tenth. They afflict their nephesh by denying their desires.
Leviticus 24:17. ‘Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death.
In Hebrew, this says “whoever kills the soul of a man shall surely be put to death.” This shows that not only can souls die, they can also be killed by other men. This verse also proves that those who use the commandment “thou shalt not kill” to oppose the death penalty for murderers are both Biblically ignorant and intellectually wrong. The death penalty for murderers cannot be opposed on the basis of God’s Word.
Leviticus 24:18. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal.
The word “soul” appears three times here, but our translators have hidden it. Whoever kills a soul is to make it good, soul for soul. In context, this would not seem to be speaking of animals, but rather would seem to be reiterating what was said in the previous verse. The execution of the murderer makes it good, the murderer’s soul for the victim’s soul.
Leviticus 26:11. I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you.
If they will walk in the LORD’s statutes and keep and do His commandments, His soul shall not abhor them. The LORD speaks of having a nephesh, and we can see here that it is connected with His emotions, which will abhor the Israelites if they do the opposite.
Leviticus 26:15. and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant,
The LORD speaks of the possibility that their souls will abhor His judgments, and so they do not perform them. In this case, their nephesh would be their emotions turning against the LORD’s determinations of the way things should be and be done.
Leviticus 26:16. I also will do this to you:
I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart.
And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.
The translators have been inconsistent with the word nephesh once again, translating it “heart” here. The fever would cause them sorrow of soul. No doubt all of us have experienced the downcasting of our emotions when we are experiencing illness. So the nephesh is again connected with the emotions.
Leviticus 26:30. I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars, and cast your carcasses on the lifeless forms of your idols;
and My soul shall abhor you.
This is saying the opposite of verse 11: when they disobey Him and worship idols instead, His nephesh will abhor them. The LORD’s soul is His emotions regarding them.
Leviticus 26:43. The land also shall be left empty by them, and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them;
they will accept their guilt, because they despised My judgments and because their soul abhorred My statutes.
Again their emotions turned against His statutes. The nephesh is the emotions.
Leviticus 27:2. “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When a man consecrates by a vow certain persons to the LORD, according to your valuation,
This speaks of a man consecrating certain souls to the LORD. They would them be valued, and he would pay for their consecration a certain price. The nephesh here is again the person.
So we have finished examining the word nephesh in the book of Leviticus. We have examined fifty-eight more occurrences of the word nephesh, and have learned one new important fact here regarding nephesh or souls: the soul can be dead, and the soul can be killed. Thus either a dead man or a dead animal may be referred to as a dead soul. On the other hand, we have seen no whisper or hint that the soul might be considered immortal. The soul is mortal, and is subject to death, just as the man is.