mask02We have but one book left of the Pentateuch or Torah to examine in order to have studied all the occurrences of the word “soul” in these first five books of the Old Testament. In our previous articles in this series, examining the word nephesh or “soul” in Genesis through Numbers, we discovered eight possible meanings for this word, which are as follows:

1. Any living creature of the land, sea, or air.

2. Any of the above creatures after they are dead.

3. What man is as a product of his body and his breath of life being mixed together.

4. The blood of men, or something connected to the blood of men.

5. People.

6. A person’s self or being.

7. A dead person.

8. The emotions, strong feelings, and desires of men.

So now we continue our study into the book of Deuteronomy. Let us see if these eight definitions continue to cover all the occurrences of this word, and what else we can learn about souls from this last book of Moses.

Deuteronomy 4:9. Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren,

They are to take heed to themselves and diligently keep their souls. The danger is that they will forget the things they have seen the LORD do for them, and they will depart from their hearts all the days of their lives. To diligently keep their souls is to diligently keep themselves, and to ensure that the things the LORD has done for them remain in their memory. The nephesh is the person, and is here connected with the memory and the heart. The emotions and desires of a person, if they are not focused on the LORD and diligently maintained, can cause him to forget what he should remember and can remove from his heart the things that should remain there.

Deuteronomy 4:15. Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire,

They are to take careful heed to their souls, and recall that they saw no form when the LORD spoke to them out of the midst of the fire. Therefore, they are to realize that it is not proper for them to make any graven image or any form or likeness and imagine that it looks like God. To take heed to their nephesh is to take heed to themselves. The nephesh is the person.

Deuteronomy 4:29. But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

If when they are scattered among the nations they remember the LORD their God and seek Him with all their heart and with all their soul, He will not forsake them there. To seek Him with all the heart is to seek Him with all their innermost being. To seek Him with all the soul is to seek Him with all their desire. Combined the “heart and soul” means all of a person’s innermost being.

Deuteronomy 6:5. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Loving the LORD with all their heart, soul, and strength is loving Him with the entire force of their being. It is even stronger with the three listed here than with the two “heart and soul” listed in the last occurrence.

There is no more reason to think that man is a tripartite being made up of heart, soul, and strength because of the three listed here than there is to think that he is a tripartite being made up of spirit, soul, and body because these three are listed in I Thessalonians 5:23: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There, as here, the force of the expression is the entirety of a person’s being. Neither passage is not listing all the specific parts of man.

Deuteronomy 10:12. And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,

As in Deuteronomy 4:29, heart and soul are combined to mean all of a person’s innermost being.

Deuteronomy 10:22. Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude.

Their fathers went down to Egypt with seventy souls. The nephesh are the people themselves.

Deuteronomy 11:13. And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the LORD your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,

Again, heart (lebab) and soul (nephesh) are combined to mean all of a person’s innermost being.

Deuteronomy 11:18. Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

They are to lay up these words the LORD spoke to them through Moses in their hearts and in their minds. They are also to bind them as a sign on their hands, and make them as frontlets between their eyes. The point, of course, is how familiar these words are to be to them. Combined, heart and soul mean all of a person’s innermost being.

Deuteronomy 12:15. However, you may slaughter and eat meat within all your gates, whatever your heart desires, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, of the gazelle and the deer alike.

He did not want them to think that they could not eat meat anywhere but at the city He chose, since they could not offer sacrifices at any other city than that one. The custom of the nations was to consider every animal slaughtered a sacrifice to a god. If this was the way Israel thought, that would mean they couldn’t slaughter animals anywhere but at Jerusalem. But this is not what the LORD was saying. He did not want them to eat a vegetarian diet everywhere but at Jerusalem. But He did want them to separate in their minds animals slaughtered for meat, and animals offered for sacrifice. They could slaughter and eat meat in any of their cities, whatever their nephesh desired. However, they could only make sacrifices and offerings of animals at Jerusalem. The nephesh here is the desire and the appetite.

Deuteronomy 12:20. When the LORD your God enlarges your border as He has promised you, and you say, ‘Let me eat meat,’ because you long to eat meat, you may eat as much meat as your heart desires.

The LORD continues to make what He is saying clear to them. He had to really get this through their heads, since they were probably used to thinking of any animal slaughtered as a sacrifice. We have a bit of trouble relating to this, since the difference between an animal slaughtered for food and an animal offered for sacrifice is clear in our minds. Again, they could eat as much meat as their soul desires in any city they are dwelling in. The nephesh is the desire and the appetite.

Deuteronomy 12:21. If the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, then you may slaughter from your herd and from your flock which the LORD has given you, just as I have commanded you, and you may eat within your gates as much as your heart desires.

The LORD continues on the same topic. The nephesh is the desire and appetite.

Deuteronomy 12:23. Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life; you may not eat the life with the meat.

The word soul occurs twice here, and both times it is translated “life” by the New King James Version. The LORD states here that the blood is the soul, and they were not allowed to eat the soul with the meat. This again connects the soul with the blood in a very interesting way. We saw this same thing all the way back in Genesis 9:4, where Noah was commanded not to eat the flesh with the soul, that is, the blood. The same lesson is taught here. So, we realize that in God’s sight, only animals with blood have soul life. The nephesh is connected with the blood.

Deuteronomy 13:3. you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

If they love the LORD their God with all their heart and all their soul, they will not listen to the word of a false prophet who tells them to worship other gods than the LORD, even if his words come true. Heart and soul are combined to mean all of a person’s innermost being.

Deuteronomy 13:6. If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers,

A friend who is as your own soul is a friend who is as precious to you as your own life. The nephesh here is the person.

Deuteronomy 14:26. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.

Here, the word “soul” occurs twice. Those who lived too far from Jerusalem to take the tithe of their increase there could sell it for money. Then, they would take that money to Jerusalem and spend it there for whatever their soul desired. The nephesh is the desire and the appetite.

Deuteronomy 18:6. So if a Levite comes from any of your gates, from where he dwells among all Israel, and comes with all the desire of his mind to the place which the LORD chooses,

A Levite who leaves his home with the full desire of his soul being to serve the LORD in the place He has chosen, they are to allow him that place, and give him a job serving in the tabernacle or the temple. The nephesh is his inner being and its desires.

Deuteronomy 19:6. lest the avenger of blood, while his anger is hot, pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and kill him, though he was not deserving of death, since he had not hated the victim in time past.

If the city of refuge for the accidental manslayer was too far away, the ga’al, the avenger of blood, might overtake him while he is fleeing there because of his hot anger, and kill his soul, even though he was not deserving of death, since the killing was an accident. The nephesh is the person himself, and may be killed.

Deuteronomy 19:11. But if anyone hates his neighbor, lies in wait for him, rises against him and strikes him mortally, so that he dies, and he flees to one of these cities,

If, on the other hand, anyone hates his neighbor, and concocts a plot against him, and rises up and strikes his soul, so that he dies, even if he flees to a city of refuge, the elders of that city will deliver him up to the ga’al, the avenger of blood, to be executed. To strike a man’s soul is to strike the man. The nephesh is the man himself, and can be killed.

Deuteronomy 19:21. Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

If a man testifies falsely in court against another and his lie is found out, he is to be punished the same way as the man he testified falsely against would have been punished if he had been convicted. They are not to pity the perjurer, but are to punish him exactly as he hoped to have the other man unfairly punished, soul for soul, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. Here, if the punishment was to be the destruction of a man’s soul, the false witness will have his own soul destroyed. The nephesh is the man himself, and can be taken away from him in death. To lose one’s soul in penalty is capital punishment or the death penalty.

Deuteronomy 21:14. And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free, but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her.

If Israel goes to war against a people and take captives, a man might see a beautiful woman among the captives and take her as his wife. However, if afterwards he has no delight in her, then he shall allow her to go according to her soul, translated here “set her free.” If she goes according to her soul, she goes wherever her emotions and desires take her. The nephesh is the desire and the emotions of the captive woman.

Deuteronomy 22:26. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the young woman no sin deserving of death, for just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this matter.

If a man lies with a betrothed woman in the city, both the man and the woman will die, since the woman did not cry out, so she must have been participating voluntarily. However, if the same thing happens in the country, only the man is to die, for there the woman cried out, but there was no one around to hear her, since she was in the country, and so what happened to her was a rape and not a crime on her part. God compares a rape to a murder, when a man rises against his neighbor and kills his soul. To kill his neighbor’s soul is to kill his neighbor. The nephesh is the person of the neighbor, and the nephesh can be killed.

Deuteronomy 23:24. When you come into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container.

The LORD cares for the poor by this law. When someone comes into his neighbor’s vineyard, he can eat grapes as his soul desires, but he cannot gather any into a container, for that would be stealing. The nephesh is the desire and the appetite of the man.

Deuteronomy 24:6. No man shall take the lower or the upper millstone in pledge, for he takes one’s living in pledge.

Millstones were used to grind grain. The grain was put between the upper and the lower millstone. The stones were then ground together, which broke off the hard outer shell to release the precious grain that was within. The two would then be threshed to separate the shells from the grain. To take the upper millstone would render the mill useless, as of course the lower millstone cannot grind against itself, and vice versa. Thus, to take either millstone would be to take away one’s ability to eat. Here, that is described as taking one’s soul in pledge. The implications here are obvious, if somewhat complicated to explain. Grain is food, and food allows a soul to remain alive, for of course no soul can live for long without food. Grain also satisfies one’s appetite, so to take it away is to deprive what can satisfy the soul, thus taking it hostage. To take one’s nephesh in pledge, then, is to take that which keeps him alive, and which satisfies the desire and appetite of his nephesh. The nephesh is the man himself, and his appetite and desires.

Deuteronomy 24:7. If a man is found kidnapping any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and mistreats him or sells him, then that kidnapper shall die; and you shall put away the evil from among you.

This assigns the death penalty to anyone who is found kidnapping any soul of his brethren of the children of Israel, either to mistreat him or to sell him. To kidnap a nephesh is to kidnap a man. The nephesh is the man himself.

Deuteronomy 24:15. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you.

Because a poor man has set his soul on his wages for the day, they were not to wait even until the next day to pay a poor man for his labor, but were to pay him the very same day he did the work. This is referring to a hired servant, who is hired to work for the day, as opposed to a household servant, who is a permanent member of the household. God, of course, cares for both.

Illustrated here is the fact that the Hebrews connected the word “soul” to the emotions of a person, whereas we do not. Instead, we connect emotions to the heart, and so our translators have made this to be “heart” here instead of “soul.” However, if there is one thing that should be clear to us from our studies of the word “soul” in Scripture so far, it should be that our ideas about the soul are completely unbiblical and completely at odds with what the Spirit of God teaches about it. What is needed is not to translate the Bible according to the wrong ideas people already have. What is needed is for us to scrap the lies we have learned about the soul completely, and start over to learn from Scripture just what it is that God teaches us the soul is, and then adjust our thoughts and ideas accordingly to bring them in line with the truth.

What I am saying is that this may be a good translation from the standpoint of a translator, since it renders the idea of the Hebrew phrase into English that is instantly recognizable and understandable. However, this translation is less than useful when it comes to revealing the true meaning of the word “soul.” It may seem strange to us to use the word “soul” where we typically would use the word “heart.” However, if we are to bring our minds into line with the Scripture, attaching the soul to the emotions needs to cease to be strange, and instead become commonplace to us. Only then will we have brought our thinking into line with the truth of the word. So while “heart” may satisfy the translator, it does nothing here for the seeker after truth. We need to fix in our minds the reality that the nephesh has to do with the emotions, and then use this word accordingly. Only then will we start to grasp the reality of what God says about the soul.

Deuteronomy 26:16. This day the LORD your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.

The LORD had commanded them to observe the statutes and judgments He had given them. However, it was not enough for them to just keep these things outwardly. He wanted them to be careful to observe them with the totality of their inward being, with all their heart and with all their soul. Only then would they be truly obeying the law, when they were obeying it not by compulsion, but rather from the heart. The “heart and soul” spoken of together means the totality of their inward beings.

Deuteronomy 27:25. ‘Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

This curse is against anyone who takes a bribe to slay an innocent soul. The nephesh here is the person himself, and the nephesh can be slain.

Deuteronomy 28:65. And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul.

Part of the punishment of the LORD against them would be that, after He had scattered them among other nations, they would not find rest there, but would be in anguish of soul. The nephesh here is the emotions and fears of the people in captivity.

Deuteronomy 30:2. and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul,

The LORD is ever merciful. If in the land of their captivity they will return to Him with all their heart and with all their soul, He will have compassion on them, and return them to their land. Again, the “heart and soul” combined here means not just an outward turning, but a turning with the totality of their inward beings.

Deuteronomy 30:6. And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

After they return, the LORD will circumcise their hearts, cutting the sin out of them, so that they will love Him with all their heart and all their soul, and so may live. The “heart and soul” together here signifies the totality of their inward beings.

Deuteronomy 30:10. if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

The LORD will do good to them if they obey Him and keep His law with all their hearts and with all their souls. The heart and nephesh combined here indicate the totality of their inward beings.

So we have completed our study of the word “soul” or nephesh in the first five books of the Bible. We previously had found eight definitions that cover all the meanings of this word. We have not found too much new in this book of Deuteronomy, though we have found plenty of confirmation of the definitions we have already given. Perhaps we could add to definition number 8 the idea of the appetites of men, rather than just their emotions and desires. So, we have discovered the following from our complete examination of the words “spirit” and “soul.”

A soul is:

1. Any living creature of the land, sea, or air.

2. Any of the above creatures after they are dead.

3. What man is as a product of his body and his breath of life being mixed together.

4. The blood of men, or something connected to the blood of men.

5. People.

6. A person’s self or being.

7. A dead person.

8. The emotions, strong feelings, desires, and appetites of men.

From our combined studies of spirits and souls from Genesis to Deuteronomy, we can now conclude the following:

Related to you (as a person):
Spirit =
1. Your life, your breath
2. Your mind, your thoughts, your mindset.
Soul =
1. Your life, your blood
2. Your emotions, your desires, your appetites.

Related to animals:
Spirit =
1. Their life, their breath
2. Their mind, their thoughts.
Soul =
1. Their life, their blood
2. Their emotions, their desires, their appetites.

Other meanings:
Spirit = wind, the Spirit aspect of God, the power and gifts God’s spirit gives
Soul = a person, individual, me myself, a dead person or animal

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