soulmaybe02I received the following question:

Well I know I haven’t written to you in a while with questions but lately I’ve been having discussions with others that are getting me thinking but stuck.  What’s the difference between spirit and soul?

A complete study of the word “spirit” should be undertaken to get the exact use of the word that the Spirit of God makes of it in the Scriptures. I will not take the time to do that here, but I think a quick concordance of the first 10 occurrences of the word for “spirit” in the Old Testament Scriptures, which is the Hebrew word “ruach,” should demonstrate for us its basic uses.

The first occurrence of the word “spirit” is in the very second verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:2.

2. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

The word “Spirit” here is the Hebrew “ruach,” and this tells us that “spirit” is an aspect of God. In fact, John 4:24 tells us that “God is Spirit.”

Genesis 3:8. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Here is the second occurrence of the word “ruach.” Here, it is translated “cool,” but I would suggest “wind” as a better translation here. The Lord was walking in the garden in the windy part of the day. Of course, this would result in it being cool. So “ruach” can be used for “wind,” as we will see later in our study.

Genesis 6:3. And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

The word for “Spirit” here is again ruach. I believe this is talking about the man Adam, and not men in general. The word translated “man” here is the Hebrew word “Adam.” The LORD was saying that His Spirit would not remain with Adam forever. When it left him, he would die, and his days would come to an end. God said that would happen 120 years after he said this. So “ruach” is connected with that which causes life.

Genesis 6:17. And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.

Here the word “breath” is the Hebrew word “ruach.” This verse tells us that all flesh, everything that lives, has the “ruach” aspect. So this would include animals and men. “Ruach” here is again connected with life, and so one who does not have “ruach” is dead.

Genesis 7:15. And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life.

This verse uses “ruach” the same way as the above verse. “Ruach” is connected with the life that all animals have.

Genesis 7:22. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died.

Here is a very interesting occurrence of the word “ruach.” It occurs here with another word for “breath,” which is the Hebrew word “neshamah.” This is the word used in Genesis 2:7, which reads, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” “Breath” there is “neshamah.” So every being that has breath is alive, and that breath in Genesis 7:22 is associated with the spirit, the “ruach.” A breathing being is a living being, and every living being has spirit or ruach. A being that is dead and not breathing has lost also its ruach or spirit from God, just as it has lost its breath of life.

Genesis 8:1. Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.

Here, the word “ruach” is translated “wind.” So “ruach” can also be used for “wind.” This makes it more clear why it would be associated with breath.

Genesis 26:35. And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah.

Here, we come upon a new and completely different use of the word “ruach.” Here, it is translated “mind.” This use of “spirit” is not merely talking about life, but about the mind, the thoughts, and the inmost beliefs of men. Your “spirit” is what you think, your opinions, your reasoning, and your thought processes in general. Of course, this is only true of one who is living, for a dead person can neither think nor reason, so we can see some connection. Yet this is definitely a different use of the word “ruach.”

Genesis 41:8. Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them for Pharaoh.

Here, Pharaoh’s spirit is troubled. Clearly this is not his breath. So this is a second use of the word “ruach” in connection with mind. Pharaoh’s thoughts were troubled. He was disturbed in his mind about the dream he had had.

Genesis 41:38. And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”

Pharaoh recognized that the Spirit of God was in Joseph.

So, we have learned, from the first ten occurrences in the Bible, these definitions of “spirit:”

1. An aspect of God, the “Spirit of God,” “God is Spirit.”

2. An aspect of man that means he is alive, and is connected with his breath.

3. The wind.

4. The mind, thoughts, and opinions of men.

I believe that these four definitions, in only slightly modified form, will cover all the uses of “ruach” from this point on through Scripture.

Next, let us examine the uses of the word “soul.” This word is actually used far more often in Genesis, and I do not believe that the first ten occurrences will give us a complete view of how it is used. Let us start off with the first few occurrences, though, and then move on from there. The Hebrew word for “soul” is “nephesh,” and the first occurrence is in Genesis 1:20.

20. Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.”

Here, the word “living” might best be translated “that have soul life.” So “soul,” nephesh, is connected with “life” here, or at least with a certain kind of life. So notice that the sea creatures have soul life. It is an absolute falsehood to suggest that only men have souls.

Genesis 1:21. So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Here, in the phrase “every living thing that moves,” the word “thing” is “nephesh,” the word for “soul.” So this should be “every living soul that moves.” So again, sea creatures are souls. It is a lie to say that only men are souls.

Genesis 1:24. Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so.

Here, “living creature” is “living nephesh” or “living soul.” So all the land animals are also souls. Again, it is clearly a lie to say that only men are souls.

Genesis 1:30. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.

In the phrase,” in which there is life,” the word “soul” appears, but is basically not translated. Clearly, the New King James translators did not wish to apply the word “soul” to animals. Yet this should read, “In which there is soul life.” Every creeping animal on the earth has soul life.

Genesis 2:7. And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Here, the word the New King James has translated “being” is again the word “nephesh” or “soul.” This again shows that what is traditionally taught is a lie. It is taught that man has a soul, just like man has a body. But this verse reveals that man does not have a soul, man is a soul. Every living being, every being that has a body in which is the breath of life, is a living soul. A being that has lost the breath of life is a dead soul. Yet neither animals nor men “have” a soul. We are souls, we don’t “have” them.

Genesis 2:19. Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.

The “living creatures” are actually “living souls” in Hebrew. Adam was naming all the animals, in other words, all the living souls, that the LORD brought before him.

Genesis 9:4. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

Here, the word “life” is the Hebrew word “nephesh,” or “soul.” Here, we see that “soul” is connected with the blood just like “spirit” is connected with the breath. So we see why a “soul” can be dead. A dead body no longer has breath, so its spirit is gone. Yet it still has the blood, though it is no longer flowing, so it still has its soul, though its soul is dead.

Genesis 9:5. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.

Nephesh” occurs twice here. “Lifeblood” is “soulblood,” and “life of man” is “soul of man.” Again, soul is connected with the blood, and with the life.

Genesis 9:10. and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth.

Again here, “living creature” is “living nephesh” or “living soul.”

So these are the first ten occurrences of “soul.” We have the following definitions of “soul,” then.

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.

But, as I said, with so many more occurrences of the word “soul,” I believe we have missed out on some definitions by only looking at the first ten occurrences. Let us look at Genesis 12:5.

5. Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.

Here, the word “people” is the word “nephesh.” So “souls” can just be used for “people.”

Genesis 12:13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.”

Here, Abraham says that “I may live.” In Hebrew that is, “that my soul may live.” So “soul” is just used for “me myself.” So soul can just be used for your self, your being.

Finally, let us consider Genesis 34:3.

3. His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman.

Here, we read of a young man whose soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob. In Genesis 34:8, we learn more about what was attracted to Dinah.

8. But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him as a wife.”

His soul longed for Dinah. Thus, I believe that “soul” is connected with the emotions, strong feelings, and desires. This contrasts with “spirit,” which is connected with the thoughts and opinions. These two uses of “spirit” and “soul” go together in this way.

So, in all, the meanings of soul we have found are:

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.

4. People.

5. A person’s self or being.

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

Or, to summarize and break it down a little different way, we could say:

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

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.

Other meanings:
Spirit = wind
Soul = a person, individual, me myself