Word Study: Nephesh – “Soul”

Word Study: Nephesh – “Soul”


For thousands of years, every morning and evening, Jewish people have prayed these well-known words as a way of expressing their devotion to God. They are called the “Shema.” “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one, and as for you, you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your strength.” We are going to look at the word “soul”. The Hebrew word is “nephesh”. It occurs over 700 times in the Old Testament. The common English translation of this word is “soul”. That is kind of unfortunate. Here is why. The English word “soul” comes with lots of baggage from ancient Greek philosophy. It is the idea that the soul is a non-physical, immortal essence of a person that is contained or trapped in their body to be released at death. It is a “ghost in the machine” kind of idea. This notion is totally foreign to the Bible. It is not at all what nephesh means in biblical Hebrew. The most basic meaning of nephesh is “throat”, like when the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness. They are hungry and thirsty, and they say to God, “We miss the cucumbers and melons we had in Egypt. Now our nephesh has dried up.” Or when Joseph was hauled off into slavery in Egypt, his nephesh was put into iron shackles. But nephesh doesn’t only mean throat. Since your whole life and body depend on what comes in and out of your throat, Nephesh could also be used to refer to the whole person. Like in Genesis, there were 33 nephesh in Jacob’s family. That is, 33 people. In the Torah, a murderer is called a nephesh slayer. The kidnapper is called a nephesh thief. On the first pages of the Bible, both humans and animals are called a “living nephesh”. If the life breath has left a human or animal, the nephesh remains. It is just called a dead nephesh. That is, a corpse. In the Bible, people don’t have a nephesh. Rather, they are a nephesh, a living breathing physical being. That might surprise you because most people assume the Bible says the soul is what survives apart from the body after death. And while the biblical authors do have a concept of people existing after death, waiting for their resurrection, they rarely talk about it. When they do, they don’t use the word “nephesh”. So, even though nephesh is often translated as “soul”, the Hebrew word really refers to the whole human as a living physical organism In fact, this is why biblical people can often use this word to refer to themselves and it gets translated “me” or “I”. Like in Psalm 119, most translations read, “Let me live that I may praise you.” In Hebrew, the poet literally says, “Let my nephesh live that it may praise you.” By using nephesh, the poet emphasizes that their entire being–their life and their body–offer thanks to God. In the Song of Songs, the young woman constantly refers to her lover as “the one my nephesh loves”. Of course, love isn’t just an intellectual experience. It is in the emotion that activates your whole body, your entire nephesh. This helps us understand the brilliance of other biblical poets who could combine multiple meanings of nephesh in one place. Like in Psalm 42 we read, “As the deer pants for the water, so my nephesh pants after you.” My nephesh thirsts for the living God. So, on a physical level, your throat can be thirsty, like a deer’s. But then that physical thirst can become a metaphor for how your whole physical being longs to know and be known by your Creator Which brings us all the way back to the Shema. To love God with all of your nephesh means to devote your whole physical existence to your Creator, the one who granted us these amazing bodies in the first place. It is about offering your entire being, with all of its capabilities and limitations, in the effort to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. That is the Hebrew word for soul.

100 Replies to “Word Study: Nephesh – “Soul”

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  2. Me quedé con muchas dudas jajajaja entonces lo que se traduce como alma vendría a ser en realidad todo mi ser entero ?

  3. Very interesting, love your work overall – but did not the Nephesh of Rachel depart from her body when she died?

    And it came to pass, as her soul (NEPHESH) was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin. Genesis 35.18

  4. This is by far the best exposition on the word "Soul" or "Nephesh" on youtube or the web. Thank you very much. So where did the concept of the immortal soul came from and why is it entrenched in "Christianity" today?

  5. Magnificent! I am delighted and grateful for this explanation. Soul is a living body, irrational or rational being. We, breathers, are souls.

  6. Then how do you explain the story of te rich man in hell and the poor man in Abraham’s bosom?
    That implies someone non fleshy when SOMEWHERE.. or doesn’t it? Also Jesus talked about the repentant thief going to join him in heaven, THAT DAY. Obviously something non-fleshy went to the spiritual realm doesn’t it?

  7. All of these videos are incredibly well done and blow my mind every time. The visual and artistic choices that your team makes challenge the stock visualizations that I've grown up with, and as an artist myself I truly appreciate the new perspectives, the flexible images, and the changing styles that remind me not to get caught up in the historical representation of biblical figures and concepts. Thank you so much for all the work that you guys do!!

  8. How would you then describe the story of Lazarus in the New Testament. He was telling Abraham to go send someone to warn his family. Or in the Old Testament when King Saul called the nephash of Samuel through a medium.

    I’m not bashing. This a serious question I have to help have a better understanding.

    Thank you!

  9. I think “person” would be a better English word for “nephesh” in the Old Testament and “psyche” in the New Testament rather than “soul.” PERSON in English, points to the whole being, and it does not have the historical baggage that the word “soul” has.

    I replaced “soul” with PERSON in the following OT verses where “nephesh” is translated, as an example…

    Psalms 42:5 (ESV)
    Why are you cast down, O my PERSON,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation…

    Psalms 34:2 (ESV)
    My PERSON makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.

    Psalms 35:9 (ESV)
    Then my PERSON will rejoice in the Lord,
    exulting in his salvation.

    Same in the NT where “soul” is used for “psyche…”

    Mark 8:36-37 (ESV)
    For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his PERSON? For what can a man give in return for his PERSON?

    Matthew 26:38 (ESV)
    Then he said to them, “My PERSON is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

    Acts 2:27 (ESV)
    For you will not abandon my PERSON to Hades,
    or let your Holy One see corruption.

    Hebrews 6:19-20 (ESV)
    We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the PERSON, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

  10. In Genesis 2:7 the text is that Adam was not given a nephesh but “became a living nephesh…”

    Do you believe that all men will eventually die and never live again?

    The Spirit that is in you is God Himself. You have no Spirit of your own. The Soul is not of the metaphysical. The Soul is something that has to be breathing and living.

    As exemplified in 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 SOUL. Notice the words BREATH, LIFE, LIVING= SOUL.

    And not BREATH, LIFE, LIVING= DEATH. As exemplified in Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sins, IT SHALL DIE. To some preachers die means you are some how still alive in some way, But to the Word of God it means you are dead and you don't exist in any form or realm spiritual or otherwise.

    Genesis 3: 1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

    2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, LEST YOU DIE.’”

    4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “YOU WILL NOT SURELY DIE."

    God says to Adam and Eve don't do this sin or you will die.

    Does this statement to you seems like you will go on living in any form or realm spiritual or otherwise. No. Adam and Eve died in a saved state because they were forgiven but they still died.

    On the other hand like the serpent said and some preachers preach “YOU WILL NOT SURELY DIE" like you are in some metaphysical state after you die is not Biblical.

    Psalms 115:17 The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.
    Psalms 146:4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish
    Ecclesiastes 9:5,6 For the living know that they shall die: BUT THE DEAD KNOW NOT ANY THING, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion FOREVER in anything that is done under the sun.

    The disciples thought when Jesus said Lazarus was sleeping that he would be OK. So Jesus had to plainly say "Lazarus is dead." Before going on, I must interject as to the main reason Jesus calls death "sleep" here. It is because He knows that everyone will awaken one day out of death as we awaken each morning from sleep. Some will awaken to receive eternal life, and others will awaken to be destroyed in eternal damnation.

    John 5:28-29, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."

    Getting back to Lazarus we discover that a few verses later we realize how long Lazarus would have been sleeping the sleep of death if Jesus had not raised him from the dead later on in verse 43.

    John 11:23,24 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection AT THE LAST DAY.

    Martha, the sister of Lazarus understood the biblical truth about the state of the dead. She knew Lazarus wasn't going to awaken until the last day when Jesus splits that eastern sky at His second coming.

    The book of Job also mentions the length of sleep for the dead.

    Job 14:12 So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens are no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.
    Notice the word till in that verse. This means the dead will not, or cannot awaken until the last day as Martha calls it in the previous verse shared.

    We have another Biblical story that says there is no life after death.

    Acts 13:22 And when he had removed him, he raised them up David to be king: to who giving testimony, he said: I have found David, the son of Jesse, A MAN ACCORDING TO MY OWN HEART, who shall do all my wills.
    Here God speaks very highly of King David say he's A MAN ACCORDING TO MY OWN HEART. Seems like according to this preacher he should be alive and kicking in heaven. But wait there is more.

    We find in
    Acts 2:29 Ye men, brethren, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David; that he died, and was buried; and his sepulcher is with us to this present day.

    Peter is speaking one thousand years after King David died. saying also
    "and was buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this present day".

    And now in Acts 2:34 Peter is saying something contrary to what this preacher is saying.

    Acts 2:34 For David ASCENDED NOT into HEAVEN;

    According to Peter, King David is still in the grave. Even today he's still in the grave.

    The Bible does not mention anybody dying and going directly to heaven.

    Not one person in the old testament or new testament NOT A SINGLE ONE.

    Everyone who has died is still in the grave until the second coming of Jesus. You are not some spirit floating around somewhere.

    Acts 2:29

    Tombs of the Patriarchs

    one of the most famous in the Holy Land was constructed in Hebron by King Herod over the traditional site of the cave of Machpelah, which was purchased by Abraham as a family burial site (Gen. 23). Significant Events: Burial site of Sarah (Gen. 23) and Abraham (Gen. 25:9). Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah were buried here as well (Gen. 49:30–31). Jacob’s body was brought from Egypt to Canaan and buried in the cave (, Gen. 50

    Contradiction about Heaven:

    If people went to heaven at death there would be NO need for resurrection or judgment day. It is written in the scripture: "The DEAD knows NOTHING".

    The body without the spirit is DEAD. When we pass away the Spirit that is in us returns to Yahweh. Eccl. 12:7.

    The DEAD are sleeping in their graves awaiting resurrection on judgment day. Rev. 20:14-15. Mat. 5:5 proves the teaching of going to heaven is FALSE.

    The meek shall inherit the earth made NEW. May Yahweh bless you.

    1. John 3:13
    No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.

    2. John 17:5
    5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

    3. Acts 2:29
    "Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.

    God told Adam

    "Dust you are to dust you will return" gen 3:19

    Biggest truth ever told

    Wasn't it always about death, since the original sin? "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die."

    1. Now on to the biggest lie ever told

    Satan, "Eat it, Eve, YOU SHALL NOT SURELY DIE." [you will live in hell forever] traditional hell = believing the first lie of Satan himself, plainly shown in the word of God, from the very start.

    We dont posses immortality as God does- 1 Timothy 6:16.

    Humans are made from dust Gen 2:7;3:19.

    We are not spirits living in a body of flesh. We are physical creatures, so no part of us survives death. When we die, our brain dies too, and our thoughts perish. Thus, Lazuras said nothing about his experience of death because the dead are unconscious.

    Psalms 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5,610.

    Lord of Lords, 1Ti 6:16 only God has immortality. Not a man.

    When ppl say we have a sound is wrong. Scripture state that we BECAME a living soul. Gen 2:7. I think ppl say we have an immortal soul in just a desperate attempt to uphold (eternal torment.)

    Acts 2:29 KJV
    [29] Men and brethren, lesepulcherly speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.

    David himself is in the grave! Very clear. We became a living soul!

    Genesis 2:7 KJV
    [7] And the Lord, and formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.

    Not a ghost or living element. Our Spirit is the breath of life, not a living entity.

    Ecclesiastes 9:5 KJV
    [5] For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, anything! ave they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. {Dead don’t know anything!}

    1 Corinthians 15:52-54 KJV we are not immortal! We die, the Bible refers to sleep plain and simple. Study to make yourself worthy of the truth.

    If hell is as painful as Christians believe it to be, then the time will certainly come when the souls there will think they have had enough and repent and go back to God.”**

  11. Great video !!! God bless you brothers, and your ministry!

    It would be great to see a word study on God's glory or Shekinah !

  12. Which translation do you use? I found most translations (Psalms 119:175) say "may your regulations help me". You mentioned most translations use what you mentioned in the video, but I seldom see it. Good video btw!

  13. It would make more sense if the true name of the father YHWH was used.
    like RUACH HA’QODESH and Yahshua

  14. So offering our bodies as a "living sacrifice " is technically in the old testament as well. That's actually brilliant!

  15. I never knew that the Bible had a different definition for soul than our well known definition. That is really interesting and I can't wait to share with other people. Thank you!

  16. This is one of my favorite videos on the internet. You mention that the Biblical authors have a concept of the person existing after death, waiting for resurrection, not using the word Nephesh (which makes sense). But can you make a video addressing these passages and (perhaps a different video addressing?) the Greek words used that we translate spirit or mind? This video and your series on spiritual beings are, to me, the most paradigm shifting and clarifying tools for Anglo/Westerners' understanding of Biblical cosmology, and I'd really like to fill that understanding out with teaching on some of these other "supernatural" (or, maybe more accurately, super-anthrosensory?) components of creation. Also on the list: the phrase "below the earth", "Hades" (like in Rev 1:17-18), and "sheol" and perhaps "unclean spirit" (Maybe I missed these terms in other videos? If so, I'd love to be directed.)

  17. So, now I’m confused. I always thought of our souls in the Greek fashion then, but what of our spirits? I used to thinks of our souls and spirits as the same thing, an intangible, invisible thing that lived inside us and belonged to God, and returned to him, if we became Christian. Also, I helped my father die, sadly, by putting morphine in him at home, when cancer could not be cured, and his body stopped breathing, I lay beside him and said some private, gentle things to him, and, his eyes closed, only after I said these things, and I’ve always felt, that’s when his, soul / spirit left him. Have you ever had the personal experience of witnessing physical death? I’ve been through cancer, and so, I’ve been in the environment of seeing others die as well as my Dad and I feel the experience has deepened the words I read when I study the bible. The bible is not only about scholarly words, it’s very much about a private and intimate knowledge God has preserved for us. Ok, thanks for your videos 🙏🏻❤️ a follower from Aussie 👍 ….also, if there is no, ‘ soul,’ what then goes to God when our physical body dies? I’m sure he’s not gathering a whole bunch of throats? Lol

  18. I pray to the Heavenly Father, Son and Holy Spirit will save all nepheshes to ever exist inside and out and spiritually baptize and water baptize and fire baptize in accordance with the Holy Ghost fire in Acts 2, i pray all life breaths and nephesh are saved on earth and in heaven only. I pray also all i have prayed against is baptized in the lake of fire only. In Jesus name amen.

  19. What about the human spirit? Acts 7:59

    They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!"

    also Mat 10 : 28 28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

  20. I just got depressed. Learning that a soul is not a spirit like thing which I always thought it was the very Spirit of us. Yes the part of us that lives on after death. So does this mean that when we die we just flat-out dead until Jesus comes again?

  21. Thanks so much for this. You guys help me with my spiritual journey more than you realize. The more I learn about the bible the more I feel closer to God and you guys are apart of it! Thank you very much for the work that you do!

  22. Shalom ✌️ Absolutely attracted to your style of ministry 😍 Quirky, inquisitive, and substantial 🤸🤷📓 Sing like the Song of Solomon, Dance with the Divinity of David, and Justify Jesus Joyously 👑 Prayers for you always 🙏💯

  23. I've heard that the words "spirit" and "soul" differ in meaning between the Old and New Testaments, although that is just what I've heard. I haven't myself done a study comparing the OT and NT and their used of the words "soul" and "spirit."

  24. Our mind, will, and emotions are our soul. The whole person with a mind, will, and emotional being is a soul.

  25. I disagree with your interpretations: You wish to be a slave to a Diety, purely because he created you… You deny your own immortality: Did not Jerimiah say that God knew you, before you entered the womb? I for one do not wish to be a cog in a machine; nor a slave… I am an immortal being, with-in a body…. I also know that entities beyond Angelic and human exist!

  26. Glory to God.
    Wow man, what's with all the multiple teachings of this and that out there? Who's right? Who's wrong? I'm not saying you're wrong, you've clearly put in tons of time, effort and study and I love your work, but there is so much different teachings out there that do not align. I've read a Theosis book from a Eastern Orthodox Christian father and his wife describing the soul as part of your psyche. We've all heard the misinterpretation of the soul as what you've presented here. I've read the original language of Jesus is Aramaic and original manuscripts were written in Aramaic? If so then why all the focus on translation from Greek and Hebrew? (I understand this part most likely is due to my own ignorance.) I got the book of the New Testament translated directly from Aramaic to English and it's almost like a different book. There's a hundred different teachings for one thing. Lately, more than anything, I've been leaning towards this: Somewhere along the labyrinth of time everything biblical has become tainted by humans if not completely corrupted by the influence of money and we're just circulating erroneous information. Again, I appreciate all you guys do and love your work, I'm just realizing some things that are a tad bit upsetting. God, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit, please guide me into the Absolute, Pure, Holy Truth. Amen.

  27. Enjoyed the video, helpful for some Hebrew background, but ultimately wrong in its claim. As the makers are fond of pointing out the Bible is a story, an epic narrative. And as such it develops not only characters but ideas and doctrines. It makes little sense to go back to the beginning of the story and point out the fact that biblical anthropology was less clarified there than it is later in the story (i.e. the New Testament). If the makers’ claim was that the idea of an immaterial soul is not present in the OT/Hebrew Bible alone, then fair enough, but the claim must linked to that part of the canon (and whether it is or not is widely debated). But it is incorrect to assert it about the Bible as a whole. The NT develops many OT themes and ideas (we call this the doctrine of progressive revelation) and brings them to greater clarity and fruition. For example, Jesus specifically makes a distinction between a person’s body (σώμα or σαρχ) and their soul (ψυχή) and the warning is not to fear people who can only kill your body but to fear God who can destroy both body AND soul in hell (γεεννα), see Matt. 10:28. And this is not an isolated passage, but undergirds the anthropology of the NT as a whole. One example is 2 Cor. 4:16 where Paul says that as our body/humanity/man (άνθρωπος) is dying our inner self is being renewed. Again, the underlying theology is a contrast between the body which is clearly dying and some other aspect of human nature , which historically we call a “soul”. See also 2 Cor. 5:8, where Paul expresses the desire to be absent from his body and present with the Lord. Tough to do if you are not a “soul” in some traditional sense. Nevertheless, if someone still protests the vocabulary of “soul” because of perceived or actual Greek philosophical baggage (that’s a big bag and includes people like the Epicureans who denied an immaterial soul), then by all means employ a more helpful term. But let’s not mistake the fact the NT clearly teaches there is more to human beings than a body and that Jesus did refer to it as a “soul”.

  28. Can God seal every whole in my soul? I pray the devil may never enter again in my soul or life, in the name and blood of Jesus Christ: amen!

  29. Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus. Believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead and you (nephesh) will be saved!
    (Romans 10:9)

    Christ makes life INCREDIBLE!!!

  30. I wonder in Leviticus God says not to eat blood because the life of every creature is in its blood.
    Then also Abraham's bossom. What goes down to paradise, surely not their bodies.

  31. Interesting…so is then what is translated "soul" in Matthew 10:28 better translated as "spirit"?
    (And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.)

  32. Are U saying that to worship the LORD God Almighty is to live and then Die and have No Eternal Destiny???*****, Sorry But l refuse to believe l was Created to Die and Never See Gods Kingdom,!!!*****, 0r what purpose is life that Ends when the Flesh Dies, The Nephesh(He)ls an Eternal Soul,!!!*****)And Jesus ls Alive ln the Holy Spirit!!!*****)Joseph's feet were put in irons Not his Neck,!!!*****, He
    (Nephesh, Hebrew word for He) was brought before king of Egypt,!!!*****,Do Not confuse regel!!! HIS,
    (Feet) with nephesh
    Which in Hebrew is He!!!***

  33. Native (modern) Hebrew speaker and student of biblical Hebrew here – can't believe the attention to detail and nuance!!
    כל הכבוד לכם, יא צדיקים!

  34. A good verse for this is Ezekiel 18:20, which states "the soul who sins shall die", which is proof that a soul is not an immortal spirit living being, but it is a living, breathing, physical being which can die.

  35. The best video you've had so far. Please keep making videos unlearning the lies and bring us back to the true Hebrew roots of the Bible.

  36. Do you people pray there’s one on words world I am home also and all your Strank’s let’s focus on the word song Special yourself to God

  37. Actually, the soul exist. If you believe in Christ you will know that after death, the soul still exist[Matthew 28:10 and Hebrews 9:27].

  38. Hey Siri word of cartoons 😻. For cartoons I’m so frustrated because I can’t watch cartoons I can’t believe the weather project it’s not there this is the worst day ever isn’t it

  39. This is one time I will say the letter kills. Hebrew is nothing else but a language and I see some missing the point here.

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