When Elohim created the animals and Adom – both ‘breathing’ creatures – he put a ‘soul’ within them. This ‘soul’ was an animal-type ‘spirit’ called a nefesh that lives by instinct.
The nefesh does not seek the divine Creator. It doesn’t have personal awareness nor does it have the ability to reason. It just exists in the physical realm.
The first time nefesh is used in Scripture it refers to the animals in the sea, the air, and on the land when they were created as ‘breathing’ creatures. When it is used of man in Genesis 2:8, it includes the living, breathing person of Adam along with the neshama of God’s divine ‘breath’ giving Adam not just physical animal/flesh soul, but a living spiritual soul as well.
“But Hamor said to them, “My son Sh’khem’s heart [nephesh] is set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife …” (Genesis 34:8).
“Here is what Adonai has ordered: each man is to gather according to his appetite — each is to take an ‘omer [two quarts] per person [nefesh] for everyone in his tent” (Exodus 16:16).
“But Adonai redeems his servants [nephesh]; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned” (Psalm 34:23).
“My soul [nephesh], why are you so downcast? Why are you groaning inside me? Hope in God, since I will praise him again for being my Savior and God” (Psalm 42:11).
“Thus says the Lord, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh [nefesh] his strength, And whose heart turns away from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5).
Hebrew Word Pictures
נ Nun – A Fish means ‘life.’
פ Peh – A Mouth means ‘speak’ or ‘source.’
ש Shin – A Tooth means ‘consume’ or ‘destroy.’
The Hebrew Word Picture for nefesh: life source consumes.
When it comes to mankind, the nefesh gains worldly knowledge from its carnal voice and expresses its flesh through sin. The nefesh is what drives men to the ‘lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and pride of life’ (1 John 2:16). Yeshua, his apostles, and Sha’ul refer to this nephesh as the ‘carnal man’ or the man controlled by his ‘old nature.’
“Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit [ruach] is willing, but the flesh [nefesh] is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
“For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self [nefesh] was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:5-7).
“For the mind controlled by the old nature [nephesh] is hostile to God, because it does not submit itself to God’s Torah — indeed, it cannot. Thus, those who identify with their old nature [nephesh] cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8).
“But I say, walk by the Spirit [neshama], and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh [nephesh]. For the flesh [nefesh] sets its desire against the Spirit [ruach], and the Spirit against the flesh [nefesh]; for these are in opposition to one another” (Galatians 5:16-17).
“Because all the things of the world — the desires of the old nature [nefesh], the desires of the eyes, and the pretensions of life [pride] — are not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16).
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