What is the breath of life?
Question: "What is the breath of life?"
The climax of God’s creative work was His extraordinary creation of man. “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). The supreme Creator of heaven and earth did two things in creating man. First, He formed him from the very dust of the ground, and, second, He breathed His own breath into the nostrils of Adam. This distinguished man from all of God’s other creatures.
This one passage contains three significant facts about man's creation. The first is that God and God alone created man. Man did not evolve from other creatures. Impersonal forces did not form man. All the cells, DNA, atoms, molecules, hydrogen, protons, neutrons, or electrons did not create man. These are only the substances that make up man’s physical body. The Lord God formed man. The Lord God created the substances, and then He used them to create man.
The word formed is a translation of the Hebrew yatsar, which means “to mold, shape, or form.” It conjures an image of a potter who has the intelligence and the power to form his creation. God is the Master Potter who had the image of man within His mind and who possesses the power and the intelligence to bring that image to life. God had both the omniscience (all-knowledge) and the omnipotence (all-power) to do exactly what He wanted.
Second, God breathed His own breath of life into man. Man is more than dust or physical substance. Man is spirit. We can picture it this way: Adam’s body had just been formed by God from the dust of the earth—a lifeless human body lying on the ground. Then God leaned over and breathed His own breath into the man’s nostrils; God breathed into man His own Spirit. This means that God has connected Himself to man in the most intimate way possible. Man is related to God and has the same breath as God, the breath of life.
Third, Genesis 2:7 tells us that man became a living soul (KJV). The word soul in Hebrew is nephesh, meaning “an animated, breathing, conscious, and living being.” Man did not become a living soul until God breathed His Spirit and life into him. As both an animate and spiritual being, man is the only living spirit upon the earth, which makes him unique among all living things.
So, what is the breath of God? It is the Spirit of God, given to man to animate him both physically and spiritually. The Hebrew word for spirit is ruach, which means “wind, breath, air, spirit.” Further, the breath of God is the life of God. And the life of God is life that lives on and on, the power to live eternally. God’s breath is not temporal; the breath of God lives forever. As such, we, the recipients of the breath of life, will live eternally. The only question is where will we live?
Since God has breathed His Spirit into each one of us, we should long for Him with every breath (Psalm 42:1). For as Jesus, our Lord and our Savior, has promised: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
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Created in God's Image by Anthony Hoekema.
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