The Lord Breathes Life: Genesis 2:7

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b) Gen 2:7: Moses wrote, “And the Lord God formed the human (adam) from the dust of the ground (adamah). Then he breathed into his nostril the breath (nephesh) of life, and the human became a living person (nephesh).”[1]

The name adam means “man” in a generic sense, without reference to gender. Given current language usage, the best translations are “human” or “humanity.”

Note the close linguistic relationship with adamah, the word for “ground,”[2] the material from which God created him.

In Hebrew, nephesh means “breath,” “life,” “soul,” and “person.” Therefore, this word appears twice in one sentence.[3]

Similar to the account of the animation of Adam, an Egyptian text says, “Well directed are men, the cattle of the god. He made heaven and earth according to their desire, and he repelled the water-monster. He made the breath of life (for) their nostrils. They who have issued from his body are his images.”[4]

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Read Gen 2:7. How did Moses use word play to describe how God formed Adam and then imparted life to him? What similarities and differences occur between the view of humanity in Genesis and in the Instruction for King Meri-Ka-Re? How does the Lord’s  perspective on the value of people affect the way you see yourself and others?





Go to A Well-Watered Garden (Gen 2:8–14)

[Related posts include Made in the Image of God (Gen 1:26 cont.); An Israelite View of Genesis 1; A Return to the Ground (Gen 3:19); Noah Planted a Vineyard (Gen 9:20–21); Ancient Literature; and Author and Date of Genesis]

[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History or to Chapter 5: A View from the Ground (Genesis 2:4–25)]


[1] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “ןֶפֶשׁ” (nephesh), BDB, 659,

[2]Leland Ryken, James Douglas Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, Colin Duriez, Douglas Penney, and Daniel G. Reid, eds., “Adam,” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL; Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 2000),9–14, 9.

[3]D. C. Frederichs, “ןֶפֶשׁ” (nephesh), NIDOTTE, 3:133–4, 133.

[4]John A. Wilson, trans., “The Instruction for King Meri-Ka-Re,” in ANET, line 131, 417,