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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Breath; Breathe; Breathing

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breth , brēth , brēth´ing : In the English Versions of the Bible of the Old Testament "breath" is the rendering of נשׁמה , neshāmāh , and of רוּח , rūaḥ ̌ . These words differ but slightly in meaning, both signifying primarily "wind," then "breath," though the former suggests a gentler blowing, the latter often a blast. As applied to persons there is no very clear distinction between the words. Yet in general one may say that of the two neshāmāh is employed preferably of breath regarded physiologically : "vital breath," hence, the vital principle, "Soul (animal) life" (compare Genesis 2:7 ; Genesis 7:22 ; Job 27:3 , where both words occur; Isa 42:52; Daniel 5:23 ); while rūaḥ (though it, too, sometimes signifies "vital breath") is the word generally employed where the breath is regarded physically - breath or blast as an act or force - and so is related to the will or the emotions, whence the meaning "spirit," also sometimes "thought," "purpose" (compare Job 4:9 ; Job 9:18 ; Psalm 18:15 ; Psalm 146:4 ; Ezekiel 37:5 , Ezekiel 37:6 , Ezekiel 37:8 , Ezekiel 37:9 , Ezekiel 37:10 ). The examples cited, however, and other passages reveal a lack of uniformity of usage. Yet generally rūaḥ is the expression, neshāmāh , the principle, of life. Yet when employed of God they of course signify the principle, not of His own life, but of that imparted to His creatures. "Breathe" in English Versions of the Bible of the Old Testament requires no remark except at Psalm 27:12 ("such as breathe out cruelty"), from yāphaḥ , "to breathe hard," "to snort" (compare Acts 9:1 ). In the New Testament "breath" (πνοή , pnoḗ ) occurs once Acts 17:25 in the plain sense of vital principle, the gift of God. "Breathed" is employed in John 20:22 of our Lord's concrete symbolism of the giving of the Spirit. In Acts 9:1 Saul's "breathing threatening and slaughter" is literally "snorting," etc., and the nouns are partitive genitives, being the element of which he breathed. See also SPIRIT .

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Breath; Breathe; Breathing'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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