Breath and Spirit
by Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.
"Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein." (Isaiah 42:5)
God the LORD (Elohim Jehovah) is here identified as the Creator and organizer of all the universe, the heavens, and the earth, and all things therein. In context, He is also identifying Himself as the One sending forth "my servant" to be given as "a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles" (Isaiah 42:1, 6), the coming Messiah of Israel.
He who does all these things also gives every person born both breath and spirit. The "breath" (Hebrew neshumah) is that "breath of life" which God breathed into Adam's nostrils when He created him at the beginning. Even those who do not believe in God must depend on Him for their very breath, since "he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things." Therefore, He is "not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:25, 27-28).
He also gives each person a spirit (Hebrew ruach), a word used first of all in reference to the "Spirit of God" (Genesis 1:2). It is this attribute in particular that constitutes the created "image of God" in man (Genesis 1:27). The higher land animals all possess "the breath of life," along with man (Genesis 7:22), but only men and women are created in the image of God, each with an eternal spirit.
Man's breath and spirit are closely related, and sometimes the words are used almost interchangeably. When the breath departs from a person's body at death, the spirit also departs with it, but the latter "shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The breath also will be activated again on the coming resurrection day. HMM