Pearls of the Word

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The human breath

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"The human spirit [neshamah, breath] is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one's inmost [cheder, 'chamber', 'room', 'inside'] being" (Proverbs 20:27 NIV).

The Hebrew name neshamah means 'breath', 'breathing', and sometimes 'spirit'; but usually the word rouach is used for 'spirit'. Thus God breathes in man a breath [neshamah] of life to become a living soul (Genesis 2:7, Isaiah 42:5), and as soon as He withdraws the breath of man, the latter returns to the dust (Job 34:14-15).

God makes His lamp shine within us to enlighten our darkness (Psalm 18:28). Then the light penetrates to the bottom of our inmost being, literally 'in the chambers of our being'. Man can thus examine his feelings and motivations.

Let everything that has breath [neshamah] praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:6).