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The Lord God formed[a] the man from the soil of the ground[b] and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,[c] and the man became a living being.[d]

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  1. Genesis 2:7 tn Or “fashioned.” The prefixed verb form with vav (ו) consecutive initiates narrative sequence. The Hebrew word יָצַר (yatsar) means “to form” or “to fashion,” usually by plan or design (see the related noun יֵצֶר [yetser] in Gen 6:5). It is the term for an artist’s work (the Hebrew term יוֹצֵר [yotser] refers to a potter; see Jer 18:2-4.)sn Various traditions in the ancient Near East reflect this idea of creation. Egyptian drawings show a deity turning little people off of the potter’s wheel with another deity giving them life. In the Bible humans are related to the soil and return to it (see 3:19; see also Job 4:19, 20:9; and Isa 29:16).
  2. Genesis 2:7 tn The line literally reads “And Yahweh God formed the man, soil, from the ground.” “Soil” is an adverbial accusative, identifying the material from which the man was made.
  3. Genesis 2:7 tn The phrase נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (nishmat khayyim, “breath of life”) appears for certain only here. In Gen 6:17; 7:15 the phrase is רוּחַ חַיִּים (ruakh khayyim, “breath/spirit of life”), where רוּחַ can mean “breath, wind, spirit.” And in Gen 7:22 the phrase is נִשְׁמַת רוּחַ חַיִּים (nishmat ruakh khayyim, “breath of the breath/spirit of life”). T. C. Mitchell (“The Old Testament Usage of Neshama,” VT 11 [1961]: 177-87) suggests the possibility that נְשָׁמָה (neshamah, “breath”) may not be used for animals but only God and man. BDB 675 s.v. נְשָׁמָה 4 states that the word refers to the human “spirit” in Prov 20:27. Many versions, including the NET, take it that way at Job 26:4 (KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV). Job 32:8 asserts that God’s “breath” gives people understanding. If so, this may be part of indicating that God made humans differently than other breathing living organisms (נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה, nefesh khayyah). However Gen 7:22 and Job 34:14-15 may use the term נְשָׁמָה of Human life is described here as consisting of a body (made from soil from the ground) and breath (given by God). Both animals and humans are called “a living being” (נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה) but humankind became that in a different and more significant way.
  4. Genesis 2:7 tn The Hebrew term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “being”) is often translated “soul,” but the word usually refers to the whole person. The phrase נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה (nefesh khayyah, “living being”) is used of both animals and human beings (see 1:20, 24, 30; 2:19).

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