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God is intimately closer and exceedingly more involved in our lives than evil men want to admit (Romans 1:28). For “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).1 Job 12:9-10 says,
Our life and our very breath are continually day in and day out moment by moment in His hand.
Daniel said to Belshazzar the same night Belshazzar was killed:
. . . the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified. (Daniel 5:23, "your breath" in the Aramaic is נִשְׁמְתָךְ)
God owns all our ways (Psalm 24:1; Isaiah 26:124), not just some of them, and each breath we take He holds. Woe to us, if we, like Belshazzar, do not glorify Him (Isaiah 3:11).5 For just as He has given, so He can and does take. As Psalm 104 declares,
You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath,6 they die and return to their dust. (Psalm 104:29)
Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice. Who gave Him charge over the earth? Or who appointed Him over the whole world? If He should set His heart on it, if He should gather to Himself His Spirit7and His breath,8 all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust. (Job 34:12-15)
Quite evidently the Spirit of God and the breath of God keep men alive, for Elihu says, “if He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish.” His Spirit is evident, in that, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24) and “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). How is His Breath apparent?
Isaiah 42:5 says,
Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath9 to the people on it, and spirit10 to those who walk on it:
Acts 17:25 says,
. . . He gives to all life, breath,11 and all things.
How does He give breath? Note the very first man to whom He gave breath.
God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” Man's first breath was from God's breath and that breath was “the breath of life.” The “breath of life” equals the “breath of Christ.” Christ is life (John 14:6). Thus, God breathed into the man's nostrils His own breath.
This breath, God's breath, being the breath that man breathes, is not limited to mankind. It is the breath of all breathing life, as Genesis 7:22 later records.
And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life,15all that was on the dry land, died. (Genesis 7:22)
The “all life” here has a common breath. It is “the breath of the spirit of life.” That equals “the breath of the spirit of God.”16 In other words, it is God's breath.
Psalm 150:6 more literally reads, “Let all the breath praise Yah.”17 Although this is normal Hebrew construction for the meaning of, “Let every breath praise Yah,” when it is understood that every living thing that breathes breathes God's breath, then a call for literally “all the breath” equals “everything that has breath” (NKJV), as Ecclesiastes 3:19 says, “they all have one breath.”18That one breath is God's breath. Thus Elihu said, “all flesh would perish together” (Job 34:15). If God withdrew His breath, no one would have any breath.
Job knew he breathed God's breath. Job said,
God's breath is the constant source of life. We have no breath without it.
It is also the source of understanding. Job 32:8 tells us,
Understanding is God Himself (Proverbs 8:14).27 So, not only is the very breath man breathes God's breath, but that very breath is what causes men to understand (Proverbs 2:6).28 God Himself, His very breath, is all over man's existence.
. . . with the breath33 of His lips He shall slay the wicked (Isaiah 11:4).
His breath34 is like an overflowing stream, which reaches up to the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of futility (Isaiah 30:28, see verses 25-33, particularly verse 33 for “the breath35 of the Lord”; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:836).
It is by the breath of God the sun, moon, planets, and stars were all made (Psalm 33:6).37 But wait. Wasn't that all made by Christ? Indeed, it was (John 1:3). Christ, the Word (John 1:1), is the breath of God (Colossians 2:9).38 Psalm 33:6 illustrates this. The Word of God (Christ) and the breath of God are laid out in parallel thought.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath39 of His mouth. (Psalm 33:6, "and the breath of His mouth" in the Hebrew is וּבְרוּחַ פִּיו)
In other words, the word of the Lord, the breath of His mouth, made it all.
Therefore, since the breath of God is God Himself and we have the breath of God in our nostrils, we thus have God in our nostrils. That is quite an intimacy with the Almighty, and this intimacy is clearly stated in Lamentations 4:20.
The breath of our nostrils, the anointed40of the LORD, was caught in their pits, of whom we said, "Under his shadow we shall live among the nations." (Lamentations 4:20, "the breath of our nostrils" in the Hebrew is רוּחַ אַפֵּינוּ)
The “breath of our nostrils” is “the anointed of the Lord” is “of whom we said, 'Under his shadow we shall live.'” Here the breath of our nostrils is explicitly called Christ41 (the anointed of the Lord), and He is intimately associated with His people as He “was caught in their pits” in the context of His judgment upon them (the book of Lamentations).
Finally, since the breath of God is God Himself, then it is no wonder Jesus (God) breathed on the disciples and thereby gave them the Holy Spirit.
So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.”42 (John 20:21-22)
What did they literally receive from Him as He breathed on them? Jesus' breath. Jesus' breath is the Holy Spirit. God's breath is God Himself.
1“have our being” (NKJV Acts 17:28) is in the Greek simply ἐσμεν (esmen), more literally, “we are.” In other words, we are Εν αὐτῷ (en autô) “in Him.” We exist in Him. We are in God. We exist in God.
2“life” in Job 12:10 is more literally “soul” נֶ֣פֶשׁ (nephesh).
3“breath” in Job 12:10 in the Hebrew is ר֗וּחַ (ruach) which can be translated “breath,” or "wind," or “spirit,” depending on context. Also, the phrase “of all mankind” is more literally, “of all flesh of man” כָּל־בְּשַׂר־אִֽישׁ (Col-besar-'iysh). Thus, the entire phrase is more literally, “which in his hand is the soul of every life, and the breath of all flesh of man.”
4Isaiah 26:12 more literally reads, “all our works you do to us” כָּֽל־מַעֲשֵׂ֖ינוּ פָּעַ֥לְתָּ לָּֽנוּ (Col-ma`asêynu pâ`altâ lânu).
5Isaiah 3:11 in the Hebrew is א֖וֹי לְרָשָׁ֣ע רָ֑ע כִּֽי־גְמ֥וּל יָדָ֖יו יֵעָ֥שֶׂה לּֽוֹ ('oy lerâshâ` râ` kiy-gimul yâdâyv yê`âseh lo) more literally, “Woe to the wicked, bad, for the dealing of his hands shall be done to him.” Hell is very much a place of justice. “God is not mocked” (Galatians 6:10).
6“their breath” in Psalm 104:29 is in the Hebrew ר֭וּחָם (ruchâm) which can be translated either “their breath” (NKJV; KJV) or “their spirit” (NAS).
7“His Spirit” in Job 34:14 in the Hebrew is רוּח֥וֹ (rucho).
8The Hebrew word for “His breath” in Job 34:15 is נִשְׁמָת֗וֹ (nishmâto). The “breath” is from the root word נְשָׁמָה (neshâmâh). This noun for “breath” is also found in Genesis 2:7 (“breath”); 7:22 (“breath”); Deuteronomy 20:16 (“breathes” לֹ֥א תְחַיֶּ֖ה כָּל־נְשָׁמָֽה more literally, “do not let live every breath”); Joshua 10:40 (“breathed” כָּל־הַנְּשָׁמָה֙ הֶחֱרִ֔ים more literally, “destroyed every breath”); 11:11 (“breathed” לֹ֥א נוֹתַ֖ר כָּל־נְשָׁמָ֑ה more literally, “there was not left any breath”); 11:14 (“breathing” לֹ֥א הִשְׁאִ֖ירוּ כָּל־נְשָׁמָֽה more literally, “they did not leave any breath”); 2 Samuel 22:16 (“blast” מִנִּשְׁמַ֖ת ר֥וּחַ אַפּֽוֹ more literally, “from the breath of the spirit of his nostril”); 1 Kings 15:29 (“breathed” לֹא־הִשְׁאִ֧יר כָּל־נְשָׁמָ֛ה לְיָרָבְעָ֖ם more literally, “He did not leave any breath to Jeroboam”); 17:17 (“breath”); Job 4:9 (“blast” מִנִּשְׁמַ֣ת אֱל֣וֹהַ יֹאבֵ֑דוּ וּמֵר֖וּחַ אַפּ֣וֹ יִכְלֽוּ more literally, “From the breath of God they perish, and from the breath of his nostril they are finished”); 26:4 (“spirit”); 27:3 (1st “breath” - כִּֽי־כָל־ע֣וֹד נִשְׁמָתִ֣י בִ֑י וְר֖וּחַ אֱל֣וֹהַּ בְּאַפִּֽי׃); Job 32:8 (“breath”); 33:4 (“breath”); 37:10 (“breath”); Psalm 18:15 (H16 “blast” מִ֜נִּשְׁמַ֗ת ר֣וּחַ אַפֶּֽךָ more literally, “from the breath of the spirit of your nostril”); 150:6 (“breath”); Proverbs 20:27 (“spirit”); Isaiah 2:22 (“breath”); 30:33 (“breath”); 45:2 (“breath”); 57:16 (“souls”; NAS “breath”; נְשָׁמ֖וֹת more literally, “breaths”); Daniel 10:17 (“breath”). The Aramaic equivalent is found only in Daniel 5:23 נִשְׁמְתָ֥ךְ (nishmetâch) “your breath.”
9“breath” נְשָׁמָה (neshâmâh)
10“spirit” ר֖וּחַ (ruach)
11The Greek word for “breath” in Acts 17:25 is πνοὴν (pnoên) and is only found also in Acts 2:2 (“wind” πνοῆς). In the LXX it is found e.g. in Genesis 2:7 (breath of life πνοὴν ζωῆς); 7:22 (καὶ πάντα ὅσα ἔχει πνοὴν ζωῆς καὶ πᾶς ὃς ἦν ἐπὶ τῆς ξηρᾶς ἀπέθανεν “and all who have the breath of life and all who were upon the dry ground died.”); Psalm 150:6 (πᾶσα πνοὴ αἰνεσάτω τὸν κύριον “Let every breath praise the Lord”).
12Although the context of Genesis 2:7 is very physical, in case someone might argue God did not literally breath into the man, a look at the verb in Genesis 2:7 might help. The verb in Genesis 2:7 for “breathed” is יִּפַּ֥ח (yipach). It is also found in Job 20:26 (“unfanned” לֹֽא־נֻפָּ֑ח); Job 31:39 (“caused . . . to lose” נֶ֖פֶשׁ בְּעָלֶ֣יהָ הִפָּֽחְתִּי more literally, “caused its owners to breath a soul”); 41:20 (H12 “boiling” ד֖וּד נָפ֣וּחַ more literally, “breathing pot”); Isaiah 54:16 (“blows”); Jeremiah 1:13 (“boiling” סִ֤יר נָפ֙וּחַ more literally, “breathing pot”); 15:9 (“breathed” נָפְחָ֥ה נַפְשָׁ֛הּ more literally, “she breathed her soul”); Ezekiel 22:20-21 (“blow”); 37:9 (“breathe” [“the breath” 2x and “O breath” is הָר֑וּחַ and “winds” is רוּחוֹת]); Haggai 1:9 (“blew” וְנָפַ֣חְתִּי ב֑וֹ “I blew it away”); Malachi 1:13 (“sneer” וְהִפַּחְתֶּ֣ם אוֹת֗וֹ more literally, “and you blow at it”).
13“breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” so reads the Hebrew. LXX reads, ἐνεφύσησεν εἰς τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ πνοὴν ζωῆς “breathed into his face the breath of life.”
14“breath of life” in Genesis 2:7 in the Hebrew is נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים (nishmat chayyiym). “breath of life” is also found in Genesis 6:17 (ר֣וּחַ חַיִּ֔ים ruach chayyiym); Genesis 7:15 (ר֣וּחַ חַיִּ֔ים ruach chayyiym); & Revelation 11:11 (πνεῦμα ζωῆς pneuma zôês [πνεῦμα is also translated “breath” in Revelation 13:15]). Πνεῦμα (pneuma) is predominately translated “spirit” in the NT (e.g. John 4:24 “God is Spirit” Πνεῦμα ὁ θεός).
15“breath of the spirit of life” נִשְׁמַת־ר֙וּחַ חַיִּ֜ים (nishmat-ruach chayyiym)
16There is a physical aspect to the Spirit of God depicted here. The Spirit has breath. For other physical manifestations of the Spirit of God, see Isaiah 40:7; Luke 3:22 (“bodily form”); Matthew 3:16 (“saw the Spirit of God”).
17Hebrew reads - כֹּ֣ל הַ֭נְּשָׁמָה תְּהַלֵּ֥ל יָ֗הּ (Col hanneshâmâh tehallêl Yah) “Let all the breath praise Yah.”
18“they all have one breath” in Ecclesiastes 3:19 in the Hebrew is ר֥וּחַ אֶחָ֖ד לַכֹּ֑ל (ruach 'echâd lakol).
19“my breath” נִשְׁמָתִ֣י (nishmâti)
20“breath of God” ר֖וּחַ אֱל֣וֹהַּ (ruach 'eloah)
21“in my nostrils” בְּאַפִּֽי (be'apiy) more literally, “in my nostril” (singular)
22“Spirit of God” רֽוּחַ־אֵ֥ל (ruach 'êl)
23“breath of the Almighty” נִשְׁמַ֖ת שַׁדַּ֣י (nishmat shaday)
24“spirit” רֽוּחַ (ruach)
25“breath of the Almighty” in Job 32:8 in the Hebrew is נִשְׁמַ֖ת שַׁדַּ֣י (nishmat shaday).
26“gives him understanding” in Job 32:8 is more literally, “causes them to understand” תְּבִינֵֽם (teviyêm). This Hebrew verb is in the Hiphil form (causal form) and has the plural masculine pronominal suffix (“them”).
27Christ is wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:24). Wisdom is understanding (Proverbs 8:14).
28Proverbs 2:6 “from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
29“By the breath of God” in Job 37:10 in the Hebrew is מִנִּשְׁמַת־אֵ֥ל (minishmat-'êl) more literally, “From the breath of God.”
30See also Psalm 147:15-18. There in verse 18 “His wind” in the Hebrew is ר֜וּח֗וֹ (rucho). It can also be translated “His breath” or “His spirit” depending on context.
31“breath of the Lord” in Isaiah 40:7 is ר֥וּחַ יְהוָ֖ה (ruach Yehvâh).
32 נָ֣שְׁבָה (nâshvâh) “blows” found also only in Genesis 15:11 (וַיַּשֵּׁ֥ב אֹתָ֖ם אַבְרָֽם more literally, “Abram blew them away”) & Psalm 147:18 (יַשֵּׁ֥ב ר֜וּח֗וֹ “He causes His wind to blow”).
33“breath of His lips” in Isaiah 11:4 is ר֥וּחַ שְׂפָתָ֖יו (ruach sephâtâyv).
34“His breath” in Isaiah 30:28 is רוּח֞וֹ (rucho).
35“the breath of the Lord” in Isaiah 30:33 in the Hebrew is נִשְׁמַ֤ת יְהוָה (nishmat Yehvâh).
36In the Greek “with the breath of His mouth” in 2 Thessalonians 2:8 is τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ.
37“the host of heaven” (Psalm 33:6) includes the sun, moon, planets, stars (Genesis 2:1; Deuteronomy 4:19; 17:3; Isaiah 34:4) and any other heavenly created beings (e.g. 1 Kings 22:19; 2 Chronicles 18:18; Nehemiah 9:6; Isaiah 24:21; Ephesians 3:10; 6:12).
38Scripture elsewhere associates spoken word with breath. See Psalm 27:12 “and such as breath out violence” (וִיפֵ֥חַ חָמָֽס) and Acts 9:1 “still breathing threats” (ἔτι ἐμπνέων ἀπειλῆς more literally, “still breathing a threat”).
39Psalm 33:6 “breath of His mouth” in the Hebrew is (ר֥וּחַ פִּ֜֗יו ruach piyv).
40“anointed of the Lord” in Lamentations 4:20 in the Hebrew is מְשִׁ֣יחַ יְהוָ֔ה (meshiyâch Yehvâh). The noun מְשִׁ֣יחַ (meshiyâch) “anointed” is not exclusively used in the OT to refer to the Messiah (Christ). It is predominately used to refer simply to someone anointed by God. For example, it is used for the “anointed” priest (Leviticus 4:3, 5, 16; 6:22 [H15]); the “anointed” king (1 Samuel 12:3, 5; 24:6 [H7], 10 [H11]; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Samuel 1:14, 16; 19:21 [H22]; 22:51; 23:1); the “anointed” people (i.e. Israel, 1 Samuel 2:35?; 1 Chronicles 16:22; 2 Chronicles 6:42; Psalm 28:8; 84:9 [H10], 38 [H39], 51 [H52]; 105:15; Habakkuk 3:13); the “anointed” Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1); and the Messiah (1 Samuel 2:10?; Psalm 2:2 [Acts 4:25-26]; Daniel 9:25-26).
41In the LXX the “anointed of the Lord” is χριστὸς κυρίου (christos kuriou) “Christ of the Lord.”
42“Holy Spirit” πνεῦμα ἅγιον (pneuma hagion)