Combat Zone Series: Part 2—Soul Nuances


Connected upward, yet pulled downward.

That is the battle within your soul.

But it’s for a purpose. And it’s good.


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Ancient Israelites as well as those in the Second Temple period—including the first century with Jesus (Yeshua, his Hebrew name)—have long embraced a soul-body perspective.


Even philosophers from Homer to Plato and Socrates and onto the Hellenistic period and beyond have peered into this mysterious soul-body relationship.


This series explores that soul-body interplay in daily life and pulls from the Bible’s Hebrew wording as a gateway to deeper understanding of biblical text.


And because film/literature can help visualize the human-soul story, I later on (in a linked post) lightly explore a character in a Fellini film, Nights of Cabiria, via this soul lens. An unconventional approach? Maybe.


So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to it.


[photo by Marten Newhall on Unsplash]



Looking deeper, inward


The first stop: three revealing Hebrew words for soul that are used interchangeably throughout scripture.


The words that I’ll discuss in a moment—neshama/nishmat, ruach, nefesh—magnify things for us in certain Bible passages, when considering the context.


And they do something else. They’re a tutor teaching us that the soul . . .


(1) is breathed from God
(2) is unseen like a breath or wind
(3) can rise (to the things of God) and descend (away from His goodness)
(4) houses understanding and thought
(5) has emotions
(6) has a desire to cleave (negatively or positively)
(7) has an awareness of self
(8) is eternal and shares responsibility with the body for its actions/decisions (thus one of the needs for a bodily resurrection—more on that in another post)


Now let’s unpack it.


Soul Nuance #1: Breath of life, soul, attached to God


Neshama [neh-shah-mah ]—soul, God’s breath of life [in Hebrew, nishmat chayim נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים] that He breathed into Adam per Genesis 2:7. That divine breath animated, enlivened the body and sparked the soul’s dimensions. It gave Adam’s body—as it does yours and mine—life.


Think of it. That breath is your closest contact with God, His soul to your newly breathed soul. It’s His holy breath (nishmat) residing within you. How miraculous. A profound, loving gift from the King of Kings, the Ruler of the Universe. The One who sits High and lifted up on His mighty throne.


Soul Nuance #2: Wind, breath, spirit


Ruach [roo-akh] rises and descends—designed to move (like the wind) with the flow of God’s divine presence, His Shechinah, dwelling within. You hear the wind, feel it, but can’t see it.


The word ruach is also used for feelings/emotions. The question is, will you hear His voice and follow Him, drawing the entire soul-body upward, surrendering to Him and His leading?


As your life goes this way or that, upwardly seeking Him or not, so this Soul Nuance (spirit/wind/ruach) rises, descends.


Soul Nuance #3: Life force, soul, self, a person, rested breath, living (breathing) being


Nefesh [neh-fesh], taken from the Hebrew root nafash meaning to rest, similar to Exodus 31:17 where God tells Moses what to say to Israel about the Shabbat and how He rested (nafash) after six days of creation.


Genesis 2:7 reveals that God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the soul of life (nishmat chayim), so man became a living soul (nefesh chayim).



Like a glassblower, God’s action of exhaling a soul is like
the breath [neshama/nishmat] leaving His lips,
traveling as wind [ruach/spirit],
coming to rest [nefesh/nafash] in the vessel [our body].


—A poetic image about God breathing the soul into Adam (my inserts in red)—from the 18th century Italian-Jewish philosopher/writer, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto.



The nefesh is often translated as self, suggesting it has an awareness of the physical world and of the body. It also has a yearning, a desire, appetite, and a cleaving (attaching itself either negatively or positively), per some rabbinic thinking.


That self-factor with a desire to cling is an important characteristic. Especially if the soul (nefesh) cleaves to things/desires mirroring those of the downward-focused, earth-tethered body, because it can wind up blocking the soul’s upward call (God’s desire).


Now add in what Rabbi Pinchas Winston (a lecturer/author on Torah philosophy) basically describes about the nefesh in his teaching of Exodus 35-38: it [nefesh] sets out to control and manipulate its physical surroundings in an attempt to “create a sense of self-reliance and security.”


No wonder that globally-and-generationally-known rabbi (who was so much more)—Jesus, the Messiah—taught this 2,000 years ago about dying to that negative self and turning your soul and body to God, surrendering to Him, serving Him, loving Him:



“Truly, truly, I say to you,

unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,

it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

—John 12:24



That brings us to the body, our earthly “tent.”


But before you read Part 2b’s: The Body Factor . . .


Take a sec to read three quick examples of how the translated word “soul” is synonymously used for those three Hebrew words (neshama/nishmat, ruach, nefesh) and even their equivalent in the New Testament Greek.




1. Job said, “As God lives, who has taken away my right,
and the Almighty has established my soul (nefesh, my life force, rested breath).
For as long as my soul (nishmat, breath of life attached to God) is within me
and the spirit (ruach, breath, wind) of God is in my nostrils,
my lips will speak no injustice and my tongue will utter no deceit.
Job 27:2-4


2. The spirit (ruach, breath, wind) of God made me, and the breath (nishmat, breath of life, attached to God) of the Almighty keeps me alive.—Job 33:4


3. There also are poetic uses of these synonyms, like the metaphor in the New Testament’s letter to the Hebrews (4:12) that vividly underscores the laser-like intensity of God’s Word (active, alive, sharper than any two-edge sword) to expose our thoughts and intentions . . .


It can divide the “soul”—(Greek is psyches like nefesh for self, human person, the consequence of God’s blowing life into a person)—from the “spirit” (Greek is pneumatos, like ruach for breath, wind, spirit).


Meaning: The razor-sharp sword of God’s Word slices through (divides) the intricately connected nuances of the soul much like it can slice through our physical joints from its innermost part, the heart-of-the-matter marrow.



Hebrew wording based on Tanakh Hebrew for text and Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon.
Greek word for soul and spirit from Strongs on

PHOTO CREDIT: Magnifying Glass photo by Marten Newhall on


Combat Zone is the foundational post for soul basics. The original article was created/posted in 2009, but for easier reading divided into four posts in 2020. Judaic scripture number references used.

Resurrection, Real or Not: Part 5—Why A Bodily Resurrection?

Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale shadows our soul-body journey. But what’s that got to do with needing a resurrection? A few things, as it turns out.


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What God Revealed
Real-Life Accounts
Real-Life Accounts Cont’d
The Resurrection Thunderbolt From Heaven
Rabbi Scholars Defend Jesus’s Resurrection


Shakespeare’s plays often navigate spiritual waters. The Winter’s Tale is no exception. The tragicomedy travels the barrenness, brokenness, and blackened leaves of our wintry lives and moves to a spring-like moment.


It’s a light nod to God’s promised latter rain in the Bible. This rainy season—as the Talmud and Judaic scholars call it—is the glory rain, the promised resurrection.


So what’s with the withered leaves and wintry tales? In the Psalms, God likens us to trees. Some good, some not so good. The condition of a tree varies from season to season, choice by choice.


A good, solid tree is vibrant, flourishes, bears fruit, stretches its roots and branches. Other trees may appear lively for a season but are slowing decaying from the inside out.


Blessed is the man . . .

whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

and who meditates on His law day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

—Psalm 1:2-3


The righteous flourish like the palm tree

and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

Planted in the house of the Lord,

in the courts of our God they will flourish.

—Psalm 92:13-14 (12-13)


But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.

I trust in the steadfast love of God

forever and ever.

—Psalm 52:10 (8)


In winter, all the trees are dormant, still, laid bare. Not that much different than the time of our individual wintry tale when we are laid still . . . waiting for that latter rain resurrection.


But we don’t all have the same resurrection ending.

The body and the soul are reunited in resurrection, then face litigation in God’s court, are judged, and subsequently step into one of two places: everlasting life (for the righteous) or everlasting contempt (for the unrighteous), per Daniel 12:2 and John 5:28-29, among other scriptures.

Certain things impact that judgment . . . but simply said, it centers on what the soul-body did down here in light of God’s ways—and more to the point, what it did regarding one act of God in particular.


Before we get to that, let’s look at some plausible reasons why there’s even a need for the resurrection.





In Act 1, Scene 2 of The Winter’s Tale, Polixenes—King of Bohemia—describes his childhood relationship with Sicily’s King Leontes as being like twins, buddy buddies, innocents.


That is, until life happens and they’re cast out of their Garden-of-Eden-esque existence and into the Sicilian King’s irrational rampage, where he goes all Othello on his alleged “slippery wife” (Hermiones) and her alleged lover, Polixenes, the king’s friend.


The king is wrong. Like really wrong. For the sake of the plot—not unlike our own soul stories—the king and some others choose anything but the humble, righteous path.


The tale bulges with jealousies, accusations, misjudgments, malicious lies, for-the-better-good lies, over-the-top emotional reactions, bitterness, relationship splits, disloyalty, paranoia, tyranny, expulsions, broken hearts, death, and more.


Along the way, Shakespeare exposes familiar elements of the soul’s journey—its rise, decline, fall, redemptive resurrection (Queen Hermiones is brought back to life after being dead sixteen years).


He even turns the physical tables of the atmosphere to mirror the inner soul rumblings of his characters—Sicily’s Mediterranean warmth and light are shrouded in a wintry gloom.


Veiled, fractured souls.
Out of sync with God’s ways.
Self-focused. Earthly tethered.
Becoming a wintry heart of darkness.


Enter two reasons for an end-of-days resurrection . . .


(1) accountability—of what the soul-body has done, said, thought along its earthly journey.


(2) divine reconstruction of the soul-body—so it no longer is earthbound/self-focused but raised, recalibrated, made new so those deemed righteous can move with the give-receive love flow of heaven.


Let me explain . . .



journeying between weight and responsibility


Okay, so you’re not exactly like Shakespeare’s Antigonus, the king’s advisor who teeters between loyalty to the crown and loyalty to truth, makes concessions to protect, and then is chased off stage by a bear and killed.


But believe it or not, bears and their presumed Shakespearean connotation have their place in your soul experience and its aftermath, your future resurrection.


The word bear appears about twelve times in the play—where a person bears the onus for their actions and their related guilt. And, yeah, the fierce “bearish” beast appears in the midst of it all.


How bear/bearing translates to the soul’s journey and end-of-days accountability goes like this—on both sides of the Judaic-Messianic bridge:


Bearing your soul—transparent before your Creator, God.
Bearing the weight of your actions—good and not so good.
Bearing the scrutiny of others and our internal self.
Bearing the hardships and testings along life’s journey.
Bearing the responsibility for what you’ve said, done, thought, written, shared, taught, imposed, desired, touched, took, gave, blessed, cursed, healed, harmed, lifted up, brought down.
Bearing the yoke of Heaven (surrendered to God, His word, His covenant—your identity is in Him).
Bearing the final outcome of it all—with your soul’s work salted by His holy fire, tested by His holiness, so the work is either reduced to ash and stubble or glorified in Him.


For God shall bring every deed (every action, work)
into litigation (for His judgment),
everything that is concealed,
whether it be good or whether it be evil.
—Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) 12:14


And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it.
The earth and sky fled from his presence,
but they found no place to hide.
I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne.
And the books were opened, including the Book of Life.
And the dead were judged according to what they had done . . .
And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life
was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20: 11, 12, 15


Both the soul and the body face their shared judgment: Both are accountable for the life journey. So they are reunited in a new way at the end of days—for a resurrection to righteousness or to punishment.


Their embattled soul-body relationship and fractured state lead to the second reason why we need a bodily resurrection . . .



the need for a re-alliance


Your soul is knitted (so to speak) to your body while in the womb.


“The spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
Job 33:4


And the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground,
and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life,
and man became a living soul.
Genesis 2:7


Yes, God’s breath is in you. He breathed into you from deep within Himself. He’s that close to you, day by day, hour by hour, soul-breath by soul-breath.


Per the Hebrew in scripture, there are three words used interchangeably for soul that shed light on its nuances: breath of life (neshama), spirit/wind (ruach), and life force/self (nefesh).


That last one is enmeshed with the body, making a way for the soul to join the body in a human experience while in this worldly dimension.


But the purpose of the God-breathed soul is upward: Elevating the soul-body relationship, surrendering to the will of God, accepting the yoke of heaven. Meanwhile the body is drawn downward, tethered to the things of this world because it came from the earth, drawn to earthly things.


Think dust to dust.


So the push-pull is on. And if the soul/spirit follows the body’s earth-minded drives vs. the call upward, the soul-body union can become . . .


Flooded with spiritual darkness, doctrines of demons.

Strictly a receptor—receiving for self, with no capacity for authentic giving.

Compelled by the things of this world.

Defiant, resisting the yoke of heaven.

Dissonant, clashing with God Himself.


In other words, a ravaged, war-scarred vessel whose soul-body partnership is in disrepair.


For a resurrection to righteousness,
it will need a reconstruction worthy of God’s presence.

Raised. Recalibrated. Renewed.


Here’s how: read the next and last post in this series: HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS CAN BE YOURS.



What God Revealed

Real-Life Accounts

Real-Life Accounts Cont’d

The Resurrection Thunderbolt From Heaven

Rabbi Scholars Defend Jesus’s Resurrection

Why A Bodily Resurrection

His Righteousness Can Be Yours


Resurrection series first created between March 30, 2016 – July 3, 2016


Photo Credit: Resurrection/Tomb photo by jchizhe, purchased on (Stock photo ID:1243063771)

Photo Credit: Shakespeare by Jessica Pamp on

Photo Credit: Bear Running by Zdeněk Macháček on

Photo Credit: It’s Your Breath by Nienke Broeksema on

Journey on