The Bible has told us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength. In Hebrew, the word soul does not mean the way we understand it today in English. “Soul” is translated from the Hebrew word, nephesh, and it does not mean the “soul” or “spirit” that leaves our bodies when we die.
Soul is Nephesh
The word “nephesh” is found over 700 times in the Old Testament. It literally means “throat.” Just like when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness. They were hungry and thirsty and missed the melons and cucumber back in Egypt. So, they cried out and said, “Our “nephesh” has dried up.” (Numbers 11:6)
But, it means more than just “throat”. Since our whole life and body depend on what comes in and out of our throat, nephesh can also refer to the whole person. Like how Jacob had 33 nephesh in his family, that is, 33 people (Genesis 46:15).
In the Torah, a murderer is called a nephesh slayer (Numbers 31:19). The kidnapper is called a nephesh thief (Deuteronomy 24:7). And if life has left the bodies of an animal or a person, it is called a dead nephesh.
Nephesh refers to the whole person
So, during the Biblical times, the word “soul” or the concept of the spirit being trapped inside the body, is unfamiliar to them. They know about that idea, but they rarely write about it. And if they do, they do not use the word nephesh.
In the Bible, people don’t have a nephesh. Instead, they are a nephesh, a living, breathing, physical being. Just like when the poet sang in Psalm 119:75, “Let me live that I may praise You.” It is translated from the Hebrew, “Let my nephesh live, that it may praise You.”
Therefore, to love God with all our nephesh is to love Him with all our physical existence. It is bringing devotion to the One who granted us our bodies, with its amazing capacities and limitations. And with it, we love God and our neighbors as well.
Reference: Youtube | Bible Project
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