More on "The Departure of the Soul"

Matthew Henry commenting on Genesis 35:16-20 (where Rachel died giving birth to a son) wrongly says, “The death of the body is but the departure of the soul to the world of spirits.”

George Wisbrock however is right on the mark when he commented with regard to the International Bible Dictionary quote about the departure of the nephesh being a figure of speech, “I don’t believe that’s always if ever actually true.”  Technically, I think George is right.

No one will deny that many times in  Scripture the word nephesh (“soul”) simply refers to the whole being (Gen. 2:7), whether human being or animal.  A secondary meaning, derived from the primary meaning would be that of the life of that organism. Some Old Testament examples of this secondary use of the word “soul” relevant to the matter at hand would be Genesis 35:18 and 1 Kings 17:21-22. The former text describes the death of Racheland there we learn that “as her soul was departing she died. “.” In the latter text it is recorded that a young boy became so severely sick that there was “no breath left to him” (1Kings 17:17). The Bible states that Elijah asked “… let the soul of this boy return to him.” (v. 21). God graciously heard Elijah’s pray and the soul of the boy returned to him.” (v. 22).

In both these instances I feel it is more accurate to say that the word “soul” is being used in it’s secondary sense: it carries the meaning “life”. In the case of Rachel, “her life was departing and she died”. In the case of the widows son “life” departed from him when there was “no breath left to him” – and his “life” returned to him in answer to Elijah’s prayer.

We could throw into the mix Jonah 4:3 where Jonah prays God, “Please take my soul from me.” There the meaning, “Please take my life from me” makes perfect sense.

Despite all of the above, there are those within the Conditionalist camp who speak of the soul as a real, spiritual, and separable part of the human being (though not, of course, capable of surviving the death of the body in a conscious state). With this in mind I am happy to quote various sources that while not saying things exactly as i would say them do provide support for Conditional Immortality in one form or another.

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One Response to More on "The Departure of the Soul"

  1. “Soul” is not always a physical thing, as noted by our author David, or commenter George, even if “her soul was in departing” is as a euphimism for death (which I agree) “Soul” is the real person. They may have had a dead body left after Rachel died, but who would say that they still had Rachel?

    Genesis 35:18-19 KJV
    (18) And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.
    (19) And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.

    Another common term (as used in the authorized text) is “gave up the ghost” where “ghost” is synonymous with life or spirit. As James says, “the body without the spirit is dead.” (James 2:26)

    Even if the term is a little flexible, it doesn’t provide any evidence of human souls operating without a body. IF the soul is gone… where is it? In the grave (or hell, or the sea, see Rev 20:13) would be technicaly correct, John Frith said “in the hand of God” but I think another good answer might be “in the resurrection.”

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