Question: "What is the breath of life?"
Answer: The climax of God’s creative work was His extraordinary creation of man. “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). The supreme Creator of heaven and earth did two things in creating man. First, He formed him from the very dust of the ground, and, second, He breathed His own breath into the nostrils of Adam. This distinguished man from all of God’s other creatures.
This one passage contains three significant facts about man’s creation. The first is that God and God alone created man. Man did not evolve under the influence of blind, meaningless forces. Accidental physics and chemistry did not form man. All the cells, DNA, atoms, molecules, hydrogen, protons, neutrons, or electrons did not create man. These are only the substances that make up man’s physical body. The Lord God formed man. The Lord God created the substances, and then He used those substances to create man.
The word formed is a translation of the Hebrew yatsar, which means “to mold, shape, or form.” It conjures an image of a potter who has the intelligence and the power to form his creation. God is the Master Potter who had the image of man within His mind and who possesses the power and the intelligence to bring that image to life. God had both the omniscience (all-knowledge) and the omnipotence (all-power) to do exactly what He wanted.
Second, God breathed His own breath of life into man. Man is more than “dust” or physical substance. Man has a spirit. We can picture it this way: Adam’s body had just been formed by God from the dust of the earth—a lifeless human body lying on the ground. Then God leaned over and “breathed” His own “breath of life” into the man’s nostrils; God is the Source of life, and He directly placed life within man. This breath of life is seen again in John 20:22, as Jesus imparts new life to His disciples.
Third, Genesis 2:7 tells us that man became a living soul (KJV). The word soul in Hebrew is nephesh, meaning “an animated, breathing, conscious, and living being.” Man did not become a living soul until God breathed life into him. As a physical, animate, rational, and spiritual being, man is unique among all living things upon the earth.
So, what is the breath of God? It is the life and power of God, given to man to animate him. The Hebrew word for spirit is ruach, which means “wind, breath, air, spirit.” The life of God lives on and on; the immaterial part of man was designed to live eternally. The only question is where will we live?