N creature whose leb could obey or disobey. Therefore, to love God with
all the heart was to love knowing obedience brought blessing, but to love
with all N was to be on the dependent side of a love-bond knowing
God alone ultimately provided sustenance and safety.
Though the leb and N both desired, the desire
of the leb and the desire of N were not the same and need not be
confused by scholars of today. Whereas the leb desired obedience
or disobedience, N desired according to its familiar theme. The leb desired
what it intentionally wanted; N desired what it vitally needed. Returning
to Judah was equated with deliverance by the Israelites in Egypt during
the time of Jeremiah; given this association, "their N desired to
return to dwell there". (Jer. 44:14) More common in the OT period,
N desired food for sustenance and nourishment. "Because N craves
flesh, you may eat as much flesh as N desires." (Deut. 12:20) N desired
food because it was through food that N was sustained and nourished.
One particular phrase connecting N and desiring
is found in the context of an act of deference, usually to a king. In
Israel the king was the all-powerful head who represented the people before
God and sometimes also mediated for them. The way in which he led the
people could even determine whether of not the nation was judged to be
right in the sight of their God. The king was in a position to "reign
over all that his N desires". (I Kings 11:37) Others encouraged the
king to act "according to all his N desire" (Sam. 23:20) and
thus wished that all would go well for his N.
Still another use found mostly in the Psalms pictures
the wicked enemy receiving the desire of his N against the righteous.
David pleaded with the Lord, "Give me not up to the N
of my adversaries." (Ps. 27:12a) He alluded to the wicked N that
were consuming and thus could sustain themselves by devouring the righteous.
A reading of Is. 57:20 indicates that the wicked were believed to be like
the sea. "The wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot rest
and its waters toss up mire and dirt." David asked that the wicked
be unable to say that "they have had their N desire and swallowed
him up". (Ps. 35:25) Not only the wicked devour; watchmen are pictured
as "dogs that have a mighty N and never have enough". (Is. 56:11)
The wicked, like sheol and the sea that engulfed Jonah, could acquire
a misdirected kind of nourishing which maliciously sought sustenance through
the consumption of N itself! The Hebrew might have imagined the wicked
N as fat due to a consuming, greedy need; they ate everything in sight
in an effort to be sustained. True to form, the images of iioilrisliing
and devouring were limited to the desires of N and were not directly related
to the desires of leb at all.
Certain aspects of the relation between N and leb were
typical of many Hebrew anthropological terms. Each had its own specific
constellation or field of meaning which distinguished it from the others
to the extent that a given contextual theme or image permitted one appropriate
term or a limited selection of terms. Contemproary use of heart, soul,
spirit, and mind have more overlap than ancient Hebrew anthropological
terms. Overlap perceived among Hebrew terms is largely due to a misunderstanding
of their relationship. The desires of the leb and the desires of N participated
in separate constellations of meaning. To cite another example, ruah and
neshamah overlapped to the extent thatthey both could denote t-he
breath, yet even here it can be argued thatruah always carried an opened
up nuance of wind and spirit which was not characteristic of neshamah.
The way ruah and neshamah operated linguistically is somewhat
similar to the way N and dam both denoted the blood. Note, however, that
the intention here is not to create neodualisms between basar (flesh)
and ruah, dam, or N; it is to suggesttheir different linguistic fields
It is worth mentioning that the Hebrew anthropology
included terms which would not be included today. The term kavod (glory)
often suggested a part of the body. "Therefore my leb is glad,
and my kavod rejoices; my basar also dwells secure." (Ps. 16:9)
"Let the enemy pursue me [N] and overtake me, and let him trample my
life [hayyah] to the ground, and lay my soul [kavod] in the
dust." (Ps. 7:5) The fact that kavod and a term for liver, kaved, agree
in their consonantal root kvd and have only a vocalic difference suggests
there may also be an etymological basis for viewing kavod as a body part which
reflected a grasping of a totality. After the NT era, kavod took the
form of a halo over the saints.
The manner in which one died was of particular
importance to the Hebrew. Strangling was an evil fate because ruah was
being choked. Job was at rock bottom when he uttered, "My N would
choose strangling and death rather than these bones." (Job 7:15;
'bones' here refers to his lasting sufferings since bones are the most
indestructible portion of the body.) It was a particularly offensive way
to die because N was attacked right where its supply of ruah was most
vulnerable -- the neck. One was not to tamper with ruah any more
than N; of all things in creation it most suggested God. The drowning
that Jonah anticipated was offensive on two counts: he would have died
through the direct removal of his supply of ruah and also through the
consuming throat of sheolish water. In this instance, water was in the
process of sealing N from life-giving ruah.
There were others events surrounding death
which were also particularly offensive to the Hebrew. Death by burning
such as occurred during child sacrifice by neighboring peoples or burning
of the corpse meant that that individual was utterly cut off, utterly
annihilated. In these instances not even the bones remained. The form
of death and the fate of the corpse indicated something about the one
who had died. The desired fate was to be respectfully put to rest in the
grave, but this could not be granted to those who, for instance, were
left dead in the field where birds could gather.
"The ideas of the grave and of sheol cannot be
separated. Every one who dies goes to sheol, just as he, if everything happens in the
normal way, is put into the grave. When the earth swallowed up Dathan
and Abiram with all that belonged to them, they went straight down into
sheol (Num. 16:29ff.), and Jacob now speaks of going into the grave (Gen
* 47:30), now of going into sheol (Gen. 37:35). The dead are at the same
time in the grave and in sheol, not in two different places." (Pedersen,
p. 461) However, it was noteably those who suffered a shameful death,
the slain or the wicked enemies of the godly, that were referred to as
actually dwelling in sheol. Thus, Pedersen was perhaps not completely
accurate when he wrote that all who died went to sheol. "The wicked
shall depart to sheol, all the nations that forget God." (Ps. 9:17;
see also Ps. 55:15; Prov. 5:6, 7:27, 9:18) Wicked scoffers could even
make a covenant with death and sheol. (see Is. 28:15,18) To die a natural
death full of years had its honour and satisfaction. One was "gathered
to his people" (Gen. 25:8, 35:29, 49:33; Jud. 2:10) or "sleeps
with his fathers" (I Kings 2:10, 11:43) in the family grave. Even
in death, the godly participate in the family line. Pedersen was correct
in holding the opinion that the grave and sheol cannot be viewed as separate;
however, it is important to note a difference between his two examples
regarding Jacob. In Gen. 37:35 Jacob refuses comfort after being told
Joseph his son was killed, but in Gen. 47:30 Jacob's house is in order
and he is therefore now ready to die. The word sheol is used, appropriately,
only in the first example.
OT Biblical scholars agree that the ancient
Hebrews believed N could die. N was subject to death and therefore was
a perishable existence. Ruah-breath left flesh, and N thereby ceased
to exist since the vitality of N-blood was no longer sustained.
There was no idea of an immaterial entity that left the body at death.
It was ruah as breath viewed through the synthetic mind of the Hebrews
which concretely, visably left. Human wind departed, not an invisible
non-physical entity of more value than a body from which it travelled.
Breath and flesh returned to their former conditions and the person took
on a new existence, a new status, as one of the rephaim. Pedersen
tried to re-define soul when he wrote, "When death occurs,
then it is the soul that is deprived of life. Death cannot strike the
body or any other part of the soul without striking the entirety of the
soul...There can be no doubt that it is the soul which dies, and all theories
attempting to deny this fact are false." (p. 179)
Samson pleaded, "Let me [N] die with the Philistines."
(Jud. 16:30) Balaam said, "Let me [N] die the death of the righteous."
(Num. 23:10) According to John Robinson, "There is no suggestion
that...the soul (N) is immortal, while the flesh (basar) is mortal. The
soul does not survive man--it simply goes out, draining away with the
blood." (p. 14)
Murtonen in Living Soul stated, "N is able to die, but the result
is not a dead N but the N of a dead." (p. 29) Murtonen noted that
a dead N was a contradiction in terms, and asserted that the corpse must
have had some form of life or action since N always denoted these properties.
Certainly, once N was dead, 'it' ceased existing. Nonetheless, it must
be remembered that this 'it' was not an entity removed from the person.
It was a body part caught up in the earthly status of the person. With no
blood-vitality, the person ceased to exist as N., "Apparently
the dying was conceived as a more or less long process during which man
was still called N on account of the 'life' or 'action' which took place
in the corpse." (Murtonen, p. 29-30)