Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4
In the previous note—the first in this pre-Pentecost series on the Old Testament references to the Spirit of God—we saw how the spirit or “breath” (j^Wr) of God was central to the entire Creation account in Genesis 1, the activity of the spirit/breath preceding the spoken word that brings the ordered universe into existence:
“And the earth was emptiness and confusion, and darkness (was) upon the face of the deep, and (the) breath [j^Wr] of (the) Mightiest [<yh!ýa$] was hovering upon the face of the waters” (1:2)
While the account in chapter 1 relates to the creation of the universe (“the heavens and the earth”) as a whole, the focus in chapter 2 is specifically on the creation of humankind. Some would refer to this as a second creation account, which perhaps states the matter too broadly; however, 2:4b-24 does draw on a separate line of tradition, and represents a narrative quite distinct from 1:1-2:4a. The role of God’s “breath” in the creation of humankind is narrated simply in verse 7:
“And YHWH (the) Mightiest [<yh!ýa$] formed the man [<d*a*h*] (out of) dust from the ground [hm*d*a&h*] and blew in his nostrils (the) breath [hm*v*n+] of life, and the man came to be a living soul [vp#n#].”
The word hm*v*n+ is used instead of j^Wr, however the basic idea is the same—the breath of God creates life. Here hm*v*n+ refers more properly to the breath (of life) that comes to exist within the human being. Much the same creation tradition is expressed in Job 33:4, this time using the noun j^Wr (parallel with hm*v*n+):
“(The) spirit [j^Wr] of (the) Mighty (One) made me,
and (the) breath [hm*v*n+] of (the) Mountainous (One) gives me life.”
The parallelism of this (3+3) couplet is synonymous, and precisely so:
|spirit [j^Wr]||Mighty One [la@]||made me [yn]t=v*u*]|
|breath [hm*v*n+]||Mountainous One [yD~v^]||gives me life [yn]Y@j^T=]|
The most plausible explanation for the rather enigmatic title yD~v* (šadday) would seem to be “the (One) of the mountain (peak)”, “He of the mountain”, “Mountain(ous) One”. Conceptually, it derives from the idea of the abode/manifestation of God as being (on top of) a great mountain—which could be realized locally in any specific mountain (such as Sinai/Horeb). It connotes the idea of loftiness, greatness, etc, of God exalted high above the earth and humankind. It can also be related specifically to the storm-theophany (i.e. God manifest in the storm). For a good discussion, cf. F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel (Harvard University Press: 1973), pp. 52-60.
Here, in the book of Job, Elihu is the speaker, and his allusion to the creation tradition serves several purposes in context. For one thing, as a considerably younger man (32:4), his advice was less likely to be heard or accepted. At several points in his speech, he emphasizes that he is equal to his older companions, and that this equality is fundamentally based on the common creation of all human beings by God. Verse 6 makes this same point, but by highlighting the fact that all human beings are equally made of “clay” (rm#j)), parallel to the “dust” (rp*u*) of Gen 2:7, etc (cf. above). This is a common physiological motif, found in many myths and traditions worldwide; the close affinity of human bodies with the ground/soil is indicated by the basic wordplay (seen in Gen 2:7) between “man” (<d*a* °¹¼¹m) and “ground” (hm*d*a& °¦¼¹mâ). Similarly, the life-breath of all people comes from the life-giving breath or spirit (par j^Wr / hm*v*n+) of God (cf. Gen 6:3; 7:22; Psalm 104:30; Isa 42:5, etc).
By this creation-motif, Elihu also implies that he is at least equal to the others in terms of wisdom and understanding. Here the creation tradition is extended, from the life-breath in a person to the wisdom that is also present as part of God’s life-giving spirit/breath. This was stated clearly earlier in 32:8, and follows a basic line of wisdom tradition:
“But (surely) it [i.e. wisdom] is a spirit [j^Wr] in (the) human (being), and a breath [hm*v*n+] of (the) Mountainous (One) gives discernment.”
Here is the same synonymous parallel of j^Wr / hm*v*n+ (spirit / breath) as in 33:4, only applied specifically to the wisdom/understanding that is present in a person. This does not necessarily imply a special kind of inspiration (such as in a prophet/oracle), though certain individuals may be (or seem) more gifted than others. Rather, this wisdom is basic to all humankind, and available to all, as long as they remain pure in thought and upright in conduct. A fundamental exhortation throughout Wisdom literature is that people need continually to seek after wisdom, to hear and pay attention to its voice. It is a divine voice, as it stems from the spirit [j^Wr] of God. This close association between the Spirit and Wisdom will be discussed further in the upcoming notes.
In the next daily note, we will discuss briefly several passages which demonstrate the ancient (Israelite) understanding of the interaction between God’s Spirit and the soul/spirit of an individual. We may regard this as early evidence for a doctrine of inspiration.