From our childhood, we carry an image of God kneeling over the created but inert Adam. He is lifeless until God performs the first mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and then Adam springs to life! His eyelids flutter, he takes a deep breath, and then he bends from his waist and sits up.
Nowhere does the Bible show God breathing life into any animal that He created. When He created them, they started breathing. Why should man be any different?
He is different because he is in the likeness of God. He did something to man that actually made man into the image of God. While he was lying there on the ground, he was still yet a creature. But when God knelt down and breathed into him, the infusion of the spirit in man occurred. That is what made man in the image of God! That is what gave man the power to have dominion. It gave man the intellect he needed to rule what God has created.
Man has creaturely life, but with the infusion of the spirit in man, he is more—a living being with intelligence. Man was given the power to govern his actions, not by instinct, but by memory, by conceptualization and thinking spatially. A man can appreciate beauty, communicate verbally, or write. A human being has feelings that are—in the expression of their subtly and power—far above an animal in terms of love or hate, and above all of the emotions that fall in between.
We can create and destroy. The power is in a man to do these things. The power is in the spirit when combined with the brain, but it has to be developed.
God shows very clearly that, as we are, we are nothing more than a pale representation of what we can be. Yet, we are endowed with powers that lift us so far above the animals on earth that we can have dominion over them.
Mankind is then commanded to fill the earth and subdue it. Subdue means "to tread upon," which implies "to bring into subjection." It does not mean "to destroy" or "to treat violently," but "to control and direct." In Genesis 1:26 and 28, God implies that He has conferred powers to mankind not given to animals.
It is also the first indication, when combined with Genesis 2:7 and 15, that when God confers a responsibility, He also confers the powers to carry out that responsibility.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power
We must briefly consider whether man has an immortal soul. Our understanding of the Scriptures compels us to maintain that he does not for several reasons:
» Job recognized that man has a spirit (Job 32:8), which Paul shows in I Corinthians 2:11 endows humanity with intellect. This spirit in man comes from God (Zechariah 12:1) and returns to Him when we die (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Acts 7:59). It records our experiences, character, and personality, which God stores until the resurrection of the dead. However, the Bible never describes this spirit as immortal or eternal; in fact, I Corinthians 2:6-16 explains that man needs yet another Spirit, God's, to be complete and discern godly things.
» The Bible flatly asserts that all people die: "It is appointed for men to die once" (Hebrews 9:27). Ezekiel says clearly that souls die: "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; see Romans 6:23). Jesus warns in Matthew 10:28 that God can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.
» In death, life and consciousness are gone. "The dead know nothing," says Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:5, and he later adds, "There is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (verse 10). In Psalm 146:4, the psalmist writes about a man's death, "His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish" (see Genesis 3:19).
» Scripture also confutes the idea that people go to heaven or hell after death. Peter says to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. . . . For David did not ascend into the heavens" (Acts 2:29, 34). Our Savior confirms this in John 3:13: "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven." The biblical usage of Sheol and Hades simply means "the grave."
» Men cannot have immortality unless God gives it to them. Paul writes, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). In I Corinthians 15:53 he tells the saints, "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." At the first resurrection God will give "eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality" (Romans 2:7). If we already had immortality, why should we put it on or seek it?
» Only God has immortality. He is, Paul writes to Timothy, ". . . the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality" (I Timothy 6:15-16). John says of the Word, "In Him was life" (John 1:4), meaning as Creator of all things (verse 3), He had life inherent. Jesus affirms this in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Men must go through Him to receive eternal life.
With such overwhelming proof, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul proves false. Man is not immortal, nor does he possess any "spark of God" unless God has given it to him through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). A Christian's hope of life after death rests in the resurrection of the dead (I Corinthians 15:12-23). Conversely, the wicked only await eternal death as recompense for their evil lives, not eternal life in torment.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
We should note that this verse does not say man has a soul, but that he is one. This word in Hebrew, nephesh, is better rendered as "creature" or as the New King James does, "being." Nephesh is also used for animals (Genesis 1:20), dead bodies (Numbers 9:6), even dying (Job 11:20; Jeremiah 15:9).
Taking It Through the Grave
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 2:7:
2 Kings 4:31
1 Corinthians 10:31