Misunderstood Texts

Ecclesiastes 12:7  “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”

This verse is often used to prove that the ‘soul’ is immortal.

There are a few problems with trying to use this verse to prove the immortality of the soul.  Firstly the word used in this verse and translated, ‘spirit’ is the Hebrew word ‘ruach’.  This word literally translated means ‘breath’.  Here are some occurrences of this word in the OT.

Genesis 6:17 “And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, in which is the breath (ruach) of life”

Genesis 45:27 “And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit (ruach) of Jacob their father revived.”

Genesis 7:15 “And they went into Noah in the ark, two and two of all flesh, in which is the breath (ruach) of life”.

It should be easily seen from these verses that this word ‘ruach’ sometimes translated ‘spirit’, can be used of both animals and humans and has nothing to do with an immortal soul unless animals as well have one of these.  The word ‘ruach’ is never even translated ‘soul’ in the KJV but because this verse has something leaving the body, proponents of the immortal soul view are quick to use this verse to ‘prove’ their theory.

Another problem with using this verse to mean the soul is immortal, is the fact that in the verse, all the spirits are going to the one place.  They are all going to God.  Everyone would agree that all who die will return to the dust but if the ‘spirit’ in this verse is an immortal soul, how can all souls go to God?  Surely it would only be the righteous souls that would go to God!  Some people try to get around this issue by claiming all souls do indeed go to God and then are judged before being sent to their destination.  Such teaching is totally contrary to the Word of God.  We do read in Hebrews 9:27  ‘It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgement’  but we are also told that this judgement is collective and not individual. God will judge the world, not person by person at death.

‘Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness.’ (Acts 17:31)

‘And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the  books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.’ (Revelation 20: 11,12)

In conclusion, to use the verse in question to prove that we have an immortal soul would mean that also animals have immortal souls as the same word is used of them.  It would also mean that every soul would go to God regardless of their relationship with Him, and not just the saved.  We have also seen the  impossibility of souls going to God at death to be judged separately, as God has appointed a day to judge the world.  

Very simply, this verse is merely saying that when we die we shall return to the dust, and our breath/life will return to God who gave it to us in the first place.  Why complicate something so simple?

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