Ecclesiastes 3:19-21: A View of the Souls and Spirits of Humans and Animals
By Michael Shaw - 5 September 1998
A few days back people were discussing Ecclesiastes 3:19 and I would like to offer my view on it for those who have never seen it before. I will not go into an argument over whether souls exist in either humans or animals. I simply state my interpretation on this passage based on my beliefs and it is not meant to convert anyone. (This is only my opinion, please do not be offended if I present it emphatically.)
"Animals Have Souls & Spirits" According to the Book of Genesis chapter 1 verse 20 & verse 30, animals have souls (nephesh), and according to Eccles. 3:19, animals also have spirits (ruach). Also, if read in its entirety, the Eccles. passage makes it quite clear that there is no difference between the kind of spirit found in man and those found within animals, for it states: "They all have the same spirit, and man has no advantage over the beast." Because the true teachings of scripture point to animals having Souls and Spirits, there can be no doubt that Jesus would have been a vegetarian and that all subsequent Christians should be also; for if an animal has a soul, then it would be just as much a sin to kill an animal as it would be to kill a man. This is not just my opinion, but also God's, for God the Father says, "He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man" Isaiah 66:3.
The love of God extends to all His creatures and not just to humans. The Psalmist in chapter 36 verse 6 exclaims; "Man and Beast thou savest, O Lord." In fact, God said to Noah, "Behold, I will establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark."
"More on Animals Spirits" Regarding Animal Spirits, let us look at the passage found in Ecclesiastes 3:19 a little closer. The King James Version renders this passage as follows... "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one "breath"; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity." The word in question here is "breath" which I have stressed. The original Hebrew word here is Ruach and according to "Strong's Complete Dictionary of Bible Words", Ruach or Ruwach as they spell it, is used to represent Spirit, "but only of a rational being". in other cases, Strong's tells us, the word Ruach is rendered breath. However, as I am about to show you, Ruach should also be rendered Spirit in verse 19.
When we read further into Ecclesiastes we will see that in fact this entire passage has been referring to the spirit and not the breath; for in Ecclesiastes 3:21 the author asks... " Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?" (NIV) The KJV and the NIV both translate Ruach correctly here as spirit, since they had no other choice. If they had said breath it would not have made any sense. However, since this passage is directly related to the previous one in verse 19, there can be no doubt that Ruach should have been rendered spirit in verse 19 and not breath.
The only reason apparent for the translators to choose breath over spirit in verse 19 is an attempt (by Christian Scholars) to fool the reader and themselves into not acknowledging that animals have spirits. The feeble attempts by translators are revealed for what they are. Yet, when faced with such statements of truth, some Bible publishers actually make attempts to discredit the entire passage in question.
Example: This very passage in Ecclesiastes 3:19 states that since man and animals have the same spirit, then man has no preeminence over animals, yet the publishers of the Amplified Bible refuse to accept this and put the following foot note in their bibles...
This is their Foot note:
(f) Does the Bible really teach that a man has no preeminence over a beast"? No! The Bible only records that the book of Ecclesiastes says it. Then why is this book in the Bible? Can it possibly be called inspired by God when it makes such "under the sun" pronouncements, some only partially true, others entirely false?..." (Bottom of page 738 The Amplified Bible 1987 paperback version, Zondervan Publishing House)
Friends, you can see for yourself that there is more than a simple attempt here, by the publishers of this Bible, to get around a truth that God has revealed. How sad these people can not accept what God says.