According to Genesis, God breathed into the first human “the breath of life (נשׁמת חיים; nishmat hayyim)” (2:7). This God-given “breath” (נשׁמה; neshamah) is the means by which humans receive their animating “spirit” (רוח; ruach). While the human body will, one day, return to dust (e.g., Gen 3:19; Job 34:15; Ps 104:29), “the spirit (רוח; ruach) returns to God who gave it” (Ecc 12:7). On the one hand, though we live in a physical world, our internal spirit is ethereal – that is, not strictly physical. On the other hand, with respect to that which is beyond the earthly realm, the Bible describes spirit-beings—while not made of flesh and blood—as corporeal entities with spatial and, sometimes, visible bodies.

Israel’s Scriptures offer a glimpse into the embodied spiritual realm in the story of Saul and the medium at En-dor (1 Samuel 28). After the prophet Samuel dies, the Philistines encamp against the Israelites. Saul asks God whether he should engage in battle, “but the Lord did not answer him” (1 Sam 28:6). In response to this divine silence, Saul finds a medium in En-dor and asks her, “Divine for me by means of a spirit (באוב; ba’ov) and… bring up Samuel for me” (28:8, 11). When the medium does so, Saul asks, “‘What is his appearance?’ And she said, ‘An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.’ And Saul knew that it was Samuel” (28:14). Saul knows that the “old man” (אישׁ זקן; ‘ish zaqen) who emerges from the afterlife is Samuel because the prophet is wearing the “robe” (מעיל; me’il) that his mother Hannah had made for him each year as he grew up (see 1 Sam 2:19). While Samuel’s earthly body has been buried in his hometown of Ramah (see 1 Sam 28:3), and he now “comes up” (עלה; ‘oleh) from the non-physical realm of the dead, he is still very much embodied when he meets Saul at En-dor.

This view of an embodied Samuel in the spirit realm coheres with Job’s description of spirits. Eliphaz tells his suffering friend of a spiritual experience that he once had during “visions of the night” (Job 4:13). He recalls to Job, “A spirit (רוח; ruach) glided past my face; the hair of my skin stood up. [The spirit] stood still, but I could not discern its appearance, [though] a form was before my eyes” (4:15-16). While Eliphaz cannot make out the “appearance” (מראה; mareh) of the spirit, it nevertheless possesses an embodied “form” (תמינה; temunah) that both moves (going past Eliphaz’s face) and “stands” (עמד; amad) in physical space. The biblical language emphasizes the fact that the “spirit” (רוח; ruach) that Eliphaz encounters has a body.

The embodiment of spirits also appears in the New Testament. For instance, when Jesus is baptized, “the Holy Spirit descended, like a dove, in bodily form (σωματικῷ εἴδει; somatiko eidei)” (Lk 3:22). Thus, when Jesus says in John 4:24 that “God is Spirit” (πνεῦμα ὁ θεός; pneuma ho theós) this does not preclude the notion—repeated throughout the Bible—that God has a bodily form (e.g., Exod 24:9-10; 33:20-23; Num 12:8). In biblical thought, while the spiritual realm is not one of “flesh and blood” (cf. 1 Cor 15:50), a spirit can, indeed, have a body.

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32 COMMENTS

  1. Shalom; a very interesting read, which reminds me of the amazing story of the prophecy to his parents of the birth of Samson; this heavenly Visitor just chats away to them like another earthling and then ascends to heaven in the flames of their burnt offering! Wow!
    Judges 13.

    • Shalom, that was an out-of-this-world scenario. Manoah and his wife thought they were surely going to die. Yahweh’s servants are truly awesome as is their Lord, who is forever praised.

  2. Jesus’ statement as he ate a piece of honeycomb before his disciples, urging them to touch Him to see that he was not a mere spirit, gives incite into the nature of a spirit in a visible form, “A spirit does not have flesh and bones”. Angels ate Abram’s food!

  3. I am of the opinion that when ever a spirit makes contact with the living it is demonic . The Story Jesus graphically describes of the rich man and Lazurus is to my understanding complete description that those that are there cannot come to those that are here .

    • Thanks for your input, Howard. I would be cautious about import the term “demonic” into the discussion, since nowhere does the biblical text use this term with reference to spirit encounters. More, Samuel’s appearance to Saul wasn’t “demonic” (that is, Samuel is not a “demon” in the afterlife).

      • It is true “Samuel is not a “demon” in the afterlife.” However a demon can impersonate the dead, and may do so in corporeal form. I agree with Mr. Lucas that whenever we hear from the dead it is highly likely we are in fact dealing with demonic forces. The fact Saul had to go to a witch is evidence enough in this case.

        Obviously when Yeshua or the prophets of The Most High brought someone back from the dead this was not the case, so we probably shouldn’t make a blanket statement either way. But if I saw a dead person, even if it were my own parents I think I’d be doing some powerful prayin’ right about then!

        • I as well do not believe it was Samuel but a demon that Saul thought was Samuel. God says have nothing to do with witches and those who ‘conversed with the dead’ and would not have used one to answer Saul.

  4. Thanks for letting me know about this message on spirit’s because I lost my sister Karen in April and I believe that I see her spirit even though I know it’s here or my mom or Dad or my Husband’s children’s mother I’m not Afraid I know they are okay

  5. I disagree that a spirit has a body .
    After the resurrection of Jesus he showed them his hands as proof that he was not a spirit he said so himself ,for a spirit has no flesh and bone as you see me have

  6. my ignorance – When the spirit (ruach) returns to God at death and the body returns to the earth – is there still a soul? and when, a sinner are thrown in the lake of fire – what living being is he/her without the ruach of God. exciting to know

  7. Jesus was not raised a spirit being(as a Jehovah’s Witnesses teach after Resurrection), but was raised in his resurrected body.

  8. I understood that Jesus was in His resurrection body when He spent time with his disciples. We, too, are promised new bodies, resurrection bodies like His, which I assume to be solid bodies that can eat and hug, but are also spiritual bodies.

  9. What people “see and hear” in the situation and context described and their consequent descriptive statements is not evidence that “a spirit” is corporeal. People see star formations as Gods, animals. People hear voices in the wind.

  10. I believe that the body is the soul and the the spirit is the breath of life, and that our spirit of life leaves our body at death As God said that the living know that they shall die,but the dead know not anything .

  11. Galatians 5.17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other….
    I don’t know how english speaking understand this verse but in the original Koini Greek language the meaning is more than clear leaving no doubts or…

  12. I find this topic intriguing. Much, of every religion, is based in the belief of the immortal soul and/or spirit. It is my observation that the Genesis account of man’s creation seems to indicate that clay plus God’s spark of life is the make up of the man.

  13. To many disagreements over scripture topics end poorly. If we can be innocent as little children then greater mysteries may be revealed. Satan’s first lie involved life and death. Did Satan say we would not really die? Was Satan promoting the concept of the immortal human soul.

  14. The resurrected body of our Lord Jesus is a “supernatural” one. It is different in some ways than our earthly bodies. We will have the same as promised in the rapture.

  15. This is definitely a tangent, but C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy posits “spirit beings” (eldila) that are embodies only in the sense that their bodies and voices have an effect on our material world but it is a different effect that we have on the world. It’s a very intriguing concept.

  16. I’m not 100% clear on this, but I’ll put it out there anyhow:

    In the case of God, He has manifest Himself in physical form many times and many ways; the most notable being Yeshua. But I’d think the ability to manifest as a corporeal being is a much different thing than “having” a physical body. Saying God has a body sounds like an Apocryphal tradition rather than scriptural exegesis.

    Good, thought provoking artical regardless. ‘Preciate it!

  17. Interesting. I know that God appeared to Abraham and Moses in some form. There is much we will not know for certain in this lifetime. I trust that God will take me to Heaven in some form when I die. God did not say we could not conjure up Spirits but I think He said we should not.

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