In “all the throats” Jefferson Vann explains that the biblical word soul does not mean what people think it means.
Here’s an interesting study. How many different words are used in the Hebrew Old Testament for throat?
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the word lev (לֵב) usually translated heart, actually often means throat:
“This is what lev means in Isaiah 33:18; Psalms 19:15; 49:4; Job 8:10; Ecclesiastes 5:1. Lev is either parallel to peh (“mouth”) or associated with the root hgy (which always denotes audible sounds, including the coo of the dove (Isa. 38:14; 59:11), the growl of the lion (Isa. 31:4), and the twang of the lyre (Ps. 92:4), and never silent meditation), or both, with the exception of Job 8:10, in which lev alternates with the peh of the otherwise identical phrase in 15:13. In fact, lev is the proper word for “throat” in biblical Hebrew, garon taking its place only where the former would be misunderstood (as where lo? yehgu be-libbam would have meant not, “They cannot utter sounds with their throats,” but “They do not speak sincerely,” see Hos. 7:14).” (https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/heart)
That’s interesting, but for our study, let’s take a good “word for word” Bible translation — The NASB. Here are instances of the English word throat:
Psalm 5:9; 69:3; 115:7; Proverbs 23:2; Isaiah 5:14; Jeremiah 2:25; 4:10.
Only seven instances. The Hebrew in Psalm 5:9 is garon (גָּרוֹן). It was mentioned by the Jewish Virtual Library as the alternate to lev.
Holladay’s Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the OT gives this listing for garon:
— 1. throat, windpipe, seat of thirst Jeremiah 2:25, of voice Isaiah 58:1, of ornament Ezekiel 16:11;
— 2. neck, Isaiah 3:16. (pg 64)
Here are the instances of garon in the Old Testament:
Psalm 5:9; 69:3; 115:7; 149:6; Isaiah 3:16; 58:1; Jeremiah 2:25; Ezekiel 16:11.
So, comparing this list with the previous one, we note that there must be at least one other word which means throat.
Let’s look at the verses in the first list which are not in the second.
Proverbs 23:2 “And put a knife to your throat If you are a man of great appetite.”
The Hebrew word here is loa (לֹעַ) which is listed as a modern Hebrew word for “muzzle, pharynx, throat, maw, jaw, gorge.” This word only appears here in this verse.
Isaiah 5:14 uses an interesting word for throat. Here is the text.
“Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure; And Jerusalem’s splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry and the jubilant within her, descend into it.”
The word for throat in this verse is our old friend nefesh (נֶפֶשׁ). But how can that be? Isn’t nefesh the word for soul? Yes, it is the word most often translated soul in Hebrew. But it does not mean a person’s disembodied immortal entity. Holladay gives the word throat as the first definition of nefesh.
It is understandable that if a people wanted to talk about the life of a person, their throat or neck would be a good way of expressing the whole person by means of referring to a part. The figure of speech is called synecdoche. We are using synecdoche when we say something like “all hands on deck.” We are also using the same kind of synecdoche that the Hebrews used nefesh for when we say something like “you saved my neck.”
But the NASB and other popular translations consistently use other words to translate nefesh — words like life, soul, person, being — anything but throat. By so doing, these translation assist in carrying on the delusion of the separate immaterial entity which lives in the body for a while, but can continue living without it.
Jeremiah 4:10 is the other instance of nefesh which the NASB could not find a way to mistranslate:
“Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Surely You have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘You will have peace’; whereas a sword touches the throat.””
There is no doubt here that the word is referring to a person’s throat or neck, threatened by a sword. A sword cannot endanger an immaterial soul, but it can surely do damage to a person’s neck.
The immortal soul is a myth. The sooner we rid ourselves of the myths that have been attached to our theology, the sooner this generation will be interested in the gospel we preach.
For more on the meaning of soul in the Bible, see: