Jeremiah 31:11

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BibleOld TestamentJeremiah

Robert Alter

And they shall come and sing gladly on Zion's heights
  and shall shine with the LORD's bounty,
for the grain and the new wine and the oil,
  and for the flocks and the cattle.
And their life-breath[1] shall be like a watered garden,
  and they shall no longer be in pain.


See Nephesh, Neshamah and Ruach. This verse is an example of poetical usage which can lead to misunderstand of Hebrew nephesh, confusing it with Greek ideas about the soul.

  1. their life-breath. The tricky Hebrew noun is the multivalent nefesh. It does not mean "soul," as many translators continue to render it. The core meaning is "life-breath" and, by extension, "life," but the latter would be misleading here because it could suggest "a lived life". Nefesh also often implies "essential self." It sometimes means "throat" or "gullet" (by metonomy because the throat is a passageway for the breath), and that is the probable sense in verse 13, where the satisfaction of appetite is invoked.
    [Alter's translation has "And I will wet the priests' gullet with richness . . . " in verse 13!]