Animals are considered souls according to the Bible “… and every living soul died in the sea” (Revelation 16:3). The Scriptures tell us that like humans, animals receive the breath of God or “spirit” to come alive and then they become souls. Solomon the wisest man states that both man and animals receive the same breath. And he equates the word “breath” of God with the word “spirit”:
” Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (Ecc. 3:19,20).
Death, is the lot of people and animals. David says that “man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish” (Ps. 49:12). When the breath of life departs from the body of any living creature, it dies (Ecc. 3: 21). However, humans are different than animals in the rewards they receive. For through faith in God, humans will be redeemed from the power of the grave (1 Cor. 15:51–58) and will have eternal life (John 1:16).
The phrase “Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward?” simply means that human wisdom cannot affirm what happens to the “spirit,” or “breath” of God except that it “shall return unto God” (Ecc. 12:7).
The word “spirit” (Heb. ruach), or “breath,” means the life principle which does not belong to the physical realm, the realm of flesh, for it is of breath of God and returns to Him (Ecc. 12:7). Man and animal both have a ruach, and the ruach of man is the same as that of the beast.
If, as some claim that the ruach, or “spirit,” of man becomes a disembodied conscious entity at death, the ruach of beasts must also do that. But since the Bible nowhere teaches that at death a disembodied, conscious “spirit” continues to live on, then we can’t claim this for animals. For more on the state of the dead, check the following link:
For this reason Solomon disbelievingly (v. 21) asks who knows or who can prove—that the ruach of man ascends, while that of the beast descends. Solomon knows nothing of such an experience and doubts that anyone else does. And if someone knows then let him prove it.
Thus , we can see that there is distinct difference between the use of ruach to denote the literal breath (Job 9:18; 19:17) and its figurative use denoting the life principle (Gen. 6:17; 7:22), as here. The figurative use of ruach to mean “life” is similar to the figurative use of “blood” (Gen. 4:10; 9:4).
Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.
In His service,