Ecclesiastes 3:21

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a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I asked this question in the Adam & Eve were bald thread, but it was at the end, so it didn't get answered.

What does the verse mean by "spirit of the beast"?

"Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?"

Do beasts have spirits, & in what sense?
The word can be, and probably should have been, translated as "breath." Man's breath goes upwards, an animals goes downward.
Thanks, Sundoulos.

I know that "spirit" is often literally "breath", but I also know that "longsuffering" is often literally "long of nostril" or something. So, couldn't spirit-- literally breath-- mean spirit after all?

My husband suggested that it may have to do with what constitutes a thing as a thing. For instance, a man has the spirit of a man. A beast has the spirit of a beast. It is constituted differently, and that difference is spoken of as "spirit". Could this also be the explanation? In that case, ... couldn't cells have spirits? The spirit of an amoeba...

Are there other possible explanations?

[Edited on 4-6-2004 by a mere housewife]
G'day Mrs MH,

You would need to be sensitive enough to the progressive nature of revelation when reading the Qohelet's words. I think it is doubtful he is trying to articulate a difference in constitution but rather express the (frustrating - hebel) reality that men like beasts die! His frustration seems to be where does justice take place, it certainly doesn't seem to occur on earth...
I mean what's the point of working hard, if some relative you don't even like gets your kingdom! Qohelet is giving voice to the frustration of life in a fallen world, and as a consequence our attempts to seek meaning in pleasure, work, status (Ecc 2:10ff) and all the frustration that brings.
The word translated as spirit has several meanings. Some think it means "soul" in this instance (there are separate Hebrew words for each, but they are used interchangeably). Animals do not have souls or spirits in the same way people do.

Darren, I believe, is correct in his analysis. To say that animals have spirits is to put man and animals on the same level (as in PETA). The context, as well as Biblical Theology, doesn't support that.
Thanks, Darren & SunDoulos. I always like it when things end up being simple enough for a mere housewife to understand :).
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