The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

IS THE PERSON OF THE SPIRIT PRESENT IN THE OT? This might seem to be a strange question to ask. Of the 348 times xwr (ruwach) occurs in the OT, 213 are translated either “spirit” or “Spirit” in the KJV. Approximately 88 of these occurrences refer to God’s spirit or Yahweh’s spirit.

The OT does not contain an ideal of a semi-independent divine entity, the Holy Spirit. Rather, we find special expressions of God’s activity with and through men. God’s spirit is holy in the same way his word and his name are holy; they are all forms of his revelation, as such are set in antithesis to all things human or material (EVDT 521-522).

The work and presence of the Holy Spirit in the OT is not as clearly defined as in the NT. The Hebrew language is one reason for this lack of clarity. Unlike the Greek, Hebrew has very few adjectives; it tends to use two nouns, one functioning as a genitive. For instance, “a righteous man” in Hebrew is “a man of righteousness.” Consequently, the expression “Spirit of God” could be understood as being simply a reference to the will, mind, or activity of God. However, there are some cases where the NT makes it clear that an OT reference to the “Spirit of God” is a reference to the Holy Spirit, such as Joel’s prophetic statement, “After this I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17).

In the OT, there is a clear connection in Job between man’s spirit and God’s xwr (ruwach) (Job 27:3; 32:8; 33:4). Man’s very life is attributed to God (cf. Genesis 6:3).

In the OT, the primary function of the Spirit of God is as the spirit of prophecy (1 Samuel 19:20; Ezekiel 2:2; Micah 3:8; etc.). King Nebuchadnezzar and the Queen recognized the Spirit of the Holy God in Daniel, who interpreted dreams and visions (Daniel 4:8, 9, 18; 5:11, 14). The Spirit of God came upon Balaam to speak an oracle from God (Numbers 12:24:2).

Both Othniel and Gideon were possessed by the Spirit for their task as judge (Judges 3:10; 6:34). Similarly, the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul, but only temporarily for his task as king (1 Samuel 11:6-8; 16:14-15). The sudden coming of Yahweh’s Spirit occurred with Samson.

The Spirit of the LORD took control of him, and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat (Judges 14:6).

Then she cried, “Samson, the Philistines are here!” When he awoke from his sleep, he said, “I will escape as I did before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him (Judges 16:20).

Though xwr (ruwach) is not mention in the previous verse, it is implied. Similarly, King Saul’s success and failure was measured with the presence of spirits.

Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD began to torment him (1 Samuel 16:14; cf. 15:26).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *