There is a sense in which every living being has the breath of God in their lungs (Gen. 2:7; Job 32:8; Ps. 104:29-30; Eccl. 12:7). But on special occasions in the Old Testaments, God’s Spirit is said to fill a few special individuals in a unique and personal way.
Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams
The first person in the Bible who is specifically said to have the Spirit of God is Joseph. The context of this passage is when Joseph interpreted the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams.
And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God? Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.”Genesis 41:38-39
What did Pharaoh see in Joseph that led him to the conclusion that Joseph had the Spirit of God in him? It was Joseph’s unique knowledge and wisdom to discern the meaning of Pharaoh’s dream. Somehow, God had shared his unique knowledge with Joseph. Even though it was Joseph explaining dreams to Pharaoh, it was God’s Ruakh giving him those words.
Bezalel The Tabernacle Architect
The second person in the Bible who is said to have God’s Spirit was Bezalel, the architect of the tabernacle.
See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.Exodus 31:2-5
In what way did Bezalel have God’s Spirit? He was given ability, intelligence, knowledge, and craftsmanship to be able to build the tabernacle. This was more than just normal artistic ability. His knowledge of craftmanship was a gift from God. It was not something he had achieved on his own. He was able to understand and perform his crafts in a unique and special way as a result of being filled with God’s Spirit.
Moses and Joshua
To have God’s Ruakh is to have God’s mind and thoughts. That is why God’s Spirit is seen as being closely connected to the idea of prophecy, that is, speaking on God’s behalf.
But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for me sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”Numbers 11:29
And Joshua that son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.Deuteronomy 34:9
Being filled with God’s Spirit is deeply connected with knowing and speaking the mind of God, the thoughts of God, and the wisdom of God.
The next group of people said to have God’s Spirit were the Judges.
For instance, Othniel’s success was attributed to the Spirit of God.
Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim kind of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.Judges 3:10
Gideon’s successful leadership ability was attributed to the Spirit of the LORD.
But the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him.Judges 6:34
Sampson’s great strength is attributed to the Spirit of the LORD. Just as a person’s breath/spirit give them strength, so God’s Breath/Spirit can give strength.
Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat.Judges 14:5 (see also 13:25; 14:19; 15:14)
It should be noted that the judges are men who are often described has having severe moral flaws. This does not mean that God’s Spirit was responsible for their moral failings, but it does show that being filled with God’s Spirit does not imply complete and total control over a person’s choices. To say that the judges were filled with God’s Spirit means that their success was to be attributed to God working through them. It was not their spirit that gave them success; it was God’s Spirit.
Similarly, kings are often said to have God’s Spirit. David was filled with God’s Spirit when he was anointed to be Israel’s king.
Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward.1 Samuel 16:13
Now these are the last words of David:
The oracle of David, the Son of Jesse,
the oracle of the man who was raised on high,
the anointed of the God of Jacob.
the sweet psalmists of Israel:
“The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me:2 Sameul 23:1-2
his word is on my tongue.”
With God’s Spirit in him, David claimed that God’s Spirit spoke words by David’s tongue.
The last group said to be filled with God’s Spirit was the prophets.
But as for me, I am filled with power,Micah 3:8
with the Spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.
But the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feed, and he spoke with me and said to me… I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.”Ezekiel 3:24-26
When the prophets were filled with the Spirit, they did not speak their own words. They spoke words from God.
Today when people talk about God’s Spirit “filling” or “rushing” upon people, they may mean many different things. But in the Old Testament, to have God’s Spirit had a very specific meaning. It meant to have God’s mind, God’s thoughts, God’s wisdom, God’s words, or God’s strength. When a person is said to have God’s Spirit, that means their words or their successes are attributed to God working or speaking through them as opposed to that person speaking or acting on their own. This is important because this understanding of how God’s Spirit fills unique individuals is foundational for understanding what it means when Jesus is said to have God’s Spirit.