The Holy Spirit (Part 4): The Holy Spirit Gave Us the Old Testament

In Hebrew, the word for “Spirit” (Ruakh) was the same word for “breath”. That’s why, for Hebrews, there would have been a very natural connection between “Spirit” and spoken “words.” You can’t have spoken words without spirit/breath. (See Part 1 for more on the meaning of “Spirit”).

In the Old Testament men were sometimes said to speak by God’s Spirit. That means that their words were not simply their own, but were God’s own spoken words.

The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me:
his word is on my tongue.

2 Samuel 23:2

But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.

Micah 3:8

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 spoke words from God. That’s why when the New Testament quotes from the Old Testament, the words of scripture are frequently attributed to the Holy Spirit rather than to the human author.

Jesus Attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’?
If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”

Matthew 22:41-45

When Jesus quoted from Psalm 110, he recognized that he was reading the words of David. He also recognized that David spoke those words “in the Spirit.”

Mark records the same conversation with the following words:

And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.’
David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?”

Mark 12:35-37

Jesus recognized that Psalm 110 contained the words of “David himself”. He also recognized that David wrote those words while “In the Holy Spirit.” This means that God’s words were on David’s tongue (2 Sam. 23:2). At the same time, these were still the words of David. It was still written in David’s vocabulary, David’s style, and for David’s purpose. They were both David’s words and God’s words at the same time.

Peter Attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit

Peter uses similar language when referring to Psalm 109.

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.

Acts 1:15-17

Later on, Peter attributes the predictions of the prophets to the Holy Spirit.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

1 Peter 1:10-12

Notice that Peter says the prophets did not always understand the meaning of what they wrote. This indicates that there was another mind or spirit behind these words other than their own. The Holy Spirit expressed his words through them so that the final product was what God intended to say.

Paul Attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit

Paul used similar language when he attributed the writings of Isaiah to the Holy Spirit:

And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

“Go to this people, and say,
‘You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.’
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’”

Acts 28:24-27

The Book of Hebrews Attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit

The book of Hebrews also attributes the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit. Notice the way it refers to the books of Exodus and Leviticus (the law), the book of Jeremiah (the prophets), and the book of Psalms (the writings), thus attributing the three major sections of the Old Testament all to the Holy Spirit.

The law (referring to Exodus 25-26; 36; and Leviticus 16):

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand, and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covering on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing.

Hebrews 9:1-8

The prophets (quoting Jeremiah 31:33-34):

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Hebrews 10:15-17

The Psalms (quoting Psalm 95:7-11):

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you will hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

Hebrews 3:7-11

Stephen Speaks of Resisting the Holy Spirit

Stephen accused his persecutors of resisting the Holy Spirit.

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have not betrayed and murdered.

Acts 7:51-52

How did their ancestors resist the Holy Spirit? By persecuting the prophets and resisting the words the Holy Spirit had spoken concerning the Righteous One.

The Holy Spirit Gave Us the Old Testament

Peter says that the writers of the Old Testament were “driven” or “carried along” by the Holy Spirit.

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:20-21

The Greek word translated “carried along” was the word used of a ship being driven or carried along by the wind in its sail.

And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind (pnuma), we gave way to it and were driven along.

Acts 27:15

This indicates that the Holy Spirit/Pnuma “carried along” the human authors when they wrote scripture. It was the Spirit that “drove them” or “moved them” as they wrote their messages. Ultimately, they were writing what the Holy Spirit wanted them to write.

This does not mean that we should imagine the biblical authors as going into some sort of mindless trance, as their hand magically wrote words without their realizing what was being written. It is possible that David stayed up long hours of the night crafting the poems we now call the psalms. It is possible that the biblical authors wrote rough drafts, and revised those drafts multiple times. It is possible that they researched and compiled from other sources. It is possible that God inspired prophetic editors to craft the books into their final forms. The Old Testament was written by human authors, and contains the fully human words of those authors themselves. We just don’t know all the details.

All we have is the final product, and we know that the end result was God’s authoritative word, as spoken through the Holy Spirit. It was God’s words on their tongues (cf. 2 Sam. 23:2). They wrote exactly what God wanted them to say. Exactly how this occurred, the Bible doesn’t say. But we do know that the Holy Spirit/Breath/Mind of God gave us the Old Testament.

The Holy Spirit (Part 3): When God’s Spirit Fills People

Part 1:What Is a “Spirit”?
Part 2: The Holy Spirit in Creation

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.

Judges

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.

Kings

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:
his word is on my tongue.”

2 Sameul 23:1-2

With God’s Spirit in him, David claimed that God’s Spirit spoke words by David’s tongue.

Prophets

The last group said to be filled with God’s Spirit was the prophets.

But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.

Micah 3:8

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.

Conclusion

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.

The Holy Spirit (Part 2): The Holy Spirit in Creation

Read Part 1 Here:
Part 1: What is a “Spirit”?

The first part of this study identified the Hebrew word “ruakh” and the Greek word “pnuma” as the words we translate as “spirit.” As the study progresses, it will be important to remember the original broad range of meaning which includes wind, breath, thoughts, and spirit. These various meanings of “ruakh” and “pnuma” are not entirely disconnected from one another, as they all refer to that which is invisible and makes things move or come alive. Not only does man have a spirit, but God Himself has a Spirit.

The next three parts of this study will observe what God’s Spirit did in the Old Testament.

The Creator

The first thing God’s Spirit is described as doing in the Old Testament is creating the world.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:1-3

In creation, God’s Spirit/Wind/Breath is described as hovering or moving over the face of the waters. God then spoke words, and those created the world through those spoken words. As we continue the study, we will continually see a close connection between God’s Spirit and God’s words. This makes sense given the Hebrew word “ruakh” was used to describe “breath” or “thoughts.” “Spirit” and “word” are not synonyms, but they are closely connected, just as thoughts and breath are also closely connected to words.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their hosts.

Psalm 33:6

The Creator and Sustainer of Life

Not only did God’s Spirit create the world, but more specifically, God’s Spirit is described as creating and sustaining life.

Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Genesis 2:7

But it is the spirit in man,
the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.

Job 32:8

The Spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Job 33:4

When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to the dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.

Psalm 104:29-30

There is a sense in which everything that has breath in it’s lungs is alive because of God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit/Breath gave them their spirit/breath, and when God’s Spirit takes away their spirit/breath, they die.

The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7

If he should set his heart to it
and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together,
and man would return to the dust.

Job 34:14-15

Re-Creation

Just as God’s Spirit is responsible for creation, and just as God’s Spirit is responsible for creating and sustaining life, the Old Testament prophets looked forward to a day when God’s Spirit would again be involved in a brand new act of creation.

For the palace is forsaken
the populous city is deserted;
the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;
until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
Then Justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.

Isaiah 32:14-16

Isaiah looks forward to the end of Israel’s exile and the beginning of a new age. This new age will come when the Spirit is “poured out” upon God’s people. The picture given is that of a forsaken, deserted, wild pasture being re-created into a fruitful field and a thriving forest.

Ezekiel also looks forward to this coming age, when God’s people are given a “new heart” and a “new spirit.” This too can be attributed to God’s Spirit.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Ezekiel 36:26-27

This image is developed further in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. Notice all the ways this chapter uses the various meanings of the word “ruakh” and how the translators move back and forth between various English words throughout the passage. Don’t forget that it’s all the same word in Hebrew.

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live… Then he said to me, “Prophecy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Ezekiel 37:1-10

There are several things to pay attention to in this passage. First, notice how God’s Spirit is closely connected with words of prophesy. This, of course, makes sense given the Hebrew meaning of the word ruakh. Also notice that just as in Genesis 2, God’s Spirit creates new life. As the vision is explained to Ezekiel, we again see a description of God’s Spirit giving new life to Israel in the coming age.

And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.

Ezekiel 37:13-14

Looking Forward

Understanding the Spirit’s role in creating the universe, creating life, and re-creating new life from the dead is all important background for understanding much of what the New Testament teaches about the Holy Spirit. For example, notice how the following verses continue to attribute resurrection and new life to the Holy Spirit.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Romans 8:11

For Christ also suffered once for sins… being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.

1 Peter 3:18

Before moving our attention to the New Testament, there is another aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament that must be studied first, that is, the way that certain persons are described as being “filled with” God’s Spirit in a very special, personal, and empowering way. This will be the subject of the next part of this study.

Holy Spirit (Part 1): What Is a “Spirit”?

People have lots of different ideas about who the Holy Spirit is, and what he does. The goal of this study is to establish what the inspired authors of scripture had in mind when they wrote about the Holy Spirit. The first time we read about the Spirit of God is at the very beginning.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:1-3

When we see the word “spirit” in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is Ruakh. In the New Testament, the Greek word is Pnuma. The words Ruakh and Pnuma are much more complex and carry a much deeper and broader meaning than the English word Spirit. To better understand what the biblical authors had in mind when they spoke of God’s Holy Ruakh, it helps to understand the original word, and how it differed in meaning from our English word Spirit.

Wind

One of the most basic meanings in the Old Testament for ruakh is “wind.” When you look outside, and you see the leaves and branches of a tree swaying back and forth, you would call that “wind”. If you were an ancient Hebrew, you would call that “ruakh”. If you spoke Greek in the first century, you would call that “pnuma”. Ruakh is that invisible power that causes movement.

And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind [ruakh], and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.

1 Kings 18:45

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool [ruakh] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:8

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

Exodus 14:21

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind [pnuma], and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit [pnuma] and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:2-4

And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along.

Acts 27:15

Breath

If you hold your hand in front of your mouth and speak a word, you will feel a small push of wind against your hand. We call this wind “breath.” If you were an ancient Hebrew, you would call that “ruakh”. If you were a first century Greek speaker, you would call that “pnuma”. Not only was the word “ruakh” used to refer to the wind that blows around outside, it was also used to refer to the wind that goes in and out of the lungs of living creatures and keeps them alive. Not only does ruakh make leaves and branches move, but it’s also the invisible stuff that causes people and animals to live and move. Breath/Spirit/Ruakh is a gift from God. When God gives it, it creates life. When God takes it away, we die.

As long as my breath is in me;
and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,

Job 27:3

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who made it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7

If he should set his heart to it
and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together
and man would return to dust.

Job 34:14-15

Thoughts

When you speak a word, we call the wind that comes out of your mouth your “breath.” But what do we call words before they come out of your mouth, while they are still floating around in your head? We usually call these “thoughts.” If you were a Hebrew, you would call these unspoken words “ruakh”.If you spoke Greek, you would call them “pnuma.” As long as you are alive and breathing, you will have thoughts. When you stop breathing, and your mind shuts off, you die.

Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Psalm 32:2

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
For anger lodges in the heart of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:9

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

God’s Spirit

Not only to all humans have Ruakh/Breath/Spirit that keeps them alive, but God also has Ruakh/Breath/Spirit. Not only do we have thoughts and words that we can speak, but God also has thoughts and words that He can speak. In fact, our Ruakh is a gift from God’s Ruakh.

When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.

Psalm 104:29-30

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their hosts.

Psalm 33:6

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:1-3

God’s Spirit and Inspired Words

In reading over these verses, did you notice the connection between God’s Spirit and God’s words? This is a connection we may not notice when we are only thinking of modern concepts of “spirit”, but for the original authors and readers of scripture, this would have been obvious! God’s Spirit created life. God created life by speaking words. God’s words, give us life, so that we too can have thoughts and words.

Observe that God’s Spirit was never simply an emotion, and unexplained feeling, or an uncontrollable urge of some sort. Of course, spirit and emotions can be closely connected, just like words and thoughts and emotions are all closely connected. But we cannot separate the idea God’s Spirit from God’s words, just like we cannot separate our own words from our own thoughts.

In fact, the English word “inspiration” captures this connection nicely. We use inspiration to translated the Greek word “theopneustos”, which comes from two shorter Greek words, “Theos” (God), and “Pneuma” (breath/Spirit/thoughts). When Paul says scripture is inspired, he is literally saying it is God-breathed, it is God’s-thoughts, it is “in-Spirited” by God’s own Spirit.

All Scripture is breathed out [“given by inspiration“, NKJV] by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.

2 Timothy 3:16