Truth, Understanding, Insight

O.T. Spirit

20th July 2009, mgh


6) Spirit in the Prophets

The word 'spirit' in the Old Testament text is always the Hebrew 'ruach', except when it is referring to what was described as 'familiar spirits' (Hebrew: obe) . Other books of the Old Testament have the word 'ruach' translated in words other than 'spirit'. The following quotations show the word translated as breath, wind, courage, blast, air, vain and whirlwind.

'Ruach' as 'Breath'

The concept of judgment of nations is captured in a figurative way by the use of 'ruach' as 'his breath' in Isaiah.

But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath (ruach) of his lips shall he slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11: 4)
His breath (ruach), as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err. (Isaiah 30: 28)

Jeremiah applied the absence of 'ruach', life and understanding, to images and hence the foolishness of idolatry.

Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath (ruach) in them. (Jeremiah 10:14)

This is repeated in Jeremiah 51:17 showing it is important.

Ezekiel produced a vision of the latter day revival of the nation of Israel, a once scattered and downtrodden people, but now since 1948 once again established as a nation in their homeland. He uses 'ruach' to describe their revival as Yahweh causes breath to enter into the dry bones.

Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath (ruach) to enter into you, and ye shall live And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath (ruach) in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
When I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath (ruach) in them.
Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind (ruach), prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind (ruach), Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds (ruach), O breath (ruach), and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath (ruach) came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. (Ezekiel 37: 5-10)

Ezekiel shows the close connection between what we call wind and life. This connection is an important understanding about the work of God which is lost in translation.

Habakkuk also uses 'ruach' to emphasise the uselessness of idols and contrasts Yahweh's power over all the earth.

Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath (ruach) at all in the midst of it. But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. (Habakkuk 2: 19-20).

To the prophets 'ruach' described all the aspects of a living Deity, who from his life could give life.

'Ruach' as 'Vain'

In the following verses the word 'ruach' is used for a lack of substance, such as something so insubstantial it would be blown away by wind. It describes something that should be there but is not.

Should a wise man utter vain (ruach) knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind? (Job 15:2)
Shall vain (ruach) words have an end? or what emboldeneth thee that thou answerest? (Job 16: 3)
For I beheld, and there was no man; even among them, and there was no counsellor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word. Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind (ruach) and confusion (Isaiah 41:28-29)
And the prophets shall become wind (ruach), and the word is not in them: thus shall it be done unto them. (Jeremiah 5:13)
Ephraim feeds on wind (ruach), and follows after the east wind: he daily increases lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.(Hosea 12:1)

'Ruach' as 'Wind'

'Ruach' translated as 'wind' is often a poetic representation of the character of the Creator or of his presence and power, but it is so diverse in its usage that it can also refer to the unseen forces that move people to act positively or negatively.

And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind (ruach). (2Samuel 22:11)
Whoso boasts himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind (ruach) without rain (Proverbs 25:14)
The wind (ruach) shall eat up all thy pastors, and thy lovers shall go into captivity: surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness. (Jeremiah 22:22)
And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind (ruach)(Isaiah 7:2)
And the LORD shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind (ruach) shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dryshod. (Isaiah 11:15)
For, lo, he that forms the mountains, and creates the wind (ruach), and declares unto man what is his thought, that makes the morning darkness, and treads upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name (Amos 4:13)
Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind (ruach) was in their wings.. (Zechariah 5:9)

The Hebrews were certain that the power of God that they called 'ruach' produced the wind. This is still the best explanation for the inexplicable variation in storms and weather patterns. When we understand that 'wind' is 'ruach', the same as for the pneumatic life force, there is a deeper understanding of the role of Yahweh in our life on earth.

Hence we understand why Jesus rebuked his disciples in the storm, for their scriptures clearly stated that Yahweh controlled the wind.

His disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he said unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. (Matthew 8: 25-26)

'Ruach' translated as 'Courage'

And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage (ruach) in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. (Joshua 2:11)

'Ruach' as 'Blast'

'Ruach as 'blast' generally relates to a demonstration of Yahweh's power in the destruction of Israel's enemies.

And with the blast (ruach) of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. (Exodus 15:8)
Behold, I will send a blast (ruach) upon him, and he shall hear a rumour, and shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land. (2Kings 19:7, repeated exactly in Isaiah 37:7)
For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast (ruach) of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. (Isaiah 25:4)

The word is the same, it is the translators understanding based on the context that the word means a strong wind.

'Ruach' as 'Air'

One is so near to another, that no air (ruach) can come between them. (Job 41:16)

'Ruach' as 'Whirlwind'

And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind (ruach) came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. (Ezekiel 1: 4)

The preceding examples of the use and translation of the word 'ruach' show there is not one simple definition of the word, rather a set of meanings from the mind, to breath, to wind; all effects connected to the power of Yahweh Elohim.


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