Truth, Understanding, Insight

O.T. Spirit

20th July 2009, mgh


7) Spirit (ruach) of God (Elohim)

To understand what is meant by the spirit of God we backtrack to the beginning of the Old Testament, to the first mention of the 'spirit'.

The first occurrence of the phrase 'spirit of God' is in Genesis 1:2, where the spirit of God moved over the waters beginning creation. This phrase occurs only 14 times in the Old Testament. The term 'God' is Elohim or 'mighty ones', such as the angels/messengers who do the work of the Creator, Yahweh, or in a few cases men who administered the laws in Israel.

We will take a representative selection from those 14 occurrences of the phrase to determine any pattern in their use. The following quotations describe men who were given specific work to do and special abilities, particularly related to the welfare of the nation of Israel.

See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:
And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, (Exodus 31: 2-3, also Exodus 35: 30-31)
And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him. (Numbers24: 2)
And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets? (1Samuel 10: 10-12)
And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded:
And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. (1Chronicles 15: 1-2)
And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD. (2Chronicles 24:20-21)
Afterwards the spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me. Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the LORD had shewed me. (Ezekiel 11: 24-25)

These representative examples of the use of the phrase, 'the spirit of Elohim', have similarites. In each case these men worked for the well-being of the nation of Israel. Bezaleel, a highly skilled craftsman, ensured that the Tabernacle was built and furnished in accordance with Yahweh's will for the worship of Yahweh. He was endowed with wisdom and understanding. Balaam, against the instructions of Balak, prophesied of Israel's destiny instead of cursing the nation. Saul was given the power to prophesy, but when he failed to do God's will, that was taken from him. Azariah was given the special task of encouraging the people and warning them that if they did not seek Yahweh, he would forsake them. Zechariah and Ezekiel were given the role of Yahweh's spokesmen to prophesy and warn the nation of Israel. In each case these men were appointed to ensure the moral welfare and survival of true teaching of the nation as a whole.

Spirit ('ruach') of the LORD (Yahweh)

This section will take a few representative examples of the use of the phrase the spirit of the LORD, Yahweh, who is the all powerful mighty one and Creator. The first occurrence of this phrase is in Judges and it is used 26 times in the Old Testament. It is related to men such as Joshua, Gideon and David who were valiant in warfare for Israel.

They were great leaders and because of their faith in Yahweh won great battles against enemies and at times witnessed amazing victories where Yahweh intervened and in miraculous ways destroyed armies. These men all had a very important role in the preservation of the nation of Israel. They were inspired to fight for Israel's survival.

Elijah and Elisha were of the few who demonstrated the power to bring life back to the dead, to heal, perform a limited number of miracles and to reveal Yahweh's power to the nation at a time when the worship of Baal threatened to overwhelm the people. Othniel and Gideon were two outstanding men who fought to defend the nation of Israel.

And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.
And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim. (Judges 3:9-10)
Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel.
But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him. (Judges 6: 33-34)

David was a warrior and by amazing feats brought peace and nationhood to Israel. He also wrote much prophecy.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him. (1Samuel 16: 13-14)

Elijah was noted for his faith and dedication to Yahweh and his attempts to turn the people from idolatry.

And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here .
And it shall come to pass, as soon as I (Obadiah) am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth. (1Kings18:11-12)

Before a battle in which the nation witnessed their enemies destroy each other, the people were encouraged to have faith in Yahweh, who would bring victory to the nation of Israel without their having to fight.

Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the LORD in the midst of the congregation;
And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's. (2Chronicles20: 14-15)

Isaiah prophesies of one upon whom the spirit of Yahweh would descend at a future time and describes the work he would accomplish. He also enumerates the characteristics that he would possess. The following quotations refer to Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) who would have the spirit of wisdom, understanding and judgement.

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
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 of his lips shall he slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11: 1-4)
The grass withers, the flower fades: because the spirit of the LORD blows upon it: surely the people is grass.... Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor has taught him? (Isaiah 40:7, 13)

TheSpirit of the Lord GOD (the Lord Yahweh) is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; (Isaiah 60:1)

The prophets were moved by Yahweh's spirit to warn and to prophesy of Israel's destiny.

Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man. And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith the LORD; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them. (Ezekiel 11:4-5)
Truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. (Micah3:8-9)

The power of God was demonstrated to the people on many occasions in the Old Testament. The nation of Israel witnessed the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea and their deliverance from Pharaoh's army, food and water provided in the wilderness wanderings, enemies destroyed miraculously, the raising of the dead through men such as Elijah and Elisha, and healing of Namaan the Syrian and widows sustained in drought time. Selected men also revealed prophecies and gave warnings to the people about unfaithfulness and lack of obedience. The function of the Spirit of Yahweh was to ensure Israel's survival, often in battle, and to educate the nation with remarkable prophecy.

Such displays of power were to again occur during the ministry of the Messiah. The New Testament was not unique in the occurrence of miracles. The spirit and power of Yahweh was to be displayed to confirm his covenant with Israel at a crucial time in their history and before judgement came on the nation.


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