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HOLY SPIRIT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

We've learned that God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning. We've seen that the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep. "...and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." Who is this Spirit of God? Is it a piece of God? Is it another God? Is it an "it"? A He? A She? We turn to the Hebrew language for answers. 



The words "Spirit of God" are Ruah Elohim . Ruah , is translated 180 times as spirit(s), 92 times as wind(s) and 32 times as breath(s). Keil and Delitzsch have expert insight to the usage of the word.
Ruah , "denotes wind and spirit, like pneuma , from pnew . Ruach Elohim , is not a breath of wind caused by God for the verb does not suit this meaning, but the creative Spirit of God, the principle of all life which worked upon the formless, lifeless mass, separating, quickening, and preparing the living forms, which were called into being by the creative words that followed." 

God is the first Person we learn about in the Bible. The second Person is the Spirit of God. Moses stated that both were involved in creation. "God created the heavens and the earth." The Spirit of God "was hovering over the waters." What do those words mean? The word "hovering" is the Hebrew rahapl . It is used only three times in the Old Testament. The first time is Genesis 1:2. The second is Deuteronomy 32:11: "...like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on it pinions." The third usage is in Jeremiah 23:9: "My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble..." The translators apparently did not think the word "hover" explained the meaning of rahapl , in Jeremiah, so they chose something more akin to the context.  

Why was the Spirit of God hovering over the waters? God began His creative acts with water. The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and there was the Spirit of God hovering over those waters. The next verses tell us the order of God's creation following water.
  • Light (vs. 3)
  • Sky (vs. 6)
  • Land (vs. 9)*
  • Vegetation (vs. 11)
  • Sun, moon, stars (vs. 14)
  • Fish and birds (vs. 20)
  • Animals and creatures that move along the ground (vs. 24)
  • Man (vs. 27)
    * God created dry land by gathering all the water to one place and then having dry ground appear. He called the dry ground "land" and the gathered waters "seas." The water for the seas is the same water that the Spirit of God hovered over in verse 2.


    The Spirit is Called God

    "Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land...You have not lied to men but to God." Acts 5:3-4

    The Spirit is United with the Father and Son

    "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Matthew 28:19
    "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." 2 Corinthians 13:14

    The Spirit has Characteristics of God

    • Eternal --- "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:14)
    • Everywhere present --- "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." (Psalm 139:7-10)
    • All-knowing --- "...but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." (1 Corinthians 2:10-11)
    • Gave Great power --- "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
    • Raised Christ from the dead --- "He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit." (1 Peter 3:8)
    Peter had earlier taught that "God" raised Christ from the dead (Acts 2:24).
    Peter teaches that God raised Christ and the Spirit of God made Christ alive. It's the same teaching. The Holy Spirit is God! 


    • Works miracles --- "But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Matthew 12:28) "...by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit." (Romans 15:19)
    • Gives spiritual life --- "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:6-8)
    The Spirit Does the Work of God
    • He created --- "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." (Genesis 1:2) "The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life." (Job 33:4)
    • He gave life to God's creatures --- "When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth." (Psalm 104:30)
    • He guided God's people --- "Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them, who sent his glorious arm of power to be at Moses' right hand, who divided the waters before them, to gain for himself an everlasting renown, who led them through the depths?" (Isaiah 63:11-12) " You gave your good Spirit to instruct them." (Nehemiah 9:20)
      "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground." (Psalm 143:10)
      "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me." (Psalm 51:10-11)
    • He gave power to Israel's leaders --- "Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him." (Judges 6:34) "So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power." (1 Samuel 16:13)
    • He inspired God's prophets --- "But Moses replied, 'Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.'" (Numbers 11:29) "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, to Israel his sin." (Micah 3:8)
      "They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry." (Zechariah 7:12)
      "For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:21)
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