15. The Holy Spirit: Creating, Anointing, and Empowering throughout the Old Testament

By Lynne Hilton Wilson

Lynne Hilton Wilson, “The Holy Spirit: Creating, Anointing, and Empowering throughout the Old Testament,” in The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, The 38th Annual BYU Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009).

The Holy Spirit: Creating, Anointing, and Empowering throughout the Old Testament

Lynne Hilton Wilson

Lynne Hilton Wilson is a PhD candidate in theology at Marquette University and an institute instructor at Stanford Institute of Religion.

We sound the depths of the Old Testament for many wonderful teachings. One doctrine we do not often think about in the context of the Old Testament is the Holy Spirit. In fact, American theologians caught up in the Second Great Awakening omitted everything before Christ’s ascension in their definition of the “Dispensation of the Holy Spirit.”[1] Closer to the twenty-first century, the Encyclopedia Judaica and Dictionary of the Old Testament lack sections on the Spirit.[2]

This study challenges these limited views of the Holy Spirit and explores what ancient Israelite records share about the Holy Spirit.[3] We argue that the workings of the Spirit extend to God’s people in the Old Testament. Further, by understanding the Spirit in the Old Testament, we see the continuity of the gospel of Jesus Christ over time. To set the stage, the first half of this study compares the treatment of the Spirit in the Old Testament and other Latter-day Saint scripture. Especially relevant is the way pre-Christian passages of the Book of Mormon and the books of Moses and Abraham discuss the Spirit. After we establish this baseline, the second half of the paper focuses on the Old Testament workings of the Spirit. Even though the Old Testament mentions the Spirit less frequently, the citations illustrate the Spirit’s influence to create, anoint, and empower.

Old Testament Compared with Other Scripture

To start, we should evaluate the words used as well as the frequency of that usage across the scriptural canon. This study is limited to the Old Testament use of the word spirit, from the Hebrew word rûah (also transcribed in English ruach, ruakh, ru‘ah, and ruwach); in addition, rûah is sometimes translated wind, breath, mind, or the spirit in each human.[4] Rûah appears 389 times in the Old Testament, but only one-fifth of those citations allude to a spirit from God (they are listed in the appendix).[5] Narrowing the references of rûah to the Holy Spirit is not a clear science, and separating the premortal Lord’s spirit from the Holy Spirit is not the purpose of this study.[6] I separated references by context, content, and how other scripture used the same titles for the Spirit. The reader is invited to do the same by going through each of the scriptures in the appendix. During my analysis, the Book of Mormon clarified which titles referred to the Holy Spirit. As a case in point, the name “Spirit of the Lord” is used by the editors Mormon and Moroni for the Holy Ghost in their pre- and postresurrection commentary.[7] However, the purpose of this study is not to identify which verse points to which member of the Godhead; it is to argue that the workings and gifts of the Spirit were functioning at some level in the Old Testament. Within these bounds, we find similarities between the operations of the Spirit throughout scripture and across dispensations.

Quantitatively, this study indentifies how many times the scriptures refer to the Spirit. The Old Testament mentions rûah as a spirit from God in nearly half of its books (twenty of thirty-nine) with Isaiah as the most prolific.[8] By comparison, nearly all of the New Testament books (twenty-three of twenty-seven) refer to the Spirit (pneuma, parakletos, theopneustos in Greek). Some of those New Testament references allude to the Spirit’s consistent work among ancient Israel (e.g., Acts 28:25, “Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers”). The following table outlines each biblical reference by book.

Biblical References to the Holy Spirit

Old Testament (610,303 words) New Testament (180,565 words)

rûah pneuma, parakletos, theopneustos

Genesis 3 Matthew 11

Exodus 2 Mark 2

Numbers 6 Luke 16

Judges 7 John 16 4

1 Samuel 7 Acts 54

2 Samuel 1 Romans 26

1 Kings 2 1 Corinthians 21

2 Kings 1 2 Corinthians 9

2 Chronicles 4 Galatians 16

Nehemiah 2 Ephesians 12

Job 3 Philippians 4

Psalms 5 Colossians 4

Proverbs 1 1 Thessalonians 4

Isaiah 15 2 Thessalonians 1

Ezekiel 7 1 Timothy 1

Joel 2 2 Timothy 1 1

Micah 2 Titus 1

Haggai 1 Hebrews 7

Zechariah 2 1 Peter 6

Malachi 1 2 Peter 1

1 John 6

Jude 2

Revelation 11

Total: Total:

20/39 books, 74 citations 23/27 books, 234 citations

Given the Old Testament’s reduced references to the Holy Ghost, it is easy to understand why some theologians have not appreciated the Spirit’s involvement in ancient Israel. These figures are more striking when we compute the size of each book of scripture in a word-ratio analysis. Word ratios help us see how often the Spirit is named but not how long the subject is discussed; nevertheless, it still provides a basis to compare the relative depth of the scriptural pneumatology (or study of the Holy Spirit) in each of the standard works. We must also add the other vocabulary the scriptures use to describe the Spirit. While the King James Version (KJV) of the Old Testament translates rûah as “spirit,” the KJV New Testament and modern revelation also use the terms Holy Ghost, Comforter, and baptism of fire.[9] The following table compares each of these four titles in the four standard works.

Word Ratio of Spirit, Holy Ghost, Comforter, and Baptism by Fire

 

Text:

 

Spirit

 

 

Holy Ghost

 

Comforter

 

Baptism by fire

 

Total

 

Word ratio

 

Doctrine & Covenants[10]

107,289 total words

-

148

49

23

4

224

0.209%

Pearl of Great Price: Moses

12,544 total words

12

10

1

1

24

0.191%

New Testament

179,011 total words

144

90

4

 

238

0.133%

Book of Mormon

266,944 total words

200

92

1

6

299

0.112%

Old Testament

609,269 total words

73

 

 

 

73

0.012%

 

Total:

 

577

 

241

 

29

 

11

 

858

 

 

Portions of the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price claim to share similar origins with the Old Testament, but as a whole they stand apart from the Old Testament in the frequency that they mention the Spirit. This is especially evident in contrasting the book of Genesis to the book of Moses (Joseph Smith’s revision of Genesis).[11] A simple counting of the first eight chapters of Genesis and Moses identifies an enormous difference in the number of times the Spirit is mentioned (see appendix). In fact, the words of Moses in the book of Genesis mention the Spirit only twice, while in the same sampling from the book of Moses we find twenty-four references extended to the lives of Adam, Enoch, and Noah—closer to the New Testament than the Old Testament. Not only does the book of Moses exceed the Old Testament’s word ratio by ten times, but table 2 also shows a richer tradition of spiritual outpouring in all of the three other standard works.[12]

Fewer References in the Old Testament to the Spirit

One plausible reason why the Old Testament does not refer to the Holy Spirit as often as other scripture does is the fact that most of the text deals with people living under the Mosaic law. The gift of the Holy Ghost to Israel at large was not an Aaronic Priesthood ordinance or gift. Furthermore, perhaps passages on the Spirit were some of the “plain and precious things taken away” (1 Nephi 13:28) from the Old Testament, as Nephi noted. One of those lost details is the need for special priesthood authority to confirm the gift of the Holy Ghost. While Genesis is silent, the book of Abraham teaches that Adam, Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, and Abraham all received the higher priesthood (see Abraham Facsimile 2, figs. 3 and 7; see also D&C 107:41–53). With God’s authority in place, the book of Moses explains “the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning . . . by the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Moses 5:58; see also 6:52, 7:27). This important point is absent in the Old Testament as it now stands.

Another detail that the Prophet Joseph Smith restored was an emphasis on the Spirit. This is seen easily by looking at word ratios in the Doctrine and Covenants. Not only does the Doctrine and Covenants have the highest word ratio (Holy Ghost references of any kind divided by the total number of words) among the standard works, but it is 63 percent higher than the New Testament. Both the book of Moses and the Doctrine and Covenants mention the Spirit 500 percent more often than the Old Testament. This comparison suggests that an emphasis on the Spirit was similarly important to the beginning of the dispensations of Adam, Moses, and Joseph Smith, although no longer seen in the Old Testament.[13]

Old Testament Descriptions of the Spirit

References to the Spirit/rûah in the Old Testament usually connect the Spirit to God or the Lord. Phrases like the “Spirit of God” or the “Spirit of the Lord” stand out in over half of the citations. The following table organizes the most likely seventy-three references of rûah as the Spirit in the KJV Old Testament.[14]

Usage of rûah in the Old Testament

Old Testament Usage of the Spirit

Frequency

Filled him with the Spirit

2

His Holy Spirit

2

His Spirit

5

My Spirit

13

Spirit

7

Spirit of God

14

Spirit of the Lord

26

Thy Spirit

4

Total

73

The Old Testament emphasizes seven titles of the Spirit/rûah that are found across several different books. When we add the Book of Mormon into the comparison, we find, not surprisingly, a predominance of the same favorite two titles used in the Old Testament: “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of the Lord.” This is expected because the Book of Mormon originated out of Old Testament historic and linguistic tradition. As a second witness of the Spirit’s work in ancient Israel, the Book of Mormon acts as a clarifying text with forty references to the “Spirit of the Lord” and twenty to the “Spirit of God.” Significantly, the majority of those Book of Mormon citations occur before Christ’s birth (thirty-five references to the “Spirit of the Lord” and eighteen references to the “Spirit of God”).

We now turn to explore what the Old Testament teaches about the Spirit. Each of the references to the Spirit/rûah falls into roles of creating, anointing, and empowering. Its references to empowerment include the gifts of the Spirit and specifically highlight the gift of prophesy.

Creating. The Spirit oversees everything in the scriptural creation accounts (see Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; 33:4; Psalm 104:30; Moses 2:2; Abraham 4:2). The first chapter of Genesis describes the world developing through the Holy Spirit from chaos and darkness to life and light. The text implies that the Spirit protected and watched over the process. As “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” it “hovered [rachaph]” (Genesis 1:2; emphasis added). The same verb is found in Deuteronomy 32:11 for “flutter” when “an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings.” The beautiful biblical image of a maternal eagle hovering over her young is in harmony with God’s nurturing Spirit hovering over the Creation.

The Old Testament also reveals the Spirit as a source of life.[15] “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Genesis 1:2–3). Job reiterates the crucial role of the Spirit in creation: “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4; see also Job 27:3; 34:14; Psalm 33:6). For Job, life is a gift from God by the handiwork of his Spirit. With an intimacy as close as breath, the Psalmist teaches that the Spirit will speak to, sustain, and renew humanity. “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:30).

Beyond the physical creation, the Spirit also has a role in creating the spiritual man through instruction: “Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them” (Nehemiah 9:20; see also Isaiah 59:21).[16] The Spirit’s purpose in giving instructions was to renew God’s people to “do good” and “walketh uprightly” (Micah 2:7; see also Ezekiel 36:27). The Spirit directed the process of generating a new heart—not merely circumcised—but a full transplant for whole-hearted obedience.[17] “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart” (Deuteronomy 30:6). “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh and I will put my spirit within you” (Ezekiel 36:26–27). The Old Testament describes the process of creating a new man through obedience to the instructions of the Spirit (see Ezekiel 37:14; 1 Samuel 10:6). Creating a new man includes the Spirit-driven process of sanctification and then sealing. The Lord covenants with humanity that his Spirit will seal the righteous “from henceforth and for ever” (Isaiah 59:21; see also 34:16–17; Ephesians 1:13; D&C 124:124; 132:7, 18–19; Moses 6:59–60). The Spirit helps create life (see Ezekiel 11:19; 18:31; 36:26) and seals one for the life hereafter.

According to Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones taking flesh and life, the Holy Spirit is involved in the re-creation of the body and spirit in the Resurrection (see Ezekiel 37:1–14). The Holy Spirit came into the valley of dry bones as “wind” (rûah, Ezekiel 37:9) and blew the “breath” (rûah, Ezekiel 37:5, 6, 8, 9, 10) of life, infusing the bones with life.[18] “Thus saith the Lord God; Let the Spirit come from every quarter and breathe into these slain, that they may live” (author’s translation of Ezekiel 37:9). Ten times in the account of Ezekiel’s vision he uses the word rûah. The whole revelation is permeated with wind, spirit, and the breath of life. Especially at the beginning and end of the section, Ezekiel unambiguously references the Spirit of God (see Ezekiel 37:1, 14). This Old Testament account demonstrates the Spirit breathing life-giving power at the Creation and Resurrection.

Anointing. The Old Testament associated the Spirit’s anointing with making something sacred. Consecrated structures, clothing, people, and offerings affiliated with the Tabernacle or Temple were all anointed (see Exodus 29:29, 36; 30:26; 40:10–15; Leviticus 2:4; 8:10). Whether the anointed one was a person, place, or thing, if the Spirit was involved in its anointing, it became something holy (see 1 Samuel 16:13; Isaiah 61:1). An “anointed one” or “messiah/mashiach” meant chosen and commissioned by God to do his work. Beginning with Aaron, we read of priests being anointed to function in the Tabernacle or Temple (see Exodus 29:7). A king’s anointing set him apart for special leadership callings (see 1 Kings 1:39, 45; 2 Kings 9:3, 6; 11:12; 23:30). Beginning with King Saul, the anointing became the sign that the call was divine: “Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?” (1 Samuel 10:1; see also 1 Kings 1:39, 45; 5:1; 2 Kings 9:6; 11:12). Even after Saul squandered his position, young David honored the king as the “Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:10).

The Old Testament mentions the Spirit in conjunction with anointing many times (see Exodus 28:41; 2 Kings 9:6; Psalm 45:7; 84:9; Ezekiel 28:14).[19] The text highlights the connection with the Spirit, first at David’s anointing: “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” (1 Samuel 16:13). The anointing is described as David’s initial bond with the Spirit. Another verse that links the Spirit with anointing is a messianic promise in Isaiah. The Spirit appears to enable this anointed one to fill his special mission: “The Spirit of the Lord God 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 61:1; see also D&C 138: 18, 31, 42). In the Davidic and Isaianic references, a spiritual protection and blessing work together with the Spirit’s anointing.

Of all the m’shiachi—or anointed ones—in the Old Testament, none is as honored as the “rod out of the stem of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1) who became known as Messiah ben David.[20] All anointings throughout the Old Testament typify, at least to a degree, the Anointed One or Promised Messiah. God endows the Messiah ben David with an extraordinary anointing of the Spirit. This divine anointing includes a perfect nature, a unique birth, and a crucial calling: “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” (Isaiah 11:2; see also 42:1–7).[21] The tie between this Anointed One and the Spirit carries on when Christ announces in the New Testament that John will baptize with the Spirit (see John 1:33). As the Anointed One, Jesus shares a special relationship with the Holy Spirit in the Godhead, and the two work in harmony “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

Empowerment. The Old Testament shows the Holy Spirit empowering humanity with divine attributes and callings. The Old Testament describes the Spirit as giving discernment, wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and instruction. The first man described as filled or empowered with the Spirit’s attributes is Hur’s grandson Bezaleel. He was chosen to work on the Tabernacle because God “filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (Exodus 31:3). Likewise, the youthful Elihu acknowledged the Spirit’s empowerment, or that which “giveth them understanding” (Job 32:8; see also Isaiah 11:2). Ezekiel records the Lord’s empowerment: “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27). Each of these three men felt the Spirit blessing humanity with gifts of the Spirit.

The Old Testament regularly ascribes power as a characteristic of the Spirit.[22] Micah depicts the Spirit as nearly synonymous with power: “Truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord” (Micah 3:8; see also Zechariah 4:6). In Hebrew, power (koach) relates to man’s or God’s strength, power, and might. Different books of the Old Testament attribute the work of the Spirit to the power of protection, power in battles, power in judgment, and power over generations (see Judges 3:10; Isaiah 59:19; Zechariah 4:6). Sometimes the power of the Spirit is demonstrated “mightily” as with Samson (Judges 14:6), and sometimes as “a still small voice” as with Elijah (1 Kings 19:12). In all cases, the Spirit’s power works best when God’s servants realize their personal powerlessness without it. Moses exemplified that level of meekness. The Bible explains that he did not rely on his own gifts but turned to God and was strengthened by his Spirit (see Numbers 11:10–17; 12:3). The Spirit’s empowerment to Moses became a model for all Israelites—especially the prophet-leaders (see Psalm 77:20; 1 Corinthians 10:1–5; 1 Nephi 4:2; 17:29; 2 Nephi 25:20; Helaman 8:11, 13). The Old Testament punctuates Israelite history with the Spirit giving power to special servants.

The Spirit accompanies divine callings and energizes the prophets, servants, and judges from Genesis to Zechariah.[23] The authority of the Spirit inspired prophets to speak in the Lord’s name, as Ezekiel exemplifies: “And the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me, and said unto me Speak; Thus saith the Lord” (11:5). As another impressive example, the Spirit of God empowered Elijah to stop the heavens and then miraculously provide food for himself and a widow and her son, raise that son from the dead, call down fire from heaven to devour the drenched stone altar in front of the priests of Baal, and later kill hundreds of servants of King Ahab (see 1 Kings 17:1, 15–23, 18:36–40; 2 Kings 1:10–13). Yet the Old Testament does not specifically mention the Spirit in conjunction with Elijah’s work until the impressive story of his fiery chariot and horses when he was magnificently translated “by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11). Elijah’s dutiful disciple, Elisha, asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit—most likely meaning the Spirit of God (see 2 Kings 2:9, 15). The law of Moses dictated that the firstborn receive a double portion. Elisha took that role as the head of the “sons of the prophets” (Deuteronomy 21:17).[24] However, Elijah could not grant a double portion of the Spirit—the gift was utterly dependent upon God. Of all the “sons of the prophets” that followed Elijah, God chose Elisha as Elijah’s successor (2 Kings 2:3). The Old Testament symbolically portrays the transfer of the prophetic call by Elijah’s falling mantle (see 2 Kings 2:3, 5, 7, 13–15). The cloak was not the source of spiritual power though—the Spirit supplied God’s power. And the Spirit often became the identification of authority in the Old Testament.[25]

In addition to prophets, the Spirit empowered other servants of God, like the Seventy. The story of Moses’s lesson in delegation teaches that whoever the Spirit endows is empowered to work for God: “And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease” (Numbers 11:17, 25; a similar experience happened in 1 Samuel 19:20 when Saul’s servants prophesied). The Spirit’s presence identified those whom God called: “Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?” (Genesis 41:38). Even non-Israelites recognized the empowerment of the Spirit as a sign that God had chosen another servant.

The Spirit’s empowerment became a signal for action to Israelite judges and military leaders (see Judges 11:29, 13:25, 15:14). The book of Judges explains that after Joshua’s death, Caleb’s younger brother, Othniel, was raised up by God’s Spirit to lead Israel. “And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the Lord delivered” (Judges 3:10). Then a few chapters later, the account of Gideon describes: “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet” (Judges 6:34). Literally, when the Spirit came/labash upon Gideon, God’s Spirit “clothed” him with power. Hosea describes the Spirit communicating through the lives or ministry of righteous servants: “I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets” (12:10). The Spirit directed these leaders to put things right.

Empowerment through the gifts of the Spirit. All of the standard works except the Old Testament systematically catalog the gifts of the Spirit. The closest list we find is in Isaiah 11:2: “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.” Doctrine and Covenants 46 and 1 Corinthians 12 both list the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. Isaiah’s reference to the spirit of understanding can be compared with the gift of discernment, and the fear of the Lord to “the beginnings of faith.”[26] In addition to this verse, we find several examples of the gifts of the Spirit when we peruse the Old Testament. The same Spirit-filled manifestations that follow those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ in the New Testament are found in the Old. The following table organizes the gifts of the Spirit from Corinthians, Moroni, and the Doctrine and Covenants and then fills in examples of each gift from the Old Testament.

Gifts of the Spirit


1 Corinthians 12:1–11

Moroni 10:7–18

D&C 46:8–31

Old Testament

Testify of Jesus

 

Know Jesus the Son

Job 19:25; Proverbs 1:23;

Isaiah 7:14; 49; 53; 59:21

   

Believe others’ testimony

Exodus 4:5; 19:9; 2 Chronicles 20:20; Isaiah 28:16; 43:10

Administrations

 

Administrations

Judges 3:10; 2 Samuel 23:2; Isaiah 42:1; Micah 3:8

Operations

 

Operations

Exodus 26–28; Judges 6:34, Isaiah 11:2; Ezekiel 36:27

Wisdom

Teach wisdom

Wisdom

Exodus 31:3; Ezra 7:25; Psalm 90:12; Isaiah 11:2; Daniel 1:4

Knowledge

Teach knowledge

Knowledge

Exodus 31:3; 35:31; Numbers

24:16; Psalm 119:66; Isaiah 11:2

Faith

Faith

Faith to be healed

Numbers 21:7–9; 1 Kings 17:24; Habakkuk 2:4; Hosea 6:3; 8:2

Healing

Healing

Faith to heal

Genesis 20:17; 2 Kings 20:5–8; 2 Chronicles 30:20

Miracles

Miracles

Miracles

Exodus 4–15; 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16, 21–22; Nehemiah 9:19–21; Ezekiel 37:14

Prophecy

Prophecy

Prophecy

Numbers 1:17; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 19:20–23; Proverbs 31:1; Joel 2:28; Daniel 9:24

Tongues

Tongues

Tongues

Numbers 22:28; 2 Samuel 23:2

Interpretation of tongues

Interpretation of

tongues

Interpretation of

tongues

Interpret dreams: Genesis 40:8; 41:15; Judges 7:15; Daniel 2:45, 4:19, 24; 5:12

Hope

Hope

 

Psalms 31:24; 33:18, 22; 38:15; 39:7; 43:5; 71:5, 14; 119; Isaiah 61:1

Charity

Charity

 

Leviticus 19:18, 34; Deuteronomy 7:9, 13; Hosea 3:1

Discerning of spirits

Ministering spirit

Discerning of spirits

Understanding: Exodus 31:3, 35:32; 2 Samuel 14:17; 1 Kings 3:9; Job 20:3; 32:8; Isaiah 11:2

 

Beholding angels

(Visions, Articles of Faith 1:7)

 

Genesis 15:1; Numbers 24:2; 1 Samuel 3:15–17; Isaiah 1:1; Ezekiel 11:24; Daniel 8–9:24

Except for the gift of tongues (the talking donkey in Numbers 22:28–29 may be too much of a stretch), every other gift of the Spirit tallied above is manifest in the Old Testament. Sometimes the text uses different words to describe the spiritual empowerment but the gifts are comparable. Paul, Moroni, and Joseph Smith emphasize that the gifts of the Spirit are given to all who ask in faith (see 1 Corinthians 12:11; Moroni 10:7; D&C 46:7, 30). The same is true in the Old Testament, where Moses’s plea rings through the entire testament: “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (New International Version, Numbers 11:29).

The spirit of prophecy.[27] Of all the gifts of the Spirit in the Old Testament, the gift of prophecy is linked most closely to the Spirit. The Spirit authorized certain servants to speak for God “in the name of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:22; see also Numbers 11:25–26; 1 Samuel 10: 6, 10, 20–21, 24; Ezekiel 11:24; 37:1).[28] Prophecy usually came through the Lord’s prophets, but not exclusively. King David acknowledged the Spirit as the source of his prophecy in his last words: “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2; see also 24:11; 1 Samuel 10:1–13; 1 Chronicles 17:3; 1 Kings 12:22). Elsewhere in the Old Testament, the Spirit prophesies against the wicked (see Isaiah 30:1; Nehemiah 9:20, 30), promises justice for the poor (see Micah 3:8; Jeremiah 9:23–24; 22:15–16), foretells blessings for the righteous (see Numbers 23:11–12, 25–26), and predicts conditions for the Millennium (see Zechariah 12:10; 14:5–9; Isaiah 11)—all as direction from God.

The Old Testament teaches that the Spirit prophesied to different cultures, generations, and peoples. Joseph of old received revelation for Egypt (see Genesis 41:25), Daniel for Babylon (see Daniel 2:47), and Malachi for the Latter-day Saints (see Malachi 31; 4:5–6; D&C 110:14; 128:17). Isaiah encouraged all his readers to study the prophecies: “Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read: no one of these shall fail” (Isaiah 34:16; similarly, Zechariah 7:12). Amos admonishes us to study prophecy in order to know God’s plan of action: “Surely, the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7; see also Ezekiel 24:14). Sincere seekers received prophecy throughout the Old Testament for themselves and their posterity: “Those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Through the whisperings of the Spirit, the same scriptural prophecy can have multiple meanings. For example, Joel’s prophecy of a future deluge of the Spirit, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28) applied to more than one period of history. Peter claimed Joel’s fulfillment on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:14–18), and the angel Moroni for the Restoration (see Joseph Smith—History 1:41). The continuity of prophecy is provided by the Spirit: “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” (Isaiah 44:3). The Spirit can personalize prophecy as well and provide a variety of levels of relevancy, understanding, and interpretation.

According to the Old Testament, sin silences the spirit of prophecy and revelation. “Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin” (Isaiah 30:1; see also Proverbs 1:23). God warned, “My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3). When the children of Israel rebelled, they grieved the Spirit (see Isaiah 63:10; Zechariah 7:12). The Psalmist implored, “Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. . . . Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me” (Psalm 51:9, 11; see also 1 Samuel 16:14). A century later the Spirit inspired Zechariah the priest to explain why the people could not prosper: “Because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you” (2 Chronicles 24:20).[29] But even the estrangement of sin can be overcome through our Redeemer’s gift of repentance: Proverbs teaches that God’s wrath is assuaged through repentance and the cleansing of the Spirit. If Israel will “turn . . . at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you” (Proverbs 1:23; see also Ecclesiastes 12:7; Isaiah 28:6; 30:1; 54:8). Isaiah further promised Israel “that if they repent, “the Spirit of the Lord” will cause “him to rest” and become “a glorious name” (Isaiah 63:14). Repentance was a regular cry from prophets like Micah, who was moved by the Spirit “to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin” (3:8; see also 2 Chronicles 7:14; Ezekiel 14:6; 18:30).[30] The prophet Isaiah linked an awareness of the covenant with an awareness of the Spirit. After a discussion on repentance, he prophesies the return of the Spirit for those who return to the covenant: “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; my spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed” (Isaiah 59:21).[31] When the Spirit of prophecy directs Israel, the covenant is intact.

Conclusion

The Old Testament witnesses to the workings of God’s Spirit. The Apostle Peter defended the Spirit’s role in inspiring ancient prophets: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). Evidence of the Spirit’s promptings extends across scripture and time. The Spirit’s work is consistent as it reveals the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament as an “abundance of peace and truth” (Jeremiah 33:6). Even though the Old Testament has fewer statements dealing with the Spirit, its examples stand along with other holy writ as a witness that God’s Spirit breathes life into the physical and spiritual world.

The Old Testament shows the Spirit’s influence creating, energizing, instructing, encouraging, prophesying, blessing, and anointing the obedient chosen people. Moses yearned for the day when “all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:29). Joel answered that plea with the Lord’s promise, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit” (Joel 2:28–29). Joel foretold of a time when the Spirit would communicate to a greater degree than in his day—a time when the Spirit’s work of dreams, visions, and prophecy would have no distinctions for gender, age, rank, intelligence, or birthright. He prophesied of a time when the Spirit would bless people who have a broken heart to seek their salvation through the Messiah whom the Spirit fully anointed.

Joel’s prophecy validates the work of Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Old Testament prophets looked forward to this day “with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels” when “God shall give unto you knowledge by his holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now” (D&C 121:26–27). The Prophet Joseph Smith acknowledged that the gift of the Holy Ghost differentiated his work from all other denominations. The gifts of the Spirit functioned in the Old Testament among a select few, but now the gift of the Holy Ghost offers sanctification to all who “walk in the meekness of my Spirit” (D&C 19:23).

 

Appendix. References to the Spirit

Probable Old Testament References to Rûah as the Holy Ghost

Genesis 1:2. “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Genesis 6:3. “And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.”

Genesis 41:38. “And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?”

Exodus 31:3. “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 35:31. “And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.”

Numbers 11:17. “And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.”

Numbers 11:25. “And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.”

Numbers 11:26. “But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.”

Numbers 11:29. “And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”

Numbers 24:2. “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.”

Numbers 27:18. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him.”

Judges 3:10. “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.”

Judges 6:34. “But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet.”

Judges 11:29. “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead.”

Judges 13:25. “And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.”

Judges 14:6. “And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done.”

Judges 14:19. “And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil.”

Judges 15:14. “And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.”

1 Samuel 10:6. “And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.”

1 Samuel 10:10. “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.”

1 Samuel 11:6. “And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly.”

1 Samuel 16:13. “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.”

1 Samuel 16:14. “But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.”

1 Samuel 19:20. “And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.”

1 Samuel 19:23. “And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah.”

2 Samuel 23:2. “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.”

1 Kings 18:12. “And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not.”

1 Kings 22:24. “But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee?”

2 Kings 2:16. “Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye shall not send.”

2 Chronicles 15:1. “And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded.”

2 Chronicles 18:23. “Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee?”

2 Chronicles 20:14. “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.”

2 Chronicles 24:20. “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.”

Nehemiah 9:20. “Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.”

Nehemiah 9:30. “Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.”

Job 26:13. “By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.”

Job 27:3. “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils.”

Job 33:4. “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”

Psalm 51:11. “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.”

Psalm 104:30. “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.”

Psalm 139:7. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?”

Psalm 143:10. “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.”

Proverbs 1:23. “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.”

Isaiah 11:2. “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.”

Isaiah 30:1. “Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin.”

Isaiah 32:15. “Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest.”

Isaiah 34:16. “Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.”

Isaiah 40:7. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.”

Isaiah 40:13. “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him?”

Isaiah 42:1. “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.”

Isaiah 44:3. “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.”

Isaiah 48:16. “Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me.”

Isaiah 59:19. “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.”

Isaiah 59:21. “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.”

Isaiah 61:1. “The Spirit of the Lord God 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 63:10. “But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.”

Isaiah 63:11. “Then he remembered the days of old, Moses, and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit within him?”

Isaiah 63:14. “As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord caused him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name.”

Ezekiel 3:24. “Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house.”

Ezekiel 11:5. “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 11:24. “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.”

Ezekiel 36:27. “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”

Ezekiel 37:1. “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones.”

Ezekiel 37:14. “Put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.”

Ezekiel 39:29. “Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God.”

Joel 2:28. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.”

Joel 2:29. “And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”

Micah 2:7. “O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the Lord straitened? are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?”

Micah 3:8. “But 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.”

Haggai 2:5. “According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.”

Zechariah 4:6. “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Zechariah 7:12. “The words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts.”

Malachi 2:15. “And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit.”

Possible Old Testament References to Rûah as the Holy Ghost

Numbers 14:24. “But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went.”

2 Samuel 22:16. “And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations of the world were discovered, at the rebuking of the Lord, at the blast of the breath [rûah] of his nostrils.”

2 Kings 2:9. “And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.”

2 Kings 2:15. “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.”

Job 4:9. “By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath [rûah] of his nostrils are they consumed.”

Job 34:14. “If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath.”

Psalm 18:15. “Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath [rûah] of thy nostrils.”

Isaiah 4:4. “When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.”

Isaiah 42:5. “Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein.”

Ezekiel 2:2. “And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me.”

Ezekiel 3:12. “Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place.”

Ezekiel 3:14. “So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me.”

Ezekiel 8:3. “And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem.”

Ezekiel 11:1. “Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the Lord’s house, which looketh eastward.”

Ezekiel 43:5. “So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.”

Daniel 4:8. “But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods.”

Daniel 4:9. “O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof.”

Daniel 4:18. “O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee.”

Daniel 5:11. “There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him.”

Daniel 5:14. “I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee.”

Zechariah 12:10. “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”

(There are several references to the work of the Spirit without the word rûah. For example in Exodus 13:21, “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.” These are not included because this study has limited its scope to references of rûah that point to the third member of the Godhead.)

ProbablePearl of Great Price References to the Spirit

Moses 1:15. “Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.”

Moses 1:24. “And it came to pass that when Satan had departed from the presence of Moses, that Moses lifted up his eyes unto heaven, being filled with the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son.”

Moses 1:27. “And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God.”

Moses 1:28. “And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.”

Moses 2:2. “And the earth was without form, and void; and I caused darkness to come up upon the face of the deep; and my Spirit moved upon the face of the water; for I am God.”

Moses 5:9. “And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.”

Moses 5:14. “And the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent.”

Moses 5:58. “And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Moses 6:5. “And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration.”

Moses 6:8. “Now this prophecy Adam spake, as he was moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and a genealogy was kept of the children of God.”

Moses 6:26. “And it came to pass that Enoch journeyed in the land, among the people; and as he journeyed, the Spirit of God descended out of heaven, and abode upon him.”

Moses 6:34. “Behold my Spirit is upon you, wherefore all thy words will I justify; and the mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course; and thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me.”

Moses 6:52. “And he also said unto him: If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be given you.”

Moses 6:59. “That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.”

Moses 6:60. “For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified.”

Moses 6:61. “Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.”

Moses 6:64. “And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water.”

Moses 6:65. “And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him.”

Moses 6:65. “And thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.”

Moses 6:66. “Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever.”

Moses 7:11. “And he gave unto me a commandment that I should baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, which is full of grace and truth, and of the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son.”

Moses 7:27. “And Enoch beheld angels descending out of heaven, bearing testimony of the Father and Son; and the Holy Ghost fell on many, and they were caught up by the powers of heaven into Zion.”

Moses 8:17. “And the Lord said unto Noah: My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for he shall know that all flesh shall die.”

Moses 8:24. “Believe and repent of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, even as our fathers, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost, that ye may have all things made manifest; and if ye do not this, the floods will come in upon you.”

Abraham 4:2. “And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate, because they had not formed anything but the earth; and darkness reigned upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters.”

Notes



[1] John Owen, Pneumatologia; or, a Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit (Philadelphia: Towar and Hogan, 1827), 60; Samuel Macauley Jackson, ed., The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1911), 193; Clarence Larkin, Dispensational Truth or God’s Plan and Purpose in the Ages (c. 1918, digitalized: Kessinger, 2005), 54.

[2] Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, eds. Encyclopedia Judaica, 2nd ed. (Detroit: Macmillan, 2007); and Bill T. Arnold and H.G. M. Williamson, eds., Dictionary of the Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005). Even though some modern Old Testament and Jewish reference books do not mention the Spirit, as one looks back in time to older editions, listings of the Spirit tend to increase with age. For example, Encyclopedia of Judaica. Jerusalem: Encyclopedia Judaica (New York: Macmillan, 1972) has a section on “rûah hakodesh” that begins, “Although the phrase Ru’ah ha-Kodesh occurs in the Bible . . . its specific connotation as divine inspiration is wholly post-biblical” (14.364). Similarly, the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia has a section on rûah hakodesh that reads, “The term ‘spirit’ (ruah) occurs frequently in the Bible in the sense of the divine inspiration which enters the body of the prophets and causes them to enounce the will of God. There is no indication, however, that the ‘holy spirit’ was regarded as a separate entity. Christian theology developed from the term its doctrine of the Holy Ghost as a member of the Trinity” (Isaac Landman, ed. [New York: Ktav, 1969], 9:268). Only in much older works like The Jewish Encyclopedia do we find a section titled “Holy Spirit” (Joseph Jacobs, ed. [New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1904], 6:450). It appears that the association between the Old Testament and the Spirit became less and less popular in some groups of academia during the twentieth century.

[3] When referring to the third member of the Godhead, this study follows the scriptural pattern of using the names “Holy Ghost,” “Spirit,” and “Holy Spirit” interchangeably.

[4] Following the writing of the Old Testament, Rabbis used the word “shekhinah” to describe the presence of the Lord that filled the Tabernacle or Solomon’s Temple. This is not included in our study as it is not used this way in the Old Testament. (Šhikkên is found in Psalm 78:60 and Jeremiah 7:3 and 7, for dwelling, but these instances do not share the rabbinic definition.) The “glory of the Lord” is mentioned thirty-four times in the KJV Old Testament and can arguably reference the presence or influence of the Lord. When the KJV has both “glory of the Lord” and “Spirit” in the same phrase, they appear to be two distinct thoughts. This study will only examine the Hebrew rûah for the Spirit.

[5] William A. Dyrness, Themes in Old Testament Theology (Exeter, Australia: Paternoster Press, 1979), 86, enumerates 389 appearances of “spirit/rûah” in the Old Testament, but I have tried to distinguish which references directly referred to the Holy Spirit from the Godhead (see the appendix).

[6] The most difficult question in making this judgment in the Old Testament is separating out the “Spirit of God” or the “Spirit of the Lord.” In this study all such references are attributed to the Holy Ghost, although they may refer literally to the eternal spirit of Jehovah. The context of most usage of “the Spirit of the Lord” points to the Holy Ghost. For the sake of continuity, all references to God’s rûah are defined as the third member of the Godhead to see the working of the Spirit in the Old Testament.

[7] As fifth-century editors, Mormon and Moroni recorded the names “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of the Lord” just as they were found in the brass plates (see Alma 5:46–47; 1 Nephi 11:1; 13:13; 15:12; Words of Mormon 1:7; Mosiah 2:36; Mormon 2:26; Ether 15:19). Because some of their references clearly point to the Holy Ghost, it is probable that they constantly used those titles for the Holy Spirit. The prophet Zenos, whose writings were recorded, at least in part, on the brass plates, used the phrase “Spirit of God” in 1 Nephi 19:12 just as Mormon does centuries after Christ’s Resurrection (Moroni 10:8–9). The phrase “Spirit of the Lord” is used by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 11:2), just as Mormon and Moroni’s postresurrection writings include the same title of the Holy Ghost (see Mormon 2:26; 5:16; Moroni 9:4). If these two prophet-editors knew the Lord as a resurrected being and consistently identified the Holy Ghost as “the Spirit of God” or “the Spirit of the Lord,” we can likely identify these titles as the third member of the Godhead in the Old Testament. Similarly, the New Testament uses these same titles for the Holy Ghost.

[8] The Triple Combination cites the “Spirit” more often than does the Bible. In the Book of Mormon, thirteen of the fifteen books reference the Spirit. The Doctrine and Covenants mentions the Holy Spirit at least once in 68 of the 138 sections.

[9] This category includes minor derivations as well—for example “baptized with fire,” “baptize with fire,” “baptism by fire,” and “baptism of fire.” It does not include every discussion of baptism by the Spirit (see Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 1 Corinthians 12:13) as those figures are included in the heading of “Spirit.”

[10] These numbers represent the sections Joseph Smith received, D&C 1–133, 137.

[11] Two months after the organization of the Church and three months after the Book of Mormon was published, Joseph Smith was commanded to begin a revision of the Bible (see D&C 35:20; 45:60–61). Joseph Fielding Smith summarized, “From June, 1830, until March 7, 1831, the Brethren labored with the revision of the early chapters of Genesis. . . . The work continued through both the Old and New Testaments until July 2, 1833” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976], 45).

[12] Interestingly, when we compare the book of Abraham with the book of Moses, we find very different use of the Spirit in their retelling of the same creation story. The translation of the Abraham papyri has only one reference to the Spirit, making it closer to Genesis, which also references the Spirit once in its creation story. On the other hand, Joseph Smith’s inspired revision of Moses refers to the Holy Spirit twenty-four times, a similar word ratio to that of the Doctrine and Covenants. These two examples suggest that Joseph Smith’s prophetic voice has a special interest in the role of the Holy Spirit.

[13] Even though the book of Moses speaks of the time of Adam, the emphasis on the Spirit is from the writer’s perspective (traditionally presumed as Moses) centuries after Adam.

[14] Only seventy-three examples of Spirit/rûah in the Old Testament are cited later in this text, but other possibilities are found in the appendix. The appendix only includes rûah, even though the Old Testament has a few references that may refer to the Holy Ghost that use a different Hebrew word, nshamah, which is usually translated breath (for example, Job 32:8, “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration [nshamah] of the Almighty giveth them understanding”).

[15] The idea of the breath of life initiating from the breath of God was also taught by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Canaanites, and Phoenicians. These similar doctrines could have stemmed from two possibilities—either they all initiated from the same doctrine, or, as biblical scholar Edmond Jacob suggests, “It must have offered itself spontaneously to different peoples through the simple observation that life and breath ceased together, and because of the anthropomorphic picture of the deity the origin of this breath was attributed to his breath” (Ben C. Ollenburger, Elmer A. Martens, and Gerhard F. Hasel, eds., The Flowering of Old Testament Theology: A Reader in Twentieth-Century Old Testament Theology, 1930–1990 [Winomalk, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1992], 158). I disagree with Edmond Jacob and see logic in the first option.

[16] When the context of Nehemiah 9:20 is taken into account, “good spirit” appears to refer to the Holy Spirit. For continuity, “good spirit” in Alma 3:26 is included in table 2.

[17] Dyrness, Themes in Old Testament Theology, 207–8.

[18] Richard Averbeck of Trinity Evangelical School sees Ezekiel’s vision as also prophesying the Spirit’s return to Israel after their Babylonian captivity. He sees the vision foretelling Jesus’s baptism by the Spirit: “Jesus continues the pattern of reference to Ezekiel in John 3:8 when he uses the same play on words between ‘wind/breath’ and ‘Spirit’ for the life giving Spirit of God as the one that appears in the valley of dry bones vision in Ezekiel 37. Jesus said, ‘The wind (pneuma) 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 (pneuma)’ (John 3:8). In the valley of dry bones the ‘wind’ (rûah v. 9) blew ‘breath’ (rûah vv. 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) into the dry bones as they came together and flesh grew on the skeletons. Thus the bodies of Israelites would come alive, referring to their restoration from captivity, because the Lord would give them his Spirit.” Oral reading at the Society of Biblical Literature lecture of an unpublished paper by Richard Averbeck, “Patterns of Presence and Cleansing in the Old and New Testaments,” Boston, November 2008, 17.

[19] The Spirit is associated with anointing three times in the Doctrine and Covenants: 132:7, 18–19; and twice in the New Testament: Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38.

[20] There are Judaic traditions that separate the anointing of a Messiah ben David from a Messiah ben Aaron or a Messiah ben Joseph. The latter came initially in the Babylonian Talmud, but as publicized in Biblical Archaeology Review, a three-foot stone dating from around the first century BC records the Messiah, son of Joseph, giving signs to David (Israel Knohl, “The Messiah Son of Joseph: ‘Gabriel’s Revelation’ and the Birth of a New Messianic Model,” Biblical Archaeology Review 34, no. 5 [September/October 2008]: 59).

[21] Tragically, in order to fulfill his mission, the greatest Anointed One was rejected and abused (see Isaiah 53). As the “righteous servant,” he was required to offer himself as a sacrifice to “justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11).

[22] In Hebrew, power is often associated with the Spirit—especially in modern scripture. The phrase, the “power of the Holy Ghost” is mentioned once in the New Testament, twenty-five times in the Book of Mormon, and five times in the Doctrine and Covenants. The phrase “Spirit and power” is used three more times in the Book of Mormon. Even though these distinct expressions are not stated in the Bible, the word “Spirit” (or Holy Ghost) is associated with “power” ten times throughout the Bible. Looking for the same pattern in the Book of Mormon again demonstrates its theological emphasis. Even though the Book of Mormon is one third the length of the Bible, the word “power” is linked to God’s Spirit fifty-seven times (sixteen times more than in the Bible). The Doctrine and Covenants continues with an even greater ratio, connecting the Holy Ghost or Spirit to power. Because Joseph Smith’s portion of the Doctrine and Covenants is less than half the size of the Book of Mormon (107,289 words to 266,944 words), the Doctrine and Covenants’ thirty-four citations demonstrate nearly one-and-a-half times greater concentration of connections between Spirit and power than the Book of Mormon. Theologically, this was important to the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration.

[23] The association of the Spirit’s role in calling God’s servants is even more pronounced in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 8:24; 13:4; 18:34; 22:4; 43:2).

[24] Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, eds., Studies in Scripture (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 3:79: “The birthright inheritance included a double portion of the land and possessions left by the father. With this inheritance came the responsibility to care for the needs of the mother, the sisters until they were married, to be a resource for the other brothers, and to serve as the family leader.”

[25] The Old Testament features God’s Spirit empowering other leaders and prophets to speak for the Lord: Joshua (see Numbers 27:18), Azariah (see 2 Chronicles 15:1), Jahaziel (see 2 Chronicles 20:14), Zechariah (see 2 Chronicles 24:20), Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 3:24), Isaiah (see Isaiah 48:16), and Elisha (see 2 Kings 2:16). For a clearer correlation, see also Mosiah 18:13, 26; Alma 17:3.

[26] Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 296. In a discussion of Isaiah 6, Ludlow explains: “Fear of the Lord . . . goes beyond a sense of awe and the beginnings of faith to include entire devotion to God.” Also President Kimball: “Teach them faith in the living God and in his Only Begotten Son—not a superficial, intellectual kind of acceptance, but a deep spiritual inner feeling of dependence and closeness; not a fear composed of panic and terror, but a fear of the Lord composed mostly of intense love and admiration” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 73). Bishop Thorpe B. Isaacson suggested in his April 1952 conference talk, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of great wisdom” (17).

[27] The phrase “spirit of prophecy” is actually not mentioned in the Old Testament but is found once in Revelation 19:10, eighteen times in the Book of Mormon, twice in the Doctrine and Covenants, and twenty-three times in the History of the Church. This is obviously an important doctrine of the Restoration. Joseph Smith believed the spirit of prophecy was not only his gift and the foundation of his title as prophet, but also the doorway for Church members and proselytes to learn truth and to receive their own witness of the Spirit.

[28] Twenty-seven times the Book of Mormon connects the Holy Ghost with prophecy before Jesus’s visitation (see 2 Nephi 25:4, 7; Jacob 1:6; Alma 3:27; 4:13, 20; 9:21; 3 Nephi 3:19). In contrast, the Old Testament has only two.

[29] Seven priests named Zechariah or Zachariah are mentioned in the books of Chronicles. The most famous was a sixth-century prophet and has a book of the Old Testament named after him, “Zechariah, the son of Berechiah” (Zechariah 1:1). The one quoted here is “Zechariah the son of Jehoiada,” who lived at the end of the ninth century BC and was stoned to death in the courtyard of the Temple (2 Chronicles 24:20). These two Zechariahs were confused in Matthew 23:35, “the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (emphasis added). This mixup is further entangled in the apocryphal account Protevangelium of James, where these two Old Testament Zechariahs are further befuddled with the New Testament priest Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist (see Luke 1). The apocryphal account has the man from the ninth century BC, the man from the sixth century BC, and the man from the turn of the millennium, all joined together as one person. A whole yarn was developed around this perplexity, claiming that Herod killed Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father. This tale is false but has worked its way into Christian circles and found its way into the Times and Seasons newspaper and from there is quoted in several Latter-day Saint publications. My translation from Bibliotheca Bodmeriana;Protevangil de Jacques” (Geneva, Switzerland: Papyrus Bodmer V–VI, 1958); or in English, Wihlelm Schneemelcher, ed. Edgar Hennecke New Testament Apocrypha (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, reprint 1963), 1.387–88.

[30] One of the purposes of the Book of Mormon according to Lehi’s prophecy to his son Joseph is for the prophecies of his people to join the Old Testament prophets in crying repentance in this battle against sin. He prophesies that the Book of Mormon will “cry from the dust; yea, even repentance unto their brethren, even after many generations have gone by them. And it shall come to pass that their cry shall go, even according to the simpleness of their words” (2 Nephi 3:20; see also Alma 29:1; Mormon 3:3).

[31] The Spirit also confirms the promises of the gospel covenant in the New Testament and modern revelation (see Mosiah 18:10; D&C 29:30; 132:19).