The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

February 21, 2017

Some Bible readers assume that the Spirit’s activity in Scripture is limited to the New Testament. But actually He is just as active in the Old Testament.

No clearer statement of the intimate interworking of the triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and especially of the Spirit’s powerful role can be found in the Old Testament than in Isaiah’s prophecy of the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 42:1–9). The passage summarizes the redeeming work of all three Persons of the Trinity in the salvation of the lost. Thus it ties together in remarkable harmony both the Old Testament and New Testament understandings of God’s grace. It also sheds light on our understanding of the Holy Spirit.

1. The Spirit participated in creation (Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; Isaiah 32:15).

2. The Spirit gives life to humanity and the other creatures (Psalm 104:29, 30). It is interesting that when Genesis says God endows people with life by breathing into their nostrils the “breath of life” (Genesis 2:7), the word for “breath” is the same word translated elsewhere as “spirit.”

3. The Spirit strives with sinners (Genesis 6:3), which is perhaps related to His work in convicting people of sin (John 16:8–11).

4. The Spirit came upon certain judges, warriors, and prophets in a way that gave them extraordinary power: for example, Joshua (Numbers 27:18), Othniel (Judges 3:10), Gideon (Judges 6:34), Samson (Judges 13:25; 14:6), and Saul (1 Samuel 10:9, 10). However, the Spirit later departed from Saul because of his disobedience (1 Samuel 16:14).

5. The Spirit played a prominent role in the long span of Old Testament prophecy. David declared that “the Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2). Likewise, Ezekiel reported that “the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me” (Ezekiel 2:2).

6. The Spirit inspired holiness in Old Testament believers (Psalm 143:10). And Scripture promised that someday God would put His Spirit in His people in a way that would cause them to live according to His statutes (Ezekiel 36:27).

7. The Spirit was crucial in helping God’s people anticipate the ministry of the Messiah. For example, Isaiah 11:1–5 is a trinitarian preview of the working of the Father, the Spirit, and the Son, who is the Branch of Jesse. Looking forward to the ministry of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to prophesy: “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him” (Isaiah 11:2), inspiring God’s Chosen One with wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, fear of the Lord, righteousness, and faithfulness. Thus we come full cycle to the New Testament, where Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of this prophecy (Isaiah 61:1, 2; Luke 4:18, 19).

** FREE infographic illustrating 13 ways the Holy Spirit worked in the Old Testament.**



This commentary is from the New King James Study Bible. With more than 2 million copies sold, it’s no secret that the NKJV Study Bible is a reliable guide for your journey into God’s Word. This Bible provides a complete resource for study, including thousands of notes, articles, extensive cross-references, and features contributed by top evangelical scholars.

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12 replies on “The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament”

Great and wonderful insight with analogy. Thank God for His inspiration in your life.
Please how do I get a copy of the New King James study bible in full colour, and how much sir?

Thank you for the great work you are doing in blessing God’s people with these spiritual knowledge.

This is a wonderful article concerning the activity of the Holy Spirit in the old testament. Many falsely belive that the Holy Ghost was not active before Christ but it was active in the old testament and early on in the new testament, since in truth the Word was active since the beginning. We see that in Luke 2:25 that Simeon that old man that held Jesus in his arm as a baby had the Holy Ghost upon him, and he came by the Spirit into the Temple.

This article has been extremely helpful. I am so blessed that I found it. I am particularly grateful for the scripture shared to show the presence of the Holy Ghost in the Old Testament.

Thanks so much for the powerful explanation how the holy spirit Worked and used people in the old and new testament books of the bible, more grace, I love you ❤️❤️

May the lord and to more spirit of wisdom and understanding to continue guiding the body of Christ, be blessed

One of my ministers gave me a challenge about the holy spirit. I learned so much that I will be researching after I die.

Thank you, this was a good answer for my questions after a recent bible study. I especially appreciated the verses and how clicking on them opened right to biblegateway. Thank you!

Thank you for the good insight on the Holyspirit in the Old Testament. I really alpreciate your hardwork

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