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The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

Feb 21, 2017 |

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 (Is. 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.

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:


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

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

3. The Spirit strives with sinners (Gen. 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 (Num. 27:18), Othniel (Judg. 3:10), Gideon (6:34), Samson (13:25; 14:6), and Saul (1 Sam. 10:9, 10). However, the Spirit later departed from Saul because of his disobedience (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 Sam. 23:2). Likewise, Ezekiel reported that “the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me” (Ezek. 2:2).

6. The Spirit inspired holiness in Old Testament believers (Ps. 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 (Ezek. 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” (Is. 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 (Is. 61:1, 2; Luke 4:18, 19).


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.


Think About It:

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

17 comments on “The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament


    how did the holy spirit helped people to grow spiritually during old testament period.

    1. Owen Sutton says:

      In the Old Testament the new birth was not yet possible. 1 Cor. 2:12 says that we have not received the spirit of the world (dead spirit) but the spirit which is of God, i.e. The Holy Spirit (living Spirit). In Genesis God establishes a law that everything reproduces after its own kind (Gen. 2:24), therefore, after Adam fell (Spiritual death), mankind could then only reproduce other fallen (spiritually dead) people.
      In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit rested on, and came upon people, but until the new birth could not indwell people, but of course that changed when Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus even told his disciples in John 16:12, I have yet many things to to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now. Why? Because they did not yet have the Holy Spirit living inside them yet. The next verse, 16:13, Jesus says, Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. And again in John 14:26,
      But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your rememberance, whatsoever I have spoken to you. Also, in 1 Cor. 2:14 it states that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
      So spiritual truth must be received by the Spirit. Under the Old Covenant Law the relationship with God was performance based, and because no one was perfect like Jesus, the Holy Spirit rested upon people for limited amounts of time, which hampered the ability to grow spiritually.
      Under the New Covenant Grace brought by Jesus Christ we can receive the permant residence of the Holy Spirit inside us.

  2. Betty Rinehimer says:

    I have the 2014 edition of NKJV Study Bible on my Kindle and wanted to locate this article in my 1969 hardcopy… could not find it. Is it there or in newer editions only? I did find it onine.
    Also, when using the Kindle edition, how does a person go directly to commentary on a verse? I’ve been going to the end of the book or searching for a near Word Study. Please advise. Thank you.

  3. janet says:

    Can you be saved without being baptized?

    1. Stan Armes says:

      Very definitely! Baptism whether immersion or sprinkled is an outward sign of an inward grace. yes, it is commanded by God but baptism does not save in any way. If baptism was a requirement for salvation, then salvation would be based on our works. Therefore our salvation is based on our faith in Jesus alon.

      1. Avilya says:

        PRAISE the LORD! Yes!!!

        We all need to be baptized in Jesus Name to be saved.

        The bible says in John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

        The water represents baptism and the spirit is being full of the Holy Ghost. Jesus said it Himself! Jesus was baptized. Surely we being less than Him need to be baptized as well. We should be following His example. In Matthew 3:16-17 You can read about Jesus being baptized by John.

        Also it is very important that you are baptized “in the Name of Jesus” (the One who died for you and me) not just in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The name of Jesus is the name that has the authority.

        Acts 2:38 – Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

        Remember Jesus is one in the Father, so when the bible says in Matthew 28:19 baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

        Realize Jesus said baptize them in the “name” a singular word not “names.”
        And the “name” of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost….is Jesus.
        The Father son and Holy Ghost are titles. For example I am a mother, sister and a wife. But name is Avilya. If my husband wants to go to the bank and take money out my account he’ll give the teller my name. He will not say “My wife said give me $100.” He’ll use my name. The name carries the authority!

        Acts 2:38 – Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

        Matthew 3:16-17 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

        For more information or questions contact me at avilya200fold@gmail.com

        God Bless You.


  4. J. Luma says:

    I believe as Christians we should look at the word of God not as what We can do to be saved , but rather a total submission to whatever Jesus says. This life Is a total submission to God , we don’t chose to do some and avoid the others. If Jesus commands whether it is for salvation it not it is important. We are saved by grace of course, but from the look of this scriptures baptisms was more than an outward sign to me
    1 Peter 3:21
    Acts 2:38
    Acts 22:16
    Colossians 2:12
    Galatians 3:16
    Mark 16:16
    Acts 16 31-34
    Acts 10:48

    1. Jeremiah says:


    2. Daren Blomerth says:

      So, kind of like asking if you can learn to ride a bike without actually trying it. Perhaps you don’t need to be baptized to be saved (Romans 10:9-10), but if you receive salvation then you will get baptized (eventually for some) as/when you are able.

    3. Sheila says:

      Yes it was of sign of being buried with Him, being submerged in the water and not sprinkled. In Matthew Jesus wasn’t sprinkled.

  5. Paul T. says:

    Luke 23:43 relates that the criminal next to Jesus at the crucifixion was to meet him in Paradise today. He was not baptized!

  6. Tomor says:

    Everybody who believes in the Lord Jesus would want to follow ALL His commands.So to be baptised is one of many of them. So I think the question is wrong. If you are born again you would want to be baptised immidiately.The early Christian did it on the spot or the same day. All delay is just church religious systems or the lack of opportunity to do so on the spot( example: not near the lake or river or sea..)
    So if you are not baptised, I dont know what you are waiting for! Obey the commandments..thats the best way I think…and thats why the Holy Spirit came for, to help us obey the Word…

  7. blog says:

    I was able to find good advice from your content.

  8. Tony Gramaje says:

    Why did Christ commanded those who will believe in Him to be baptized if it is not necessary? Can a person be saved by just believing and at the same time disobey the command of the Lord to be baptized?

  9. john FEWKES says:

    All Spiritual blessings are IN CHRIST – some 89 time s in the NT. There are only TWO verses that speak of WHAT places us in Christ – Romans 6 and Galatians 3 — both speak of being baptized INTO Christ. The NT is silent about being FAITHED into Christ of BELIEFED into Christ. WE may have faith in Christ or believe about Christ, but we are baptized INTO Him.

  10. Katharine says:

    Romans 11:6
    Grace is not by works. Baptism is a work preformed by man in the name of Jesus. God is all powerful and does not need the work of man to preform his miracles of salvation.

  11. John Smith says:

    Thank you so much for these collections of the scriptures, I’m saving this as a bookmark. 🙂 God bless!

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