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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).

** Check out this free infographic illustrating 13 ways the Holy Spirit worked in the Old Testament.**

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).

** Check out this 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.


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

30 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.


        1. Mr. T says:

          John 3:5 – Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus about something he should already know about. Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish religious elite of his day. The religious elite knew the Scriptures and were expecting the resurrection of the dead.

          Acts 2:38 – Peter says believe and be baptized for the remission of sins. Jesus promised that he would baptize in the Holy Spirit. In other words, Peter is saying believe and be baptized in the Holy Spirit, which convicts us of our sins (and need for a saviour).

          Matthew 3:16-17 – This is actually proof that baptism does not save. If baptism saves, why would Jesus need baptism? He was God and therefore led a sinless life.

          Salvation is by grace, through faith. The book of John illustrates this better than I ever could, John 1:12-13, “12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

          Not of blood here means you can not inherit salvation from your parents. Not of the will of the flesh means you can’t earn it by works (being a good neighbor, baptism, etc.), Not of the will of man (no priest, minister, etc. can give it to you).

          Thank you and God Bless

      2. Frank says:

        So, why would Jesus say, “he who believes and is baptized SHALL BE saved.” Was Jesus telling us the truth. Jesus never said have faith alone in Him, or does he?
        Thanks Frank

        1. Joe Haney says:

          I have been reading through the comments on this site and I do not see that anybody really understands what baptism is. Let me explain it like this. There is a thing called citizenship. Being a citizen of a kingdom is different than just being a member of the society. Like in America, one does not have to be a citizen to live and work here, but it does require citizenship to have any say in the government. Anybody who really wants to come here, can cross our borders and enjoy what America has to offer but there are requirements to become citizen, one of which is an oath to keep our laws. It is the same in the kingdom of God. Anybody who repents of his sins and asks forgiveness will be forgiven, in other words, saved in the kingdom of Heaven, but being saved alone does not make you a citizen. Becoming a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven requires a contract with God to keep his commandments as contained in the Old and New Testaments. The word testament means contract. Now there are 4 requirements for making a valid contract, the first of which is knowing and understanding the contract. The three most important contracts of the Bible are, 1. the covenant given to Noah, 2. the covenant of the Ten Commandments, and the new covenant given by Jesus contained in the Sermon on the mount.
          The second requirement is age. A person has to have come to the age of accountability. He has to be old enough to make the contract of his own feel will and choice. Nobody can make the contract for another person. The age of accountability is at least 8 years old. 3. The contract has to be administered by a lawful representative. The hard part is finding someone with true authority from God to administer contracts. The Bible tells us that Jesus gave his apostles authority. They, in turn, gave authority to others. The only way to know for sure if your minister has true authority of God is to ask God. Any yahoo with a bible can claim to have authority from God but there are a lot of pretenders and deceiver out there. Jesus said, beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing bur inwardly are ravening wolves. They are only interested in the money and not in the salvation of your soul.
          The fourth thing you need to make a valid contract is a signature. In the world we make signatures by signing our names to the contract. In the kingdom of God there are other types of signing. One of which is Baptism. The authorized method of Baptism is by immersion. We sign the contract to keep the covenants of God by being baptized. By being baptized, we are citizens in the kingdom of God. There are many saved people who will enjoy many of the benefits of being in the kingdom of God, but will not enjoy all the benefits only awarded to citizens. Look in your churches. There are a lot of saved Christians who are not enjoying all the blessings because they do not have valid contracts with God.

        2. Alex says:

          Is it your belief that the thief on the cross was baptized, then? Or did he believe and be saved?

    2. Clifton says:

      Yes the man that died on the cross with JESUS got saved and was not baptized

  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!

  12. Santhosh paul says:

    Quote a scriptures for leading of holy spirit in old testament

  13. Mr. T says:

    Thanks, God Bless

  14. Mike H. says:

    If baptism is ‘works’ then so is repentance. And how can we come to God if we don’t repent?

    Saul, later called Paul, the author of the preponderance of the New Testament was commanded by Ananias

    “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” Acts 22:16

    So, just do it.

  15. Clifton says:

    Yes the man that died on the cross with JESUS got saved and was not baptized

  16. nisi says:


  17. Chris Duncan says:

    The man on the cross did not require baptism because it is an outward sign to others that you are saved. The thief was proclaiming his belief in Jesus in front of the other criminal who was mocking Jesus, thus baptism was unnecessary. There are exceptions to every rule. Works do not in and of themselves get you into heaven, but they are part of the process. Works validate our faith, for even the devil and his angels believe. Remember James 2:18.

    “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith BY MY WORKS.”

    Also same chapter, verse 26.

    “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

  18. Hendrik de Bruyn says:

    (Is. 11:2), inspiring God’s Chosen One with wisdom, understanding, counsel,
    Saying God’s chosen, is saying that there was a few to choose from. This can not be so, as Jesus is THE ONE AND ONLY.
    Can you please explain what you mean by God’s chosen one

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