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  • Writer's pictureBiblical Binitarian

15 OT Normative Concepts about the Spirit of God

Updated: Aug 27, 2022

What exactly is the spirit of God? The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings teach us several foundational truths about God's spirit. Although there are approximately ninety references to the divine spirit within the Old Testament, surprisingly most of these passages focus on a few normative concepts for the terms ‘spirit of God,’ ‘spirit of the LORD,’ ‘your holy spirit,’ and the expression used by God himself, ‘My spirit.’



Three Major OT Categories about God’s Own Divine Spirit


The ninety Old Testament passages provide us with prevailing patterns of language and logic for understanding God as spirit. In most cases, we are simply given matter-of-fact statements about the reality of the divine spirit. These are so common that they are highly recognizable and defensible. We have grouped them into three categories of five concepts for our purposes.


Three Major OT Categories for God’s Own Divine Spirit

I.

God’s Own Spirit, in and of Himself

II.

God’s Own Spirit, concerning His Creation and Humanity

III.

God’s Own Spirit, concerning His Chosen People and Servants

I. God’s Own Spirit, in and of Himself


What is the most fundamental reality about spirit? The Old Testament described God Himself as a divine spirit; spirit IS what God is (i.e., Psalm 51:11, Isaiah 31:3, Daniel 4:8-9). We are told that even the heavens cannot contain Him (1 Kings 8:27). Therefore, when the Old Testament writers spoke metaphorically about God’s face, presence, eyes, mouth, hands, arm, mind, heart, soul, or breath, they regularly referred to His spirit (e.g., Psalm 139:7-12), not a physical body.


Furthermore, the Old Testament says when God acted, He did so using His divine spirit (i.e., Genesis 1:2, Zechariah 4:6). These truths about God as a living, holy spirit provide the foundation for how we understand the reality of spirit throughout the Bible.


The Old Testament revealed that God, who consists of spirit, also counsels Himself in His spirit (Isaiah 40:12 -13) and consciously feels within His spirit (Isaiah 63:7-14). Thus, they viewed God’s spirit as His mind, heart, and soul.


As such, the Old Testament language did not require that God’s spirit exist as another divine person within God’s divine being. The standard language about God counseling Himself and feeling within His spirit is similar to statements about humans counseling themselves using their spirits or feeling grief within their spirits (i.e., Genesis 41:8, 45:27, Psalms 77:6, Proverbs 20:27, Isaiah 54:6, etc.).



Normative Concept

Explanation

OT Ref.

1.

God Consists of Spirit

God consists entirely of spirit. He is life (His Face, Presence, and Breath).

Isa 31:3

Ps 51:11

2.

God Conducts His Actions by His Spirit

No one can measure or control God’s spirit. He alone controls what His spirit thinks and does (His Hands and Arms).

Ps 139:7-12 Ezek 37:1

Zech 4:6

3.

God Counsels Himself by His Spirit

God’s mind is His spirit. He takes counsel with His spirit, not from anyone else (His Heart and Mind).

Isa 40:12-13

4.

God Consciously Feels by His Spirit

God’s spirit can be pleased or grieved. God’s emotions and feelings are associated with His spirit (His Heart).

​Isa 63:7-14 (cf. Genesis 6:6)

5.

God is Considered as the supreme Holy Spirit

The LORD, the Holy One of Israel, is the Holy Spirit (see Isaiah 31:3, 63:10-11, also Psalm 78:40-41). His spirit is considered His ‘holy spirit’ (Psalm 51:11, Isaiah 63:7-14). If He consists of spirit and His spirit is considered His ‘holy spirit,’ then it follows that we may also consider Him the Holy Spirit since no one else is more worthy than God himself.

Ps 51:11 Ps 139:7-12 Isa 63:7-14 (cf. 63:15-16)

Dan 4:8-9


II. God’s Own Spirit, concerning His Creation and Humanity


How does God interact with His creation? We are told in the Old Testament that God does so by His divine spirit (e.g., Genesis 1:2). While creation and created flesh differ from God’s spirit (Isaiah 31:3), the Old Testament teaches us that all of creation and all created flesh are wholly dependent upon the very spirit of God for their existence and continued operation (Psalm 104:27-30).


Unfortunately, due to humanity’s sinfulness and rebellion, we read in Genesis 6:2 that God also contends with humans by His spirit. We also see that God by His divine spirit still sovereignly compelled and constrained the humans’ actions (1 Samuel 10:1-9, 1 Kings 18:12, Ezekiel 2:1-2, 3:12-15).



Normative Concept

Explanation

OT Ref.

6.

God Constituted Creation by His Spirit

God established the world, forming and filling it, by His spirit.

Ge 1:2

7.

God Conceives Life by His Spirit

God created all life, including human life, by His spirit. He is the Father of the spirits of all flesh.

Job 33:4

Ps 104:27-30

Nu 27:16-18

8.

God Contrasts His Spirit with Created Flesh

God can contrast His divine spirit with created flesh.

​Is 31:3

Ge 6:3

9.

God Contends with Humans by His Spirit

God contends with sinful humans using His spirit, convicting them of their sins against him.

Ge 6:3 Is 63:7-14

Ne 9:30

10.

God Compels/Constrains Human by His Spirit

God can stir human hearts and compel or constrain human actions by His spirit.

Ezek 2:1-2 Ezek 3:12-15

1 Ki 18:12


III. God’s Own Spirit, concerning His Chosen People and Servants


We also believe that five additional normative concepts relate to God’s interactions with His chosen people and servants through His spirit. The Old Testament clearly shows that God, consisting of spirit, delivered His words to His people through His spirit (2 Samuel 23:1-4, Nehemiah 9:30). He also promised to convert people from death to life by His spirit (Ezekiel 37:4).


Finally, we see several references to the future-oriented promises about how God would consecrate His chosen Messiah (Isaiah 11:1-2, 42:1-4, 61:1-3) and His chosen people (Joel 2:28, Is 32:15, Is 44:3) by conferring His spirit upon them and communing with them.


Normative Concept

Explanation

OT Ref.

11.

God Conveys His Word by His Spirit

God spoke through His chosen prophets using His Spirit. They were borne along by God’s spirit and spoke His words to His people.

2 Sa 23:1-4 Ne 9:30

Ps. 143:10

12.

​God Converts Sinners by His Spirit

Just as God conceives life by His spirit, He converts those dead into new life by His spirit.

Ezek 37:13 -14

13.

God Consecrates His Chosen People by His Spirit

God consecrates His chosen people for service by anointing them with His spirit.

Is-11:1-2, 61:1-3,

1 Sa 16:12-15

14.

God Confers His Own Spirit Upon His Chosen Servants

God indwelt His chosen servants, conferring His spirit upon them for special service. In doing so, He also conferred upon them His wisdom, His power, and might.

Nu 11:17 Nu 11:25-29 Ezek 36:27

Joel 2:28

15.

God Communes with His People through His Spirit

God promised to abide with His people in their midst through His spirit.

Ne 9:19-20 Ps 51:11

Ps 139:5-12


Conclusions


The references to the divine spirit in the Old Testament are objective, that is referring to the reality of what God is and does with His spirit. Through our categorization of these references, we are able to see the common patterns that are provided by the biblical understanding of spirit. These categories are also carried over matter-of-factly to the New Testament writings. As a result, understanding the foundational truths of how God consists of spirit (i.e., God is spirit) and how He conducts His actions by His spirit, prepares us to understand the references in the New Testament to the spirit of God.


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