The Holy Spirit in the OT

A common misconception in the world’s perception of Christianity is that the Holy Spirit is a kind of impersonal force or simply an active power of God rather than a true person, a member of the divine Trinity. But Jesus and the Apostles referred to the Holy Spirit as “He.”

The activity of the Holy Spirit goes all the way back to the beginning of creation: “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). Another word for hovering is brooding. As a hen broods over her eggs in order to bring forth life, so the Spirit produced order and substance and light. His almighty power exceeds anything that happens on this planet.


In the OT, those who were uniquely gifted were anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God came upon Samson, for example, and he was empowered to do mighty feats. The same was true of prophets, priests, and kings. The Holy Spirit anointed them and empowered them for ministry so they could perform their work.

The most gifted person in the OT was Moses. But Moses foresaw a better day, when all of God’s people would be anointed by His Spirit. Moses said, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Num.11:29). That is exactly what happened at Pentecost in the NT (Acts 2).


Just because people in the OT were anointed by the Holy Spirit does not mean they had been born of the Holy Spirit. They were not necessarily believers. We see the Holy Spirit come upon King Saul and later depart from him. We see the anointing of Balaam and of others who inadvertently gave prophecies under the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but those individuals were not necessarily believers. In the OT, the anointing of the Holy Spirit was a special gift given mostly to believers, but not only to believers. And the anointing of the Spirit was not the same as the gift of rebirth.


[Adapted from Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul]