In our first article in this series, on “Spirits in Genesis,” we examined the word “spirit” in the Old Testament, and discovered that the Hebrew word is ruach, pronounced “roo’-akh,” with the emphasis upon the first syllable. We examined the first eleven occurrences of this word, all in the book of Genesis, and discovered four different possible meanings for the word “spirit.”
1. An aspect of God, the “Spirit of God,” “God is Spirit.”
2. An aspect of man that means he is alive, and is connected with his breath.
3. The wind.
4. The mind, thoughts, and opinions of men.
I suggested that simply this, the study of this word in the book of Genesis, was enough to give us the basic idea behind the word, and that these four definitions would serve us in good stead throughout the rest of Scripture to understand just what God means when He speaks of “spirit.”
It was my hope that the true students of the Word who read my article would continue this study on their own to follow out all other occurrences of the word “spirit” in Scripture. Thus, a good deal of time has passed since I wrote this article. In the current article, I am now going to continue this study. We will go beyond the book of Genesis, and examine this word “spirit” in the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy, completing the study of the first portion of the Bible, the law or Torah, and the use of the word “spirit” in this section of the Word. This still leaves the majority of the Bible for the reader to study out for himself, but it gives us a bit clearer picture of this word than simply the occurrences in Genesis gave us. Thus, without further comment, let us begin our examination of ruach in the law with our first occurrence in the book of Exodus.
Exodus 6:9. So Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage.
Here, we read that the spirits of the sons of Israel were in anguish through the cruel bondage that they were suffering as slaves in the land of Egypt, so much so that they did not listen to the encouraging words Moses gave them from the LORD. In this case, the idea of spirit seems to be that of mind, thoughts, and opinions, although here it seems to carry the sense of mindset or attitude. Their whole mindset was full of anguish because of the suffering they were going through.
Exodus 10:13. So Moses stretched out his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind on the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.
The word ruach occurs twice in this verse, speaking of an “east ruach.” There can be no doubt here but that the “east spirit” is the east wind.
Exodus 10:19. And the LORD turned a very strong west wind, which took the locusts away and blew them into the Red Sea. There remained not one locust in all the territory of Egypt.
The “very strong west ruach” here is without a doubt a very strong west wind.
Exodus 14:21. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided.
The “strong east ruach” here is a strong east wind.
Exodus 15:8. And with the blast of Your nostrils
The waters were gathered together;
The floods stood upright like a heap;
The depths congealed in the heart of the sea.
This speaks of the ruach of the LORD’s nostrils. It seems that, just as man’s spirit is connected with his breath, the LORD’s spirit is connected with His breath here as well. This is also a poetic description of the “strong east ruach” we had in our last occurrence.
Exodus 15:10. You blew with Your wind,
The sea covered them;
They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
The Hebrew here states that God blew with His Ruach. Though no doubt His Spirit power was involved, the translation of “wind” expresses the meaning of “spirit” here.
Exodus 28:3. So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.
In this case, the LORD filled certain men with a ruach of wisdom to enable them to skillfully make Aaron’s priestly garments that he would use in ministering to the LORD as priest. The ruach here is connected with the mind or knowledge and skill. What He was giving them was an ability to do fine and artful work that they had not learned how to do by natural means. Again, though, the basic idea is that He gave them knowledge in their minds.
Exodus 31:3. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,
In this case it was Bezalel the son of Uri the son of Hur of the tribe of Judah whom the LORD had filled with the Ruach of God. This Ruach resulted in him gaining wisdom, understanding, and knowledge in all kinds of workmanship. The result would be that he would design artistic works, he would be able to work with gold, silver, and bronze, to cut jewels for setting, to carve wood, and to do all kinds of workmanship of this sort. When we remember that the Israelites were slaves or manual laborers in the land of Egypt whose primary task was making bricks and brick buildings, we will understand that there were not any Israelite men who had this kind of skill naturally, or developed by learning these crafts. Therefore, God chose a man and gave him the Spirit or mind so that he would already know these things without ever learning them.
Exodus 35:21. Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the LORD’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments.
Here, the LORD stirred certain peoples’ hearts and made their ruachs, that is, their minds, willing to bring these offerings to the work of the tabernacle.
Exodus 35:31. and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship,
In this passage, Moses explains to the people what the LORD has done for Bezalel the son of Uri the son of Hur of the tribe of Judah. He is basically repeating what the LORD said in Exodus 31:3.
These eleven occurrences are the complete list of the use of ruach in Exodus. If we would move on to Leviticus, we would find that the ruach or spirit is not mentioned in this book. Leviticus does mention “familiar spirits,” but the word ruach is not used in referring to these, so it does not fall under our study of the ruach. The word is ‘owb (pronounced “ohve,”) and occurs in Leviticus 19:31, 20:6, and 20:27. It is also the word for bottle, and seems to carry the idea of the one contacting these spirits becoming a bottle or vessel for them. Yet these are not referred to as ruach, and so we will not concern ourselves with them here. To continue this study, we must move on to the occurrences of the word ruach in Numbers.
Numbers 5:14. if the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he becomes jealous of his wife, who has defiled herself; or if the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he becomes jealous of his wife, although she has not defiled herself—
Here, a husband is filled with a spirit of jealousy, imagining either rightly or wrongly that his wife as defiled herself with another man. Here, ruach has to do with his thoughts and his attitude or mindset towards his wife.
Numbers 5:30. or when the spirit of jealousy comes upon a man, and he becomes jealous of his wife; then he shall stand the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute all this law upon her.
Again, the idea of ruach here is of a husband with an attitude or mindset of jealousy towards his wife. It has to do with his thoughts and opinions towards her shifting because of rising jealousy.
Numbers 11:17. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.
Here, we see a new use of the word ruach, related to one we had above, yet important nonetheless. The Ruach here that was upon Moses was related to God’s Spirit, certainly, yet it carries more the idea of the power that Spirit brought to Moses than the actual Person of the Spirit being upon Moses. This is a very important principle when it comes to understanding the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. That is, that God’s Spirit is always related to the gifts He gives. He is the Giver, and He is related to His gifts. He is the Source of power, and He is always related to that power. He is the Worker, and He is always related to His works. So here the Ruach that was upon Moses was the power of the Spirit of God that was given to him. Now, God was going to take some of this power and put it upon the seventy elders. The power upon Moses would not be reduced in doing this, for God is an unlimited source of power. So here is another meaning of ruach: power.
Numbers 11:25. Then the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.
Here, the word ruach occurs twice. The LORD does as He said He would do. He took of the Ruach or power that was upon Moses and places it upon the seventy elders. When the Ruach rests upon them, the result is that they prophesy.
Numbers 11:26. But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp.
The Ruach rested upon two of the elders who had not gathered out of the camp with the others. The result is that they begin prophesying right there in the camp.
Numbers 11:29. Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!”
Joshua is upset by this, being jealous for Moses. But Moses rebukes him. He wishes all the LORD’s people were prophets like these seventy and would have the LORD put His Ruach upon them. This will take place in the kingdom of God, as we learn from Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17.
Numbers 11:31. Now a wind went out from the LORD, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground.
The ruach that goes out from the LORD here is doubtless again a wind that blows these quail in from the sea.
Numbers 14:24. But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.
Caleb the LORD’s servant had a different ruach, a different mindset, a different opinion, and a different attitude from the rest of the twelve spies who spied out the land.
Numbers 16:22. Then they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?”
Moses and Aaron plead with God as the God of the ruachs of all flesh. The ruach here is again the breath, connected with the life, of all flesh.
Numbers 24:2. And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him.
The Ruach of God comes upon Balaam to cause him to prophecy the words that God wants him to speak.
Numbers 27:16. “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation,
Like in Numbers 16:22, the LORD here is called the God of the ruachs of all flesh. There the emphasis was on the lives of all flesh, yet here it seems to be more on the mind or attitude of the one whom the LORD would choose to be the next leader over His congregation.
Numbers 27:18. And the LORD said to Moses: “Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him;
The Ruach or power of God was already in Joshua, yet now Moses is to choose him out to be the next leader over the congregation of Israel.
So in thirteen occurrences in Numbers, we have seen our same definitions again apply to the word ruach. We have added one, connected with the use for the Spirit of God, that has not to do with the Person of the Spirit, but rather with His power. Now we will move on to the final two occurrences in the law, which take place in the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 2:30. “But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass through, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into your hand, as it is this day.
Here Moses reviews for all Israel listening to him the fact that the LORD their God had hardened the ruach of Sihon king of Heshbon. It is clear from the context that he means by this that the LORD had stiffened his resolve, and made his mindset and attitude towards the Israelites that he would try to attack and destroy them. The LORD did this so that He could deliver Sihon’s people into the power of the Israelites to be destroyed.
Deuteronomy 34:9. Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.
Joshua the son of Nun, the next ruler of the people after Moses, is said here to be full of the ruach of wisdom. Here his mind and thoughts are wise, and so he is described as being full of a wise spirit. This spirit may have come from the LORD, but the result was a wise mind and thoughts.
So we have now extended our study of the word ruach out to four more books of the Old Testament, the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy. This has added twenty-six occurrences of the word ruach to the eleven we studied earlier from Genesis. From the information we have gathered from these four books, we can now add to our definitions of the word spirit or ruach, and now we have found these six definitions:
1. An aspect of God, the “Spirit of God,” “God is Spirit.”
2. The power or gifts that God’s Spirit gives, God’s holy power.
3. An aspect of man that means he is alive, and is connected with his breath.
4. The wind.
5. The mind, thoughts, and opinions of men.
6. The mindset a man has.