The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament – Joel, Micah, Zechariah

Zechariah 4: 6 Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.

These three prophets contain the last eight references to the Holy spirit in the Old Testament.  They may be few in number but they are very important shadows and references in the New Testament story.

Joel – Chapter 2: 28 + 29 are the verses Peter uses on the day of Pentecost and are very well known.

Micah – The verses here are 2: 7 and 3:8. These verses contrast true and false prophets; 2: 7 is the idea that false prophets were saying and 3:8 Micah describes himself (and Jesus) and reflects the statement in Isaiah 61: 1.

Zechariah – 4: 6, 6: 8, 7: 12, and 12:10.  With Zechariah it is important to remember that he was a counterpart of Ezra and Haggai.  The first verse (4: 6) is for Zerubbabel, a descendent of David/Jesus who was rebuilding the Temple.  12: 10 is important because it mentions David’s son Nathan*, who is in Mary’s genealogy in Luke 3: 31, and talks about the “pierced one.”  For me the 6: 8 is the one that got my attention, so after some more studying it will be a post; it refers to the Spirit getting rest from those who have gone north (possibly the black horse.)

*  To be fair, I have always taken this to be Bathsheba’s son (1 Chronicles 3:5), but it may refer to Nathan the prophet that was with David for years.


The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament – Ezekiel

Ezekiel 11:1 Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the gate of the house of the Lord that faces east. (NIV)

Ezekiel uses or refers to the “Spirit” thirteen times (that I found).  A major difference in this book is the terms Ezekiel uses for the interactions with the Spirit. His “came into” are bôw (#935 Strong’s) and râpal (#5307 Strong’s); both have many uses in Scripture and are used in some important verses: Bôw means to “enter” and râpal is “to fall on.”

Another interesting thing in Ezekiel is the number of times the Spirit “lifted or raised up” Ezekiel – eight times.  Some of these are in visions but even some of those you get the feeling that God physical moved him, not just up but to different locations.  I found it helpful to read the entire reference (several verses before and after) that surrounds these verses: 2:2; 3: 12, 14, 24; 8:3; 11:1, 24(2x); 43:5.

The other references are 11:5, 36: 27, 37:14, 39:29, and show the working of the Spirit not only in Ezekiel but His future work in the Church.  Chapter 39 refers to the Spirit being poured out on people and Chapter 37 is the prophecy of the dry bones coming to life.

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament – Isaiah

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse: from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord- and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11: 1-3a (NIV)

This is the first mention of the Spirit in the Book of Isaiah, he will refer to the Spirit a total of thirteen times.  Other prophets talk about the Spirit but Isaiah and Ezekiel have the most references about Him.  I feel this verse is important because it directly connects Jesus with the Spirit, and adds a layer to the Spirit’s work not only in Jesus but in us.  It also introduces the gifts and working of the Spirit that we can see Him doing in the Church today.

Since I have stressed other verbs that have been used to describe the Spirit coming upon someone, we need to look at the one here for “will rest on.”  Nûwach (Strong’s #5117) is the word used and it carries the idea of “remaining,” which again if you think about it perfectly describes what happened in Jesus’ life.  This is not “the rest” or stop working idea that is shabath that is used when God rested after creation.

(Please read the post about Jesse.  The imagery of a stump and roots would show that the family line of Jesse through David was all but dead at the birth of Jesus; but God is faithful to His promises.)

The remaining verses carry several themes as they paint a clearer picture of the Holy Spirit, His work, and His interaction with Jesus and us.  Obstinate children who look to Egypt for help is the theme of 30: 1 and the final three references of 63: 10 -14 are about the Children of Israel during the Exodus and their rebellion.

  • 30: 1, 32:15, and 34: 16 bring together several chapters that deal with going to Egypt for help instead of looking to the Spirit for help even though He has the power to change the landscape into a productive environment and He will keep the animals in their homes.
  • 32: 15 and 44: 3 state that the Spirit would be poured on His people and reflects the verse from Joel 2.
  • Who has understood the Spirit (mind) of the Lord and who has instructed Him 40:13 is part of the great chapter that transitions from woes and judgements to the good news of Jesus and the work of the Gospel.
  • 42:1, 44: 3, 48: 16, 59:21, 61: 1 all speak to Jesus and His earthly work and then go on to Pentecost and the Church.

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament – David

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.  1 Samuel 16:13 (KJV)

The word here for “came upon” is tsȃlach.  It seems that the Holy Spirit stayed with him and did not depart.  If we substitute the main uses of the word of tsȃlach; God prospered David all of his life, and it is not a problem to see that blessing throughout his life.

At first it bothered me that the Holy Spirit is mentioned just six times in connection with David, but He is mentioned less with Moses!  Then I realized that it is in perfect harmony with the Holy Spirit.  His main purpose is to bring attention to Jesus, not Himself.  So even though David, the writer, was led by the Spirit; the Spirit had him write about Jesus in the Psalms.

Below are the six verses that directly connect David and the Spirit.  I put them into a timeline in David’s life, even though the middle four do not have a defined time stamp in reference to the other ones.  Read the whole reference so that the verses are in context, I think they will show growth in knowing and understand the importance of the Spirit in David’s walk with God.


  • 1 Samuel 16: 13 (the coming upon)
  • Psalm 139: 7 (a song of praise and thanks) To put this into after he acted crazy to escape the Philistines when he was hiding from Saul.
  • Psalm 51: 11 (Bathsheba and his cries for the Spirit to not leave him like He did Saul)
  • Psalm 143: 10 (a cry for mercy) If I would guess where/when this was written; I would put this during the time when David was running from Absalom after he crossed the Jordan near Lo Debar.
  • 1 Chronicles 28: 12 (plans for the Temple)
  • 2 Samuel 23: 2 (last words)


When you read about David’s life; we tend to think he was anointed by Samuel and then went to work for Saul right away.  If there was a gap then his ability to kill the lion and the bear compares very well to that of Samson, when the Spirit came upon him.

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament – Tsȃlach

Salah or tsȃlach; Strong’s #6743

Judges 14: 6 (NIV) The Spirt of the Lord came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands.   Tsȃlach means to succeed or prosper – come mightily upon.  In the sixty-five times, it is used in the Bible forty-nine of them are translated “prosper.” The first time it is used is in Genesis 24:21, this is Abraham’s servant wondering about his trip to find a wife for Isaac.  So, I think it is fair to view these three times of the Holy Spirit coming upon these men with the idea of “prosper.”  Two of them did, one of them had the Spirit withdraw Himself and his final days were not pretty (Saul).

This type of anointing came on just three men: Samson, King Saul, and King David.

  • Samson had this anointing three times. Each one was for a physical act of strength. Judges 14: 6, 19 and 15: 14
  • King Saul experienced this twice before the Spirit left him completely – Samuel 10: 10, 11: 6. The first time he prophesied and the second time was for him to lead the people against Nahash the Ammonite.
  • King David experienced it only once in 1 Samuel 16:13, but it remained on him his whole life. (read the KJV) David is covered below in a separate section.