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The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament (1)

The subject of the Holy Spirit has been one of controversy and confusion. Some religious groups teach that the Holy Spirit still is imparting miraculous gifts to those who have enough faith. Other religious groups believe the Holy Spirit will overwhelm you, causing a person to have a variety of joyful emotions. Christians dispute about whether the Holy Spirit personally dwells within the each Christian and what is the extent of His influence over the Christian. I believe that our failure in properly and clearly understanding the work and person of the Holy Spirit is because of our lack of study on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Studies of the Holy Spirit frequently begin in Acts 2, as if the audience on the day of Pentecost had no prior knowledge of the Holy Spirit. But the Old Testament is full of information concerning the Holy Spirit and ignorance of these texts has caused a widespread misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit and his work. Therefore, I intend to post a series of articles studying the work of the Holy Spirit. We will begin by looking at the work of the Holy Spirit and the prophecies concerning the Holy Spirit in the Hebrew scriptures.

The Seventy Elders (Numbers 11:16-17,24-26)

In Numbers 11 Moses explains to the Lord that the burden of leading the people of Israel, who have been complaining as they travel, has been too great. To alleviate the burden, the Lord has the seventy elders of Israel come before Him.

“Then I will come down and speak with you there. I will take some of the Spirit who is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you bear the burden of the people, so that you do not have to bear it by yourself” (Numbers 11:17; HCSB).

“Then the LORD descended in the cloud and spoke to him. He took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and placed the Spirit on the 70 elders. As the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they never did it again” (Numbers 11:25; HCSB).

This is an important event to consider in our study. The Lord placed the Holy Spirit on the seventy elders. When this happened, the seventy elders prophesy, but only for one day. Why would they prophesy for only one day? What would be the point of this miracle? The reason for the miracle was to reveal to the congregation of Israel that the seventy elders carried the authority of God. The seventy elders were being designated as God’s leaders and representatives. The miracle would prove this to the people. The miracle was not what was important. The miracle of prophecy only served the purpose of proving that God’s authority rested upon these men.

We also read about the Spirit of the Lord resting upon Gideon (Judges 3:10; 6:34), Jephthah (Judges 11:29), and Samson (Judges 13:25; 14:6; 14:19; 15:14). It is interesting to note that we do not read the Spirit of the Lord coming upon all of the judges, but only these three. Further, we read the Spirit of the Lord coming upon King Saul (1 Samuel 10:10) and King David (1 Samuel 16:13). Even Saul’s messengers have the Spirit of the Lord come upon them so that they prophesy (1 Samuel 19:20). The purpose of the Spirit of the Lord resting upon these men was to show Israel that these men were God’s designated leaders and indicate the military victory the Lord would give. Further, as noted with the 70 elders, the miracle of prophecy with these various men served the purpose of proving that God’s authority rested upon them.

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