Spirit in the Tanakh – part 3: Back to the Future

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(Ruach HaKodesh, Session 4c)


This session of the Ruach HaKodesh series is a survey of the Holy Spirit in the Tanakh. In part one we looked at creation and the great outpouring in Numbers 11. In part two we looked primarily at the Spirit of God in the lives of Saul and David. This episode, part three, will focus on the prophecies of the Spirit’s work in the future. This episode also concludes with an introduction to the next session on the Spirit in the Gospels.

The following is a condensed version of the audio teaching, including all the references and sources cited. You can also subscribe to this podcast here.


Passages Predicting the Spirit’s Work in the Future

So far in our survey of the Tanakh, we have focused on examples of the Spirit working in people in the time of the Tanakh. Now we turn to look at the expectation for the Spirit’s work in the future. There is throughout the prophets this expectation of an increase in the activity of the Holy Spirit in the future.

There are two main aspects to this expectation:

  • The anticipation of an ultimate Spirit-filled individual who would accomplish salvation
  • The anticipation of the Spirit filling all the people

We will look at both of these in order. There are four main passages that describe the Spirit indwelling the end-time Redeemer. All of these occur in the book of Isaiah. They are: Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 48:16; 61:1.


The Seven Spirits in Messiah

Isaiah 11 says:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. (Isaiah 11:1–5)

This passage has long been understood to be a prophecy about Messiah.[1]We see this passage explicitly linked with Messiah in the Midrash; e.g. Genesis Rabbah 85:9 and Ruth Rabbah 7:2. In light of what we learned in our previous episode, it is significant that this future Leader will be filled with the Spirit. Saying that the Spirit will rest upon him is essentially saying that he will be King. God’s choice of leadership comes through an identifiable encounter with God’s Spirit.

Messiah means “anointed one.” The Hebrew word moshiach (messiah) is used frequently in the Tanakh to refer to Saul or David. It was a title of the king of Israel. And with that anointing came an endowment of the Spirit, as we have learned. Thus, the very title “Messiah” implies one filled with the Spirit.

Look at how much of the Spirit rests upon him. It doesn’t just use the word ruach once, but four times in verse 2. This repetition emphasizes the degree of Spirit-filling that Messiah would receive. He is the ultimate Spirit-filled person in all of human history.

Specifically, there are seven attributes listed of the Spirit that would rest on him:

  1. Spirit of the YHVH
  2. Spirit of wisdom (chochmah)
  3. Spirit of understanding (binah)
  4. Spirit of counsel (eitzah)
  5. Spirit of might (g’vurah)
  6. Spirit of knowledge (da’at)
  7. Spirit of the fear of YHVH (yir’at YHVH)

This may be the source of the “seven Spirits of God” mentioned in Revelation 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; and 5:6.[2]Cf. also the non-canonical book of Enoch 61:10–11, referenced in session 3a. Of these seven, the first stands as a summary of all of them, and the remaining six are grouped in pairs. These three pairs are then elaborated on in the succeeding verses.

  • The first pair represents empowerment for government and judicial rule.
  • The second pair represents empowerment for battle and military rule
  • The third pair represents empowerment for righteousness and spiritual rule

These seven attributes could be illustrated by the seven lamps of the menorah, with the Spirit of YHVH as the central lamp, and the three pairs of lamps branching out from it. Interestingly, the seven Spirits in Revelation 4:5 are explicitly likened to a seven-branched menorah.

These seven attributes represent a sort of list of “Spiritual gifts.” Notice that each one of these attributes relate to the Torah in some way. Also note that they are also mostly “intellectual” gifts, in that they pertain to the domain of the intellect. This runs contrary to many modern trends regarding the Holy Spirit that see God’s Spirit in antithesis to our intellect.

Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are terms specifically associated with the Holy Spirit elsewhere in Scripture:

  • Bezalel was filled “with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge” (Exod 31:3).[3]Cf. the description of Hiram, the Temple artisan, in 1Kings 7:13-14; there seems to be an intentional allusion back to Bezalel.
  • Those who listen to Wisdom receive the Spirit (Prov 1:23).
  • One of the gifts mentioned by Paul is a “word of wisdom/knowledge” (1Cor 12:8).[4]Cf. also Eph 1:17 and Col 1:9.

Isaiah 11 goes on to describe the transformation of creation under the rule of this righteous King. In short, this is a description of the Messianic era, the golden age of Israel that is yet to come. Even though we know who this Messiah is (Yeshua), and that He is the true King, yet we still wait for the day when He will return to earth to sit on David’s throne and fulfill this passage to its fullness.


The Servant and the Spirit

Isaiah 42 says,

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)

Similar to Isaiah 11, this passage depicts the end-time ruler, the agent of the final redemption, who will be filled with the Spirit. Notice also how this passage goes on to include the nations in the scope of God’s redemption.

Isaiah 48:16 says,

And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit. (Isaiah 48:16)

Many commentators believe this is spoken in the mouth of the Servant, i.e. Messiah.[5]Cf. Keil and Delitzch’s discussion in their commentary on this passage. In other words, Messiah is acknowledging that he was sent by God and empowered by the Spirit. If that is the case, what we have here is an example of a “triadic” passage: Father, Son and Spirit are mentioned together. (We will discuss more about triadic passages in session 14.)

Isaiah 61 says,

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1–3)

This passage is even more explicit in linking the Spirit with anointing. This is the passage Yeshua read in the synagogue in Nazareth, saying that it was fulfilled in their hearing (Luke 4:16-21).

Look at the roles the Spirit empowers Messiah to do:

  • Preach the gospel (good news)
  • Bring comfort and healing (inside and out)
  • Set the captives free
  • Proclaim the jubilee

What a glorious redemption this will be! Look at how caring and compassionate our King is! Messiah isn’t just filled with the Spirit so that he can accomplish military victories or execute righteous judgment. He is filled with the Spirit so that he can accomplish this very personal and all-encompassing work of redemption.


The Spirit in the People

We already saw in Numbers 11 how Moses uttered a veiled prophecy of the Spirit falling on all Israel. This theme is taken up frequently by the prophets. They often use the metaphor of God “pouring out” the Spirit (as though a liquid) and filling a person/people (as though a vessel).

Passages that promise a future outpouring of the Spirit include:

  • Isaiah 4:4
  • Isaiah 32:15
  • Isaiah 44:1-5
  • Isaiah 59:20-60:1
  • Ezekiel 36:24-30
  • Ezekiel 37:14
  • Ezekiel 39:29
  • Joel 2:28-29 [3:1-2 in Heb]
  • Zechariah 12:10

Let’s look at just a few of these in more detail. Isaiah 44 says:

But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel. (Isaiah 44:1–5)

Later in Isaiah we read:

“And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD. “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.” Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. (Isaiah 59:20–60:1)

Note that the “you” throughout Isaiah 59:21 is singular. This is likely referring to Israel as a corporate singular, the “servant of the Lord.” This passage is clearly depicting the Messianic Era.

In Ezekiel we read:

I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. (Ezekiel 36:24–30)

This passage parallels what we read in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Again, this is referring to the final redemption and the beginning of the Messianic Era.

Joel 2 says,

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:28–32)

This passage offers a clear allusion to Moses’ utterance in Numbers 11. But Joel takes the expectation even further. It’s hard to tell what Joel had in mind by “all flesh” here. It is possible that his immediate readers would have understood it as referring simply to all Israel. But we can’t help but get a glimpse of something even bigger here.

This prophecy suggests an astoundingly universal outpouring: No race distinction (all flesh, not just Israel), no gender distinction (sons and daughters), no age distinction (young and old), and no class distinction (even on slaves). We see this tasted in Acts when the Spirit came upon even the Gentiles. This also corresponds strikingly with Paul’s assertion that there is no more separation between “Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female.”[6]Galatians 3:28; see also Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:11. Here we have the end of social inequalities.

Zechariah 12 says,

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)

While some might suggest that the “spirit” referred to in this verse is not the Holy Spirit, the language is clearly that of a spiritual outpouring. In my view, this passage is highlighting the role of the Spirit in bringing about repentance. This outpouring of the Spirit takes place right at the end, at the moment that Israel recognizes Yeshua.


Summary of the Future Outpouring

In putting all these passages together, the following picture emerges of the future outpouring of the Spirit that was expected to come upon God’s people:

  • It will be focused on the people of Israel. (While Joel 2 suggests that the outpouring will extend even to Gentiles, that is the only passage that does so. All other passages depict Israel as the primary and direct recipient of the Spirit.)
  • It will coincide with the coming of the Redeemer, the establishment of His Kingdom, and the restoration of Israel.
  • It will accompany great signs and wonders and acts of judgment
  • It will be manifested in weeping and supplication on the part of Israel
  • It will be manifested in prophecy through dreams and visions
  • It will result in cleansing from sin and idolatry
  • It will result in the revival of Israel in returning to God with all their heart, a subduing of the sinful nature, and a transformation of the people to be inclined to follow God.
  • There is a universal aspect to this outpouring: It will result in a universal knowledge of God, and a transformation and restoration of creation.
  • It will accompany a complete return to the Land, with none of Israel remaining among the nations.
  • It will result in God’s blessing upon Israel, both the people and the Land. The Land will become abundantly fruitful.
  • It will be permanent: The Spirit will never again be taken away from Israel.

This, my friends, is a description of the Messianic Era, the future Golden Age of Israel, the time when Messiah will return to reign on earth for 1,000 years. This is our great hope.



Here are a few things we have learned in our survey of the Tanakh:

  • The Spirit came upon people to empower them for specific tasks. God doesn’t pour out His Spirit for no reason. There is always a purpose.
  • The Spirit could be grieved. We can’t rely on past empowerments; we repeatedly need to be filled.
  • Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are intrinsically related to the Spirit. In other words, the Spirit is not to be understood as antithetical to one’s intellect.
  • There was a clear expectation of increased activity of the Spirit in the future.
  • There was also a clear expectation of an ultimate Spirit-filled leader who would bring redemption: The Messiah.
  • The end-time outpouring of the Spirit is intrinsically connected with the Kingdom, the Messianic Era.
  • The majority of the details related to this end-time outpouring have yet to be fulfilled.

In the next session we will examine the Spirit in the Gospels, specifically in the life of Yeshua.

References   [ + ]

1. We see this passage explicitly linked with Messiah in the Midrash; e.g. Genesis Rabbah 85:9 and Ruth Rabbah 7:2.
2. Cf. also the non-canonical book of Enoch 61:10–11, referenced in session 3a.
3. Cf. the description of Hiram, the Temple artisan, in 1Kings 7:13-14; there seems to be an intentional allusion back to Bezalel.
4. Cf. also Eph 1:17 and Col 1:9.
5. Cf. Keil and Delitzch’s discussion in their commentary on this passage.
6. Galatians 3:28; see also Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:11.

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