The Holy Spirit: An Apostolic Perspective on Pneumatology, Lesson 8

Lesson 8: The Spirit of the Lord and the Spirit of God in the Former Prophets, January 20, 2019 | The Sanctuary UPC

Daniel L. Segraves

There is no reference to the Spirit of the Lord in the book of Joshua.[1] We do know, however, that Joshua was full of the Spirit before Moses’ death and thus prior to Israel’s entry into the Promised Land (Numbers 27:18; Deuteronomy 34:9).


[2] The first time the Spirit of the Lord is mentioned in the Former Prophets is in Judges 3:10. Because they had forgotten the Lord, He allowed the king of Mesopotamia, Cushan-Rishathaim, to rule over Israel for eight years. But when the Israelites cried out to the Lord, He raised up Othniel, Caleb’s nephew, who delivered and judged Israel for forty years after the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. Othniel was the first of the judges. What we might call the “Othniel episode,” which includes the events leading up to his experience with the Spirit of the Lord until his death, demonstrates perfectly the commonly repeated pattern in Judges. This pattern is laid out in Judges 2:11-19 before the accounts of any of the judges.

[3] Gideon is the next person upon whom the Spirit of the Lord came (Judges 6:34). Like Moses, Gideon insisted he was not qualified for the role of deliverer (Judges 6:15; Exodus 4:10-14). But “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon” (Judges 6:34), eventually giving his miniscule army of 300 victory over the 135,000 Midianites and Amalekites (Judges 8:10). Although Gideon constructed an ephod with which all Israel “played the harlot” and which “became a snare to Gideon and to his house” (Judges 8:27), he is the first of the judges listed in the “hall of faith” (Hebrews 11:32).

[4] Jephthah, the third judge upon whom “the Spirit of the Lord came” (Judges 11:29), was “a mighty man of valor” whose mother was a harlot. His father was Gilead, whose wife also gave him sons. Therefore, Jephthah was driven away and denied any inheritance. He became a raider, accompanied by “worthless men.” When the people of Ammon warred against Israel, the elders of Gilead asked Jephthah to be their commander against the Ammonites. The Lord delivered the Ammonites into Jephthah’s hands, and he judged Israel for six years (Judges 11:32; 12:7). Like Gideon, Jephthah is listed in the “hall of faith” (Hebrews 11:32).

[5] Samson was the fourth and final judge upon whom it is said that the Spirit of the Lord came. On the first occasion, the “Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him” (Judges 13:25). Each of the remaining times describes the Spirit of the Lord coming upon Samson “mightily” (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14). The first of these enabled Samson to tear a young lion apart. The second resulted in Samson killing thirty men. On the third occasion, Samson was able to break loose from ropes with which he had been bound and to kill a thousand men with a donkey’s jawbone.

[6] Samson judged Israel for twenty years. Although it is not again mentioned that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, two events indicate that the Spirit of the Lord is none other than the Lord Himself. First, after he finally told Delilah the source of his strength, the Philistines were able to capture and blind him because “he did not know that the Lord had departed from him” (Judges 16:20). Second, he was able to kill more Philistines at the time of his own death than he had during his life because he had prayed, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes” (Judges 16:28). As with Gideon and Jephthah, Samson is listed in Hebrews 11:32.


[7] The primary reason the Spirit of the Lord came upon various judges was to enable them to deliver the Israelites from their enemies. With Othniel, this was the king of Mesopotamia; for Gideon, the Midianites and Amalekites; Jephthah, the Ammonites; Samson, the Philistines. The pattern for the book is set forth in Judges 2:11-19. A clue in Judges 2:18 prepares us to know that the Spirit of the Lord is the Lord Himself: “The Lord was with the judge.” Samson’s prayers also indicate that we are not to think of the Spirit as a mere force or as an entity in any way separate from the Lord.

[8] The character of judges like Jephthah and Samson shows that the work of the Spirit in their lives was not a reward for good behavior. We must remember, however, that they are included among other flawed people in Hebrews 11 as examples of people of faith.

[1] The Hebrew ruach does appear in Joshua 2:11 and 5:1, but it is in neither place a reference to the Spirit of God. It is, rather, found in a description of human discouragement and is sometimes translated something like “hearts did melt.”[archive]