The Holy Spirit: An Apostolic Perspective on Pneumatology, Lesson 9

The Holy Spirit

An Apostolic Perspective on Pneumatology

Lesson 9: The Spirit of the Lord and the Spirit of God in the Former Prophets, January 27, 2019 | The Sanctuary UPC

Daniel L. Segraves

I and II Samuel

After Samuel anointed Saul to be Israel’s king, he explained to Saul that there would be three events serving as signs that God was with him. After these signs were fulfilled, the Spirit of God (Elohim) came upon Saul and he prophesied with a group of prophets and was “turned into another man” (I Samuel 10:1-10). In this context, God gave Saul “another heart.” As in Numbers 11, “supernatural vocalization” occurred when the Spirit came upon Saul.

[2] We should note here that Samuel’s prophecy said that the Spirit of the Lord (Yahweh) would come upon Saul (I Samuel 10:6). It is apparent here that the terms Spirit of the Lord and Spirit of God are synonymous.

[3] When Samuel anointed David, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (I Samuel 16:13). The next verse tells us, however, that “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him” (I Samuel 16:14).[1] This distressing spirit would apparently come and go, for when it came, David would play a harp and the spirit would leave. (See I Samuel 16:15-16, 23.) Later, when Saul wanted to kill David, he sent messengers to capture him. When these messengers saw a “group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as leader over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied” (I Samuel 19:20). When Saul learned of this, he sent other messengers, who also prophesied. For a third time, Saul sent still more messengers, who prophesied. (I Samuel 19:22). Finally, Saul himself searched for Samuel and David: “Then the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night” (I Samuel 19:22-24). “Supernatural vocalization” is seen again both in the case of Saul’s messengers and Saul himself.

[4] The last mention of the Spirit of the Lord in II Samuel involves David’s last words: “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (II Samuel 23:2). To say “the Spirit of the Lord spoke” and then immediately to say “His word” confirms the idea that we are not to think of the Spirit as a separate entity from the Lord. This statement appears in the midst of a messianic prophecy and provides an internal witness to David’s inspiration by the Spirit.[2] (See II Samuel 23:1-5.) 


[5] References to the Spirit of the Lord and the Spirit of God in Samuel offer intriguing insights when compared with previous uses of these terms. The phrases are used as synonyms. The first mention of the Spirit in connection with Saul sounds quite hopeful: Saul was “turned into another man,” and he prophesied. He had “another heart.” But the same Spirit of the Lord came upon David, departing from Saul and giving way to a distressing spirit from the Lord. When Saul sent messengers in an attempt to capture David, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers, causing them to prophesy. Saul himself finally tried to locate David, but the Spirit of God came upon him once again, causing him to prophesy as he had done previously. These events reiterate the idea of “supernatural vocalization” following the coming of the Spirit.

[6] Toward the end of his life, David prophesied about the coming Messiah under the inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord. The way David claimed inspiration shows that he understood there to be no distinct identity between the Lord and the Spirit of the Lord.

[7] As we saw in the book of Judges, the coming of the Spirit of the Lord upon a person does not indicate divine approval of that person’s character, lifestyle, or theology. This may be a troubling idea, but it is what we see in Scripture, even into Paul’s corrections for the abuse of spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12-14. 

I and II Kings 

[8] There are two references to the Spirit of the Lord in I Kings, once by Obadiah, who was in charge of Ahab’s house and who feared the Lord, and once by the false prophet Zedekiah. To protect 100 true prophets from Jezebel’s massacre, Obadiah hid and fed them. When Ahab ordered Obadiah to help him search for Elijah, Obadiah’s quest was successful. Elijah said, “Go, tell your master, ‘Elijah is here’ ” (I Kings 18:8). Obadiah responded, “[A]s soon as I am gone from you . . . the Spirit of the Lord will carry you to a place I do not know: so when I go and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he will kill me” (I Kings 18:12).

[9] When Micaiah told the king of Israel that his prophets were lying when they predicted victory in his battle against Ramoth Gilead, Zedekiah “struck Micaiah on the cheek, and said, ‘Which way did the spirit from the Lord go from me to speak to you?’ ” (I Kings 22:24).

[10]After Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind into heaven, the sons of the prophets implored Elisha to let them send fifty men to search for Elijah. They said, “Please let them go and search for your master, lest perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has taken him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley” (II Kings 2:16). 


[11]Since Zedekiah was a false prophet, the only thing we may learn from him is that he understood that the Spirit of the Lord spoke to true prophets. He claimed, falsely, that this had been the case when he prophesied victory.

[12]Obadiah feared the Lord, and his reference to the Spirit of the Lord shows that he believed it possible that the Spirit could carry a person from one place to another, as happened in the case of the evangelist Philip. (See Acts 8:39-40.) The sons of the prophets also believed the Spirit of the Lord could transport a person.

[1] Many English translations render the Hebrew ra` in I Samuel 16:14 as “evil.” That is certainly a possible translation, but the word is translated “distressing” in the NKJV and “sadness” in YLT. Baldwin says that the sense of the word is “injurious” (Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 8, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988], 131). In the larger context of Scripture, this is not the only case where God is seen in the role of allowing what we would ordinarily see as “evil” to accomplish His purposes. (See I Samuel 19:9; I Kings 22:22-23; II Chronicles 18:21-22; Job 1-2; II Corinthians 12:7-10.)

[2] Other witnesses to David’s inspiration include Matthew 22:43; Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16; 4:25; Hebrews 4:7.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Daniel L. Segraves[archive]