The Spirit of God in the Mission of God: The Old Testament

Here’s today’s Installment of “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit“:

The Spirit in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, we see that the Spirit is active in God’s work in creation, and from that point forward the Spirit provides God’s presence and power. In terms of God’s presence with his people, there is no evidence in the Old Testament that individual members of the old covenant remnant were permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit.[1] God is present with his people by being with them in a pillar of cloud and flame, by dwelling among them in the tabernacle and then the temple.[2] While God is specially present by his Spirit among his people in these ways, there is no place where he is not (Ps 139:7). God’s presence with his people can thus be regarded as his covenant presence with them. In terms of God’s power through the Spirit, people who have extraordinary experiences of the Spirit’s presence in the Old Testament are thereby enabled to do what no one else in Israel can do. The Spirit is on Israel’s kings and prophets, and yet we should not conclude that the Spirit exercised no interior ministry in the hearts of ordinary members of the remnant under the old covenant. Several statements indicate that just as the Spirit causes people to be born again in the new covenant, so the Spirit also circumcised hearts under the old covenant (cf. Jer 6:10; 9:25–26; Rom 2:28–29; Col 2:11–13). Also, the fact that the Spirit did not permanently reside in each individual member of the old covenant remnant does not mean that the Spirit had no part in their obedience. Psalm 143:10 indicates that the righteous understood the necessity of being led by God’s Spirit, and the desire often seen in the Old Testament to be at the temple was a desire to be at the dwelling place of God (and cf. 1 Kgs 8:57–58).[3] Under the old covenant, God sanctified his people by his presence with them as he indwelt the tabernacle then the temple, and he also mediated his presence to his people by the Spirit’s work in the prophets as they declared God’s word.

[1] See James M. Hamilton Jr., “Were Old Covenant Believers Indwelt by the Holy Spirit?” Them 30 (2004), 12–20, available online at:

[2] See Hamilton, “God with Men in the Torah,” and James M. Hamilton Jr., “God with Men in the Prophets and the Writings: An Examination of the Nature of God’s Presence,” SBET 23.2 (2005), 166–93, available online at

[3] See further James M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments, NACSBT (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2006), 25–55.


To see all the posts in this series, go to the category “The Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *