John T. Willis

Monday, April 17, 2006


The Hebrew word "Ruach" and the Greek word "pneuma" often mean "power," especially when used in the expression "spirit of God." Here are a few examples:

1. Judges 14:6. In the well-known story of Samson's battle with the lion with his bare hands, Judges 14:6 says: "The SPIRIT [Hebrew RUACH] of the Lord rushed on him, and he tore the lion apart barehanded." The NRSV translates "ruach" here by "spirit" with a small "s," not a capital "S," which is clearly correct, as the context makes clear. The word "spirit" here means "strength" or "power." The "power" of the Lord which rushed on Samson enabled him to kill the lion with which he fought. For a similar meaning of "ruach," see Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 1 Samuel 11:6; 16:13; etc.

2. Micah 3:8. After describing the false prophets in Judah in his day in Micah 3:5-7, Micah says concerning himself in verse 8:
"But as for me, I am filled with POWER,
with the SPIRIT [Hebrew RUACH] of the Lord,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin."
Micah here virtually defines "the spirit [note the lower case "s" in the NRSV] of the Lord" as "power."

Some try to define "the spirit of the Lord" in passages like these with the Newer Testament "Holy Spirit," but the contexts of these passages indicate that they are not referring to a "person" separate and apart from Yahweh [God the Father of the Newer Testament], but to the "power" which Yahweh bestows on a person or a group in order to accomplish his purposes against a strong enemy.

More to come

John Willis

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Ruach--The Person Him[Her]self

A third meaning of the word "ruach" (Hebrew: Older Testament) or "pneuma" (Greek: Newer Testament) in the Bible is "the person him[her]self." Here we can mention only a few representative passages.

1. Genesis 41:8--When Pharaoh experienced the dreams in which he saw seven ugly and thin cows eat seven sleek and fat cows, and seven thin and blighted ears of grain eat seven plump and good ears of grain (Genesis 41:1-7), the Bible says: "his SPIRIT [Hebrew RUACH] was troubled." Obviously, this means simply that "HE" [Pharaoh] was troubled. So here, "spirit" means "the person himself."

2. Genesis 45:27--When Jacob's sons returned from Egypt with grain the second time, they told Jacob that Joseph was alive and second in command in Egypt. And the Bible says that "the SPIRIT [Hebrew RUACH] of their father Jacob revived" [several years before this, Jacob thought a wild animal had killed Joseph--Genesis 37:31-35]. Again, it is obvious that Jacob's "spirit" is Jacob himself.

3. 1 Samuel 1:15--When the priest Eli saw Hannah praying, he thought she was drunk. But Hannah replied: "No, my lord, I am a women of sorrowful SPIRIT [Hebrew RUACH]." The New Revised Standard Version [NRSV] translates this: "No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled" (note that the NRSV does not even use the word "spirit," although the Hebrew text has this word). Again, it is obvious that Hannah's "spirit" here means Hannah herself.

4. 1 Kings 21:5--When king Ahab of North Israel offered to buy or trade the vineyard of his neighbor at Jezreel named Naboth, and Naboth refused the offer, Ahab returned to his palace, went to his bedroom, began to sulk, and refused to eat. In time, Ahab's wife Jezebel came to him and asked: "Why is your SPIRIT [Hebrew RUACH] so sad that you will not eat?" The NRSV translates this phrase as follows: "Why are you so depressed . . . ?" It does not even use the word "spirit," even though it is in the Hebrew text. Again, it is obvious that Ahab's "spirit" here means Ahab himself.

Notice that in all these cases [and there are many more like them in the Bible], a person's "spirit" is not a separate person who lives and acts outside that person, but is the person him[her]self. In other words, one's "spirit" is a common idiomatic expression for the person him[her]self throughout scripture. This truth is important when one comes to study "the spirit of God."

More to come

John Willis