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The Holy Spirit in the Book of the Twelve

The Holy Spirit in the Book of the Twelve

Chapter 7 in "A Biblical Theology of the Holy Spirit," concerns the Holy Spirit in the Book of the Twelve.
Chapter 7 in “A Biblical Theology of the Holy Spirit,” concerns the Holy Spirit in the Book of the Twelve.

The Book of the Twelve is the modern designation for the Minor Prophets. This title suggests that there is a purposeful unified message and structure to these books. In chapter 7 of “A Biblical Theology of the Holy Spirit,” Martin Clay examines the Holy Spirit in the Book of the Twelve, or perhaps more accurately, the meaning and usage of ruach in these books. As we have seen in previous posts in this series, ruach has other meanings besides “S/spirit.” Within the Book of the Twelve, Clay notes that this term may have other usages such as, “spirit of prostitution” (Hos. 4:12; 5:4), or “impurity” (Hos. 4:19; 8:7; Zech. 13:2). He also notes that it can be used as a technical term for the prophetic office as in “the man of the spirit” (Hos. 9:7). Besides these usages, Clay focuses on 4 specific meanings of ruach found in the Book of the Twelve. These 4 usages include the relationship of ruach with vitality, divine judgment, empowerment, and salvation or soteriology.

Ruach and Vitality

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Available at Amazon USA / UK

This usage of ruach has similarities with Ezekiel’s usage as noted in our last post (The Holy Spirit in Ezekiel). Ruach as vitality occurs within two different contexts in the Book of the Twelve. The first is its use in contexts of creation with reference to the human spirit or breath ( Zech. 12:1). Clay sees the usage in Malachi 2:15-16 as a “wordplay implying that human vitality and life is ultimately derived from the ruach of the creator” (p. 73). The second usage of this concept occurs in statements that refer to idols as being lifeless (e.g., Hab. 2:18-20). In contrast to the life-giving breath of God, idols are breathless (spiritless).

Ruach and Divine Judgment

This usage also recalls Ezekiel’s imagery of the storm wind that brings judgment. It is found in such passages as Hosea 4:19; 8:7; 12:1; Hab. 1:11. Clay concludes, “The ruach in the Twelve is linked to divine agency in punishing disobedience and realigning human actions and expectations with those of Yahweh” (p. 75).

Ruach and Empowerment

imagesThere are two ways in which ruach empowers in the Book of the Twelve. One way is to empower prophets for confronting the community with its failure to keep God’s covenant and the other is to empower for the task of rebuilding the Temple. “Both these tasks are essentially concerned with the restoration of the relationship between Yahweh and Israel” (p. 75). Once again, we saw a similar usage in Ezekiel regardomg prophetic empowerment. An example of prophetic empowerment by the Holy Spirit in the Book of the Twelve comes from Micah 3:1-8. In verse 8 Micah states, “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord…. Clay discusses some of the difficulties with translating verse 8, but it is clear that the ruach belongs to the Lord and is the instrument that empowers Micah. The Spirit of the Lord also empowers Zerubbabel for the rebuilding of the Temple in the well-known passage from Zechariah 4:6 (see above). Clay states, “Yahweh strongly contrasts the efficacy of his own ruach to human ability….The ‘ruach of Yahweh’ is thus shown to be an empowering force which enables humans to fulfil divine purposes that would otherwise be impossible to achieve” (pp. 77-78). This last statement by Clay highlights an important biblical aspect of God’s Spirit. To my mind, it is reminiscent of Jesus’ command to his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive power from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).

Ruach and Soteriology (salvation)

In Acts 2 the disciples receive the fulfilment of the prophecy in Joel 2:28-32.
In Acts 2 the disciples receive the fulfilment of the prophecy in Joel 2:28-32.

Perhaps when Christians think of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, it is a passage like Joel 2:28-32 (3:1-5 in the Hebrew text) that comes to mind. A prophetic passage which speaks of the Spirit’s activity in the “latter days” which results in dreams, visions, and the salvation of many. Joel uses the language of the Spirit being “poured out,” which, as Clay points out, only occurs in 6 passages in the prophets (Isa. 29:10; 32:15; 44:3; Joel 2:28-29; Ezek. 39:29; and Zech. 12:10). Notice that once again there is a connection with Ezekiel. In fact, Clay notes that the ruach being poured out by Yahweh is “a verbal parallel shared uniquely with Joel 3:1-5 (Joel 2:28-32 in English translations, p. 79). Clay also suggests that the language of “pouring out” the Spirit may be an intentional twist on words of judgment where God often speaks of “pouring out” his wrath or judgment. This pouring out of the Spirit takes place in relation to Israel’s restoration, but also includes Gentiles as well (“all flesh,” “whoever calls on my name”). Clay also suggests that it “may be viewed as a direct fulfilment of Moses’ desire for the Israelites that they would all have the spirit (Num. 11:29) and, by inference, would experience dreams and visions from Yahweh (Num. 12:6)” (p. 81). This observation has the effect of linking the Spirit’s activity in the Pentateuch (where we began) with the Prophets, which in turn, finds its fulfilment in the Book of Acts.

The Holy Spirit in the Book of the Twelve: Conclusion

Although ruach has other usages in the Book of the Twelve, Clay’s focus on the 4 particular usages examined above, show a marked similarity with the Book of Ezekiel. This concluding chapter on how the Old Testament uses the word ruach, re-emphasizes, and in some ways, expands upon the meaning of ruach noted in our other posts. Ruach as the life-giving breath, not only reminds us of Ezekiel but takes us all the way back to the beginning of Creation in Genesis 2:7 (even though this passage uses a different word). Ruach as a means of empowerment reminds us of the leadership demonstrated by Moses and the Judges, but extends beyond leadership as it is also related to the empowerment given by God to his prophets to proclaim his word. The purpose of this empowerment is so that God might restore his people to himself. This empowerment is also a gift of grace, as it empowers human beings to do things that they would not otherwise be able to do. For those who continue in rebellion, the ruach can also denote judgment in the imagery of a storm-wind. But God not only pours out divine judgment, he also pours out his ruach in order to bring deliverance and salvation to Israel and the nations.