It is written:
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
The word “ruach” is the word that is translated as “spirit” in our English Old Testament. It is used over 385 times in the Old Testament. This Hebrew word is translated in the following ways in the King James Version of the Bible: spirit (227); wind (82); breath (27); winds (11); mind (6); side (5); spirits (5); blast (4); vain (2); air (1); anger (1); cool (1); courage (1); quarters (1); spiritual (1); sides (1); spiritual (1); temptest (1); whirlwind (1); and windy (1).
When we consider the wide range of meaning to this word, we see the need to carefully study the context of the passages where the word is used, to understand and appreciate the specific meaning and usage of that word.
Ruach As Reference To God
The first and most obvious use of “ruach” is in reference to God Himself. Sometimes the word “Spirit” is applied to the the entire Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); and at other times, the word is used to have special reference to the Holy Spirit as distinct from God the Father and God the Son. For example:
Genesis 1:1-2-1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Isaiah 48:16-16 “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit Have sent Me.”
Ruach And Natural Phenomenon
Genesis 8;1-Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.
Isaiah 7:2-And it was told to the house of David, saying, “Syria’s forces are deployed in Ephraim.” So his heart and the heart of his people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind.
Ruach As The Breath Of Life
Ruach can also refer to the “breath of life,” and therefore carry the idea of the essence of life itself:
Genesis 6:17-And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.
Ezekiel 37:8-Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.
Job 9:18-He will not allow me to catch my breath, But fills me with bitterness.
Job 34:14-If He should set His heart on it, If He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath,
Ruach And Attitudes Or Dispositions
Sometimes ruach has reference to a certain emotional state.
Joshua 5:1-So it was, when all the kings of the Amorites who were on the west side of the Jordan, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel until we had crossed over, that their heart melted; and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the children of Israel.
Ecclesiastes 7:8-9-The end of a thing is better than its beginning; The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. 9 Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, For anger rests in the bosom of fools.
Proverbs 29:11-A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back.
Ruach And Nonhuman Beings
Sometimes ruach has reference to nonphysical nonhuman beings.
Eliphaz speaks of the words that were given to him by a “spirit” to speak to Job:
Job 4:12-16-12 “Now a word was secretly brought to me, And my ear received a whisper of it. 13 In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falls on men, 14 Fear came upon me, and trembling, Which made all my bones shake. 15 Then a spirit passed before my face; The hair on my body stood up. 16 It stood still, But I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; There was silence; Then I heard a voice saying:
Ruach And The Nonphysical Element Of Man
Ruach is used several times in the Old Testament to have reference to the spiritual “essence” of man, as distinct from the physical body:
Numbers 16:22-Then they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?”
Ecclesiastes 12:7-Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
Job 32:8-But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.
Job 32:18-For I am full of words; The spirit within me compels me.
Isaiah 31:3-Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; And their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out His hand, Both he who helps will fall, And he who is helped will fall down; They all will perish together.
Zechariah 12:1-The burden of the word of the LORD against Israel. Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:
Daniel 7:15-I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.
In our next study, we will see the New Testament equivalent of ruach.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.