The Bible is full of references to the Spirit of the Lord, i.e. God Himself, to the spirit of man and to other spirits. In the first two chapters I have quoted and analyzed scriptures that refer to the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit and to the spirit of man. In this chapter we shall examine the other “spirits”. What are they?
First the word spirit is used in reference to the surviving soul of a dead person, which, under certain circumstances, is drawn to the earth and can “communicate” with the living.
A second category of spirits could be entities of another dimension, benevolent or malevolent, which sometimes are released by prophets for a mission among humans.
In a third category fall the spirits of nations (principalities).
Lastly, in a fourth category I would put...
spirits which appear to be the crystallization of virtues or vices formed by the feelings (emotions), mind or lips of men. All four categories of spirits are found in the Bible, although the differences among them are not always distinct. Especially the second and fourth categories could both concern man-created spirits.
spirits which appear to be the crystallization of virtues or vices formed by the feelings (emotions), mind or lips of men. All four categories of spirits are found in the Bible, although the differences among them are not always distinct. Especially the second and fourth categories could both concern man-created spirits.
Regarding the Angels, the Bible seems to differentiate them from ordinary spirits and hence I shall refer to them in another chapter. In yet another chapter I shall deal with demons. Again, some of those demons might be man-made and fall into the aforementioned fourth category. In any case, the invisible world seems to be full of inhabitants strange to us, some friendly to humans, some very hostile and dangerous, of which even the writers of the Bible appear to know rather little.
Before I go any further, I must state here that the discernment of spirits is not an easy task and even the Bible is not very clear on this subject. So I shall proceed very cautiously and I invite the reader to do the same. None of my thoughts on this matter (or any other) are to be taken unquestionably as a doctrine. It is the individual’s highest responsibility, in his/her quest for spiritual Truth, to constantly seek personal revelation from God through prayer and meditation.
I: Spirits of the Dead
I will start by quoting verses in which the writers of the Bible express a very pessimistic point of view regarding the spirits of the dead: “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hatred and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.” (Ecc. 9: 5-6)
Here Ecclesiastes affirms that the dead know nothing! According to this verse, the soul after death retains no consciousness and doesn’t play any part in the Universe. Whatever comprised man’s personality, i.e. intelligence, love, hatred, jealousy etc., vanish after death. There is no surviving part of the soul when it leaves the body of man! Some Bible critics suppose that king Solomon delivered Ecclesiastes in the latter part of his life, during his apostasy from God, and this explains his pessimism. However, as we have already quoted in the previous chapter, in the same book Solomon has also expressed an opposite view on the spirit, namely that it survives death and returns to God. (Ecc. 12: 7)
David also shares this view, with underlying bitterness, in the following verses: “Will you show your wonders to the dead? Or shall the dead arise and praise you?” (Psa. 88: 10)
According to this verse, the dead cannot see God’s wonders any longer, nor can they praise Him from another mode of existence.
Further down the psalmist repeats: “The dead will not praise the Lord, neither those who go down into silence.” (Psa. 115: 17)
So then, total silence follows those who die, according to these Biblical verses. Should we accept that these verses are God inspired? Personally I don’t think so. On the contrary, I believe that the soul survives death and this view is supported by numerous other verses in the Bible. Here are some of them:
“The Egyptians (…) will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the spiritists.” (Isa.19: 3)
This verse implies that the spirit of man not only survives death but also can be contacted by the living through mediums and spiritists. Here the word spirit is rather used for denoting soul and spirit together, since the final separation of them results in the death of the soul, i.e. in what is described in the Bible as second death.
Another Biblical case where someone contacts the dead is that of King Saul. In his desperation to seek advice concerning the war of the Philistines against Israel, Saul resorted to contacting the dead. He did this because “the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets”, and despite the fact that he himself had previously forbidden this practice and “cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land”.
Here is the relevant account:
“Saul then said to his attendants, ‘Find me a woman who is a medium, so that I may go and enquire of her’. ‘There is one in Endor’, they said.
So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. ‘Consult a spirit for me’, he said, ‘and bring up for me the one I name’. (…)
Then the woman asked ‘Whom shall I bring up?’ ‘Bring up Samuel’, he said. (…)
Samuel said to Saul ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’ ” (1 Samuel 28: 7-15)
The above Biblical verses affirm not only that the soul survives death but also that it retains consciousness and can communicate with the living. However, the soul doesn’t like the latter because it gets disturbed! Quite possibly, after death, the soul enters into a process of purification at the end of which, if reincarnation doesn’t take place, it will either gain eternal bliss or will undergo the second death and vanish. That’s why no one has the right to disturb a soul’s “sleep”. The Bible tells us that Saul was punished for this: “So Saul died for his unfaithfulness; he was unfaithful to the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance, and did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord slew him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” (1 Chr. 10: 13-14)
In the Bible we also find an account where the spirit of someone who departed from this life is inherited by another:
“When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you’. And Elisha said, ‘I pray you, let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ (…)
Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him over against them, they said, ‘The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha’. And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.” (2 Kings 2: 9,15)
If we attempt to literally explain the above verses, we assume that a prerequisite for someone to inherit the spirit of a dead person is to ask for it. In other words, the spirit of a dead person cannot enter the body of the living without “invitation”. It is only when someone gets involved in mediumship and opens up to the spirit world that can be possessed by the spirit of a dead person.
Most probably, however, the meaning of the above verses is metaphorical. Perhaps Elisha asked that his own gift of prophecy might become twice as strong as that of Elijah.
Let us now see what the spirits of the righteous are doing in heaven:
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Heb. 12: 22-24)
Apparently, the spirits of men that have attained perfection are praising the Lord in a joyful assembly with the angels! Now, whether this is a fact, or a wishful thinking of the writer of Hebrews, is another matter. Each one of us must make his/her own conclusions by seeking personal revelation from God on what happens after death. After all, in matters of faith nobody can take responsibility for another one. Besides, in things that cannot be proven, as it is with what happens after death, one should not be dogmatic.
Regarding the fate of the souls of evil persons after death, well, there are several references in the Bible, mainly in the New Testament, but I wouldn’t like to quote any of them here. Personally, I don’t believe in a God who has prepared a Hell with a lake of fire for creatures made in His own image. For who among humans can claim that he/she is perfect?
Those who believe that the entire Bible is the “Word of God” can keep such a vindictive god for themselves.
There is yet another premise in the Bible regarding the fate of the soul after death. We find a brief reference to reincarnation by Jesus himself, although he didn’t expand on it. On the contrary, he seemed to address only those who have ears to hear. He obviously considered this to be a concealed truth, something not for public discussion. On the other hand, perhaps Jesus had said more on the subject but it has not been passed down to us, since Christianity doesn’t believe in reincarnation.
In any case, here is what the Bible says on this: “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; (…) and if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears let him hear.” (Matt. 11: 11a, 14-15)
According to these words of Jesus, if we have spiritual ears to “hear” and if we are willing to accept it, there is reincarnation… We find more references to this in the New Testament:
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’
They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets’.” (Matt. 16: 13-14)
“The disciples asked him, ‘Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’
Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands’. Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.” (Matt. 17: 10-13)
In the Gospel of Mark we find similar references to John the Baptist being the reincarnation of Elijah.
II: Spirits released by prophets
The Bible maintains that God intervenes in the affairs of the world through his representatives, the prophets. They are the ones who speak on behalf of the Almighty and release his blessing or judgment upon individuals, nations or mankind as a whole. Here is a relevant account: “They made their hearts like adamant lest they should hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.” (Zech. 7:12)
According to Zechariah, the spirit of wrath was released against Judah and Israel, because they had rejected the word of the Lord delivered to them by the former prophets. As a result, their pleasant land became desolate, while they were scattered among the nations.
The major Old Testament prophets often judged Zion in the name of God:
“When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.” (Isa. 4: 4)
Isaiah, just as all the prophets of the O.T., believed that sin must be washed away by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning. The wages of sin is pain and suffering that leads to death. And judgment can come through the word of a prophet much earlier and more fiercely than the natural process of recompense of the law of retribution.
Personally, I believe that cursing in the name of God, apart from being a grave, backfiring sin, is not an effective way of turning an individual or a nation back to the right path. In the case of Israel, the spirits of judgment, which its prophets often released against the Israelites, failed to bring the expected results, i.e. to make them a holy nation. Obviously, this method, being a direct violation to the sovereign law of love, doesn’t work.
Unfortunately, many zealous “Christians” have inherited this spirit of judgment from the O.T. and they are very dangerous to be around to. They use the name of the Lord to pass judgments on others, saying, e.g., “God will punish this person” etc., thinking that they are doing service to God. And when something bad happens to their victim, they rub their hands with satisfaction, saying, “See, the Lord punished him, just as I said he would!” But it was them that punished the sinner with their uncircumcised lips and not God. And no one is authorized to do so. (Bless and not curse, said Jesus).
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication (…).” (Zech. 12:10a)
The spirit of grace can also be released through the intervention of a prophet, which helps people to repent of their sins and turn to God. I am sure this is what God expects his prophets and all believers to do, for indeed God does not want anyone to perish. The following scripture confirms this: “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord; so turn and live.” (Ez. 18: 32)
Yet some O.T. prophets were not always ready to forgive repentant people. Here is one such case: “And Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray, pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord’. And Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel’. (…)
And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. (…)
Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (1 Sam. 15: 24-26, 35a, and 16:14)
There are more cases where God’s representative, the prophet, chooses not to forgive the sins of a person, although the person has repented of his sins. As we saw in the above case, Samuel did not forgive King Saul and rejected him from being king over Israel. I believe it would have been different, if Saul had turned directly to God for forgiveness. But Israel and its kings considered the prophets as the sole mediators to God. Consequently they had totally submitted themselves to their authority, expecting God to act only through the prophets’ word.
“When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel, then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Sechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech; that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid upon Abimelech their brother, who slew them; and upon the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to slay his brothers.” (Judg. 9: 22-24)
Here we have an instance of an evil spirit, supposedly sent by God, to stir up conflict between Abimelech and the men of Shechem, in order for both to be punished for the blood of the seventy sons of Jerubbaal (i.e. Gideon). In this case Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, who had escaped the ruin of his family, had acted as a prophet. He said: “But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech and devour the men of Shechem and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the house of Millo and devour Abimelech.” (Judg. 9: 20)
This is exactly what happened when Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel.
Is, peradventure, God personally involved in the fulfillment of this and other curses pronounced by men? In my humble opinion He is not. Only His sovereign laws are automatically put into operation by the word of a prophet. It would, then, take the word of a greater prophet to negate the manifestation of a previous curse or judgment.
Another question to which we have to answer is this: Is that evil spirit an actual spiritual entity already existing in Universe, or is it simply the negative energy released from the soul of the prophet? If the latter is true, perhaps the negative energy brings into existence an evil spirit, just as the positive spiritual energy creates a benevolent spirit.
We shall expand more on this in the chapter of Prophecy.
Next I shall quote a good portion from the story of Ahab, king of Israel, who, according to the scriptures (1 Kings 21: 20), had sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord.
“For three years Syria and Israel continued without war. But in the third year Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah came down to (Ahab) the king of Israel. And the King of Israel said to his servants, ‘Do you know that Ramoth-Gilead belongs to us, and we keep quiet and do not take it out of the hand of the king of Syria?’ And he said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-Gilead?’ And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, ‘I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses’.
And Jehoshaphat said to the King of Israel, ‘Inquire first for the word of the Lord’. Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, ‘Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-Gilead, or shall I forbear?’ And they said, ‘Go up; for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king’.
But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?’ And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil’. And Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let not the king say so.’ Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, ‘Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah’. (…)
And when he had come to the king, the king said to him, ‘Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-Gilead to battle, or shall we forbear?’ And he answered him, ‘Go up and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king’. But the king said to him, ‘how many times shall I adjure you that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?’ And he said, ‘I saw all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd; and the Lord said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace’. And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Did I not tell you that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?’
And Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another.
Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him’. And the Lord said to him, ‘By all means?’ And he said, ‘I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go forth and do so’.
Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has spoken evil concerning you’. (…)
And the king of Israel said, ‘Seize Micaiah, and take him back to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son; and say, “Thus says the king, ‘ Put this fellow in prison, and feed him with scant fare of bread and water, until I come in peace’.” And Micaiah said, ‘If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me’. And he said, ‘hear, all you peoples!’” (1 Kings 22: 1-9, 15-23, 26-28).
Let us try to analyze this account: God is Light, Love, and Truth. In my thinking, it is impossible that God would open conversation with a lying spirit and accept its suggestion to deceive all the king’s prophets. It was rather the prophet Micaiah who conceived this plan in his imagination and consequently released a lying spirit to speak through the mouths of Ahab’s four hundred prophets. This way Ahab would be enticed to go to battle against the Syrians in order to recover Ramoth-Gilead. However, the time had arrived for Ahab to be punished for his evil deeds. Indeed, as the story goes, Ahab was killed in the battle, and the dogs licked up his blood, according to the word that Elijah had spoken (1 Kings 21: 19).
Here is another similar account: “An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians, and they will fight every man against his brother and every man against his neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom; (…) The Lord has mingled within her (Egypt) a spirit of confusion; and they (the leaders of her tribes) have made Egypt stagger in all her doings as a drunken man staggers in his vomit.” (Isa. 19: 1-2, 14)
As we see, the prophet Isaiah, speaking, as he believes, on behalf of God, releases the evil spirits of division, enmity, civil war and confusion against the Egyptians, as a judgment for their idols. Again, I do not think God had anything to do with this oracle. How could the God of life, love and mercy stir up man against his brother and his neighbor, thus causing bloodshed and death? And what joy would the God of wisdom have by sowing confusion among the Egyptians? Would confusion lead them to repentance? Impossible! That’s why I believe that prophecies like this are simply curses, in which the prophet abuses the name of the Lord, taking it in vain.
The Bible tells us that the “eyes” and the “heads” of a nation are his prophets. However, if these eyes are closed and the heads are covered, the spirit of people falls asleep. Here is a verse to meditate upon: “For the Lord has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes, the prophets, and covered your heads, the seers.” (Isa. 29: 10)
Isaiah believes that it was God who stopped the prophets and the seers from warning and advising Israel; it was the Lord who poured upon the chosen people a spirit of deep sleep, i.e. a spirit of spiritual dullness. In my opinion, this is another misconception of Isaiah, for God does not want anyone to perish and does not promote the spiritual death of men, no matter how sinful they might be. On the contrary, God looks out for prophets and seers, in order to awaken people from their spiritual sleep. This will be verified in the chapter of Prophecy.
III: Spirits of Nations
“Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, ‘O man greatly beloved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.’ And when he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, ‘Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.’ Then he said, ‘Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I am through with him, lo, the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.” (Dan. 10:18-21)
From these verses it appears that each nation has its own spiritual prince, an angel or archangel that serves its interests. We are told that the prince of Israel was Michael. Whether these princes are real angelic beings, assigned over the nations by Divine Providence in the beginning of time, or man–created ghosts formed over the millennia by the solidification of the collective subconscious of people with the same language, religion and traditions, is a difficult philosophical question that only a true mystic could answer. Indeed such man-made ghosts could be all the local “gods” that are worshipped in shrines.
“And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. (…) God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ (…) And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Ex. 3: 2, 4b, 6)
Here we have the introduction of the angel of the Lord. This angel of the Lord introduced himself as God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Who was he? Was he Michael, the prince of Israel? It is impossible for me to believe that the mighty Creator of the Universe would enter into any conversation with humans and reduce himself to a national deity of the Jewish patriarchs. This would mean to limit the Unlimited.
“But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling’.” (2 Samuel 7: 4-6)
If these words did not originate in Nathan’s imagination, then they must belong to a spiritual entity that claimed to be the god of Israel. Perhaps it was the prince of Israel. For the Creator of the Universe, who is God of all peoples, does not need man-made houses to dwell in. Indeed, as Paul said to the Athenians, “The God, who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples built by man.” (Acts 17: 24)
God Almighty is omnipresent, while national deities need shrines…
“For I bent Judah for myself as bow; I strongly bent Ephraim, and I raised up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece; and I have made you as a warrior’s sword.” (Zech. 9: 13)
Once again, the words quoted here cannot be words of the Holy Creator of the Universe. The heavenly Father of all people is not in the business of inciting one nation against another, nor does He have favorites among peoples. If the above words didn’t come out of the empathy of the prophet, they must have been the words of the same national spiritual entity, the principality called ‘prince of Israel’.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8: 38-39).
In the above verses, by the word principality the apostle Paul is most probably referring to spirits or celestial princes of nations.
The following verses confirm that these principalities over nations are not of flesh and blood, but they are spiritual hosts in heavenly places.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6: 10- 12)
IV: Spirits of virtues or vices
“And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the spirit of God is? Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you’.” (Gen. 41: 38-39)
So then, a man in whom the spirit of God is present will manifest discernment and wisdom. In other words, he will be filled with the spirit of discernment and the spirit of wisdom. The fact that virtues and talents are considered to be spirits is also evident in the next verses:
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel (…), and I have filled him with divine spirit of wisdom and prudence and science and all manner of fine arts’.” (Ex. 31: 1-3)
According to this verse, all virtues and talents are spirits. Are these spirits or talents man-made, inherited, cultivated in previous lives (if reincarnation is a fact) or are they separate entities existing in the Universe, “gifts” bestowed on man as God chooses? The answer to this is not a simple one. In my opinion, some virtues (spirits) could have been formed by man’s efforts, in this or previous lives, others could have been inherited and others still could be the gifts of the Spirit of God.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with you.
And I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take of the spirit which is upon you, and put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it alone. (…)’
So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle. Then the Lord came down in a cloud, and spoke unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.” (Num. 11: 16-17, 24-25)
From the above verses we understand that there is yet another way of obtaining a spiritual gift. This is by transference from someone who already possesses it. In this case Moses gave some of his spirit of prophecy to seventy elders of Israel by covering them with a cloud of spiritual energy that he had projected onto the air. In other cases of the O.T. this transference takes place by the anointing with sacred oil (Ex. 30: 30). In the N.T. the transference of spiritual gifts from one to another takes place with the laying on of hands.
However, the above scriptures say that the elders prophesied only at that moment. They did not do so again. Apparently, the gifts of the Spirit that one receives by transference from another stay only temporarily. In order to keep them permanently, one has to acquire certain spiritual qualities by devotion to God.
Here is another instance of spirit transference: “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand upon him; cause him to stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight.” (Num. 27: 18-19)
So Joshua, who already had the spirit, received some more spiritual gifts from Moses, when the latter laid his hands upon him. The next scripture confirms this: “And Joshua, the son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him;” (Deut. 34: 9a)
God makes a man wise by giving him of his good spirit: “You gave them your good spirit to make them wise; and you did not withhold your manna from their mouth, and you gave them water for their thirst.” (Neh. 9: 20)
If the above verse is literally true, then the question naturally arises: why doesn’t God give wisdom to all men? Why do most people are lacking in wisdom and create chaos in society? I don’t have the answer, but anyway we can always ask for wisdom in prayer and we may get a share of it.
“The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;” (Isa. 11: 2)
Once again the scriptures confirm that all good qualities in man are spirits given by God.
The following verse tells us that to be wise in heart is to be filled with the spirit of wisdom:
“And you shall speak unto all that are wise in heart, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom (…).” (Ex. 28: 3)
“Build in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence; and take not your holy spirit from me.” (Psa. 51: 10-11)
David asks God to “build” a clean heart in him and renew his spirit. He understands that virtues are something one has to work on, and prays for God’s help. He also believes that the ‘holy spirit’ could be taken away, if a man proves unworthy of it.
On the other hand, Isaiah believes that unless the Spirit of God is poured upon men from on high, people cannot produce spiritual fruit, i.e. virtues and values in their lives. Until then, thorns and briers grow in the land: “Thorns and briers shall grow upon the land of my people; (…) until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, (…).” (Isa. 32: 13a, 15a)
But if this is true, what stops the Almighty from pouring the spirit upon us from on high? The answer must be: our hearts. We have free will and we must want and seek the presence of God’s spirit in our lives. Otherwise, our lives won’t be fruitful and will be like a wilderness.
Here are some more scriptures on spirits of virtues and vices in man:
“A talebearer reveals secrets; but he that is of a faithful spirit conceals the matter.” (Prov. 11: 13)
Faithfulness is a good spirit, like every other virtue.
“It is better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” (Prov. 16: 19)
Humility is a gracious spirit, while pride is an evil spirit.
“The longsuffering in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” (Ecc. 7: 8b)
Bearing provocation patiently is a spiritual virtue. Pride is a vice.
“A man’s pride brings him low, but he who is of a lowly spirit will obtain honor.” (Prov. 29:23)
A man of a humble spirit will eventually be honored! But a man with a spirit of pride someday will be put to shame. Furthermore, as the next scripture confirms, the haughty spirit will work out man’s destruction: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16: 18)
“And Hannah answered and said, ‘No my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord’.” (1 Sam. 1: 15)
Here we are told that sorrow, too, is a spirit. If the spirit of sorrow brings man to repentance, then it is a good spirit. But if sorrow causes self-destructive thoughts, then it is an evil spirit and we must, by an act of will, cast it out, inviting in the spirit of joy.
This has been a brief analysis of the different categories of spirits found in the Bible. The subject of spirits is, of course, vast and the difficulty in fully grasping its various dimensions partly arises from our inability to accurately define what is a spirit and where from and how it originates. True knowledge of the spiritual world and how it interacts with man, presupposes true knowledge of our spiritual nature and the purpose of Creation. It is up to the reader to expand more on this subject, seeking perhaps more information from other sources. However, let us have no illusions that in this life it is possible to find all the answers to spiritual and metaphysical issues. In my opinion, those who claim to know all the answers are themselves deceived and they are dangerous of misguiding others. As long as we live, we must be open and seek more revelation on this subject, as indeed we must do with all spiritual matters.