Bible Question:

Did the Holy Spirit indwell or fill the Old Testament saints?

Bible Answer:

In the New Testament, it is clear that the Holy Spirit permanently dwells in every true believer (Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 12:13; Ephesians 1:13).

But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. Romans 8:9 (NASB)

Galatians 5:25 states that the Holy Spirit lives in believers and Ephesians 5:17-18 teaches that we are to allow the Holy Spirit to control us. But the question we are concerned with is, “Did the Holy Spirit indwell and or fill the Old Testament saints?”

Did the Holy Spirit Come Upon or Fill The Old Testament Saints?

 Holy Spirit Comes Upon  People in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came “upon” a person and briefly empowered individuals. The first time we are told the Holy Spirit was involved with a person occurs when He enables Bezalel to be a skilled craftsman for the tabernacle (Exodus 31:3).

I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship . . . Exodus 31:3 (NASB)

This is the first time in scripture that we are told the Holy Spirit filled any person, but notice that Bezalel was filled with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

In Numbers 11:17, 25-26, 29 we discover that the Holy Spirit was upon Moses and a portion of the Spirit was taken from Moses and placed upon the seventy elders who ministered with him. In Numbers 24:1-4 we discover that the Holy Spirit was upon a false prophet called Balaam (2 Peter 2:15 and Revelation 2:14). In Numbers 27:18-19 we are told that the Holy Spirit empowered Joshua in some way. The specifics are uncertain since the Hebrew word, be, for “in” has a very wide range of meaning. But the important point is that all of these individuals were temporarily empowered by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit did not permanently dwell in them.

Holy Spirit's Ministry In The Old Testament

In the book of Judges, the Holy Spirit came upon Othniel (Judges 3:9-10), Gideon (Judges 6:34), Epitaph (Judges 11:29) and Samson (Judges 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14). In 1 Samuel the Holy Spirit came on Samuel (1 Samuel 10:6-10; 16:13-14), Saul (1 Samuel 19:20-23) and David (1 Samuel 23:1).

It is extremely important to notice that Psalm 51:11 reveals King David pleaded that the Holy Spirit not be taken from him after he had sinned in having sexual relations with Bathsheba. Consequently, we must understand that the Holy Spirit did not permanently dwell in the Old Testament individuals.

Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Psalm 51:11 (NASB)

The Holy Spirit also came upon Isaiah (Isaiah 59:21), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:2; 3:24), and Daniel (Daniel 5:11). Each of these passages states the Holy Spirit moved these prophets to write. Finally, 1 Chronicles 12:18 and 2 Chronicles 20:14-15 tell us that the Holy Spirit came upon Amasai and Jahaziel.

In every instance, the Holy Spirit came “upon” people. That is, the Holy Spirit temporarily filled them. He did not dwell permanently within the Old Testament saints.

Holy Spirit Dwells Within People in the New Testament

In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit’s normal ministry is to “fill” a believer or to dwell within. Only after Jesus’ departure did the Holy Spirit start to fill Christians (Acts 2:4; 4:31; 7:55; 9:17-18; 13:9-10, 52). In Ephesians we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:17-18) and to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-23). Although all believers are sealed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit at the point of their salvation, the filling or control by the Spirit can be hindered by sin. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 commands us to not quench the Spirit.  The normal ministry of the Spirit in the life of the believer is “the filling of the Holy Spirit” or as some refer to it “the anointing.” The word “filled” means to be controlled by. That is, the normal Christian life is to be controlled by the Spirit,

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit. Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father . . . Ephesians 5:18-20 (NASB)

The result of being filled or controlled by the Spirit is speaking in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. You may desire to see two previous questions dealing with the filling of the Holy Spirit. The second one is discussed in the Study of the Holy Spirit.


The Holy Spirit’s ministry to believers changed after Christ’s death and resurrection. This should be obvious since Jesus promised or prophesied multiple times that the Holy Spirit would come (Luke 24:49; John 15:26; 16:7). In Acts 2:33; Galatians 3:14; and Ephesians 1:13 the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Promised One. That is, the Holy Spirit’s ministry was new in the New Testament. He would now dwell in believers.

Suggested Links:

The Spirit’s Ministry – Tongues and Prophecy
Does anointing speaking in tongues by the Holy Spirit?
How To Be Filled With The Spirit
The Holy Spirit – Discipleship Series
What are the signs that a person is filled with the Holy Spirit?
Does one have to be baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost to be saved?
Holy Spirit Gives Us Victory Over Sin