Subscribe to our Compelling Mail Newsletter:

What does the Hebrew word 'ruach' mean?

Subscribe to our Compelling Mail Newsletter:

The meaning of the Hebrew word ruach is "breath," or "wind," or "spirit." In Scripture, the word is applied both to human beings and to God. Depending on the context, ruach can be talking about a person's emotional state of being, or their soul or spirit, and is sometimes used as an idiom, as in "a mere breath." When coupled with one of the names of God, ruach refers to the Holy Spirit. For example, Ruach Elohim is mentioned in the first few verses of Genesis to describe the Spirit of God hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:2). In the Old Testament, the translated phrase is always "Spirit of the Lord" or "Spirit of God." In the New Testament, the Greek word pnuema is applied and translated "Holy Spirit."

The Ruach of God is the Creator of all other non-divine ruach. "God. . . gives breath [ruach] to all living things" (Numbers 27:16, NIV). When God created Adam, He breathed into Adam's nostrils and "man became a living creature" (Genesis 2:7). Job mentions the same breath of life as that which keeps him alive, saying "as long as my breath is in me, and the spirit [ruach] of God is in my nostrils" (Job 27:3). His friend Elihu affirmed the same: "The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life" (Job 33:4). It was the same Spirit that came to rest on Jesus Christ in the form of a dove, empowering and anointing Him as the Messiah (Matthew 3:16). This event was prophesied by Isaiah, who said, "And 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 the fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:2). In both passages, the word for "Spirit" and "breath" is the Hebrew word ruach.

God's Ruach is often associated with His creative power. A very good of example of this comes from a conversation that Jesus had with a Pharisee called Nicodemus, who came to Jesus secretly in the night to ask Him questions. Jesus told Nicodemus that a person can only enter the kingdom of God if he or she has been "born of the Spirit" because "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:4–5). Then, He compares the Holy Spirit to the wind, saying "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). Both the word "wind" in this passage and the word "Spirit" are the same word: pneuma, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word ruach.

God's breath, His creative power, His Holy Ruach is responsible for all that is created: the universe, the earth, and even the spirit of man. Even more amazing, the "new man" that is created when a person trusts in Christ for salvation, is also a creation of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24), because it is "born" of God's Ruach.

Related Truth:

Who is the Holy Spirit?

What does the Holy Spirit do?

What names and titles does the Bible use for the Holy Spirit?

What does Paraclete mean? How is the Holy Spirit our Paraclete?

The breath of life – What is it?

Return to:
Truth about the Holy Spirit

Compelling Truth HOME