Revisiting RUAKH (Spirit, Breath, Wind)

Today marks the celebration of Pentecost according to Christian calendars. It is a day that memorializes the ushering of the Holy Spirit to all followers of YHWH (Acts 2:1-4). The New Testament Greek word Pentecost matches up with the Old Testament Hebrew Feast of Shavuot (which we discussed last week), but due to the differences between the Hebrew lunisolar calendar and the Gregorian calendar, and the corresponding dates of Passover and Easter, Shavuot and Pentecost (originally the same celebration) are observed about a week apart. Shavuot is a celebration of life and breath, new seeds and harvest; Pentecost is all about life and the Spirit and new beginnings. Handily, spirit and breath, and wind for that matter, are encapsulated in one Hebrew word: RUAKH.

At creation YHWH breathed life into humans, beginning with a gasp of air (Genesis 2:7) and then a working, breathing, Spirit. Spirit was always meant to be a God-breathed component of existence. Each breath supported life. It maintained life, but there were limitations:

Genesis 6:3

Then YHWH said, “My Spirit [Rukhi] will not remain with man forever, because he is also flesh; nevertheless his days shall be 120 years.”

Each human has an earth bound expiry date, when breath will fail and flesh will being the process of decay, but YHWH didn’t create us to watch us die. YHWH would come up with a plan to save us… and Spirit/Breath had everything to do with it!

Trouble, for humans, was present from the very beginning. Humans made the choice to become little gods of their own making and reject a partnership with YHWH. From that moment of selfish choice, by their own doing, they were ushered out of Eden and into the wilderness that lead to death. They chose autonomy and death over partnership and life. It was not what YHWH wanted, but He also wanted humans to have choice and He allowed human decisions to stand on their own… regardless of the consequences. But not all humans rejected their Creator, and for those Spirit-activated individuals, who were loyal to YHWH, He put a plan in place to bring them back to the Garden where life flourished and the breath of YHWH was eternal.

The Bible, beginning with Eden, is the story of humanity… with all its glorious “ups” and all its devastating “downs”. During one glorious “down”, when YHWH saw that all life was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5), He took the spirit/breath away from life with a flood. However He still kept a remnant of life (Noah & family) to build a better-spirited people.

Genesis 8:1-3

But God remembered Noah and all the animals and all the livestock that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind [ruakh] to pass over the earth, and the water subsided. Also the fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky were closed, and the rain from the sky was restrained; and the water receded steadily from the earth, and at the end of 150 days the water decreased.

This was like an earth reboot… reflecting back to creation when the ruakh of YHWH hovered over the waters (Genesis 1:2). This time God sent the ruakh (wind/spirit/breath) to hover over the earth and change the course of the waters (the waters subsided). God’s ruakh could, and would, begin things and end things.

This was very evident during the Hebrew people’s escape from Egypt. Finally they were let go after the plagues devastated Egypt, but then Pharaoh had a change of mind and he sent the army after them. But at the Red Sea, YHWH used His ruakh and rescued His people by holding back the waters and then He withheld His breath so the waters would return and drown the adversarial Egyptians. Moses sang a memorial song about the event:

Exodus 15:8-11

At the blast [u-v-ruakh] of Your nostrils the waters were piled up, the flowing waters stood up like a heap; the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoils; I shall be satisfied against them; I will draw my sword, my hand will destroy them.’

You blew with Your wind [v-rukh’ka], the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

Who is like You among the gods, YHWH? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?”

Image by Sharon McCutcheon (

But then Yeshua (Jesus) took things to a whole new level. When He breathed His last breath on the cross, He died, went to the grave, and then conquered death. His Spirit/Breath was unstoppable.

YHWH had a plan alright… He would use Breath/Spirit to revive life, physical and spiritual. So when Yeshua came back after His death on the cross, He breathed on His disciples:

John 20:20a-22

…He [Jesus] showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be to you; just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.

Each breath we take should be a reminder of YHWH’s Spirit within us. Don’t let your Spirit sit dormant… Activate it, connect with your Creator who loves you and who provides the breath within you. Take a deep breath and live out loud for Him!

For more on the Hebrew word Ruakh, click below:



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