I was reading this Biblical Unitarian article that explains their views regarding the Holy Spirit. One particular view they hold is the "gift of God's nature" interpretation, according to which the "holy spirit" (lower case) should be understood as some sort of distributable substance. They cite Numbers 11:17-25 (among other passages) to support this interpretation:

17 And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone. 18 And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”’” 21 But Moses said, “The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’ 22 Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?” 23 And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord's hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”

24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.

[Numbers 11:17-25 ESV]

What does it mean that God would take some of the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the seventy elders? Is the Spirit of God some sort of spiritual substance that can be fragmented and distributed to people in pieces? Wouldn't that contradict the view that the Holy Spirit is a single indivisible person?

4 Answers 4


The Holy Spirit is not limited. The Holy Spirit is not a physical entity that can be divided into parts. The best way we can understand this giving of His Spirit is in strength and authority. The Holy Spirit empowered the prophets to speak as the oracles of God, and to do miracles that proved they were sent by God to the people.

"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Pet. 1:21, KJV)

The taking of some of the Spirit from Moses in Numbers chap. 11 to put onto the seventy elders was comparable to a boss delegating authority to his employees to act on his behalf. It was not a splitting of atoms, or a physical dividing of the Holy Spirit. It was sharing power among all of them. Just like your boss retains the power over all actions of his employees to share it or take it back as needed.

Just as the different gifts of the Holy Spirit were poured out in the first century AD to those immersed into Christ whom the Apostles approved (Acts 8:9-24; 19:1-6), the Holy Spirit empowered certain people according to their talents for prophesy, speaking foreign languages (tongues), interpretation, healing, etc.

This sharing of authority does not fragment the Holy Spirit.

"the Spirit where he willeth doth blow, and his voice thou dost hear, but thou hast not known whence he cometh, and whither he goeth; ..." (John 3:8. KJV)


As in Greek and English, the word "spirit", רוּחַ (ruach) can also mean an attitude or disposition of mind as per BDB #3, eg,

d. impatience or patience: קֹצֶר רוּחַ Exodus 6:9 (P) impatience, hastiness of temper, compare (of ׳י) Micah 2:7; קְצַררֿוּחַ Proverbs 14:29 ("" אֶרֶךְ אַפַיִם); הֱצִיקַתְנִי רוּחַ בִּטְנִי Job 32:18 (Du breath; Di Bu divine spirit, compare Job 32:8); אִם מַדּוּעַ לֹאתִֿקְצַר רוּחִי Job 21:4; ׳הֲקָצַר רוּחַ י Micah 2:7; ׳אֶרֶךְ ר Ecclesiastes 7:8.

e. spirit, disposition, as troubled, bitter, or discontented; וַתִּמָּעֶם רוּח(וׅ (his) spirit was troubled Genesis 41:8 (E) Daniel 2:3, compare Daniel 2:1; מֹרַת רוּחַ Genesis 26:35 (P) bitterness of spirit; ׳עֲצוּבַת ר Isaiah 54:6, compare Ezekiel 3:14; Job 6:4.

f. as crushed: וְכִהֲתָה כָלרֿוּחַ Ezekiel 21:12, compare Isaiah 61:3; Proverbs 15:4,13; Proverbs 17:22; Proverbs 18:14; Psalm 143:7.

g. disposition of various kinds, often unaccountable and uncontrollable impulse: הֵעִיר אֶתרֿוּחַ 1 Chronicles 5:26 (twice in verse); 2Chronicles 21:16; 36:22; Ezra 1:1,5; Jeremiah 51:11; Haggai 1:14 (3 t. in verse); הִנְנִי נ(וֺ)תֵן בּוֺ רוּח2Kings 19:7 = Isaiah 37:7; Numbers 14:24 (J; see עִם 4b), Malachi 2:15 (twice in verse); Malachi 2:16; Deuteronomy 2:30; רוּחַ קִנְאָה jealous disposition Numbers 5:14 (twice in verse); Numbers 5:30 (P); רוּחַ וְנוּנִים Hosea 4:12; Hosea 5:4; רוּחַ עִוְעִיםIsaiah 19:14; רוּחַ מִשְׁמָּט Isaiah 28:6; אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר רוּחַ אֱלהִֹרם בּוֺ (administrative) Genesis 41:38 (E); קַר רוּחַ אִישׁ הְּבוּנָה Proverbs 17:27.

Thus, an imparting of the spirit of Moses in Num 11:17 means to delegate authority and the spirit of government as empowered by the holy Spirit.

This verse makes no comment on dismembering or fragmenting or dividing the Holy Spirit because it is not discussing the Holy Spirit - it is discussing the aptitude or ability for governance.


Gina and Dottard have given their excellent answers already in terms of the functions of the Holy Spirit. Here, I will focus on the image/appearance aspect of the Spirit.

The Hebrew word for spirit is רוּחַ (H7307). The Greek word is πνεῦμα (G4151). Both words mean breath or wind. Obviously, the Spirit is not physical. Breath and wind are merely physical analogies for our finite mind to develop some understanding of the Spirit who is infinite. In John 20:22, Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."

On another occasion, He is compared to wind:

John 3:8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

1 Samuel 16:13 relates the Spirit to oil:

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the middle of his brothers: and the Spirit of the LORD came on David from that day forward.

NASB Acts 2:3

And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

The Holy Spirit is like breadth, wind, oil, and fire. With these kinds of imageries, the unction/power is distributable and detachable. I wouldn't say that the unction is fragmentable. Note that I didn't say that the Holy Spirit is detachable.

Is Numbers 11:17-25 evidence that the Holy Spirit is a distributable spiritual substance?

It depends on how one imagines the Holy Spirit. In terms of unction, yes. In terms of personhood, maybe not.


Is Numbers 11:17-25 evidence that the Holy Spirit is a distributable, fragmentable substance?

Question re-statement: what is the holy spirit and is it distributable?

Distributable "Yes"

Hebrews 2:4 (NET Bible)

4 while God confirmed their witness[a] with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Also distributed NIV, NABRE, Mounce, NRSV. Footnotes: Distributed ASV, NKJV. Most other translations translate "Gifts"


The Greek word translated as “spirit” is “pneuma”,(from the Greek verb “pneo” =breath or blow) the basic meaning is of which is “wind” the movement of air. The wind is a force that we can feel but cannot be touched or seen. "Pneuma is neuter, it is and "it/which" and not a person . Readers in English should not ignore this fact, also the basic meaning of the Greek word pneuma "πνεύμα" is "breath", "wind". The English word "pneumatic " comes from the word "pneuma".

In the scriptures the writers used it in a variety of ways, translators have recognized the multiple uses of "spirit." It is used to mean wind, breath, spirit, one's own spirit, spirit persons, and holy spirit.

Holy spirit:The Power of the Most High

The Angel Gabriel explained to Mary what the holy spirit is when he said to her:"The holy Spirit will come upon you, “The power of the Most High." (J. Moffat Luke 1:35)  From the words of Angel Gabriel to Mary we observe that the spirit is linked with the power of God, the" Divine power." (Luke 1:31-32) . Luke also wrote that Jesus commenced his ministry in the power of the spirit. (Luke 4:14)

Luke 1:31-32 NASB

"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;

34" Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” 35 "The angel answered her, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence what is born will be called holy, Son of God." (J.Moffat Luke 1:34,35)

Luke 4:14 NASB

And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district." Luke 4:14 NASB

Divine inspiration through the spirit.

The Scriptures continuously reveal that God imparted divine inspiration through the spirit, to his servants and prophets, Peter wrote: For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:21 (NASB)

Impersonal attributes of the Holy Spirit

The holy spirit is spoken of in many ways that demonstrate that it is not a divine person. For example, it is referred to as a gift. "All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also." Acts 10:45 (NASB). We are told that the spirit can be quenched,1Thess. 5:19

John the Baptist was filled with holy spirit while yet in his mothers's womb.

Luke 1:15 (NASB)

15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb." We are told that God pours his spirit and his servants become filled with it, (Acts 2:17-33 NASB) and that we are baptized with it:

“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11NASB)

Such expression would not be made if the holy spirit were a divine person, in 1 John 5:7-8 for example, the spirit the water and blood, testify and are in agreement. And Paul urges fellow Christians in Ephesus to become " filled with spirit," instead of with wine.

John 5:7-8 (NASB)

7 "For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement."

Ephesians 5:18 (NASB)

18 "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit."

Is the spirit distributable: The answer is "Yes"

We cannot see electricity, yet when we put it to use, we can easily see the results it produces. Likewise God's holy spirit, the power of the Most High is also invisible, but we can easily recognize its effects ,

In this respect, holy spirit from God has been likened to electricity, which may serve for illumination, or as a means of communication, or as a powerful force accomplishing great amounts of work.

We cannot tell whether a person is filled with holy spirit by merely looking at him any more than we can look at copper power lines and tell whether they are “alive” or not. By merely looking at a battery one cannot tell whether it is charged or not.

Machines driven by electricity produce what man in himself is not able to accomplish. In like manner, God's power can activate men to do what they could not otherwise perform. Under the guidance of God’s spirit Noah and his sons, even though they were not shipbuilders by trade or training, were most successful in constructing a huge storm-proof shelter. Later, when it came time to build a sacred tabernacle in a wilderness, we read: “See, God has called by name Bezʹal·el the son of Uʹri the son of Hur of the tribe of Judah.

And he proceeded to fill him with the spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in every sort of craftsmanship and for designing devices, for working in gold and silver and copper, and in working of stones to set them and in working of wood to make ingenious products of every sort “ It was this same spirit of God that enabled an otherwise normal man named Samson to perform supernatural feats of strength. Exodus 35:30-33; Judges. 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14.

The “New Testament,” says that the holy spirit can ‘fill’ a person or be “upon” him. (Acts 2:4; Luke 2:25-27) Holy spirit was ‘given,’ ‘poured out upon,’ and ‘distributed.’ (Luke 11:13; Acts 10:45; Hebrews 2:4) At Pentecost 33 C.E., the disciples received “some of” God’s spirit. (Acts 2:17) The Scriptures also speak of baptism with holy spirit and of anointing with it.​—Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5; 10:38.

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