The following passage denotes the Holy Spirit, or the Comforter, came unto us after the Ascension of Jesus.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter [paraklētos] will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (John 16:7 KJV)

That being said, who is the "Holy Spirit" referred by David in the Psalms?

Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy [qodesh] spirit [ruwach] from me. (Psalm 51:11 KJV)

If David is writing about the same Comforter in John 16:7, how did he know about the Holy Spirit, if this was a promise to come in the New Testament? Was the Holy Spirit already part of their tradition in David's time?

  • 1
    The Person of the Holy Spirit was with David personally. But until Christ came, until sacrifice was offered by Him in Priesthood, the Presence of the Holy Spirit could not be realised corporately in One Body, The Church.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 20:55
  • We Christians believe in the Holy Trinity, however, Jews don't believe despite the account of this verse "The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for you.” - Psalm 110:1 Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 12:50

2 Answers 2


John Piper explained the distinction between the Holy Spirit work in the OT and in the NT in this 2019 Interview article Why Is It Better That Christ Went Away (John 16:7):

Now we know that the Spirit was present in the ministry of Jesus. He was causing people to be born again in John 3. Jesus was doing his ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. We know that the Holy Spirit was present in the Old Testament, overcoming the mind of the flesh. Just read Psalm 51 or Isaiah 53. He was overcoming the mind of the flesh, which, according to Romans 8:7, keeps you from pleasing God. We know saints pleased God in the Old Testament, which they can’t do without the work of the Holy Spirit.

We know he was there. But he could not, however, powerfully do his most essential work, which was glorifying the risen and crucified Christ.

If we read the Ps 51 superscription:

For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

and the whole of Ps 51, we can see how David relied on the Holy Spirit to keep his heart pure and loyal, which made God to say that David is a man after His own heart. After his horrendous murder and adultery we can probably read this as David pleading to God not to take away the Holy Spirit from him like how God took the Holy Spirit away from Saul after his disboedience (1 Sam 16:14, 1 Sam 15:10-11).

As John Piper explained, John 16:7 instead refers to the Holy Spirit coming in

full, Christ-exalting, gospel-applying, new-covenant-fulfilling, deepest sin-convicting, Satan-defeating power while Jesus was on the earth.

The reason why the Holy Spirit could not come yet is

because every one of those hyphenated expressions, every one of those expressions of power, is based upon the death, resurrection, ascension, and rule of Jesus Christ. Those had to be done before the Holy Spirit could glorify them.

CONCLUSION: What Jesus was talking about in John 16:7 was the Holy Spirit that will guide us into "all the truth" (vv 12-14):

namely, the most important truths yet to be accomplished in his death and resurrection.

Thus, in Psalm 51 David was NOT talking about the same Comforter ministry, but for the ministry which helped him to please God by overcoming the mind of the flesh.

Follow-up question: Was the Holy Spirit already part of their tradition in David's time?


Yes, the Old Testament authors before David already mentioned the activity of the Holy Spirit (albeit using another term such as "spirit of God"), although promises for the New Covenant have not been fully revealed yet by David's time.

This infographic shows 13 examples of the Holy Spirit working in the Old Testament.

Examples #1 to #8 and #10 are in the tradition available to David, such as:

  • The Spirit participated in creation (Gen 1:2, Job 26:13)
  • The Spirit gives life to humanity and other creatures (Gen 2:7, Ps 104:29-30)
  • The Spirit came to empower judges and warriors such as Joshua (Num 27:18), Gideon (Judg 6:34), Samson (Judg 13:25) and Saul (1 Sam 10:9)
  • The Spirit filled certain craftmen like Bezalel with great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts to make the priestly clothing(Ex 35:30-31)
  • The Spirit inspired holiness in Old Testament believers (Ps 143:10)

while examples #9, #11, #12, and #13 are prophecies not yet revealed by David's time, such as:

  • The Spirit prophesied of the Messiah (Isa 11:2)
  • The Spirit revealed the promise of the New Covenant (Eze 36:27)
  • The Spirit identified the coming Messiah (Isa 61:1)

(source: The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament)

  • +1! Thanks for this great answer. Would you mind complementing it with the second question? How did David knew about the Holy Spirit back then? Was the Holy Spirit already part of their tradition in David's time?
    – vinibrsl
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 2:19
  • @ViniciusBrasil I updated the answer to address the additional question Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 9:29
  • +1 Also Luke 24:49 calls the NT HS phenomenon the "promise of the Father" and Peter hearkens it back to Joel in Acts 2. Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 13:55

Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

David knows who God is. Israel only knows of Yahweh - the one and only God who is always known as a singular God - there is no other.

  • Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithfulness
  • Create in me a clean heart, God

Obviously the focus is on God and His provisions and standards.

  • thy presence

  • thy holy spirit

David was well aware that the spirit God provides is simply His presence with those He has called to serve His purposes. It is His (God's) spirit that David seeks, so we see the 'thy' reference - 'thy' refers to God.

God provided His provision of wisdom, ability and guidance to those He chose for certain jobs and responsibilities.

You shall speak to all the skilful people whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may serve as priest to Me. Ex 28:3

So Bezalel, Oholiab, and every skilled person are to carry out everything commanded by the LORD, who has given them skill and ability to know how to perform all the work of constructing the sanctuary. Ex 36:1

This was not always a permanent provision. "take not thy holy spirit from me"

Once Jesus arrived on the scene, "in these last days", Heb 1:1-2

On many past occasions and in many different ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets. 2But in these last days He has spoken to us by His son, whom He appointed heir of all things...

The one who believes in me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39But this He said in reference to the spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive; for the spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:38

The whole point of Jesus coming, living without sin, dying to triumph over sin and death for all mankind, and living again so that we can join him firstly in death, then as he lives, we also live, is to enable a new covenant.

The old covenant was based on the law - the law of sin and death. The new covenant was the law of spirit and life.

The old was physical, the new, spiritual. The old was temporary, the new eternal.

The OT prophesied about the changes coming in, Isa 32:15-18; 44:3-5; Ezek 11:17-21; 36:26-27; Joel 2:28

Under the old, God was distant, almost remote. The people only had limited access through the priesthood. In the new, God dwells within each person giving each a deposit or down-payment of the filling that would happen at Jesus' return.

While Jesus was on earth in the flesh, he was the presence of 'God with us' as His son - representing the Father perfectly. When he departed, God's and Jesus' presence was provided through the spirit God would send into the church.

When Jesus was glorified after his resurrection and exaltation to God's right side, he and the Father would dwell with in each chosen one.

Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. John 14:23 They do this through the spirit of God, just as God fully dwelt within Jesus while he was in the flesh on earth.

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    This doesn't really address the New Testament verse cited
    – eques
    Commented Sep 22, 2021 at 13:39

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