Soon after arriving in Indonesia in the early 1980’s I remember when I first heard the Indonesian expression Roh Kudus meaning the Holy Spirit that I had the impression it gave me the feeling of a soft gentle loving God. The Indonesian word ‘roh’ meaning ‘spirit’ is probably derived from Arabic as are many Indonesian words. And since Arabic and Hebrew share a common source, both being semitic languages, it is no coincidence then that ‘roh’ sounds very similar to the Hebrew word רוַּח ruach.
The first time the Hebrew word appeared in our history was in the first words in the book of beginnings–the book of Genesis verses 2. Here we read Genesis 1:1-2 where the first bolded Hebrew word (reading right to left) is Ruach.
בְּ·רֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַ·שָּׁמַ֖יִם וְ·אֵ֥ת הָ·אָֽרֶץ׃
וְ·הָ·אָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָ·בֹ֔הוּ וְ·חֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־ פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם וְ·ר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־ פְּנֵ֥י הַ·מָּֽיִם׃
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)
The second verse there, Genesis 1:2, is transliterated as follows:
The Hebrew words, רוַּח אֱלוֹהִים Ruach Elohim, describe God’s presence in the beginning of the world. The Hebrew word ruach can mean either ‘wind’ or ‘spirit’. So how do we know which meaning is intended in this most very important verse?