God in Three Persons: The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament

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The Doctrine of the Trinity is an interesting study into the Doctrine of God, and it is designed to tell us who God is and how God relates to us. The Bible, the source of all that we know about God because it is His divine revelation, is the source and start of all discussions surrounding the Trinity.

What we know about the Doctrine of the Trinity from Scripture is that, while the word “Trinity” is not located in Scripture, the concept is there: “Trinity” means “tri-unity” or the unity of three persons, and God is one, yet three: one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is fully divine and fully God, and each person of the Trinity (the word “person” here is indicated by their traits and characteristics as well as their actions) is to be reverenced as God.

By affirming this view of God as three persons, as Trinity, we are here rejecting the view that God is three “modes” or that God is only one person who wears a “mask” to act as if He’s the two other persons when He’s not. God is three persons, and the very beginning page of Scripture tells us that. Some will object to this and argue that if God is three persons, then He’s three “Gods,” but Scripture doesn’t affirm this. As will be shown in our discussion of the Doctrine of the Trinity, the Scriptures presuppose the one God as a plurality of persons (plurality referring to 2 or more), and that Father and Son, for example, are different persons but both God and both reverenced, praised, and worshipped as Deity.

The Doctrine of the Trinity is a massive study, so this small-scale effort will tackle the Doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament.

The Doctrine of the Trinity in Genesis

Genesis 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.

9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.

14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Genesis 1:1-31)

We start our study of the Doctrine of the Trinity with the book of beginnings, “Genesis.” From the first page of Scripture, we see that there is a plurality to God. In Genesis 1:1, it says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The word for “God” here in Hebrew is “elohim,” with the “im” ending referring to plurality. Thus, from the beginning, God is more than one person. And in Genesis 1:2-3, we see the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) hovering over the waters and God speaking “Let there be light.” There are at least two persons to the Godhead from these opening verses alone. Job says in Job 26:13, “By His Spirit He adorned the heavens,” referring to God’s work in creation by way of “His Spirit,” referring to the third person of the Godhead and the Trinity (the Holy Spirit).

In Genesis 1:26, the plural Godhead comes together and says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” The word “Us” is a personal pronoun for a plural subject, and the word “Our” is also a personal, possessive pronoun referring to, again, a plurality of persons. In verse 27, though, it says “God,” singular, created man in His image, though the verse before it (Genesis 1:26) refers to a plurality. There is both singularity and plurality in God, and this is why Christians have constantly affirmed that there is one God (singularity) in three persons (plurality).

Genesis 3

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve are punished and then the Lord sends them out of the Garden:

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:

“Because you have done this,

You are cursed more than all cattle,

And more than every beast of the field;

On your belly you shall go,

And you shall eat dust

All the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity

Between you and the woman,

And between your seed and her Seed;

He shall bruise your head,

And you shall bruise His heel.”

16 To the woman He said:

“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;

In pain you shall bring forth children;

Your desire shall be for your husband,

And he shall rule over you.”

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;

In toil you shall eat of it

All the days of your life.

18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,

And you shall eat the herb of the field.

19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread

Till you return to the ground,

For out of it you were taken;

For dust you are,

And to dust you shall return.”

20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

21 Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:1-24)

The Lord told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any tree in the Garden except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but they choose to eat of that tree and bring sin into the world. Once they do, however, the possibility exists that Adam and Eve could eat of the Tree of Life and live forever – which explains why God drives them from the Garden.

In Genesis 3:22, the Lord says “the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.” “One of us” is a giveaway statement that refers to a plurality of persons in the Godhead. Genesis 3:23 says “the Lord God,” singular, but verse 22, the verse before it, says “one of Us.” Again, this singularity and plurality in God is the reason why Christians have affirmed the Doctrine of the Trinity that says there is one God in three persons.

The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)

Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. 3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. 4 And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. 7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. 9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:1-9)

In Genesis 11, the people of the earth were of one language and one mind, and they decided to build a city to reach heaven. They didn’t want to be scattered across the earth, though God had told mankind to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, and to populate the earth and make their way across the face of the earth to occupy it (after all, one can’t have dominion over the earth if one doesn’t spread out across it). The people disobey, and God sees what they’re doing and decides to confuse their language so that they have to move across the earth and live in separate places. The Lord says, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language” (Genesis 11:7), again, a reference to the plurality of persons who are “the Lord” (singular).

Genesis 18

Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, 3 and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. 4 Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.”

They said, “Do as you have said.”

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” 7 And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. 8 So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.

9 Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?”

So he said, “Here, in the tent.”

10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.”

(Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.) 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

13 And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”

15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid.

And He said, “No, but you did laugh!”

16 Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way.17 And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, 18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” 20 And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.23 And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”

27 Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: 28 Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?”

So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.

29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?”

So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.”

30 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?”

So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?”

So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.”

32 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?”

And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” 33 So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place. (Genesis 18:1-33)

In Genesis 18, we see the Lord come to Abraham and we see Abraham and Sarah interact with the Lord, plus the Lord promises Abraham that Sarah would conceive a child in twelve months. Genesis 18:1 says “the Lord appeared to him,” but then, in verse 2, it reads that “three men were standing by him.” Abraham went to meet the men (plural), “bowed himself to the ground, and said, ‘My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant…wash your feet and rest yourselves (plural) under the tree” (vv.2-4). “Refresh your hearts” in verse 5 is plural. We continue to see the mixed use of singular and plural pronouns and words to remind us that there is singularity and plurality to God.

When Abraham goes to cook food for the three men, whom he addresses as “My Lord,” he tells Sarah, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes” (Genesis 18:6). These three cakes are for the three men, but the three men are addressed by Abraham as “My Lord,” referring to God Himself. Abraham sat the cakes, butter, milk, and the fatted calf that had been cooked and “set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate” (v.8). “They” (v.9), plural, asked him about Sarah, and “He” (singular) said in verse 10 that Sarah would have a son.

The Lord appeared as three men, three persons, which is interesting indeed. Even when the men proceed to Sodom, Abraham remains before the Lord and has a discussion about sparing the city if so many righteous individuals are there (v.22). Notice the text says “But Abraham still stood before the Lord,” the word “still” showing that, despite the Lord’s appearance in Sodom, God is everywhere and never left Abraham in that moment. God could appear as three persons and still be omnipresent, which teaches us not only the plurality of God but also that God is everywhere simultaneously. As David says in Psalm 139, whether one ascends to heaven, descends to the grave, or inhabits the sea, God is there in every place.


Exodus 23

20 “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. 21 Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him.22 But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off. (Exodus 23:20-23)

Within the Book of Exodus, we see more hints of a plurality of persons in the Trinity and Godhead. In Exodus 23, the Lord promises to send His Angel before the Israelites, but there are hints that this Angel is separate from the Lord and is yet, still God. In Exodus 23:21, the Lord says “obey His voice,” then ends the statement with “My Name is in Him.” Again, the Lord’s name is in Him, though He is separate from the Lord who is speaking. Like the word “Us,” this implies a plurality of persons in the Godhead.

In Exodus 23:22, the Lord says “obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies.” To do all the Lord speaks and yet, obey the Angel, leads to the same results. And the people are to obey the voice of the Lord who is speaking as well as the Angel of the Lord (“obey His voice”). The Israelites were only commanded to obey the voice of the Lord, so this Angel of the Lord is the Lord Himself. Thus, the Lord speaking and the Angel are two different persons though both are deity. This implies God is at least two persons in the Trinity.

Exodus 32

19 So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it. 21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?”

22 So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”

25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’” 28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.”

30 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! 32 Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”

33 And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 34 Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.”

35 So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made. (Exodus 32:19-35)

In Exodus 32, the Israelites are waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain; Moses went up to receive God’s Law, what we know as The Ten Commandments. While he meets with God, the people move Aaron to take their gold jewelry, which the Lord blessed them to plunder from the Egyptians because of the fear of Israel’s God, melt it down, and make a golden calf so that they could worship it. When Moses comes down from the mountaintop, he sees the people dancing around the golden calf, given in to drunken orgies and licentiousness. Then, he has to go up to God and ask the Lord to pardon His people. The Lord tells Moses “My Angel” shall go before you. Who is this Angel? Well, He has as much authority as the Lord speaking to Moses (remember Exodus 23?).

Psalm 2

Why do the nations rage,

And the people plot a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces

And cast away Their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;

The Lord shall hold them in derision.

5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,

And distress them in His deep displeasure:

6 “Yet I have set My King

On My holy hill of Zion.”

7 “I will declare the decree:

The Lord has said to Me,

‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

8 Ask of Me, and I will give You

The nations for Your inheritance,

And the ends of the earth for Your possession.

9 You shall break them with a rod of iron;

You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings;

Be instructed, you judges of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear,

And rejoice with trembling.

12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,

And you perish in the way,

When His wrath is kindled but a little.

Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. (Psalm 2:1-12)

Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm about the Son of God, Jesus Christ. In verse 2, the kings of the earth oppose “the Lord and His Anointed,” which we find out in Psalm 2:7 is really the Lord talking to His Son, Jesus Christ: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” There is only one begotten Son of God, and that is Jesus Christ. So here, the Father and the Son are talking to one another. This confirms at least two persons in the Trinity. In Psalm 2:12, we are told to “Kiss the Son,” and “blessed are all those who put their trust in Him,” statements that refer to Jesus. The Son is Jesus, and the “Him” in which humans are to trust is Jesus Christ.

The New Testament highlights Psalm 2 as a Messianic Psalm:

23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:

‘Why did the nations rage,

And the people plot vain things?

26 The kings of the earth took their stand,

And the rulers were gathered together

Against the Lord and against His Christ.’

27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”

31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23-31)

In Acts 4:26 above, the gathering of believers, including Peter and John, who had just come from jail, came to the house where believers were, and they began to speak Scripture. The text of choice here is Psalm 2, where the phrase “against the Lord and His Anointed” in Psalm 2:2 is interpreted as “against the Lord and His Christ,” the word Christ referring to Jesus (Acts 4:27).

Psalm 16

7 I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel;

My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.

8 I have set the Lord always before me;

Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will rest in hope.

10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

11 You will show me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:7-11)

In this Psalm, David is talking about the Lord (“Preserve me, O God”), but the Psalm becomes Messianic. In the immediate context, David says that the Lord will not “leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (v.10), which seems to hint that the Lord will not allow David to stay in the grave. This seems to hint of a life beyond this one (though immortality is a discussion of the New Testament), but we also discover in the New Testament that Psalm 16 is about Jesus:

29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. (Acts 2:29-33)

Psalm 16, then, concerns Jesus Christ and God the Father, which shows the Father and Son as two members of the Triune Godhead.

Psalm 45

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;

A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness;

Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You

With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.

8 All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia,

Out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad.

9 Kings’ daughters are among Your honorable women;

At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir. (Psalm 45:6-9)

Notice that the sons of Korah, writers of this Psalm, address God in verse 6 but then say “God, your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness.” What we see here is that God has anointed God, which is a clear indication that the one God being mentioned here consists of two persons (one anoints the other).

Psalm 45:6-7 is also deemed by the apostle Paul to be a Messianic Psalm in his letter to the scattered Jews who are contemplating a return to Judaism:

5 For to which of the angels did He ever say:

“You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You”?

And again:

“I will be to Him a Father,

And He shall be to Me a Son”?

6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:

“Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

7 And of the angels He says:

“Who makes His angels spirits

And His ministers a flame of fire.”

8 But to the Son He says:

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;

A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;

Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You

With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Hebrews 1:5-9)

In the words of the apostle Paul, God the Father says Psalm 45 to His Son, Jesus Christ. In other words, God the Father exalts God the Son, the second member of the Triune Godhead.

Psalm 22

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

Why are You so far from helping Me,

And from the words of My groaning?

2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;

And in the night season, and am not silent.

3 But You are holy,

Enthroned in the praises of Israel.

4 Our fathers trusted in You;

They trusted, and You delivered them.

5 They cried to You, and were delivered;

They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

6 But I am a worm, and no man;

A reproach of men, and despised by the people.

7 All those who see Me ridicule Me;

They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

8 “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him;

Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” (Psalm 22:1-8)

In Psalm 22, we see the writer crying out about God forsaking him, which in the immediate context could point to a human who’s at a low point in his life where he is humiliated. And yet, we know the words of Psalm 22:1, the first verse of the Psalm, are all too familiar. They are the exact words of Jesus when He’s on the cross at Calvary crying out to the Father:

45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)

21 Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross. 22 And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. 23 Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it. 24 And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take.

25 Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. 26 And the inscription of His accusation was written above:


27 With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. 28 So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”

29 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”

31 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”

Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.

33 Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:21-34)

The ridicule Jesus faces on the cross matches that of the words of Psalm 22: “All those who see Me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, ‘He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him.” Even more importantly, however, Jesus cries out to God (the Father) and asks why He’s been forsaken. Now, Jesus is God, too, so He can’t be crying out to Himself for that would make little logical sense. Thus, when Jesus cries out to God, He’s crying out to God the Father – both in the Gospels and Psalm 22. Remember, Jesus said that there’s much in the Prophets, Wisdom Literature, and the Psalms that foretells of Him:

44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44-45)

Since the Psalms have statements written in them concerning Jesus, we shouldn’t be all that surprised to see that Psalm 22, among others, has statements in them that reflect Jesus. What is most interesting, though, is that Jesus utters the statement on the cross, in the midst of His agony. Any good Jew who read his or her Torah would’ve known that the statement was from Psalm 22.


Isaiah 6

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

The whole earth is full of His glory!”

4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

5 So I said:

“Woe is me, for I am undone!

Because I am a man of unclean lips,

And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;

For my eyes have seen the King,

The Lord of hosts.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

“Behold, this has touched your lips;

Your iniquity is taken away,

And your sin purged.”

8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:

“Whom shall I send,

And who will go for Us?”

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;

Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

10 “Make the heart of this people dull,

And their ears heavy,

And shut their eyes;

Lest they see with their eyes,

And hear with their ears,

And understand with their heart,

And return and be healed.”

11 Then I said, “Lord, how long?”

And He answered:

“Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant,

The houses are without a man,

The land is utterly desolate,

12 The Lord has removed men far away,

And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.

13 But yet a tenth will be in it,

And will return and be for consuming,

As a terebinth tree or as an oak,

Whose stump remains when it is cut down.

So the holy seed shall be its stump.” (Isaiah 6:1-13)

Isaiah is in the temple seeing the Lord in worship and he realizes the holiness of God highlights his own sinfulness. But, despite Isaiah’s sinfulness and mortality, God is still pleased to call him to His work for His purpose. In verse 8, the Lord says, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?” “The voice of the Lord” implies singularity, but the word “Us” in Isaiah 6:8 implies plurality of persons, at least two persons of the Godhead.

Isaiah 48

12 “Listen to Me, O Jacob,

And Israel, My called:

I am He, I am the First,

I am also the Last.

13 Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth,

And My right hand has stretched out the heavens;

When I call to them,

They stand up together.

14 “All of you, assemble yourselves, and hear!

Who among them has declared these things?

The Lord loves him;

He shall do His pleasure on Babylon,

And His arm shall be against the Chaldeans.

15 I, even I, have spoken;

Yes, I have called him,

I have brought him, and his way will prosper.

16 “Come near to Me, hear this:

I have not spoken in secret from the beginning;

From the time that it was, I was there.

And now the Lord God and His Spirit

Have sent Me.” (Isaiah 48:12-16)

Here in Isaiah 48 is where we see the Trinity in all its fullness in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 48:16, we read that “From the time that it was, I was there,” a statement that says the one speaking is deity, has been alive since the beginning of time. In verse 16, God says “the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me,” with the word “Me” referring to the Lord speaking. The “Lord God” and “His Spirit” refer to two others, since both of those persons have “sent” the speaker. The speaker couldn’t send Himself, for that would have little logical meaning here. So, if the speaker is referring to Himself with the word “Me,” then the Lord God and Spirit must refer to two other, separate persons that are also deity. The “Me” speaker here calls Himself “The Lord, your Redeemer” in the next verse (Isaiah 48:17).

Isaiah 61

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,

Because the Lord has anointed Me

To preach good tidings to the poor;

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives,

And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,

And the day of vengeance of our God;

To comfort all who mourn,

3 To console those who mourn in Zion,

To give them beauty for ashes,

The oil of joy for mourning,

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

That they may be called trees of righteousness,

The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins,

They shall raise up the former desolations,

And they shall repair the ruined cities,

The desolations of many generations.

5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,

And the sons of the foreigner

Shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.

6 But you shall be named the priests of the Lord,

They shall call you the servants of our God.

You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles,

And in their glory you shall boast.

7 Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,

And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.

Therefore in their land they shall possess double;

Everlasting joy shall be theirs.

8 “For I, the Lord, love justice;

I hate robbery for burnt offering;

I will direct their work in truth,

And will make with them an everlasting covenant.

9 Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles,

And their offspring among the people.

All who see them shall acknowledge them,

That they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed.”

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,

My soul shall be joyful in my God;

For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,

And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

11 For as the earth brings forth its bud,

As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth,

So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:1-11)

Here we see a distinction between “the Spirit of the Lord God” and “the Lord,” referring to two distinct persons. The passage itself is in the Book of Isaiah, which presumes that Isaiah has been anointed to preach the gospel. In its immediate context, that is true. However, this passage, Isaiah 61, is a Messianic passage, referring not only to the prophet Isaiah (who, as a prophet, was anointed to preach the gospel), but also Jesus Christ, as He says so in the Gospel of Luke:

16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

Because He has anointed Me

To preach the gospel to the poor;

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)

Jesus read from the Book of Isaiah, chapter 61, verses 1-2a. Then, He told the congregation, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21), a way of telling them that Isaiah 61 was about Him. It was Messianic, not merely about Isaiah in its immediate context. He was saying in so many words as well that, since Isaiah 61 was about him, was about Messianic fulfillment, that He was the Messiah, the Promised Messiah who was to come and was here before their very eyes.

So, when we look at Isaiah 61 with Christ speaking it, we see the entire Trinity represented: the Father, called “the Lord,” the Spirit, called “the Spirit of the Lord God,” and Jesus, the Son, who was reading and speaking about Himself. With Jesus speaking, all three members of the Triune Godhead are represented there in Isaiah 61.

Isaiah 63

7 I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord

And the praises of the Lord,

According to all that the Lord has bestowed on us,

And the great goodness toward the house of Israel,

Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies,

According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.

8 For He said, “Surely they are My people,

Children who will not lie.”

So He became their Savior.

9 In all their affliction He was afflicted,

And the Angel of His Presence saved them;

In His love and in His pity He redeemed them;

And He bore them and carried them

All the days of old.

10 But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit;

So He turned Himself against them as an enemy,

And He fought against them. (Isaiah 63:7-10)

Here in Isaiah 63, the Lord sends “the Angel of His Presence” (Isaiah 63:9), and the Holy Spirit is mentioned. We see that at least two members of the Godhead are mentioned, though I happen to believe that the Angel of His Presence is a distinct person from the Lord who sends Him. And then, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, thus representing all three.


Ezekiel 44

4 Also He brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple; so I looked, and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord; and I fell on my face. 5 And the Lord said to me, “Son of man, mark well, see with your eyes and hear with your ears, all that I say to you concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord and all its laws. Mark well who may enter the house and all who go out from the sanctuary.

6 “Now say to the rebellious, to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “O house of Israel, let Us have no more of all your abominations. 7 When you brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary to defile it—My house—and when you offered My food, the fat and the blood, then they broke My covenant because of all your abominations. 8 And you have not kept charge of My holy things, but you have set others to keep charge of My sanctuary for you.” 9 Thus says the Lord God: “No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart or uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter My sanctuary, including any foreigner who is among the children of Israel. (Ezekiel 44:4-9)

In Ezekiel 44:6, the “Lord God” (singular) said “Let Us have no more of all your abominations,” referring to a plurality in the singular God: that is, the Triune Godhead, God in three persons.


Hosea 12

2 “The Lord also brings a charge against Judah,

And will punish Jacob according to his ways;

According to his deeds He will recompense him.

3 He took his brother by the heel in the womb,

And in his strength he struggled with God.

4 Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed;

He wept, and sought favor from Him.

He found Him in Bethel,

And there He spoke to us—

5 That is, the Lord God of hosts.

The Lord is His memorable name. (Hosea 12:2-5)

Hosea 12 shows an example of the Trinity when we see the Lord in verse 2, then “God” mentioned in verse 3 and “the Angel” when we read that Jacob “struggled with God” (v.2) and “struggled with the Angel” (v.4). The parallel here between these two phrases is designed to help the reader understand that Jacob struggled with more than just an angel like Gabriel or Michael. Rather, Jacob struggled with God Himself, with Deity. When it says that “he wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel,” we realize that the “Him” here is God. In fact, revisiting Jacob’s wrestle with the angel in Genesis tells us as much:

22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. 23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”

But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

27 So He said to him, “What is your name?”

He said, “Jacob.”

28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.”

And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank. (Genesis 32:22-32)

Here in Genesis 22, the Angel is called “Man,” and the word anthropos is used in the Greek referring to a human man. And yet, we know the “man” with whom Jacob wrestles is God because first, God changes Jacob’s name “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28). Jacob asks the Angel’s name, and he is told, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” (v.29), a testimony to the fact that God didn’t want to reveal His name. “God” is the name ascribed to the one true living God, but Jacob was asking about the specific name of God: whether He was of the Triune Godhead. He doesn’t get an answer as to His specific name, though we know He was Deity.

These two facts, that God here is called “man” and “God” at once lends credence to the idea that the One with whom Jacob wrestles is Jesus Christ pre-incarnate. Of course, His name is “secret,” and we know that the second member of the Triune Godhead doesn’t get officially named until the New Testament. He is called “Immanuel” in Isaiah, but that’s not His name (that describes more of His presence with us than it does His name).

The Spirit of the Lord is named in the Old Testament, and God the Father is named in the Old Testament, but “Son” and “Immanuel” are all we get with regard to Jesus. I think this divine member who wrestles with Jacob is Jesus, but Jesus doesn’t reveal His name because it wasn’t yet time.

Going back to Hosea 12, the prophet says in verses 4 and 5 that “He found Him in Bethel,” the “Him” referring to God, and “there [at Bethel] He spoke to us — that is, the Lord God of hosts. The Lord is His memorable name.” The Lord was the Angel, the “man,” with whom Jacob wrestled. Jacob recognizes that the man is the Angel is the Lord because he says in Genesis 32 immediately after the encounter, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30).


We’ve examined some Old Testament passages regarding the Doctrine of the Trinity to show that the Old Testament applauds the existence of three persons that are all equally God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Genesis 1:1 says “God [Hebrew, elohim] created the heavens and the earth,” with the very first verse of Scripture implying the existence of God as three persons. The Father is referred to as “the Lord God,” the Spirit referred to as “the Spirit of the Lord” or “His Spirit” at times, and Jesus is called “the Son,” “the Anointed One,” and so on, though the Son’s name, Jesus, isn’t unveiled until the New Testament Gospels. This goes to show us that “Immanuel” is as close as we get to what Jesus will be in the New Testament, but it shows us that, as opposed to God being in heaven and the Holy Spirit doing His work, there would be one who’d come in the flesh (“God with us”), One who’d actually come to earth, take on flesh, and dwell among us.

Other Old Testament passages refer to the plural pronoun “Us,” lending credence to the idea that God is one God but multiple persons. Many passages only show God the Father and the Holy Spirit, or God the Father and “the Son,” but some show all three at once, which is ideal for the purpose of this study.

Many think of the Doctrine of the Trinity as just a New Testament concept, but the Old Testament has some mentions of the Triune Godhead here and there, though not as prevalent as the NT. God has always been one God and three persons. We’ll save our study of the doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament for another time.


2 Responses to “God in Three Persons: The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament”

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  1. Wow, this study is so comprehensive and educating, thanks for the good work which God has used you to do, throwing more lights on the topic “Trinity “, it is indeed a must read article for every Christian and those who are in doubt about God in three persons. Remain blessed.

  2. Excellent, extraordinary, exceptional explanation of the Trinity. I have met many who do not believe or cannot accept the concept of God in 3 persons….this article is a gold mine of knowledge and insight that every Christian should be familiar with. Thank you!

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