The practice of anointing with perfumed oil was common among the Hebrews.
(1.) The act of anointing was significant of consecration to a holy or sacred use; hence the anointing of the high priest (Ex 29:29; Le 4:3) and of the sacred vessels (Ex 30:26). The high priest and the king are thus called "the anointed" (Le 4:3,5,16; 6:20; Ps 132:10). Anointing a king was equivalent to crowning him (1Sa 16:13; 2Sa 2:4, etc.). Prophets were also anointed (1Ki 19:16; 1Ch 16:22; Ps 105:15). The expression, "anoint the shield" (Isa 21:5), refers to the custom of rubbing oil on the leather of the shield so as to make it supple and fit for use in war.
(2.) Anointing was also an act of hospitality (Lu 7:38,46). It was the custom of the Jews in like manner to anoint themselves with oil, as a means of refreshing or invigorating their bodies (De 28:40; Ru 3:3; 2Sa 14:2; Ps 104:15, etc.). This custom is continued among the Arabians to the present day.
(4.) The bodies of the dead were sometimes anointed (Mr 14:8; Lu 23:56).
(5.) The promised Deliverer is twice called the "Anointed" or Messiah (Ps 2:2; Da 9:25-26), because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost (Isa 61:1), figuratively styled the "oil of gladness" (Ps 45:7; Heb 1:9). Jesus of Nazareth is this anointed One (Joh 1:41; Ac 9:22; 17:2-3; 18:5,28), the Messiah of the Old Testament.
To put oil on the head or body; a practice common in the E. (Ru 3:3). To cease anointing was a mark of mourning (2Sa 14:2; Da 10:3; Mt 6:17). A mark of respect to a guest so common that to omit it implied defective hospitality (Lu 7:46; Ps 23:5); Heb., "Thou hast made fat," or "unctuous" (Joh 11:2; 12:3). A body was prepared for burial with unguents (Mr 16:1; 14:8). Metaphorically, "anointed with oil" means successful, joyous (Ps 92:10; Ec 9:8). "Anointing with the oiler gladness" (Ps 45:7; Heb 1:9) expresses spiritual joy, such as Messiah felt and shall feel in seeing the blessed fruit of His sufferings (Isa 61:3). Anointing prevents excessive perspiration in the hot and arid E., gives elasticity to the limbs, and acts as clothing in both sun and shade.
The ordinary clothing is thin, and the heat and sand produce weariness and irritation, which the oil relieves. Oil was used as a medicament for the sick, and liniment for bodily pain (Isa 1:6), so that it was used as a symbol in miraculous cures (Mr 6:13). The usage which Christ practiced Himself (Joh 9:6,11) and committed to His apostles was afterward continued with laying on of hands as a token of the highest faculty of medicine in the church. Rome vainly continues the sign, when the reality, the power of miraculous healing, is wanting. Rome's "extreme unction" is administered to heal the soul when the body's life is despaired of. James's (Jas 5:14-15) unction was to heal the body. The sacred use of oil was for consecrating things or persons to God. So Jacob anointed for a pillar the stone which had been his pillow at Bethel (Ge 28:18).
The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and as applied to things gave them a ceremonial sacredness, fitting them for holy ministrations. As applied to prophets (1Ch 16:22; 1Ki 19:16), priests (Le 4:3), and kings (Isa 45:1), it marked their consecration to the office, and was a symbol of the spiritual qualification divinely imparted for its due discharge (Ex 30:29-30). 1Sa 10:1,6: King Saul. 1Sa 16:13-14; David thrice anointed: first to the right; then over Judah; then actually over the whole nation. Isa 61:1; Messiah, twice so designated in the Old Testament (Ps 2:2; Da 9:25-26), at once Prophet, Priest, and King, the Center of all prophecy, the Antitype of all priesthood, and the Source and End of all kingship (Lu 4:18; Ac 4:27; 10:38). He was anointed with the Holy Spirit from the womb, then at His baptism (Joh 1:32-41).
Hereby the New Testament marks Him as the Messiah of the Old Testament (Ac 9:22; 17:2-3; 18:5,28.) What He is His people are, Messiahs or "anointed ones" by union with Him (Zec 4:14), having the unction of the Holy Spirit (2Co 1:21; 1Jo 2:20). Though priests in general were at first anointed, afterward anointing was restricted to the high priest, called "the priest that is anointed:" the perfume used was of stacte, onycha, and galbanum, with pure frankincense, and it was death to imitate it. Antitypically, to Christ, the true high priest alone, belongs the fullness of the Spirit, which it is blasphemy to arrogate.
The Lord's anointed was the ordinary phrase for the theocratic king (1Sa 12:3; La 4:20). "Anointing the shield" was to make the hide of which it was made supple and less liable to crack (Isa 21:5). "Anointing the eyes with eyesalve" expresses imparting of spiritual perceptions (Re 3:18). "The yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing" (Isa 10:27), i.e., the Assyrian oppression shall be taken away from Judah, because of the consecration that is upon the elect nation, its prophets, priests, kings, and holy place (Ps 105:15); the Antitype to all which is Messiah, "the Anointed" (Da 9:24). It is for Messiah's sake that all their deliverances are vouchsafed to His people.
ANOINT, to pour oil upon, Ge 28:18; 31:13. The setting up of a stone and anointing it by Jacob, as here recorded, in grateful memory of his celestial vision, probably became the occasion of idolatry, in succeeding ages, and gave rise to the erection of temples composed of shapeless masses of unhewn stone, of which so many astonishing remains are scattered up and down the Asiatic and the European world.
Under the law, persons and things set apart for sacred purposes were anointed with the holy oil; which appears to have been a typical representation of the communication of the Holy Ghost to Christ and to his church. See Ex 28:29. Hence the Holy Spirit is called an unction or anointing, 1Jo 2:20,27; and our Lord is called the "Messiah," or "Anointed One," to denote his being called to the offices of mediator, prophet, priest, and king, to all of which he was consecrated by the anointing of the Holy Ghost, Mt 3:16-17.
When we hear of the anointing of the Jewish kings, we are to understand by it the same as their inauguration; inasmuch as anointing was the principal ceremony on such an occasion, 2Sa 2:4; 5:3. As far as we are informed, however, unction, as a sign of investiture with the royal authority, was bestowed only upon Saul and David, and subsequently upon Solomon and Joash, who ascended the throne under such circumstances, that there was danger of their right to the succession being forcibly disputed, 1Sa 10:24; 2Sa 2:4; 5:1-3; 1Ch 11:1-2; 2-Kings/11/210/type/haweis'>2Ki 11:210; 2 Chronicles 23:1-21. The ceremony of regal anointing needed not to be repeated in every instance of succession to the throne, because the unction which the first one who held the sceptre in any particular line of princes had received was supposed to suffice for the succeeding incumbents in the same descent.
In the kingdom of Israel, those who were inducted into the royal office appear to have been inaugurated with some additional ceremonies, 2Ki 9:13. The private anointings, which we learn to have been performed by the prophets, 2Ki 9:3, comp. 1Sa 10:1; 16:1-13, were only prophetic symbols or intimations that the persons who were thus anointed should eventually receive the kingdom.
The holy anointing oil which was made by Moses, Ex 30:22-23, for the maintaining and consecrating of the king, the high priest, and all the sacred vessels made use of in the house of God, was one of those things, as Dr. Prideaux observes, which was wanting in the second temple. The oil made and consecrated for this use was commanded to be kept by the children of Israel, throughout their generations, and therefore it was laid up in the most holy place of the tabernacle and the first temple.