With two exceptions, 'ointment' in our English Version is the rendering, in OT, of the ordinary word for 'oil,' and in some passages the ointment may have consisted of oil only. In most of the references, however, perfumed oil is undoubtedly meant. The two are distinguished in Lu 7:46 'My head with oil thou didst not anoint; but she hath anointed my feet with ointment (myron).' The extensive use of myron in NT in the sense of 'ointment' shows that myrrh was then the favourite perfume. The dead body, as well as the living subject, was anointed with this ointment (Lu 23:56). Another 'very costly' unguent is described as 'ointment of spikenard' (Mr 14:3; Joh 12:3), for which see Spikenard. These much-prized unguents were kept in pots of alabaster, as in Egypt, where they are said to retain their fragrance for 'several hundred years' (Wilkinson, Anc. Egyp. i. 426, with illust.).
In the Priests' Code there is repeated reference to a specially rich unguent, 'the holy anointing oil,' the composition of which is minutely laid down in Ex 30:23-25. The ingredients, in addition to a basis of olive oil, are rendered in RV as 'flowing myrrh,' sweet cinnamon, sweet calamus, and cassia. The penalty for the unauthorized manufacture and sacrilegious use of this sacred chrism was excommunication.
A. R. S. Kennedy.
Except in Ex 30:25 (where the Hebrew words are mishchah and roqach, and may be translated "an oil of holy ointment, a perfume"), and in 1Ch 9:30; Job 41:31 (where the words are derived from roqach), the Hebrew word is shemen, which is constantly translated 'oil.' It is used for 'fatness, oil, spiced oil,' and hence 'ointment,' with which on joyful occasions the head was anointed, Ps 133:2, and is elsewhere called the 'oil of gladness.' Ps 45:7: cf. Pr 27:9,16; Ec 7:1; 9:8; Am 6:6. As an emollient it was applied to wounds or bruises. Isa 1:6. In the N.T. the word is ?????, 'oil mingled with fragrant spices:' with such Mary anointed the Lord, and its perfume filled the house, Joh 12:3,5; it was also used by a woman 'which was a sinner.' Lu 7:37-38. The ointment would be more or less costly according to the ingredients.
(An oily or unctuous substance, usually compounded of oil with various spices and resins and aromatics, and preserved in small alabaster boxes or cruses, in which the delicious aroma was best preserved. Some of the ointments have been known to retain their: fragrance for several hundred years. They were a much-coveted luxury, and often very expensive. --ED.)
1. Cosmetic. --The Greek and Roman practice of anointing the head and clothes on festive occasions prevailed also among the Egyptians, and appears to have had place among the Jews.
2. Funereal. --Ointments as well as oil were used to anoint dead bodies and the clothes in which they were wrapped.
3. Medicinal. --Ointment formed an important feature in ancient medical treatment.
4. Ritual.--Besides the oil used in many ceremonial observances, a special ointment was appointed to be used in consecration.
A person whose business it was to compound ointments in general was called an "apothecary."
The work was sometimes carried on by woman "confectionaries."