Holy anointing oil
The holy anointing oil (Hebrew: שמן המשחה shemen ha-mishchah, "oil of anointing") formed an integral part of the ordination of the priesthood and the High Priest as well as in the consecration of the articles of the Tabernacle (Exodus 30:26) and subsequent temples in Jerusalem. The primary purpose of anointing with the holy anointing oil was to sanctify, to set the anointed person or object apart as qodesh, or "holy" (Exodus 30:29).
Originally, the oil was used exclusively for the priests and the Tabernacle articles, but its use was later extended to include kings (I Samuel 10:1). It was forbidden to be used on an outsider (Exodus 30:33) or to be used on the body of any common person (Ex. 30:32a) and the Israelites were forbidden to duplicate any like it for themselves (Ex. 30:32b).
Some segments of Christianity have continued the practice of using holy anointing oil as a devotional practice, as well as in various liturgies.
A number of religious groups have traditions of continuity of the holy anointing oil, with part of the original oil prepared by Moses remaining to this day, either supplemented by additional oil or miraculously increased as it is used. These groups include rabbinical Judaism, the Armenian Church, the Assyrian Church of the East the Coptic Church, he Nazrani and Saint Thomas churches,and others.
The holy anointing oil described in Exodus 30:22–25 was created from:
- Pure myrrh (מר דרור mar deror)
- Sweet cinnamon (קינמון בשם kinnemon besem)
- Sweet calamus (קְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם Kaneh bosem, fragrant cane)
- Cassia (קדה kiddah)
- Olive oil (שמן זית shemen zayit) one hin
Origin of the term
The Hebrew term "Messiah" (in Greek Christos) means "the anointed one", and relates to anyone anointed (dedicated to God). The person thus anointed might be a king, a priest, or a prophet.
In the ancient Near East
Customs varied in the cultures of the Middle East. However, anointing with special oil in Israel was either a strictly priestly or kingly right. When a prophet was anointed, it was because he was first a priest. When a non-king was anointed, such as Elijah's anointing of Hazael and Jehu, it was a sign that Hazael was to become king of Aram (Syria) and Jehu was to become king of Israel. Extra-biblical sources show that it was common to anoint kings in many ancient Near Eastern monarchies. Therefore, in Israel, anointing was not only a sacred act but also a socio-political one.
In the Hebrew Bible, bad smells appear as indications of the presence of disease, decay, rotting processes and death (Exodus 7:18),while pleasant aromas suggest places that were biologically clean and conducive to habitation and/or food production and harvesting. Spices and oils were chosen which assisted man in orienting himself and in creating a sense of safety as well as a sense of elevation above the physical world of decay. The sense of smell was also considered highly esteemed by deity. In Deuteronomy 4:28 and Psalms 115:5-6 the sense of smell is included in connection with the polemics against idols. In the Hebrew Bible God takes pleasure in inhaling the "soothing odor" (reah hannihoah) of offerings (Genesis 8:21 etc.).
To the ancient Israelite there was no oil or fat with more symbolic meaning than olive oil. It was used as an emollient, a fuel for lighting lamps, for nutrition, and for many other purposes. It was scented olive oil that was chosen to be a holy anointing oil for the Israelites.
In Rabbinic Judaism
The Talmud asserts that the original anointing oil prepared by Moses remained miraculously intact and was used by future generations without replacement, including in the future Third Temple when it is rebuilt. Vendyl Jones claimed that such a small quantity of oil (around a gallon) would not last that long (it is claimed that one juglet of oil lasted over 800 years). To explain this discrepancy it is claimed that one of two things occurred: Either the container of holy anointing oil miraculously multiplied (similar to Elijah's multiplication of oil for the widow of Zarephath or the Chanukah oil miracle) or, following ancient customs, new oil was added to the old thus continuing the original oil for all time.
This is not the only ritual in which Jewish tradition emphasizes continuity. For example, early Jewish rabbis stressed the importance of the succession of classical semikhah and one Jewish tradition teaches that the ashes of the last red heifer sacrificed were always mixed with the ashes of each new red heifer.
Anointing oil is used in some Christian communities. A passage in the New Testament says,
"Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."— James 5:13,14 (KJV)
The Catholic Church emphasized the importance of apostolic succession, the continuity of laying on of hands for ordination, in an unbroken chain.
Frankincense & Myrrh – Healing & Intercession
In temple days, sweet incense containing Frankincense was placed on the Inner Altar of the Tabernacle and burned morning and evening. It speaks of intercession. Myrrh, used as a burial spice and in purification rites, was a primary ingredient of the Holy Anointing Oil. It speaks of suffering and death, but our total deliverance in the atoning work of Messiah. Frankincense & Myrrh, two of the three prophetic gifts given to the Messiah at His birth, represent His role as Priest and Prophet, signifying all that Messiah would do and continues to do on our behalf.
"He was wounded for our transgression, He was bruised for our iniquities; ....and by His stripes we are healed."
"...he is totally able to deliver those who approach God through him; since he is alive forever and thus able to intercede on their behalf."
This is probably one of the most effective fragrances that can be used for prayer for deliverance. As I’ve said before, the spiritual realm runs parallel to the natural realm. It means that what we see in this natural world, is a result of what already took place in the spiritual realm. In the spiritual and in the natural realm, snakes hate this fragrance. Just the smell of this fragrance often leads to manifestations. In Israel these fragrances were often used to keep snakes away from under the houses.
Cassia – Dedication & Devotion
Cassia was one of the principal spices of the Holy Anointing oil used to anoint priests, kings and their garments. Likewise, the coming King Messiah's robes will smell of cassia. Cassia is not frequently used today but was apparently a highly valued commodity in biblical times. The root word, kiddah, in both Hebrew and Arabic, signifies a strip and refers to the strips of bark from which the spice is made. In the spiritual sense, cassia speaks of devotion (being stripped of pride) and consecration (set apart) with a servant's heart. The deep, exotic aroma and the rich color of our Cassia oil make it a welcome addition to our family of biblical fragrant anointing oils.
"Your robes are all fragrant with myrrh, aloes and cassia..."
Cedars of Lebanon – Strength & Protection
The cedar of Lebanon is a huge evergreen tree by Middle Eastern standards, reaching 90 feet in height, the “King" of all biblical trees. The wood is astonishingly decay-resistant and it is never eaten by insect larvae. It is beautifully majestic and red-toned with deep green leaves. The tree bark is dark gray and exudes a gumlike resin from which the highly aromatic oils are produced. Cedars of Lebanon is the strong, fragrant wood used to build David's house, Solomon's house and much of the First Temple. It was also used along with hyssop in the cleansing of a leper's house. It speaks of strength, permanence, wholeness and restoration.
"The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon."
Hyssop (Holy Fire) – Purification & Empowerment
Hyssop is a low growing evergreen, bushy herb growing 1 to 2 feet high, cultivated for its flower tops, from which the fragrance is extracted. The herb grows in arid climates out of rocky soil and out of cracks in ancient walls such as in the old Temple area of Jerusalem. Hyssop was once called a "Holy Herb" because it was used for sprinkling in the ritual practices of the Hebrews. Ex 12:22 reads, “And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts.” Because of the reference found in Num. 19:6 (“And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer”), we have called this fragrance “HOLY FIRE." Hyssop speaks of spiritual cleansing by the refining fire of the Holy Spirit and can best be described as a "fresh, clean-smelling" aroma.
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
King’s Garments – Glory of the King
In Psalm 45:8 the Bible portrays a king whose garments are so thoroughly scented with costly perfumes that they seem to be altogether woven out of them. Two of the three scents mentioned, Myrrh and Cassia, were ingredients in the holy anointing oil used to anoint priests and kings. The remaining fragrance, Aloes, is listed among the “chief species” in the garden of the beloved in Song 4:13-14. King's Garments is a special aromatic blending of the three biblical scents consisting of:
Myrrh: A gum resin that exudes from a small bushy tree found in Arabia. It flows as milky white then quickly turns to a deep purple-brown color as it begins to crystalize.
Aloes: Most likely the product of a tree of the genus Aquilaria, a native of northern India. At a certain stage of decay, the wood develops a fragrance well known to the ancients and from it a rare perfume was obtained.
Cassia: An evergreen tree in the cinnamon family with an aromatic bark, which is harvested in strips to make an aromatic powder or oil.
Myrrh, an exotic biblical spice, was used in purification and beautification rites, in the formula for the Holy Anointing Oil, and in burial spices. Queen Esther was bathed in Oil of Myrrh for six months and with other aloes and perfumes for another six months before her presentation to the king. Bitter to the taste but sweet to the smell, myrrh in the spiritual sense speaks of dying to self to become a "sweet smelling savor" to the Lord.
"A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me."
Song of Sol. 1:13
Pomegranate – Blessing & Favor
The pomegranate, a Persian native, is one of the oldest fruits known to man and was highly esteemed by the Israelites. An enormous number of the flower petals must be pressed and steam-distilled in order to make a quantity of oil. Once pressed the slightly amber oil, which is the basis for all our Pomegranate products, gives off a pleasant and slightly fruity odor.
Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol for righteousness, because it is said to have 613 seeds which correspond with the 613 mitzvot or commandments of the Torah. Pomegranate is one of the seven species the spies brought back with them to show how fertile the Promised Land was. It speaks of God's favor exhibited in fruitfulness and abundance.
"They came to the valley of Eshkol...they brought also of the pomegranates, and of the figs."
Rose of Sharon – Beauty of the Beloved
The Rose of Sharon fragrance is best described as "tea-rose", a not-too-sweet, light, floral scent, which does not overpower. This flower from the region of Sharon in Israel is actually not a rose, but is part of the hibiscus family. Its blooms are nonetheless beautiful and glorious, just as Isaiah depicted the Bride of Messiah would be in the millennial reign when she shines forth in all the radiance of her heavenly glory, beauty, gentleness and honor.
"I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys."
Song of Sol 2:1
Spikenard – Worship & Praise
Spikenard, a rare and costly fragrant oil, was used by Mary of Bethany to anoint the head and feet of the Messiah two days before His death, as recorded in John 12:3: “Then Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” It speaks of the Bride’s extravagant adoration of and intimacy with the Bridegroom, in total abandonment, without regard to cost. It symbolizes the Bride who has made herself ready.
"While the king sits at his table, my spikenard sends forth its fragrance."
Song of Sol 1:12
Cinnamon – Passion & Courage
Sweet Cinnamon is one of the four aromatic ingredients of the Holy Anointing Oil described in Exodus 30:23. The fragrance of cinnamon has a rich full bodied aromatic energy about it once it permeates the atmosphere. Cinnamon added to the holy anointing oil is the seasoning that brings passion and stirs up fire to continue on no matter what the pressure. It represents Holy Boldness, Courage and Passion in the believer.