Anointing oil is mentioned dozens of times in the Bible. In the Old Testament, it was poured on top of the high priest’s head and sprinkled on the temple furnishings. Today this might seem unnecessary; however, it does beg the question—does anointing oil still have its place in modern church culture?
Olive Oil and Anointing Oil | Old Testament
Anointing oil runs deep within the vein of Jewish culture. When the high priest and his descendants were anointed with oil, it represented being holy and set apart by the Lord. In ancient times, specific directions were given as to who, where, and how it was to be administered, along with directions for making it.
“…oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense…”—Exodus 25:6
Who Used Holy Anointing Oil in the Bible?
Moses was instructed to sprinkle the holy anointing oil on the high priest Aaron and his sons, as well as their garments—consecrating them to the work and office of the priesthood.
“Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood which was on the altar, and sprinkled it on Aaron, on his garments, on his sons, and on the garments of his sons with him; and he consecrated Aaron, his garments, his sons, and the garments of his sons with him.”—Leviticus 8:30 (emphasis added)
Where Was Holy Anointing Oil Used?
In the passage below, we read it was used in the tabernacle.
“The appointed duty of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest is the oil for the light, the sweet incense, the daily grain offering, the anointing oil, the oversight of all the tabernacle, of all that is in it, with the sanctuary and its furnishings.”—Numbers 4:16 (emphasis added)
“And you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it; and you shall hallow it and all its utensils, and it shall be holy.”—Exodus 40:9 (emphasis added)
How Was Holy Anointing Oil Made?
Specific instruction for making anointing oil is in Exodus 30:23-24.
“Also take for yourself quality spices—five hundred shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much sweet-smelling cinnamon (two hundred and fifty shekels), two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet-smelling cane, five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil.”—Exodus 30:23-24 (emphasis added)
You may be wondering why the Lord gave such specific instructions for making anointing oil. There are several reasons…
- It was a sacred compound of spices and oil that took time and dedication to make. Thus, it is a picture for us to better understand how God plans everything, down to the smallest details of our lives.
- The specific anointing oil used in the tabernacle was to be “set apart” only for God’s purposes, not for personal
- God also wanted to protect the unique character of the tabernacle, so it was to be used only there.
- Lastly, something else to think about—the tabernacle is where many sacrifices were offered. With the continual slaughtering and burning of animal sacrifices, the anointing oil’s strong and pleasant aroma was a continual reminder of the holiness present and mingling with the odor of the sacrifices.
Other Symbolism You May Have Missed
“With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and the ark of the Testimony; the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense…”—Exodus 30:26-27
We see the lampstand first introduced in Exodus 25:31. It was to be made of one piece of pure gold and of hammered work, then placed in the tabernacle.
- Gold was considered the most valuable of metals and is referenced as being “tested by fire.” The testing of gold is also paired with the testing of the Church in 1 Peter 1:7…
“… your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”
- The seven golden lampstands are seen again in Revelation and represent the seven churches.
(Jesus) “saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’”—Revelation 1:11
“…And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band… ‘…The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.’”—Revelation 1:12-13, 20
From the symbolism, you see the plan God has for the Church and Israel to be united together by His power and authority.
“Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.”—Exodus 30:7-8
The sweet incense was to burn every morning from the light of the lamps. It was to be perpetually burning throughout generations.
The altar of incense was made with gold and acacia wood—materials fit for a king.
- We see incense likened to prayers lifted up to the heavens.
“Let my prayer be set before You as incense. the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”—Psalm 141:2
“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”—Revelation 5:8
Notice the directions regarding holy anointing oil to be used for “generations.” Anointing oil was commonly used in worship and prayer in the Bible. The Lord provided such specific instructions for its recipe and its use that we shouldn’t ignore it today. There was a reason for the detailed explanation, and as “kings and priests set apart” (see 1 Peter 2:9), we can embrace these tools as a part of our worship as modern-day Believers.
Understanding our ties to the Jewish faith and their land helps us better appreciate where these ancient practices originated. The land that produces the very olive oil used in anointing is being revived and replanted. And the Church has a part in it. To discover more about how God is using the Church to restore Israel, click HERE!