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The application of oil was associated with times of rejoicing and celebration. It also possessed a deeper significance, including that of being singled out by God for special favour or responsibilities.

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Anointing as a social custom

In personal grooming

Ec 9:8 The associations here are of joy and well-being.
See also Ru 3:3; Ps 92:10; Is 57:9; Am 6:6; Mt 6:17

Anointing guests as a mark of honour

Psalm 23:5 KJV 1900
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
See also Lk 7:36–39; Lk 7:44–47; Jn 12:3

Anointing corpses as a burial preparation

Mark 16:1 KJV 1900
1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
See also Mt 26:6–12; Jn 19:38–40

Anointing religious objects

Ex 40:9–11 Anointed objects are set apart (consecrated), to be used only in the performance of religious ceremonies.
See also Ge 28:18; Ex 30:22–33

Anointing people for office


Exodus 40:12–15 KJV 1900
12 And thou shalt bring Aaron and his sons unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash them with water. 13 And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office. 14 And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats: 15 And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.
See also Le 4:16; Le 21:10–12; 1 Ch 29:22


1 Kings 1:39 KJV 1900
39 And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon.
See also 1 Sa 10:1; 1 Sa 16:12–13; 2 Sa 5:3; 2 Ki 11:12

A prophet

1 Ki 19:15–16 the only reference to the anointing of a prophet

Anointing people for other purposes

For purification

Leviticus 14:15–18 KJV 1900
15 And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand: 16 And the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle of the oil with his finger seven times before the Lord: 17 And of the rest of the oil that is in his hand shall the priest put upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the blood of the trespass offering: 18 And the remnant of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall pour upon the head of him that is to be cleansed: and the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord.

For healing

Mk 6:13 It has been suggested that anointing in a healing context may be related to the use of oil for medicinal purposes.
See also Jas 5:14

The figurative use of anointing

Anointing by God

1 Sa 26:9 Israel’s king is frequently referred to as “the Lord’s anointed”. His physical anointing is seen as symbolising a divine anointing. The word “Messiah” literally means “the anointed one”; Is 45:1 Cyrus, as God’s agent for a specific task, is referred to as “his anointed”.
See also 2 Sa 23:1; Ps 2:2; Ps 45:2; Ps 89:20; Eze 28:14

God’s people in the OT

1 Chronicles 16:22 KJV 1900
22 Saying, Touch not mine anointed, And do my prophets no harm.

Christian believers

2 Corinthians 1:21–22 KJV 1900
21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
See also 1 Jn 2:20; 1 Jn 2:27 This anointing is not received in an outward ceremony but by sharing in the Holy Spirit’s anointing of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ as God’s Anointed One (the Messiah)

Ac 4:26–27 Jesus Christ’s receiving of the Holy Spirit at his baptism was his “anointing” for his Messianic work; Ac 10:38 Note the link between anointing and the Holy Spirit.
See also Da 9:25–26; Lk 4:18; Is 61:1; Heb 1:9
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