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Shemot/Exodus 29:7 And you shall take the oil of the anointing and you shall pour [it] on his head and you shall anoint him.
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This text forms part of the instructions given to Moshe for installing Aharon his brother as the High Priest. We can read about its execution in Vayikra chapter 8, which narrates the installation of Aharon and his sons as priests to serve in the Tabernacle. Featuring three "you shall" almost sound-alike verbs, the verse is very prescriptive and many modern commentaries skip over it entirely or dismiss it in half a sentence as simply part of an arcane and obsolete ritual that is no longer relevant in either the synagogue or the church. However, a little investigation shows that the passage does have significance for us today.
The first phrase of the text starts with the verb - the Qal 2ms affix form of the root , to take, with a vav-reversive to render a single discrete action to be performed at some point in the future - "and you shall take". The object of the verb - that which is to be taken by Moshe when he performs the ritual - is "the oil of the anointing". This is composed of two nouns in construct relationship: 'oil' and "the anointing". Although usually translated simply as "the anointing oil", that misses the point and focus of what is to happen in this ritual step. When Moshe is instructed to make this oil, he is told, "Make of this a sacred anointing oil, a compound of ingredients expertly blended, to serve as sacred anointing oil" (Shemot 30:25, NJPS), and the words "sacred anointing oil" come from - the oil of the anointing of holiness. This is not just oil, perfumed oil, or even anointing oil with which a person might be anointed as a sign for healing. This is an anointing which confers holiness upon the person, a unique level of separation or set-apart-ness as the person is set apart for the service of G-d.
The second phrase starts with the verb - the Qal 2ms affix form of the root , to pour, also with a vav-reversive - "and you shall pour". Davidson suggests that when used intransitively - without an explicit object, as here - the verb has the sense of pouring out, while David Clines reports that it can be used for casting metal and bestowing the Spirit. He illustrates the latter with the verse, "For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit upon your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants" (Isaiah 44:3, NJPS),1 where the verb is used twice, first for water and then for G-d's Spirit and His blessing. The oil of anointing is to be poured, poured out, on Aharon's head. This expression of plenty or generosity conflicts with some rabbinic suggestions that very little oil was used, butIbn Ezra notes the match between "pour out" - "the oil was poured right on his head", he says - and the later writing of the Psalmist: "the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!" (Psalm 133:2, NJPS).
The third phrase starts with the verb - the by now familiar Qal 2ms affix with vav-reversive form, from the root , to smear, rub, anoint (Davidson). Finally, after being told to take the oil and pour it over Aharon's head, Moshe is told to anoint Aharon. Simply pouring oil over someone's head doesn't anoint them; an explicit action and context is needed. The oil of anointing must be poured with the intention of conveying the anointing to that person and setting them apart, making them holy. We can hear the sense of this from RabbiHirsch: "to besmear with oil, the material that will not mix with water, to anoint, the general symbol of separating from, rejecting anything low or vulgar. The person or thing that is anointed is henceforth not to mix with that which is low or vulgar." In the narrator's report of what actually happened on the day, we read: "Then Moshe took the anointing oil ... and he poured some of the anointing oil on Aharon's head and anointed him to consecrate him" (Vayikra 8:10,12, NJPS). The report goes on, "Then Moshe took some of the anointing oil and of the blood that was on the altar and sprinkled it on Aharon and his garments, and also on his sons and his sons' garments. So he consecrated Aharon and his garments, and his sons and his sons' garments with him" (v. 30, NJPS). While Aharon's sons are sprinkled with the blood and oil mixture and so consecrated in their garments of service alongside their father, only Aharon is anointed. Referring back to out text above, Ibn Ezra adds, "on his head alone, not those of his sons, for only the High Priest was 'the anointed priest.'" Nahum Sarna explains that "this symbolic ceremony effectuates the transition from the profane to the sacred. The biblical title 'the anointed priest' refers exclusively to the High Priest."
While Thomas Dozeman suggests that "the act of anointing with oil is a form of cleansing that bestows a special status on the person", adding that, "both kings and prophets can be anointed",2 Walter Brueggemann sees more than that. Aharon, he says, is "peculiarly and distinctively designated."3 Aharon is already clean; he has washed in water, put on the ritual clothing, offered sacrifices for a sin and a burnt offering. This is an entirely different step in the process of installation as High Priest: Aharon will be the anointed priest until the day he dies - as will his successors after him as long as the process is observed.
Samuel was told to take his horn of oil and go to the household of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint a new king over Israel. There David was anointed by Samuel - "Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the L-RD rushed upon David from that day forward" (1 Samuel 16:13, ESV) - as king. He poured the whole horn full of oil over David's head and in reciprocal action, David was 'taken' by the Ruach. The verb 'rushed' is , "to rush or come in power upon", but also "to set a house ablaze";4 it suggests that David was almost overwhelmed! We should notice too that although David's anointing had an instant effect on him, it took many years and many adventures for that anointing to reach its purpose and fulfillment when he became king, first of the tribe of Judah in Hebron and then finally over the whole house of Israel at Jerusalem. During the interval between being given the anointing and it reaching its climax, it was often but not always visible to others; it had a delayed public awareness.
Yeshua was anointed by the Ruach at His baptism. The gospels all agree that "the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove" (Luke 3:22, ESV). Was Yeshua overpowered? Mark reports that "the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness" (Mark 1:12, ESV), suggesting that it was a compelling experience. Yet we can also observe from the gospel narratives that Yeshua's anointing was not always visible; Pilot, Herod and others saw nothing, while the Jewish leaders found it necessary to ask, "what sign do You do, that we may see and believe You? What work do You perform?" (John 6:30, ESV). On the other hand, crowds were healed and, as Yeshua said, "the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them" (Matthew 11:5, ESV). When did we see the fullness of the anointing - taking Him ever on towards the cross? Was it as He entered Jerusalem when "the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying: Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" (Luke 19:37-38, ESV), or was it on the cross itself when the centurion in charge of the execution party admitted, "Truly this man was the Son of G-d!" (Mark 15:39, ESV)?
The question for us is how and when are we anointed? What does it mean for us today? Anointed we certainly are; John the Immerser spoke of Yeshua saying, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matthew 3:11, ESV). Yeshua Himself told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem, "for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5, ESV), having promised that "the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26, ESV). This is our inheritance and our promise as we fulfill the mission of the first disciples in this generation. The same anointing that empowered them to turn "the whole world upside down" (Acts 17:6), will enable us to do the same. We are anointed when we put our faith in Yeshua and we are empowered and overwhelmed as we surrender ourselves to Him. Walter Brueggemann explains, "'Making holy' is a daring, awesome enterprise that imagines ways in which the mystery of G-d in all its inscrutable power may be available to us."5 If we are to see the kingdom grow and stand against the fierce onslaught of the "principalities and powers" (Ephesians 6:12), we must walk in the fullness of our anointing!
1. - David J. A. Clines (ed.) The Concise Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2009), page 161.
2. - Thomas B. Dozeman, Exodus, Eerdmans Critical Commentaries, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmanns, 2009), page 656.
3. - Walter Brueggemann, "Exodus", in The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary Vol I, edited by Leander E. Keck, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015), page 460.
4. - Clines, pages 379-380.
5. - Bruegemann, page 461.
Further Study: Joel 3:1-5(2:28-32); Acts 10:37-38; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 1 John 2:20,27
Application: Have you been anointed in the power of the Holy Spirit and been overwhelmed and empowered to perform miracles and share the Master's words of life? We all need everything that G-d has to give us in these days of challenge and darkness, so make sure that you contact Him today and get plugged in to receive the full download and equipping that He has for you to serve Him.UsrComment(01:21 21Feb21, Bonnie, I thought of a Promise from 2 Peter 1:3 which reminds me of Esther as she prepared herself to see the king: "His divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue.")
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© Jonathan Allen, 2021
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