Oil Symbolism in the Old Testament
It seems, at first glance at the Old Testament, that olive oil (or anointing oil) had predominantly a religious purpose.
Not only would you pour oil on the head of a high priest, but also this “holy” oil would sprinkle on furnishings in the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:6), a transportable temple for God’s people, until they created a permanent place of worship during the time of Solomon.
Olive oil also was used during the beautification process in Esther 2:12.
Over the span of several months, Esther, along with other eligible ladies, would cleanse themselves with myrrh and oil for six months (and another six months with perfume and cosmetics).
As stated in this Bible Study Tools article, oil often signified prosperity, blessings, and stability, opposed to other periods throughout Israel’s history where the harvest was not bountiful and famine had swept the land (Joel 1:10).
Oil had sanctifying (cleansing) properties. Whenever someone poured oil on someone or something, they had set apart that object as a blessed object of the Lord.
Therefore, this explains the reasons why those throughout the Old Testament would anoint both people and inanimate objects (Genesis 28:18).
Israel commonly practiced anointing the heads of kings. That is why when Samuel chooses to anoint the lowliest of Jesse’s sons, young David (1 Samuel 16), which would have surprised the family. They didn’t think, “Oh, I guess he’s giving David’s head a nice oil bath.” They would’ve understood the implications of Samuel’s actions. God had chosen the next king of Israel, Jesse’s youngest son.
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