Anointing in the Bible

Anointing in the bible is a study I have been writing on for the last couple of weeks. Today, I want to continue with the anointing of kings.

No doubt, those who rule and lead should be found among those who are anointed. In fact, anointing a king was considered equivalent to crowning him. In the scriptures, the first kingly anointing was performed by Samuel on King Saul. In the English Standard Version, 1 Samuel 10:1 says:

“Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head and kissed him and said, Has not the LORD anointed you to be prince over his people Israel? And you shall reign over the people of the LORD and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies. And this shall be the sign to you that the LORD has anointed you to be prince over his heritage.”

In several other translations this verse specifies that Samuel took a flask of “olive oil” to anoint Saul. However, most likely it would have been a base of olive oil mixed with other fragrant essential oils. The Bible cites 61 anointings performed on those of royalty.

David, as a shepherd boy, was anointed with oil by Samuel the prophet. In 1 Samuel 16:11-13, it reads:

“And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither. And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.”

As a man after God’s heart, David was officially anointed by others three times in scriptures. The second occurrence is recorded in 2 Samuel 2:4 when the men of Judah came to anoint him their king: “And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. And they told David, saying, That the men of Jabeshgilead were they that buried Saul.”

And, in 2 Samuel 5:3 it recounts David’s anointing as king of Israel: “So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD: and they anointed David king over Israel.”

In the book of Psalms, David attributes his anointing to God, with “You anoint my head with oil” in Psalm 23:5. This is later confirmed in Psalm 89:20-21, when God declares, “I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him: With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him.”

Anointing a king according to these scriptures shows that a crown was not required to be coroneted. However, it does clearly state that it was done in the presence of the assembly or brethren. No one could come back later and ask, “Who died and left you in charge?” Everyone witnessed this historic event.

In 1 Kings 1:39, Zadok the priest took a horn of oil out of the tabernacle and anointed Solomon. No doubt, the oil that Zadok used was the Holy Anointing Oil that he removed from the tabernacle.

It is interesting to note in Isaiah 45:1 that Cyrus the king of Persia was called by God “my anointed” or messiah, indicating that God had chosen him to accomplish a part of his plan regardless of his nationality or faith.

Other royal dignitaries such as Queen Esther were anointed with oil. However, her anointing was not a one-time event, but was a part of a year of preparation prior to her coronation. In Esther 2:3 it says that the young virgins were provided with things for purification, which included essential oils. It reads:

“And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king’s chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them.”

Esther, as a young woman, underwent six months of beauty treatments with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and aloes. One translation states it as “with olive oil and myrrh.” In ancient times, this formula of anointing oils would have been considered a young woman’s perfume. In Esther 2:12 it reads:

“Now when every maid’s turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women).”

Today, the use of a sacred anointing oil for the consecration of a newly enthroned sovereign continues to play an important role in the coronation ceremony. Over sixty years ago, Queen Elizabeth II of England, like her forbearers, received the unction of that sacred oil. This oil, as one perfumer or “nose” wrote, “is not simply an oleaginous body but contains aromatic ingredients that is in fact a perfume oil from a precise recipe that goes back to biblical traditions.” However, formulas did change over time. When the turn of Elizabeth II came in 1953, it was discovered that while sufficient quantity would have remained from the anointing oil used for her father, it had been destroyed during the London raids of WWII in May of 1941 while stored in the deanery of Westminster Abbey.

Another unfortunate turn of events was that the company that had made it, Squire & Sons, had gone out of business. Fortunately, some of the anointing oil that an old retired employee had kept as a souvenir was later analyzed and reconstituted by a chemist, J.D. Jamieson of Savory & Moore Ltd, which had taken over Squire & Sons company. The formula used on the coronation day of Elizabeth II which was prepared by the Surgeon-Apothecary lists the ingredients of Neroli, Jasmine, Rose, Cinnamon, Benzoin, Musk, Civet and Ambergris. A change is noted where the type of oil is concerned, which no longer listed “oil of been” (oil of Ben) as for Charles I, but sesame oil instead.

From a biblical perspective, the only single ingredient remaining from the original recipe noted in Exodus 30 recipe is Cinnamon. The oil used for the crowning of the Queen of England was then consecrated by the bishop of Gloucester in the chapel of St. Edward the Confessor. In addition, the gesture or manner of anointment for the sovereign differs from that of biblical times. For Charles I, the king of England, was anointed on the breast, between the shoulders, on both shoulders, in the crooks of both arms and on the head. For Elizabeth II, the queen was anointed on the palms of her hands, her breast and her head.