"To put oil on the head or body"; a practice common in the E. (Rth 3:3). To cease anointing was a mark of mourning (2 Samuel 14:2; Daniel 10:3; Matthew 6:17). A mark of respect to a guest so common that to omit it implied defective hospitality (Luke 7:46; Psalm 23:5); Heb., "Thou hast made fat," or "unctuous" (John 11:2; John 12:3). A body was prepared for burial with unguents (Mark 16:1; Mark 14:8). Metaphorically, "anointed with oil" means successful, joyous (Psalm 92:10; Ecclesiastes 9:8). "Anointing with the oiler gladness" (Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9) expresses spiritual joy, such as Messiah felt and shall feel in seeing the blessed fruit of His sufferings (Isaiah 61:3). Anointing prevents excessive perspiration in the hot and arid E., gives elasticity to the limbs, and acts as clothing in both sun and shade.
The ordinary clothing is thin, and the heat and sand produce weariness and irritation, which the oil relieves. Oil was used as a medicament for the sick, and liniment for bodily pain (Isaiah 1:6), so that it was used as a symbol in miraculous cures (Mark 6:13). The usage which Christ practiced Himself (John 9:6; John 9:11) and committed to His apostles was afterward continued with laying on of hands as a token of the highest faculty of medicine in the church. Rome vainly continues the sign, when the reality, the power of miraculous healing, is wanting. Rome's "extreme unction" is administered to heal the soul when the body's life is despaired of. James's (James 5:14-15) unction was to heal the body. The sacred use of oil was for consecrating things or persons to God. So Jacob anointed for a pillar the stone which had been his pillow at Bethel (Genesis 28:18).
The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and as applied to things gave them a ceremonial sacredness, fitting them for holy ministrations. As applied to prophets (1 Chronicles 16:22; 1 Kings 19:16), priests (Leviticus 4:3), and kings (Isaiah 45:1), it marked their consecration to the office, and was a symbol of the spiritual qualification divinely imparted for its due discharge (Exodus 30:29-30). 1 Samuel 10:1,6: King Saul. 1 Samuel 16:13-14; David thrice anointed: first to the right; then over Judah; then actually over the whole nation. Isaiah 61:1; Messiah, twice so designated in the Old Testament (Psalm 2:2; Daniel 9:25-26), at once Prophet, Priest, and King, the Center of all prophecy, the Antitype of all priesthood, and the Source and End of all kingship (Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38). He was anointed with the Holy Spirit from the womb, then at His baptism (John 1:32-33-41).
Hereby the New Testament marks Him as the Messiah of the Old Testament (Acts 9:22; Acts 17:2-3; Acts 18:5; Acts 18:28.) What He is His people are, Messiahs or "anointed ones" by union with Him (Zechariah 4:14), having the unction of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 John 2:20). Though priests in general were at first anointed, afterward anointing was restricted to the high priest, called "the priest that is anointed:" the perfume used was of stacte, onycha, and galbanum, with pure frankincense, and it was death to imitate it. Antitypically, to Christ, the true high priest alone, belongs the fullness of the Spirit, which it is blasphemy to arrogate.
"The Lord's anointed" was the ordinary phrase for the theocratic king (1 Samuel 12:3; Lamentations 4:20). "Anointing the shield" was to make the hide of which it was made supple and less liable to crack (Isaiah 21:5). "Anointing the eyes with eyesalve" expresses imparting of spiritual perceptions (Revelation 3:18). "The yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing" (Isaiah 10:27), i.e., the Assyrian oppression shall be taken away from Judah, because of the consecration that is upon the elect nation, its prophets, priests, kings, and holy place (Psalm 105:15); the Antitype to all which is Messiah, "the Anointed" (Daniel 9:24). It is for Messiah's sake that all their deliverances are vouchsafed to His people.