The Greek word Christos (“anointed”) is used more than 500 times in the New Testament. The word “anointed” literally means that a person or object was smeared or rubbed with oil. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul referred to “the Anointed” (“Christ”) twenty-four times. “Being anointed” is a classic example of Biblical Imagery. “Imagery is a literary device that refers to the use of figurative language to evoke a sensory experience or create a picture with words for a reader.” The use of figurative language comes naturally to us, and we often use figurative language with little or no conscious effort. Biblical Imagery is a profound and powerful language. In fact, understanding Biblical Imagery is one of the most important keys available to the Bible student to gain a deeper understanding of Holy Scripture. So, what is the meaning and significance of the Biblical image of “being anointed?” In order for us to determine the meaning and significance of Jesus being called “the Anointed,” we must first look to the Old Testament.
There were three types of people who were anointed in the Old Testament: 1) Priests, 2) Prophets, and 3) Kings. Objects anointed with oil included the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) “and everything that [was] in it” (Exod. 40:9), to include: the alter of burnt offering (Exod. 40:10), the ark of testimony (Exod. 30:26), and “all of the rest of its furnishings” (Exod. 40:9). The anointing with oil made the object holy and set apart for God’s special purposes (Exod. 40:9). Further, it should be noted that the anointing oil contained a special formula of four types of spices to include: 1) liquid myrrh, 2) sweet cinnamon, 3) sweet calamus, and 4) cassia (Exod. 30:23-24). The holy anointing oil was designed to be a fragrant mixture prepared by a knowledgeable perfumer (Exod. 30:2) reminding the worshipper of a beautiful and pleasant garden (Song of Solomon).
In Exodus, we read that after receiving instructions from the Lord, Moses instructed the Israelites to bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting where they would be consecrated for service (Exod. 40:12). Aaron and his sons were first washed with water (Exod. 40:12). Special holy garments were then placed on Aaron, and he was anointed with holy oil and consecrated to serve God. Then, special white garments were placed on the sons of Aaron, and they also were anointed with holy oil and consecrated to serve as Priests to God (Exod. 40:12-14). The anointing oil was poured on their heads (Exod. 29:7). Their anointing qualified them to serve as Priests. God set the Priests apart from the other Israelites to serve God in a special way and for a special purpose. The anointing oil designated the person or object as holy (Exod. 40:10). The Priests were required to be mediators between the Israelites and Yahweh.
A prophet is someone who speaks God’s word to God’s people. Examples of Old Testament Prophets included Isaiah, Elijah, and Jeremiah, and Nathan. Typically, Prophets and Priests anointed Kings. However, on one unique occasion, God told the Prophet Elijah to anoint Elisha as Elijah’s successor prophet (1 Kings 19:16). Of particular note, the Israelites anticipated a future special prophet (the Messiah) who would speak for God. Moses told the Israelites that “the Lord, Your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen; to him you shall listen” (Deut. 18:15). Speaking of this unique, future prophet, the Lord told Moses that “I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them everything that I command him (Deut. 8:18). At Isaiah 61:1, the Prophet Isaiah wrote the following words, which were later quoted by Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18), speaking of Himself:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord anointed me to bring good news to the humble; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captives and freedom to prisoners;…
Israel’s Kings were the ones who were most often described as being anointed (1 Sam. 15:1). The Israelite King was supposed to represent God to the Israelites. The King was required to seek God’s will when ruling over God’s people. To act with violence toward God’s anointed King invited the wrath of God upon the offender (1 Sam. 26:9; 16). Samuel’s anointing of David (as depicted in our feature image above) was the most famous example of an Israelite being anointed as King. At 1 Samuel 16:13, we read, “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed [David] in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.” Here, we see the important association and connection between the ministry of the Holy Spirit and “the anointing.” We cannot live the Spiritual Life without the Holy Spirit’s guidance. This is how God shares His life and fellowship with us. In fact, Eternal Life is God’s life, which He wants to share with us. We share in God’s life by means of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who is our primary teacher (1 John 2:27).
Olive oil was understood as being one of the special blessings associated with the blessings of the Promised Land. At Deuteronomy 8:7-9, we read:
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of streams of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, fig trees, and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without shortage, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. (Emphasis added.)
Olive Oil was an important component of “Promised Land” blessings. Olive oil was used for multiple purposes in the ancient world. It was used in cooking (1 Kings 17:12), cosmetics (Eccles. 9:7-8), a lotion for dry skin, and as an energy source for lamps (Exod. 25:6). It was also used as a medicine to promote healing. Further, it was also a key product for export (1 Kings 5:11). The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery states, “Along with other staples, such as grain and wine, oil was seen as an essence of life and a tangible sign of God’s blessings, which could be lost by disobedience.” “[T]he sensory properties of anointing oil convey[ed] a sense of its richness.”
It took a lot of peace and prosperity to produce olive oil. First, the olive tree did not produce fruit until after maturing for 3 to 6 years. Olive trees did not reach their peak of productivity until 40 to 50 years. Their average life span was 500 years, but they could live as long as 1500 years. However, it takes a lot of olives to make olive oil. For example, it could take as many as 700 olives to produce a liter of olive oil. On a positive note, olive trees were very tough. An olive tree could be near death or chopped completely to the ground and yet survive and grow back.
At various times and places, God revealed His will through dreams (Job 33:15). At Genesis 28:10-22, we read the intriguing and puzzling story about Jacob’s remarkable dream. As Jacob was departing from the Promised Land, he camped at a certain location (still in the Promised Land) on his journey. He placed his head on a certain stone, and he had a very strange dream. He saw a ladder set up on Earth, which reached to Heaven. Jacob saw angels ascending and descending on the stairway that led to Heaven. Jacob also saw the Lord standing at the top of the ladder. Then the Lord promised Jacob that Jacob and his descendants would inherit the land on which Jacob slept. The Lord also promised that Jacob’s descendants would spread out to the east and west and also to the north and south. And further, all of the families of the Earth were going to be blessed through the descendants of Jacob. Since the coming of Christ, all believers have been included as a part of Jacob’s descendants (by faith), and our potential inheritance includes far more than the Promised Land. In fact, our potential inheritance includes God’s Universe. Faithful Christians will be a source of great blessing to all of humanity. It is God’s will for us to receive a blessing and be a blessing (Gen. 12:2; 28:3-4).
When Jacob awakened from his sleep, he called his awesome place of rest “none other than the house of God” and the “gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:17). Then, strangely, he anointed (smeared with oil) and placed upright the stone on which he laid his head as a memorial (Gen. 28:18). I agree with Dr. Tim Mackie that Jacob’s actions of smearing the stone with oil were very purposeful. Jacob was making an association between “Promised Land” blessings and access to God. Jacob saw his place of rest as a portal or stairway to God and “Promised Land” blessings. In a similar way, the Priests, prophets, Kings, Tabernacle, and even the Land of Israel were intended to be portals to God and “Promised Land” (Edenic) blessings. Finally, Jesus Christ should be seen as humanity’s principal portal, gate, or stairway to God and “Promised Land” blessings.
 “Oil.” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, edited by Leland Ryken, et al, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
 Smyth, Danielle. “The Life Span of Olive Trees.” HomeGuides, SFGate, 28 Mar 2023, Thhttps://homeguides.sfgate.com/life-span-olive-trees-60048.html.