Lecture 16.

The Anointing Oil

(Exodus 30:22-33.)

We will now speak of the "holy anointing oil," as that is also spoken of in connection with the golden altar and the incense (Ex. 37:29). Its use will come before us more particularly in the dedication of the priests. Its ingredients and manner of preparation are given in the same chapter which described the incense (Ex. 30:22-33).

Myrrh. This was the gum from a dwarf tree of the terebinth family, growing in Arabia. The gum exudes from the trunk either spontaneously, or through incisions made for the purpose. That prescribed for the ointment was "pure," literally "free" — the best, what had flowed spontaneously. Some have thought this described it as "liquid." Be that as it may, there is evidently the idea that it was the best. It is fragrant to the smell, but very bitter to the taste. Indeed the word is the same as that for "bitterness" in the familiar "Marah" (Ex. 15:23). It was used as a perfume, as a medicine for deadening pain (Mark 15:23), also for correcting secretions, and as a modifier of other medicines.

We have already alluded to the significance of the word. The primary root means "to flow;" from this comes the idea of the gum which flows from the tree; but as this is extremely bitter, it gives its name to "bile" and other bitter things — the bitter water of Marah, the water of jealousy (Num. 5:18). Naomi called herself Mara, "for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me" (Ruth 1:20). The "discontented" who resorted to David at the cave of Adullam, were literally "bitter of soul," and the prophet declares that it is "an evil thing and bitter" to forsake the Lord (Jer. 2:19).

The word for pure is, as we have seen, literally "free." It is the word from which is derived the "swallow," which flies in circles, at liberty (Ps. 84:3). "Liberty" was proclaimed in the year of jubilee (Lev. 25:10), to which allusion is made by the prophet, as that which is proclaimed by the Lord (Isa. 61:1).

To myrrh itself there are distinct scriptural references: "All Thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes and cassia" (Ps. 45:8). The Lord is described in the Song of Solomon, as coming out of the wilderness, "like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense" (Cant. 3:6). He also mentions the same fragrant spice in connection with the bride (Cant. 4:6, 14). The Beloved put it upon the handles of the lock as He withdrew from the door (Cant. 5:5). The bride mentions His lips as "dropping sweet-smelling myrrh "(Cant. 5:13). In the New Testament, myrrh was one of the gifts brought by the wise men (Matt 2:11). It was brought, mixed with aloes, by Nicodemus, to embalm the body of the Lord as He was laid in the grave (John 19:39).

Gathering up these thoughts, we will see how they apply to our Lord. Flowing spontaneously from the tree, as well as through incisions, would suggest on the one hand how willingly He offered all that He was, even unto death, to God, and on the other the "piercing" to which He was subjected by man, but which only brought out the same fragrance. The bitterness of the myrrh suggests the reality of the sufferings through which He went. It was not physical discomfort and pain, nor even death, which gave intensity to His suffering, but the "contradiction of sinners against Himself" (Heb. 12:3). His very presence in a world where all was against God was bitter to Him. How His perfect soul, enjoying fullest communion with His Father, recognized what an evil and bitter thing it was for man to forsake the Lord! Who could measure sin like the sinless One? And it is He who has tasted, and drunk to the dregs, the bitter cup of God's wrath against sin.

But all this bitter experience only furnished the occasion for the manifestation not only of a devotedness to God which was perfectly fragrant to Him, but of a love to His own which was as strong as death. Thus the myrrh left upon the lock of the door of the one dear to Him might well remind her, and us, of an unchanging love which would appeal to the closed heart, and ask for admittance to fullest communion.

And what has been the measure of this love? The myrrh again, from its association with death, may well tell us that it "passeth knowledge" (Eph. 3:19). "The Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20) — a measure which cannot be measured, freely flowing from Him whose heart was pierced by and for our sins. Feeble indeed is the estimate we put upon that love at best; but One estimates it at its full value.

Nor is such love narrowed, save by the unbelief of man; for its "fulness" may well speak to us not only of the voluntary character of all His devotion, even unto death, but that it is without money or price to "whosoever will." It brings to every believer, "Liberty to the captive," the true year of jubilee; for "if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). And we already have the blessed earnest of the coming "liberty of the glory of the children of God," while we wait for the adoption, the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23). Then indeed will the fragrance of the myrrh pervade the wide creation, and the savor of His ointment bewray itself to an adoring universe. Meanwhile it is sweet to God, and to the saints, and good indeed as medicine for the sin-sick soul.

Our blessed Lord refused the wine and myrrh for Himself at the hand of men; He would drink to its dregs the bitter cup of their sin, without any attempt to mitigate or palliate it. Marah's bitter waters are made sweet by the "tree cast into them.
"Death's bitter waters met our thirst,
Thy cross has made them sweet."

And do we not see this cup of comfort put into the hands of His suffering saints who are passing through fiery trials, even to facing death? "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee the crown of life," is the promise of Him who "was dead and is alive" — a promise appropriately given to Smyrna, "myrrh," as the word really is (Rev. 2:8-11).

In solemn contrast to all this wealth of love and grace is the blasphemy of that adulterous woman, who claims these fragrant odors for herself, and uses them as an attraction for the ungodly (Prov. 7:17). This is all the more terrible when we see in her the one who, we may say, beginning in Smyrna as "Jews" (professed people of God who have not owned their lost condition), goes on in Pergamos to stumbling the saints; and in Thyatira, teaching them to commit fornication with the world, and displayed as "that woman Jezebel," who as the world-church, is finally seen as "Babylon the great" in all her lewdness, to meet her just doom (Rev. 2:12-29; Rev. 17, 18). There, too, she is seen trafficking in a stolen fragrance (for she has no heart for Christ) — "Cinnamon and odors and frankincense" (Rev. 18:13). Wherever she is recognized, let the saints of God heed the call: "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Rev. 18:4).

2. Sweet Cinnamon. — The only other passages where this word is used is the sad one to which we have just referred (Prov. 7:17), and one in blessed contrast, where the true bride is described as having all these fragrant perfumes put upon her — surely, by grace alone (Cant. 4:14). Of the general meaning we are assured, but let us search if we may find what is distinctive in it.

There seems to be no doubt that this spice is the same that is familiar to us under the same name it is the bark of a small evergreen tree of the laurel family. Another tree of the same family is the fragrant camphor. The odor of the cinnamon is sweet and its taste agreeable it is largely used for flavoring. A valuable essential oil is extracted from the bark having these properties in an intensified form. It is obtained chiefly from Ceylon, and probably brought from India in the times of the Exodus. The bark is obtained from the young shoots. As a medicine, it is a stimulant and cordial.

Seeking for light as to its spiritual significance from the etymology of the word, we are met with uncertainty. One authority derives it from a "doubtful and obsolete" root, nearly the same as the "calamus," at which we will look next. The primary significance of this root, is to stand erect, and this might find justification in the fact that it is the canes, or reed-like shoots, from which the bark is taken.* The erect rods of the young shoots would suggest all the vigor and energy and uprightness of our Lord. The bark removed would remind us of the removal of the skin from the animal — the outer covering. So to cut away the bark from a tree would take its life also. We need not be surprised to find this witness of death coming in with each of these perfumes. The cross was the great necessity of divine love if Christ was to make the Father truly known.

{*The writer suggests a possible derivation from two well-known Hebrew words: Kinna, "jealousy," from the root to glow or burn, or be zealous; and min, "form" or "appearance." The "appearance of jealousy." We need not say what burning zeal marked our Lord's entire life — "The zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up" (John 2:17). And this was shown in the holy form of jealousy which would purge that house of all the carnal traffic which had been introduced there. "Love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame" (Cant. 8:6). This gives, at least, a beautiful and significant meaning, and accords with the character of our Lord — a love which was zeal for God's glory and for "the place where Thine honor dwelleth" (Ps. 26:8). In love for that He would let His own temple, His holy body, be laid low in death. Here was indeed a jealousy of a new form — jealousy for God alone, without one element of selfishness in it. Cruel it was, only in the sense of bearing cruelty rather than suffer one blot to rest upon God's glory — it burned with "a most vehement flame."}

Connected with the word for cinnamon is one translated "sweet," from a root allied with our "balsam," and meaning "fragrance." This would put double emphasis upon this fragrant spice. Possibly the mention of the balsam may suggest that the essence of the bark was extracted and used. At this we will look later.

It is well too to recall the fact that this tree was an evergreen, passing through no periods of inertness. So our Lord was ever the unchangingly devoted One, whose leaf did not wither in time of drought or cold. In the midst of the arid waste of unbelief — as at Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum — there were no marks of feebleness upon Him: "I thank thee, O Father," was His language there as everywhere.

Here too is medicine, a spiritual tonic and cordial for the faint-hearted. This love and devotedness of our Lord, which knew no change, is not only a most powerful example, but in His grace that which cheers and encourages the fainting of His beloved people. For all tendency to let the hands hang down, let His saints partake largely of that love which consumed Him — a love for His Father and His glory, and, for that very reason, for all His own.

3. Sweet Calamus. — There is no question as to the derivation of the word here, as it is one of frequent occurrence and varied application in Scripture. But for this reason we have little to indicate what was Its specific character. The root-word means "to stand upright;" hence a cane, or reed. The "sweet," as in the case of the cinnamon, tells of its fragrance, and this would seem to give us the clue to the article intended. A "sweet cane" is said to be found in Lebanon, also in India and Arabia. It usually grows in miry soil, from which it sends up the shoots from which its name is derived. The fragrant cane of India is supposed to have been the "spikenard" of Scripture.

The fragrance was obtained by crushing the plant. Various meanings of the word "cane" are suggestive. It was applied to a "stalk" of grain (Gen. 41:5); to the "branches" of the golden candlestick (Ex. 25:31); to a "reed" shaken in the water (1 Kings 14:15); used also for measuring (Ezek. 40:3); to the balancing rod of a scale (Isa. 40:12); to a staff (Isa. 36:6). Its place of growth, the mire, is alluded to (Isa.19:6). Its fragility is used to illustrate the grace of Him who will not break a bruised reed (Isa. 42:3). Most of these would have special application to our Lord: His absolute righteousness, uprightness, which also makes Him the balance and the measuring reed to weigh and measure men — to find them wanting, and yet to patiently wait on them, yea, to visit them in grace.

But it is with the fragrant reed that we have to do directly, though the qualities above referred to may suggest something of the character of the fragrance (see also Isa. 43:24; Jer. 6:20; Cant. 4:14; Ezek. 27:19). Its growth in the mire may remind us of One who in the mire of this world grew up erect and fragrant for God. Man grows in the mire and gravitates toward it — like the man with the muck rake, who was bowed to earth, and saw not the crown of glory offered to him. But our Lord had His eyes and heart only on the heaven above. The mire of earth was but the place where He had come for a special work. Men might grovel in that mire, as, alas, we have; a Job finds that his self-righteousness was covered with the mire of the ditch (Job 9:31). But His surroundings were only the contrast to that erect and perfect life which ever pointed heavenward. His treasure, His all, was with the Father. And wherever He found a "bruised reed," to lift it from the mire and establish it erect was the purpose of His heart — "Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more" (John 8:11).

This reed was crushed by the "company of spearmen" (marg., "beasts of the reeds" — Ps. 68:30). Wicked men took Him, bound and bruised Him. But what fragrance has filled heaven and earth through that bruising. Again, the aromatic odor of the calumus reminds us that in our Lord there was nothing negative or insipid. That weak word "amiable" is unsuitable in connection with Him. Thus when the high priest commanded that He be smitten, our Lord neither resents it nor cowers under it; but with what holy dignity did He rebuke that unrighteousness, and bear witness of His kingship before Pilate. A heavenly fragrance pervaded the judgment hall — the vital fragrance and energy of Holiness, bearing witness to the truth (John 18:33-37).

4. Cassia. This word is mentioned in but one other passage, and there also in association with calamus (Ezek. 27:19), as some of the articles in which Tyre trafficked. For the world would make merchandise of the excellencies of Christ, and Satan, its prince, seek to rob the Lord of that which is His alone. Another word is also translated "cassia" in Psalm 45:8, where the garments of our Lord are perfumed with myrrh and cassia and aloes. That word is derived from a root to "scrape," and suggests the way the bark of the cassia is removed. The ingredient we are now considering is thought to be derived from a root meaning to "split," and refers to the rolls of bark being split.* It is said to resemble cinnamon, and to be of the same family, but to be less fragrant. The Septuagint translates the word here "iris," which is a species of flag (possibly the same as orris root).

{*Another possible derivation is from a root meaning to bow down or worship, and this would be more appropriate to the spiritual meaning than the one given by most authorities. Our Lord surely was ever and only a worshiper of God before Him alone He bowed, and refused any other as manifestly of Satan, though the inducements were all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them ( Matt. 4:8-10).}

It is said to be more pungent than cinnamon, and to grow in places not suited for other vegetation. It was used for flavoring and as a medicine. From a kindred variety, we are told the senna, a well-known drug, is obtained.

We have certain spiritual characteristics indicated here, though not so clearly suggestive of perfections in our Lord. As it was a species of cinnamon, it would therefore have a similar significance — the ardor of the love of Christ to God, which led Him on even to death; a love which reaches out also to sinful men in blessing and healing. The cassia was less fragrant but more pungent, and this recalls somewhat the nature of the galbanum. It might represent that devotedness of zeal to God in which the ardor of love takes the form of uncompromising rebuke of evil and half-heartedness. The scathing rebukes of formalism, the piercing probe of divine truth, by which He exposed all the falsehood of a mere outward religion, that left the soul unregenerate — these and such-like characteristics we may connect with the cassia, a bitter and humbling medicine, but one which purges that it may heal all that receive it.

Nor does this introduce a foreign element in what marks the full fragrance of our Lord to His Father. The sentimentalism of the flesh will wince under such searchings of heart, but loyalty to God admits of nothing divided with Him. As the cassia flourished where other plants would not grow, so it is at Calvary where the perfection of His faithfulness is fully seen. In that place of death, as a sacrifice for sin, such a fragrance was yielded that all else is as nothing compared with it.

We have next to consider the proportions in which these four ingredients were blended. But before that, we are reminded that the "vehicle" of their exhibition was the olive oil, of which we have already spoken (p. 322, and following). We have seen that it was a type of the Holy Spirit, by whom our Lord was anointed, in whose power He wrought miracles and gave His testimony for God. We are thus reminded that all true exhibition of the graces and excellences of Christ must be in and by the Holy Spirit. Any handling of these holy themes apart from the Spirit would be a mere mental exercise which would be barren or worse, and dry as the handling of the spices apart from the oil. To be an ointment, they must be formed by the Spirit into a holy compound, "after the art of the Apothecary." And this would mean not merely that the Spirit guides as to the truth, but ministers it in communion to the soul.

But we must go back of this to find the fuller significance of the oil. These ingredients speak of the various characteristics which marked our Lord. There was nothing in Him that was not in fullest accord with the Holy Spirit. Indeed it was not only that He was anointed by the Spirit, but that His human nature was of the Spirit: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee" (Luke 1:35). We have this, in type, in the cakes of fine flour which were mingled, as well as anointed, with oil. Holy mystery indeed is this, calling for our worship, as we think of the Holy One whose very presence as Man was by and in the power of the Holy Spirit. And the general teaching of Scripture connects thus the Holy Spirit with the person of the Lord. The Spirit ever presents Christ to us; He takes of the things of Christ to show them unto us. If He gives peace to the anxious sinner, it is not by occupying the- sinner with what He, the Spirit, is doing in his heart, but by presenting Christ and His work for him. Likewise holiness is produced in the saint, not by self-culture, but by beholding the glory of the Lord, and being changed into the same image (2 Cor. 3:18).

And so when our Lord was baptized of John in Jordan and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily shape like a dove, the form He took suggests, may we not say, the character and office of our Lord Jesus. The dove is the bird of heaven; so He "came down from heaven" (John 6:38). The dove is the bird that loves and mourns; so He came in love and was the "Man of sorrows." The dove is the bird of gentleness; and He was meek and lowly in heart. It was distinctively a "clean" bird; which fitted it to be used in sacrifice; so was our Lord without spot, and offered Himself thus to God (Heb. 9:14) "through the eternal Spirit." Thus the dove is suggestive both of the Lord and of the Holy Spirit, who came in that form.

The oil, then, was a fitting vehicle for these sweet "principal spices." One "hin" of this was to be taken. This unit of measure is of uncertain derivation, possibly from a word meaning to be wealthy, full, sufficient. This would suggest a full measure. "God giveth not His Spirit by measure," that is, in a limited measure (John 3:34). So we read, "Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan" (Luke 4:1).

The "hin" was the measure used in connection with the drink offerings and the oil for the meat-offering (Ex. 29:40). (See also the special provision for the graded offerings, suggesting various aspects of our Lord's sacrifice, and perhaps also different degrees of apprehension on the part of the worshiper, Num. 15:4-10.) As the cubit was for linear, the ephah for dry measure, and the shekel for weight, the hin seems to have been the ordinary unit for liquid measure. Thus "the measure of a man," that which can be apprehended by man, is suggested as being brought by the Spirit to his comprehension, of that which "passeth knowledge," "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8, 19).

The spices were apportioned by weight, the unit of which was "the shekel of the sanctuary." The word is from the root meaning to weigh, originally, perhaps, to poise. It is that which forms a true estimate of the value of things. The shekel of the sanctuary, or sacred shekel, may have been of greater weight than the usual one, and the king's shekel (2 Sam. 14:26) may have been the same. One thing we know, the shekel of the King of kings would be just and unvarying, for "divers weights and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the Lord" (Prov. 20:10). This shekel was divided into twenty gerahs, and a half shekel or ten gerahs was the ransom money for all the men of Israel (Ex. 30:12, etc.) At the significance of this we have already looked.

God is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed (1 Sam. 2:3). The proud king of Babylon was weighed and found wanting (Dan. 5:27). And "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." The Old Testament word for "glory" is "weight," derived from a word "to be heavy." So by God's standard, all have come short of the full weight which alone can glorify Him. There is therefore but One in whom, when tested, full and true weight was found, who could say, "I have glorified Thee upon the earth; I have finished the work which Thou gayest Me to do" (John 17:4). And not only was the full weight of that which glorified God found in Him, but all was in true and proper proportion.

Here, as we have already had occasion to notice with other measures in the tabernacle, the number five enters prominently. It is the number which speaks of full capacity and responsibility, and has been realized in Him alone who was God and Man — one being the number of deity and four that of creation — 4 + 1.

Of myrrh there were 500 shekels, and of cassia the same amount. The sweet cinnamon and sweet calamus were half as much, 250 shekels. Myrrh, as we have seen, tells us of the fragrance of our Lord's devotion and love to God, even unto death. The factors of this would be 5 x 5 x 5 x 2 x 2, or responsibility in love met in a divinely perfect way, even unto death. None but God could weigh that love, that sorrow, and He has put the estimate of divine truth upon it.

The cassia, mentioned last, was of like weight. That pungent, heart-searching detection and refusal of evil, was as absolute as the devotion of love unto death; it was present in equal measure with the sweet myrrh, and blended with it perfectly.

The sweet cinnamon, telling of the ardent zeal which consumed Him, was in the proper proportion, one half as much as the other two. The factors, however, speak rather of a testimony (2) to the meeting of responsibility. His "zeal" never carried Him beyond the will of God, or out of the current of God's ways. He never called fire from heaven to consume those who would not receive Him.

The sweet calamus was in the same proportion, fitly joining the aromatic fragrance with the warmth of the cinnamon. Personal, absolute righteousness, growing in the mire of the earth, He shed nothing but fragrance around — a fragrance which, blending with all His moral characteristics, made the Beloved One a "precious ointment" — His Father's complete delight.

And so all was perfectly and harmoniously blended in Him; resulting in that which was absolutely unique, where each trait was so permeated by the others that the fragrance of each was found in all. Nor was it that He acted according to one character at one time and another at another. His love was as ardent in rebuking sin as His uprightness was absolute in soothing the broken-hearted. He did not put on or lay off these characters. At the Pharisee's table the sweet fragrance of His ways and words had all the features of tenderness, faithfulness, holiness, hatred of sin, in the rebuke of the self-righteous man and speaking the word of peace to the woman who was a sinner (Luke 7). Alas; the heart of man will not receive this, and for that reason must meet His judgment; but faith delights, and above all, God delights, to recognize these odors — each in all and all in each.*

{*The question might be raised by some, how could this be an anointing oil, if only one hin of olive oil (perhaps 6 quarts) was used, with possibly 48 lbs of solid material. This would be a difficulty if these spices were solid; but the myrrh is called "free," which suggests that it was liquid, and the word before the cinnamon and cane translated "sweet," is really "balsam," which may suggest that these spices were also prepared in liquid form. Indeed the compounding was to be done by the "apothecary," and this would suggest that all might have been previously prepared in extract form, before being blended together in the oil. We may be sure that all was provided for with divine wisdom, and therefore that all was beautifully significant of that which God would present in these materials, and in the ointment.}

This ointment was to be put upon the tabernacle and upon each article to sanctify them unto God, and upon Aaron and his sons. It was not to be put on man's flesh, and no imitation of it was to be made. Here again the sweet savor of Christ was to be put upon all that spoke of Him, His Son, in whom God ever finds "unchanging fresh delight." The materials spoke of Him; even their structure spoke of Him; the golden lamps illumined Him; and now the anointing oil again points to Him. The high priest too was a type of our High Priest, and the sons of Aaron typified the true people of God, on whom the holy anointing oil was sprinkled — Christ's fragrance is upon them.

The natural man has no place here: it were blasphemy to link the sweet savor of Christ with the unregenerate; they are enemies, whom God must cast out from His presence. Mere imitations of the excellence of our Lord, as heartless profession, will meet with His scathing rebuke (Amos 6:6). And does it not apply to the "flesh" in the saint? Wherever strife, pride, vainglory are allowed, they are but dead flies in the apothecary's ointment (Ecc. 10:1), which mar all its fragrance. How God's great lesson is impressed throughout His entire word, "The flesh profiteth, nothing;" "Christ is all." His fragrance will pervade all heaven, and "all the mind in heaven is one." Let His name be in the hearts of His blood-bought people here "as ointment poured forth" (Cant. 1:3). This is the "ointment and perfume" which "rejoice the heart" (Prov. 27:9). Our Priest and King has passed into the sanctuary, into those ivory palaces where joy and gladness abound: "All thy garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia;" they are His by right of all that He has done. "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows" (Ps. 45:7-8).

And in infinite grace and righteousness this fragrant ointment has reached down to the skirts of the High Priest's robe, yea, has come upon all His own, so that wherever brethren "dwell together in unity," in the unity of the Spirit, Christ is all, and the sweet savor of His ointment fills the sanctuary of His presence where they are gathered (Ps. 133).