429. Anointing Guests

Psalm 23:5; Deuteronomy 28:40; Ruth 3:3; 2 Samuel 14:2; Psalm 45:7; Psalm 92:10; Psalm 104:15; Psalm 133:2; Ecclesiastes 9:8; Daniel 10:3; Micah 6:15; Matthew 6:17; Luke 7:46; Hebrews 1:9
Anointing was an ancient custom practiced by the Egyptians, and afterward by the Greeks and Romans and other nations. Olive oil was used, (see note on Psa. 92:1010But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil. (Psalm 92:10), #446) either pure or mixed with fragrant and costly spices, often brought from a long distance. See note on Matthew 26:77There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. (Matthew 26:7) (#712). The practice was in use, not only as a part of the ceremony in connection with the coronation of kings, (see note on 2 Kings 11:1212And he brought forth the king's son, and put the crown upon him, and gave him the testimony; and they made him king, and anointed him; and they clapped their hands, and said, God save the king. (2 Kings 11:12), #346) and at the installation of the High Priest (Psa. 133:22It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; (Psalm 133:2)), but as an act of courtesy and hospitality toward a guest. Thus, the Lord accuses Simon of a want of hospitality in neglecting to anoint the head of him whom he had invited to eat with him (Luke 7:4646My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. (Luke 7:46)). There are pictures on the Egyptian monuments representing guests having their heads anointed. Oil was used for other parts of the body as well as for the head, and at home as well as when visiting. The biblical references to the custom are numerous.
See Deuteronomy 28:4040Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit. (Deuteronomy 28:40); Ruth 3:33Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. (Ruth 3:3); Psalm 92:10; 104:1510But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil. (Psalm 92:10)
15And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart. (Psalm 104:15)
; Ecclesiastes 9:88Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. (Ecclesiastes 9:8); Micah 6:1515Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine. (Micah 6:15); Matthew 6:1717But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; (Matthew 6:17). The neglect of anointing was considered a sign of mourning. See 2 Samuel 14:22And Joab sent to Tekoah, and fetched thence a wise woman, and said unto her, I pray thee, feign thyself to be a mourner, and put on now mourning apparel, and anoint not thyself with oil, but be as a woman that had a long time mourned for the dead: (2 Samuel 14:2); Daniel 10:33I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. (Daniel 10:3). An anointed face, on the other hand, was a sign of joy; hence we read of being anointed with the “oil of gladness” (Psa. 45:77Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Psalm 45:7); Heb. 1:99Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Hebrews 1:9)).
Tavernier states that he found the Arabs always ready to accept a present of olive oil. As soon as one received it he lifted his turban and anointed his head, his face, and his beard, at the same time lifting his eyes to heaven and saying, “God be thanked!” Captain Wilson, an Oriental traveler, speaking of the custom alluded to in this passage, says: “I once had this ceremony performed on myself in the house of a great and rich Indian, in the presence of a large company. The gentleman of the house poured upon my hands and arms a delightful odoriferous perfume, put a golden cup into my hands, and poured wine into it until it ran over; assuring me, at the sometime, that it was a great pleasure to him to receive me, and that I should find a rich supply in his house” (Murder, Oriental Customs, No. 539).
The Psalmist in the text represents himself as an honored guest of Jehovah, who prepares a table for him, hospitably anoints him, and puts into his hands a full cup.