Gleanings In Exodus
by A. W. Pink
56. The Anointing Oil
Having completed His description of the Tabernacle and its furniture, the Holy Spirit now makes mention of the holy anointing oil and the fragrant incense, without which the sanctuary Moses was to erect for Jehovah would have been unacceptable. As the "incense" has already been considered in our study of the golden-altar, we shall dwell here only on the "oil." This was composed of olive oil, into which were compounded four principal spices. It was designed for the anointing of the Tabernacle and its sacred vessels, and was also used at the consecration of Aaron and his sons to their priestly office. Strict instructions were given prohibiting any of the people from making any like unto it, which emphasizes its uniqueness.
Like everything else connected with the service of Jehovah’s house, the holy anointing oil, with its fragrant ingredients, pointed forward to the person of the Lord Jesus and the excellencies which are to be found in Him, particularly, to those graces which the Holy Spirit manifested through Him. Though there may be some difficulty in determining the precise spiritual import of some of the details, yet the main truth here foreshadowed is too plain to miss. May our eyes now be "anointed" with spiritual "salve" (Rev. 3:18) that we may be enabled to behold and enjoy wondrous things out of God’s Law. Let us consider:
1. Its Ingredients.
"Moreover the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus, two hundred and fifty shekels, and of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compounded after the art of the apothecary, it shall be an holy anointing oil" (vv. 22-25).
Thus, the ingredients were four in number, blended together; their fragrance being borne along in the power of the oil. Scholars tell us that the Hebrew word for "spices" is from a root meaning to "smell sweetly." Therefore, the basal thought in the ointment is its sweet scent. "Principal spices" signifies those which exceeded others in their rich odor, pre-eminent in their aroma. Surely it is evident that they speak to us of Christ. Our minds at once turn to Psalm 45 where God says to Him, "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness; therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. All Thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made Thee glad" (vv. 7, 8).
"Myrrh" is the first ingredient mentioned. "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 . . . It is fragrant to the smell, but very bitter to the taste" (Mr. Ridout). To the Scriptures we must turn to learn its typical significance.
It is striking to note that the word itself is found just fourteen times therein, 2 x 7, or a witness unto perfection. Eight of the references are in the Song of Solomon, which at once suggests that the prominent thought emblemized by it is love. The keynote is struck in its first occurrence: "A bundle of myrrh is my Well-beloved" (1:13). Further proof that "myrrh" is an emblem of love is found in v. 13, "His cheeks are a bed of spices, as sweet flowers; His lips lillies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh." Significant is the final reference, found in connection with the death of Christ (John 19:39)—expressing the love of His disciples for Him. Thus, love poured out in a bitter but fragrant death is what was prefigured by the "myrrh." Beautifully is this brought out in the following quotation:
"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 men to forsake the Lord! Who could measure sin like the sinless One? He it was who tasted, and drank 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. 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" (Mr. Ridout).
"Cinnamon." Remarkable indeed are the contrasts presented by the four passages in which this word is found. Here in Exodus 30 it pointed to the person of Christ. In Song of Solomon 4:14 it is used in the Bridegroom’s description of His bride—referring to that which grace has imputed to her. In the third and fourth references this sweet spice is seen connected with the harlot: Proverbs 7:17; Revelation 18:13. There, it is a hypocritical love for souls, used by the usurper of Christ to attract the ungodly. Upon the "cinnamon" Mr. Ridout has said:
"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" (Mr. Ridout). But in a footnote he tells us that, one writer has suggested "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.’" To which Mr. Ridout adds, "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 the coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame’ (Song 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.’" We believe that this brings out the distinctive thought suggested by the "cinnamon."
"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 unchanging devoted One, whose leaf did not wither in time of drought or cold. In the midst of the and 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" (Mr. Ridout).
"Sweet calamus" The Hebrew word means a "reed" or "cane," being derived from a root-term meaning "to stand upright." Once more we shall take extracts from Mr. Ridout’s helpful remarks: "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 Lebonan, 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.
"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 much-rack, 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 has 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’ (John 8:11).
"This reed was crushed. 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 calamus 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)."
"Cassia." Gesenius tells us that the Hebrew name of this spice is derived from a root signifying "to stoop" to "bow down," as in worship. Thus, what was foreshadowed here was the perfect Man’s submission to and worship of God. In Luke 4:16 we read that, "As His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day." In the Psalms we find many out-breathings of His worship. In the great Temptation, He refused to fall down before the Devil, reminding him that it was written, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve."
The only other passage in which "cassia" is mentioned is Ezekiel 27:19. There we learn that this was one of the articles in which Tyre—the great merchant nation of the ancients—traded. Like Egypt, Tyre stands for the world. Typically, this tells us that even the world will traffic in the excellencies of Christ in order to further its sordid ends. It is very striking to note that in the very next chapter, Ezekiel 28:12-19, Satan is presented as the "king of Tyre." Thus we are there shown that the arch-enemy of God ever seeks to rob Christ, so far as he is permitted, of that worship which is His alone due.
Summarizing the emblematic significations of these four principal spices, we learn that, the "myrrh" pointed to the outpouring of Christ’s love in a bitter but fragrant death; the "cinnamon" to His holy jealousy for the honor and glory of God; the "calamus" to His uprightness and righteousness in a world of sin and wickedness; the "cassia" to His submission to and worship of God.
2. Its Proportions.
These are given in vv. 23, 24: of the "myrrh" there was five hundred shekels, of the "sweet cinnamon" and the "sweet calamus" two hundred and fifty shekels, and of the "cassia" five hundred shekels. First of all, we must note that there were four sweet spices mingled with the oil, and that each of them was taken from plant life, which ever speaks of man here on earth. Our minds turn instinctively to the four Gospels, where the Divine record of Christ’s earthly life is given. Each of them reveals some special perfection of Christ, yet all are perfectly blended together by the all-pervading "oil," the Holy Spirit.
The quantities used of the spices were not of equal weight: of two there were 500 shekels, of two but 250. Thus, we have here a suggestion that there is some truth or aspect of Christ’s perfections common to the "myrrh" and "cassia," and some truth common to the "cinnamon" and "calamus." The order in which they are given is 500, 250, 250, and 500 shekels. Comparing them thus with the Gospels, we are hereby bidden to look for some definite link uniting Matthew and John (the First and Fourth) and something shared in common by Mark and Luke, the two middle Gospels. Let us now look, very briefly, first at Matthew’s and John’s, and then at Mark’s and Luke’s.
The first and the fourth Gospels present the highest glories of Christ, namely, His kingship and His Godhood, agreeing with the double quantity of the first and fourth mentioned "spices." Moreover, the distinctive character of each Gospel exactly corresponds with the nature of the two spices. As already said, the "myrrh" symbolized a bitter death, the death of Christ. It was this of which the Israelites were reminded on the Passover-night: the "lamb" must be eaten with "bitter herbs" (Ex. 12:8)! How remarkable then to find that Matthew, and he alone, records the wise men presenting to the infant Savior their gifts of "gold and frankincense and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11)! So, it is in this first Gospel that the bitterness of Messiah’s experience in being despised and rejected by His brethren according to the flesh, is most fully set out. The etymology of "cassia," the fourth spice, signifies "worship." which at once introduces the Divine element. This is exactly what we have in the fourth Gospel: there Christ is portrayed as the Son of God!
The second and third Gospels both present the lowliness of Christ, the one as Servant, the other as Man—the One who had not where to lay His head; and this is in striking accord with the fact that the second and third "spices" were only half the quantity of the others! Yet mark how the Holy Spirit here, as ever, guarded the glory of Christ, even in His humiliation: the second and third spices alone were termed "sweet"!—telling us that God found peculiar delight in His Son’s voluntary and obedient condescension. That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15); and that which is despised by men is of great price in His sight (1 Pet. 3:4). It was when Christ was first "numbered with transgressors," taking His place among those who were "confessing their sins" (Mark 1:5), that the voice of the Father was heard saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:17).
The figures 500 250, 250 and 500 show, at a glance, that the perfections of Christ were all perfectly balanced. In this we behold His uniqueness. Even in His people, in their present state, one grace or other is found predominating. Not so with Christ. Everything was in lovely proportion in Him. The total weight of the spices was fifteen hundred shekels or 5x3xl00—the last being 10x10. Five is the number of grace, three is manifestation and also the number of God, ten the measure of responsibility. Thus we have, the grace of God manifested in perfect human responsibility. This is to be found in Christ alone.
Each of the spices was apportioned by weight, "after the shekel of the sanctuary" (v. 24). This was before us in our article on the Atonement-money (30:13). "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 gavest Me to do’ (John 17:4)" (Mr. Ridout.)
3. Its Vehicle.
This was the "oil olive," a figure of the Holy Spirit; "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38). The spices gave fragrance to the oil, and the oil was the element by which their aroma was borne along. So the lovely graces manifested by Christ when He was upon earth were all according to the Spirit (Isa. 11:1, 2), and were all in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:1, 14, etc.). It was by means of the oil that the sweet spices were blended together; the oil pervaded all and united all. The fragrance of the spices was to be evenly diffused through the whole hin of oil olive, so that no one took precedence over the other; but the oil sent forth the sweetness of each alike. So Christ, ever filled with the Spirit, blended the various fragrances of His character into one holy perfume: His name (that which represents and reveals the person) was. and ever is "as ointment poured forth" (Song 1:3)!
4. Its Use.
It was employed in the anointing of the Tabernacle and all its furniture (Ex. 30:26-29), and at the consecration of the priests (30:30). That which speaks of the sweet savor of Christ was put on all that foreshadowed Him. The vessels of the sanctuary represented various offices and services of our great High Priest, some performed by Him when here on earth, others in which He is now engaged on High. The same eternal Spirit by which He offered Himself as the sacrifice without spot unto God (Heb. 9:14) is still the power of His service in resurrection—cf Acts 1:2:
Very blessed is it to behold the anointing of Aaron’s sons with this holy oil, for this, in figure, shows us the people of Christ having communicated to them the selfsame "sweet savor" which gives their Head acceptance before God. It is the Spirit of God graciously equipping us for priestly ministry. Remarkable is it to note that the instructions concerning the "holy oil" in Exodus 30 follow right after mention of the laver (30:18-21). The "laver" is negative in character, a type of that which removes all that would hinder our approach unto God; the "oil" gives us the positive side, bringing in that which gives us acceptance before Him. The antitype comes out most preciously in 2 Corinthians 2:14, 15, "Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ."
5. Its Prohibitions.
"Upon man’s flesh it shall not be poured" (v. 32). Only those belonging to the priestly family were anointed. Typically, this means that only the people of God, those in Christ (the "Anointed") are "anointed"—have the Spirit of God. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts" (Gal. 4:6). "Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ and hath anointed us, is God" (2 Cor. 1:22). This is something which man in the flesh has not, and cannot have. "The graces of the Spirit can never be connected with man’s flesh, the Holy Spirit cannot own nature. Not one of the fruits of the Spirit has ever yet produced ‘in nature’s barren soil.’ We must be ‘born again.’ It is only as connected with the new man, as being part of that ‘new creation,’ that he can know anything of the fruits of the Spirit" (C.H.M.).
"Neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy. and it shall be holy unto you" (v. 32). The type must not be imitated or it would not figure that which was inimitable, even the perfections of Christ! As no strange altar must be built (Ex. 20:25), as no "strange fire" must be used (Lev. 10:1, 2). so there must be no strange oil. How this word condemns the imitations of Divine worship, the Spirit’s operations, the fragrance of Christ, in present-day religious Christendom! Mere head knowledge, ritualism, exquisite music, soulical excitements, are so many human substitutes for the true ministry of Christ in the power of the Spirit.
Unspeakably solemn is the final word: "Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people" (v. 33). "It is thus a heinous sin to imitate the action of the Spirit. Ananias and Sapphira did this when they professed to devote the whole proceeds of the property they had sold to the Lord’s service (Acts 5). The same penalty, observe, was attached to putting it upon a stranger, upon those who had no title to it. God is holy, and He jealously guards His sovereign rights, and cannot but visit any infringement of them with punishment. If He seem now to pass by such sins unnoticed, it is owing to the character of the present dispensation being one of grace; but the sins themselves are no less in His sight" (Mr. Ed. Dennett)