When God instructed the Israelites to bring offerings for the Tabernacle, he included spices for the anointing oil. Sacred anointing oil was a blend of four spices and olive oil. God was specific in the proportions of each: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, 500 shekels of cassia, 250 shekels of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant cane and one hin of olive oil. The sanctuary shekel was equivalent to about 2/5th ounce. Taken together the four spices weighed about 38 pounds. A hin of olive oil was equivalent to about one gallon. The Tabernacle anointing oil was made by a perfumer and it was considered sacred. If any person made perfume like it or put it on anyone other than a priest, they would be cut off from the Israelites.
The Tabernacle was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year after the Israelites left Egypt. At that time the Tabernacle, its furnishings, the priests, and the priests clothing were anointed with the sacred oil and consecrated. Anointing was done to set apart items and people to God’s service. Consecration means “to make holy” for God’s service. Leviticus chapter 8 called the process of anointing and consecrating Aaron and his sons “ordination.” As it is used in Leviticus, ordination literally means “you shall fill his hands.” Probably the meaning was that the priests will take into their hands the role/tasks of the priesthood given to them by God.
The Bible allocated many verses to Moses’ anointing and consecrating the Tabernacle and the priests. The reason for these detailed descriptions is that God is holy and demands holiness from those who serve him. The Bible detailed that Aaron and his sons were anointed and consecrated only after sacrifice and atonement were made for their own sins. They could not be anointed for God’s service until they were ritually clean. Outwardly Moses presided over the anointing of the Tabernacle; however, the Israelites understood that God, not Moses, made the Tabernacle and priests holy.
Cassia is used to represent the spices in the anointing oil. It was probably brought with the Israelites out of Egypt. Egyptians imported cassia from China and used cassia in the embalming process. As the Israelites traveled throughout the Sinai Peninsula, they could have bought cassia from traders who crossed the Peninsula from Arabia to Egypt. In the ancient Middle East, peoples so valued cassia that it was worth its weight in gold or ivory.
The Cassia Plant
The botanical name for the Tabernacle cassia is Cinnamomum cassia also known as C. aromaticum. Although cassia is in the same genus as the spice cinnamon, cassia is a different plant with a more pungent aroma. Both fresh and fallen leaves emit the cassia aroma. Chinese cassia comes from the bark of the cassia plant. The tree is cut above the ground level 4 – 5 years after planting and every 3 – 4 years thereafter. The bitter-tasting outer bark is removed leaving the inner cassia bark is dried in the sun. When the inner bark is dry it turns brown and curls into a hollow tube or quill. In the United States during the yuletide season, bunches (7 – 8) of cassia quills tied with a ribbon and sold in stores as cinnamon. Cinnamaldehyde is the major (70 – 95%) component of cassia bark and responsible for the pungent odor of the bark and powdered cassia. Cassia powder is a reddish brown color in contrast to the tan color of cinnamon.
Cassia and other substances of the anointing oil symbolize the work of the Holy Spirit, particularly the Spirit’s acts in the New Testament. Christ told the people of Nazareth that he was anointed by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to give recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppresses and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19.). To the Church at Jerusalem and to the Gentiles at Cornelius’ home, Peter reiterated that God anointed Christ with the Holy Spirit and empowered Christ (Acts 4:24-28; Acts 10:38). Christ’s work on earth was completed through the anointing power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit anoints believers for God’s work on earth just as the Holy Spirit anointed Christ’s for God’s work on earth. Saint John declared that Christians have an anointing from the Holy One (1 John 2:20). Scholars are not sure whether “Holy One” refers to God or Christ; however, there is wide-spread agreement that anointing means the Holy Spirit. We Christian’s are anointed with the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as our Savior. At that time, the Holy Spirit enters into our body and mind and becomes a part of us.
Christ told his disciples before he left them that the Holy Spirit would come to them (John 16:5-15). The Holy Spirit would convict them of sin and righteousness, console and guide them, be their advocate with God, and the revealer of all truth. According to Paul, the Holy Spirit gives gifts to Christians so the work of the Church in the world can be accomplished, e.g., administration, teaching, healing and distinguishing of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28).
Although God’s work here on earth is vitally important, the Holy Spirit anointed Christ and believers not just for work. In addition to anointing Christ with power for work, God anointed him with the oil of joy (Hebrews 1:9). The oil of joy was more valuable than the most important and valuable aromatic oils and cassia in the fragrant robes of the greatest king (Psalm 45:7–8). The reason God anointed Christ with the oil of joy was so Christ could give the joy to believers. Isaiah wrote that Christ would bestow on believers a crown of beauty instead of ashes and the oil of gladness instead of mourning (Isaiah (61:10). What a blessing to know that when we enter a personal relationship with Christ, we are anointed with the Holy Spirit and given the oil of joy and gladness. Further, the Holy Spirit’s anointing presence allows us to bear fruit spiritual fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22-23).
Reflection This morning, I heard a song that said, “You raise me up to more than I can be” (The Four Troops, 2010). God does that through anointing Christians with the Holy Spirit. What are you doing with your anointing?
I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/
Copyright October 16, 2011; carolyn a. roth