Medical anointing, not necessarily with oil, was customary for the sick and wounded (
History of the Practice
Robertson Smith (Religion of the Semites, 2nd. ed., pp. 233, 383ff.) thinks that the religious rite arose from nomadic sacrificial practices. Perhaps it developed from a custom of smearing the sacrificial fat on the pillar (Maṩṩebah) as part of a communal meal (or feast with totem animal). Others feel it is an out-growth of the secular use of anointing for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.
The practice of anointing is well attested in Babylonian and Egyptian customs well before Biblical times. The specific practice of anointing a king is mentioned in the 14th cent. b.c., Amarna Letter # 37. One text from refers to anointing Baal (Gordon, # 76; ANET. p. 142a; Baal & Anat, Syria, XVII  pp. 150-173).
Anointing is attested throughout all periods of Heb. history, cf. references below.
Sacral practice in pre-monarchic period.
The earliest usage in pre-monarchic times seems to be that recorded in
Sacral practice during the monarchy.
Non-sacral practice in OT.
Non-sacral usage in OT times is widely attested from the period of the Exodus (
Postexilic and Christian usage.
Meaning of the practice
Persons were anointed (1) to give relief from the sun (
Non-cultic objects may have been anointed. Some interpreters see such a practice in
Although Elijah was commissioned to anoint Elisha as his successor (
Persons endowed with God’s Spirit.
They are called God’s “anointed” (
Technical term for the Messiah.
J. Pedersen, Israel, III/IV (1940, 1959), passim; P. deVaux, AIs (1961), 103-106; W. LaSor, “The Messianic Idea in Qumran,” Studies and Essays in Honor of Abraham A. Neuman (1962), 343, 364.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
See also ANOINTING.
Jacob W. Kapp