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Exodus 30:22-33 meaning

This passage concerns the oil used for anointing. Following the introduction, the LORD specifies how to make the anointing oil. Then the LORD states the purpose of the anointing oil, followed by the command to make it a permanent part of worship at the tabernacle.

After describing how to make the laver, the Lord spoke to Moses about how to make the anointing oil. The oil was made of the finest of spices:

  • Flowing myrrh. Myrrh has been described as aromatic gum that exudes from the bark of a tree common in the Middle East. The priests were to use five hundred shekels of this myrrh. Along with being a unit of money, the shekel was a unit of weight measurement. "Five hundred shekels" would have been equivalent to about 12 ½ pounds (or around 5.7 kilograms).
  • Fragrant cinnamon. They used half as much cinnamon (a fragrant spice) as myrrh, meaning two hundred and fifty shekels, or 6 ¼ pounds (2.85 kilograms).
  • Fragrant cane. The nature of this cane is uncertain, but the Hebrew word ("qaneh") means "reed", which might mean that the cane was derived from a spicy reed plant. Like the cinnamon, they were to use two hundred and fifty shekels (6 ¼ pounds or 2.85 kilograms) of this spice.
  • Cassia. Cassia was derived from the fragrant bark of a tree. They needed to use the same amount of cassia as the myrrh—five hundred shekels, the measurement according to the shekel of the sanctuary (12 ½ pounds or around 5.7 kilograms).
  • Olive oil. They were to use a hin (about four quarts or 3.6 kilograms) of olive oil.

Mixing these ingredients together would produce a very fragrant aroma which would fill the tabernacle.

The ingredients described above produced a holy anointing oil, also called a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer. The purpose was that it shall be a holy anointing oil. Moses was commanded to anoint the tabernacle and all of the furniture in it. Specifically, he was to anoint:

  • The tent of meeting itself.
  • The ark of the testimony, the most important item in the tabernacle.
  • The table and all its utensils.
  • The lampstand and its utensils.
  • The altar of incense.
  • The altar of burnt offering and all its utensils.
  • The laver and its stand.

The goal was to consecrate them (or dedicate them by setting them apart) so that they may be most holy (meaning "completely dedicated") and whatever touches them shall be holy. Lastly, Moses was to use the anointing oil to anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister as priests to Me. Just as the tabernacle was set apart to the LORD, Aaron and his sons were also completely set apart for serving as priests to the LORD. This meant that they were not to do any other type of occupation.

Verses 31 - 33 contain a warning. Moses had to speak to the sons of Israel. The LORD, through Moses, declared that this oil was a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. The fact that it was holy meant that it was set apart for a specific purpose and could not be applied to any other situation. This meant that the oil could not be poured on anyone's body. This probably meant that the oil could not be used for a non-religious purpose (such as being a deodorant) or anything that could be interpreted as pagan practice. What was dedicated to the LORD was not to be repurposed to any other application.

No one other than the priests were allowed to make the oil like it in the same proportions, meaning that no one could use the recipe in verses 22 - 24 to make their own oil. Even the recipe was holy, and it shall be holy to you. The final statement of this warning is the most ominous. It states that whoever shall mix any like it or whoever puts any of it on a layman shall be cut off from his people. To be cut off from the people could mean excommunication from the people (Genesis 7:14, Leviticus 7:20 et al) or even physical death (Genesis 9:11, Exodus 9:14, Numbers 15:31 et al).


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