(An oily or unctuous substance, usually compounded of oil with various spices and resins and aromatics, and preserved in small alabaster boxes or cruses, in which the delicious aroma was best preserved. Some of the ointments have been known to retain their: fragrance for several hundred years. They were a much-coveted luxury, and often very expensive. --ED.)
- Cosmetic . --The Greek and Roman practice of anointing the head and clothes on festive occasions prevailed also among the Egyptians, and appears to have had place among the Jews. (Ruth 3:2)
- Funereal . --Ointments as well as oil were used to anoint dead bodies and the clothes in which they were wrapped. (Matthew 26:12)
- Medicinal . --Ointment formed an important feature in ancient medical treatment. (Isaiah 1:6; Jeremiah 8:22; John 9:6; Revelation 3:18) etc.
- Ritual.--Besides the oil used in many ceremonial observances, a special ointment was appointed to be used in consecration. (Exodus 30:23,33; 29:7; 37:29; 40:9,15) A person whose business it was to compound ointments in general was called an "apothecary." (Nehemiah 3:8) The work was sometimes carried on by woman "confectionaries." (1Ã‚Â Samuel 8:13)
- oint'-ment: The present use of the word "ointment" is to designate a thick unguent of buttery or tallow-like consistency. the King James Version in frequent instances translates shemen or meshach (see Ex 30:25
) "ointment" where a perfumed oil seemed to be indicated. the American Standard Revised Version has consequently substituted the word "oil" in most of the passages. Merqachah is rendered "ointment" once in the Old Testament (Job 41:31
)). The well-known power of oils and fats to absorb odors was made use of by the ancient perfumers. The composition of the holy anointing oil used in the tabernacle worship is mentioned in Ex 30:23-25
. Olive oil formed the base. This was scented with "flowing myrrh .... sweet cinnamon .... sweet calamus .... and .... cassia." The oil was probably mixed with the above ingredients added in a powdered form and heated until the oil had absorbed their odors and then allowed to stand until the insoluble matter settled, when the oil could be decanted. Olive oil, being a non-drying oil which does not thicken readily, yielded an ointment of oily consistency. This is indicated by Ps 133:2
, where it says that the precious oil ran down on Aaron's beard and on the collar of his outer garment. Anyone attempting to make the holy anointing oil would be cut off from his people (Ex 30:33
). The scented oils or ointments were kept in jars or vials (not boxes) made of alabaster. These jars are frequently found as part of the equipment of ancient tombs.
The word translated "ointment" in the New Testament is muron, "myrrh." This would indicate that myrrh, an aromatic gum resin, was the substance commonly added to the oil to give it odor. In Lk 7:46 both kinds of oil are mentioned, and the verse might be paraphrased thus: My head with common oil thou didst not anoint; but she hath anointed my feet with costly scented oil.
For the uses of scented oils or ointments see ANOINTING; OIL.
James A. Patch