What Were Three of the Meanings of Being Anointed With Oil in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, anointing with oil was a common practice in many cultures and religions. It was used for various purposes, ranging from religious ceremonies to medicinal purposes. Here are three of the meanings of being anointed with oil in ancient times.

1. Religious Rituals

Anointing with oil was a significant part of many religious rituals in ancient times. In the Hebrew Bible, oil was used to anoint prophets, priests, and kings as a sign of their special status and authority. For example, King David was anointed with oil by the prophet Samuel before he became king.

In Christianity, anointing with oil is still practiced today as a sacrament called ‘the anointing of the sick’. It is performed on those who are seriously ill or dying as a way to offer comfort and spiritual support.

2. Medicinal Purposes

Anointing with oil was also used for medicinal purposes in ancient times. In ancient Egypt, for example, people used aromatic oils for embalming bodies and treating various ailments such as headaches and stomach problems.

Similarly, in Ayurveda (an Indian system of medicine), oils were used for massage and other therapeutic purposes. Different types of oils were believed to have different healing properties depending on their composition.

3. Symbolic Meaning

Oil has always held symbolic meaning in many cultures. In ancient Greece, athletes would anoint themselves with oil before competitions as a symbol of strength and victory.

In Judaism, the menorah (a candelabrum) is lit using olive oil during Hanukkah as a symbol of the miracle that occurred when one day’s worth of olive oil burned for eight days in the temple.

In Christianity, anointing with oil symbolizes healing and redemption. The story of Jesus anointing a woman’s feet with expensive perfume is often cited as an example of this symbolism.


In conclusion, anointing with oil had various meanings in ancient times. It was used for religious rituals, medicinal purposes, and held significant symbolic meaning in many cultures. Today, the use of oils has evolved but its significance is still present in many aspects of our lives.