The Significance of Oil in the Bible: The Significance of Different Oils in Biblical Times

Many of the oils you use today for aromatherapy or to freshen up your laundry have existed since Biblical times and perhaps even earlier. Their mention in the Bible is fascinating stuff, as you can learn to appreciate oils in brand new ways.

Which oils are quoted in the Bible?

The oils described in the Bible include:

  • Frankincense
  • Myrrh
  • Spikenard
  • Fresh oil
  • Balsam
  • Hyssop
  • Cinnamon
  • Cedarwood
  • Cassia
  • Sandalwood
  • Galbanum
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Hemp
  • Black seed

If you’re curious about the significance of the above oils in Biblical times, you’ll want to keep reading. Ahead, we’ll share Bible quotes and verses that mention what these oils mean. We’ll even recount a Bible story that’s centered around oil!

Let’s get started. 

Significance of Frankincense in the Bible

The resin frankincense comes from the Boswellia tree and is used to make perfumes and incense. In the Bible, Matthew 2:1-12 talks about the gifts that the three wise men give to baby Jesus when visiting Bethlehem. Frankincense is one of them.

Why frankincense? The gift was a representation of the priesthood of Jesus, which is a level above even kingliness. Since other priests would regularly burn frankincense, the gift made a lot of sense.

Significance of Myrrh Oil in the Bible

Of the three gifts offered to baby Jesus by the wise men, myrrh was the second. The Commiphora myrrha grows myrrh, which is sap that dries out and then turns brownish-red. It’s often distilled into oil that today is part of Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. It’s believed that myrrh oil might be able to alleviate skin sores, infections, and pain.

Although the myrrh that baby Jesus received wasn’t oil, it might have still been intended for healing, such as Mary’s post-birth pain. Myrrh could have also played a predictive role in Jesus’ eventual death, followed by his embalming and renewal on this earth.

Significance of Spikenard Oil in the Bible

Nardin or nard oil, which is commonly known as muskroot or spikenard oil, comes from the Nardostachys jatamansi plant, which is part of the honeysuckle family. This plant grows natively in India, China, and Nepal. Its effects can lessen insomnia, stress, and anxiety.

Spikenard oil gets mentioned frequently in the Bible, including the Old Testament and the New Testament alike. Mostly, the oil was renowned for its fragrance, such as in the Song of Songs 1:12-14 NKJV. Here’s the passage: “While the king is at his table, my spikenard sends forth its fragrance. A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, that lies all night between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blooms in vineyards of En Gedi.”

Significance of Fresh Oil in the Bible

If the oil in the Bible isn’t specifically named, then it’s likely in reference to the Holy Spirit, especially anointing oneself with the oil. In Psalm 92, Verse 10, a line reads “I shall be anointed with fresh oil.”

Fresh oil, in this context, is about transitioning into new stages of life. Throughout the Bible are mentions of anointing oneself before undergoing changes, including in Act 13:9, which reads: “Then, Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit…”

Significance of Balsam Oil in the Bible

By tapping balsam trees, manufacturers collect the resin, which has an oily texture. Distilling the resin with steam separates the oil. In modern times, some people use balsam oil on its own while others combine it with scents such as patchouli, lavender, rose, vanilla, or cinnamon.

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The Bible calls balsam other names such as besem, bosem, and sometimes balm. The Balm of Gilead was a medicinal perfume of great significance in Biblical times, as it was renowned for its healing abilities. In other uses, it was a perfume, incense, and anointing oil. 

Significance of Alabaster and Oil in the Bible

The soft texture of alabaster rock makes it ideal for carving. It cannot be distilled into an oil, but it does have ties to oil in the Bible. When a woman reached marrying age, her parents would give her an alabaster box filled with an ointment (oil). The more expensive the ointment and the larger the box, the wealthier the family was.

Significance of Hyssop Oil in the Bible

As one of the seven healing oils, hyssop is revered in the Bible. This oil is extracted from the leaves and flowers of the Hyssopus officinalis. This plant is a major part of Southern European and Middle Eastern folk medicine. These parts of the world also happen to the native home of the Hyssopus officinalis.

The ingredients in hyssop include pinocamphone and volatile oils, bitters, flavonoids, and tannins. Hyssop is versatile in that it acts as an antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory treatment.

What about in Biblical times? In the Old Testament, hyssop was a significant part of Jewish Passover. Many passages in the Bible talk about hyssop oil for cleansing those with leprosy or the plague. The Bible even states that the oil could cleanse your soul, so it was highly, highly esteemed.

Significance of Cinnamon Oil in the Bible

By removing the leaves and bark of the Cinnamomum cassia or the Cinnamomum verum trees and then distilling them, you get cinnamon oil. Most cinnamon oil comes from the Cinnamomum cassia tree.

Besides its appealing scent, cinnamon oil is an antioxidant, antidiabetic, antifungal, and antibacterial. In Exodus 30:23, cinnamon was revealed as part of the sacred oil. Here is the quote in full: “Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels.”

Significance of Cedarwood Oil in the Bible

Of all the oils mentioned in the Bible, cedarwood may be among the most important. To build God’s temple, King Solomon added cedarwood. When Jesus was crucified on the cross, that cross was made of cypress or cedarwood.

While he was living, Jesus would treat lepers with cedarwood oil. The oil was also a cleanser and it was believed in Biblical times to be able to alleviate skin conditions. Cedarwood oil is beloved for its ability to inspire wisdom.

Significance of Cassia Oil in the Bible

Few spices have existed as long as cassia. Chinese cinnamon or cassia oil comes from the Cinnamomum cassia tree’s twigs, leaves, and bark. The sweetness of its aroma contrasts nicely with frankincense, which has a smell akin to pine.

During Biblical times, cassia went into anointing oil according to Psalms 45:7-9 and Exodus 30:22-25. Although cassia might have been more like cinnamon back then, it’s still considered one of the seven healing oils.

Significance of Sandalwood Oil in the Bible

The Santalum spicatum and Santalum album trees produce sandalwood that’s sliced into billets and chips before finally being distilled into oil. In Ancient Scripture, sandalwood doesn’t earn that many mentions, admittedly. John 19:39 talks about it thusly: “And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight.”

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John 19:39 mentions also that sandalwood oil was one such oil of several that they used to embalm Jesus’ body.

Significance of Galbanum Oil in the Bible

A member of the Apiaceae family, galbanum starts as a gum resin in a yellow or brown hue. It’s sticky to the touch until it’s distilled into essential oil. The oil also goes into products such as cologne, perfume, and incense.

Galbanum oil was both holy incense (when mixed with frankincense) and ancient anointing oil. Christ, Moses, and the Ancient Egyptians relied on this oil to augment their meditation. You too can achieve spiritual enlightenment today with galbanum essential oil. 

Significance of Rose of Sharon Oil in the Bible

Often referred to as the Rose of Sharon, labdanum oil from the Cistus labdanum flowering plant starts as gum before it’s made into oil. All along, it retains its appealing aroma. Unsurprisingly then, Rose of Sharon was a commonly used anointing oil in Biblical times.

In Solomon 2:1a, Jesus says, “I am the Rose of Sharon.” By anointing with Rose of Sharon oil before prayer, you can become closer to Jesus.

Significance of Hemp Oil in the Bible

Hempseed or hemp oil is often cold-pressed and has a nutty taste. Its color varies depending on whether it’s refined or unrefined. A light color imparts slight grassy tones while a deeper color is far grassier.

This oil comes from the Cannabis sativa plant, which is also the plant that produces cannabis or marijuana. Are there mentions of hemp oil in the Bible? Not specifically, but scholars think that when calamus is brought up in Biblical scripture that it might be referring to cannabis instead.

Considering that calamus is an ingredient in Moses’ holy oil, that makes its inclusion that much more interesting! The Lord told Moses to add 250 shekels of cannabis to ingredients like cassia, cinnamon, and liquid myrrh to make the holy oil. 

Significance of Black Seed Oil in the Bible

Finally, there’s black seed oil from the Nigella sativa plant. The compound thymoquinone in black seed oil acts as an antioxidant that might be able to reduce symptoms associated with hypertension, diabetes, and asthma.

Black seed oil, referred to as black cumin oil in the Bible, appears in Matthew 22:23 and Isaiah 28:25 and 28:27. The Isaiah 28:27 scripture is especially interesting, as it says the following: “For dill is not threshed with a sharp threshing instrument, nor is a cartwheel rolled over the cumin, but dill is beaten off with a staff, and cumin with a rod [by hand].”

What does this mean? This verse is the Prophet Isaiah’s way of warning us of the consequences of ignoring even the simpler messages of God. 

A Favorite Oil Story in the Bible

Besides the many mentions of oil throughout the Bible, oil also serves as the basis of Biblical stories. Let’s retell a popular one now.

In 2 Kings 4:1-7, there’s the story of a widow who had to pay a creditor but didn’t have the money. She was very concerned about her sons being sold as slaves to pay off her debt. The widow decided to call Elisha, the great prophet, to get some assistance.

The Bible verse says that Elisha responded like so: “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

The widow had olive oil handy, but it wasn’t worth much. The prophet instructed the woman to talk to her neighbors and try to borrow jars from them. Then she was to transfer her olive oil into the jars. Yes, she was supposed to fill all the jars with just a meager amount of olive oil.

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By following Elisha’s word, the widow found that indeed, the little olive oil she had could fill every jar she had acquired. Elisha then said she should sell the oil to settle her debt. That’s exactly what she did.

This Bible story is a good example of how having a little bit of faith can help you reap big rewards!

Oil Lamps and Beard Oils – What Oils Went into These Products During Biblical Times?

Oil Lamps During Biblical Times

In Biblical times, you couldn’t flip on a light switch to illuminate a room, as electricity didn’t yet exist. Instead, they used oil lamps, but which oil was preferred? Just as in the story of the widow and her oil, oil lamps used olive oil.

Although olive oil was expensive in these times, you only needed about two fluid ounces to get hours of light at a time. That made it quite economical, as one bottle or jar could last you for quite a while.

Beard Oil During Biblical Times

The oil that you apply on your beard also wasn’t a thing in the days of Jesus, but some oils of significance in the Bible go into the production of beard oil today. Hempseed oil is one of these, which is usually combined with grapeseed, coconut, argan, and/or jojoba oils to alleviate sensitive and itchy skin around one’s face.

How to Make Anointing Oil According to the Bible

We’ve discussed throughout this guide the significance of anointing oil in the Bible. This oil isn’t just the stuff of Biblical times, but still exists today. Exodus 30:31-33 states: “And though shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations. Upon man’s flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition after it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you. Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.’”

According to scripture in the New Testament, if you’re a priest of God, then you can use anointing oil, both on others of the faith and yourself.

Following the recipe from Exodus 30, you’d need the following ingredients:

  • Glass bottle
  • Extra virgin olive oil (32 drops)
  • Cassia oil (24 drops)
  • Calamus oil (12 drops)
  • Cinnamon oil (12 drops)
  • Myrrh oil (24 drops)

Instructions:

  • Take an unused bowl and ensure it’s clean. Add the essential oils one drop at a time. When you’ve squirted the essential oils into the bowl, pour in the olive oil as well. Stir the liquid until everything is incorporated.
  • Transfer the contents of the bowl to an unused, clean glass bottle with a funnel or pipette. Put a stopper in the bottle and shake. Before using, create a 1:4 ratio of anointing oil to carrier oil.

In Conclusion

Many of today’s most beloved essential oils were anointing or embalming oils in Biblical times. Thanks to the scriptures that still exist to this day, we can understand how the Lord and his Followers made these oils significant and then similarly use them ourselves!