Q.

Please comment on Psalm 133, where David said that unity is like oil running down the beard of Aaron. That certainly doesn’t seem “pleasant” or “beautiful.”

A.
Let me begin by quoting the whole psalm.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

We believers today cannot appreciate fully the significance of the anointing of the priests and kings of the Old Testament, or of the unity that came as God’s people gathered together from their scattered regions to observe the feasts. We tend to see something unpleasant about the affair when, in reality, the occasion spoke of something fantastically beautiful in the sight of God and of something that spoke volumes of truth to the people.

The oil used in anointing not only provided a sight to behold, but it also had many wonderful, fragrant ingredients. Exodus 30:23 and 24 tell us the oil included myrrh, cinnamon, sweet calamus, cassia, and an olive oil base. These ingredients were considered extremely precious. Exodus 30:30 reveals that Aaron and all the high priests were anointed with this oil. At his consecration the high priest symbolized unity—he bore on his breastplate the names of all twelve tribes, so when the oil depicting the grace of God was poured on him, it “flowed on” all the tribes.

David wrote Psalm 133, as we see in the psalm’s heading. Some scholars have pointed to 2 Samuel 5, the account of David’s being anointed as king over all of Israel, as the occasion for which the psalm was written. It is true that during the time of the judges and for the first seven and a half years of David’s reign, Israel was divided into factions. Disunity prevailed. As David became king over Judah (2 Sam. 2), Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, ruled the rest of Israel. But after Ishbosheth and Abner (Saul’s army commander-in-chief who set Ishbosheth up as king-successor to Saul) were murdered, all of Israel was united under David. The time for unity had come.

Whatever the occasion, David saw the blessed joys of believers dwelling and worshiping together as they should, under their consecrated priest, and he considered the object lesson of the oil as most appropriate. But that analogy wasn’t his only object lesson. David also compared this unity of believers to “the dew of Hermon” (v. 3), which descended upon the mountains of Zion. More than 9,000 feet above sea level, Mount Hermon is by far the highest mountain in or near Palestine. It is perpetually snowclad, and the melting waters form the main source of the Jordan River. The snow on the mountain condenses the vapors during the summertime, and this condensation causes the abundant dews that descend upon it while the surrounding territory is desert-like. In fact, one of the tops of the mountain is called Abu-Nedy, or “father of dew.” Travelers have commented about the refreshing quality of this dew-making process and that this dew differs from ordinary dew. The psalmist knew what he was talking about! He used the dew of Hermon to illustrate the refreshing quality of the people of the nation assembling to worship God.

Does this psalm have any truth for Christians in the Church Age? Yes, unity is important. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:3, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Unity among believers in Jesus Christ comes from the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who are controlled by Him. What symbolizes the Holy Spirit? Oil.

Also, in Ezekiel 39:29, we have these words: “Neither will I hide my face anymore from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.” Ezekiel referred to a time in the future when, like the oil that ran down Aaron, God will pour out His Spirit. This prediction parallels Joel’s prophecy concerning the outpouring of the Spirit upon Israel in a coming day (Joel 2:28). This prophecy was not fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–5), when Peter explained, “Don’t think this strange—we have prophecy that says things like this will come to pass” (Acts 2:14—21). It is yet future. Nevertheless, in our day, an individual is saved when the Holy Spirit comes and performs the new birth, takes up residence in him, and places him in God’s family of believers. Christ becomes his personal great High Priest.

Concerning Jesus Christ as our High Priest, back in the psalms we note, “Thy God bath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (45:7). Jesus was anointed twice during His public ministry, and the ultimate fulfillment of this passage will take place when He reigns forever on the eternal throne (2 Sam. 7:16).

Just as the Israelites, God’s people, would gather together, we believers will be gathered together and united with our Lord Jesus Christ forever at the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:16, 17). “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels” (Heb. 12:22). Praise God! It may be soon.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (September 1992).
© 1992 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.