One of the ways anointing with essential oils was used in Biblical times was for healing and restoring those who were sick back to the community-especially the lepers.
Anointing with oils was used for soothing of wounds and referred to in other books like the Apocalypse of Moses as an “oil of mercy” and as a cure for every kind of illness. The idea that oil conferred health and well-being is the significance of a rite in the cleansing of the leper found in Lev 14:15-18. We need to remember that any kind of “icky” skin condition was classified as leprosy-this might include Hansen’s Disease (what we know as leprosy today), eczema and psoriasis to name but a few. The Leviticus passage is not a purification rite but the conveying of life as is suggested by the anointing of the head. The entire rite indicates that the formerly ostracized person is now accepted once more into the life of society. This is such an interesting account for if you know anything about the Vita-Flex points in the body, these three are significant. The priest was to put some of the oil on the tip of the right ear-a reflex point to release guilt. Then he put oil on the thumb of the right hand and the big toe on the right foot which are both reflex points for the brain and pineal gland-the center of the body’s communication systems and the place where emotional memory is stored.
“The priest shall take some of the log of oil [a liquid measure] and pour it into the palm of his own left hand, and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. Some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of the right hand, and on the big toe of the right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. The rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement on his behalf before the Lord.” Lev. 14:15-18
The oil used in this particular ritual was that of cedarwood- one of the oldest oils known to man. It was used to cleanse lepers and evil spirits-used in similar ways as sandalwood. The Egyptians and Sumerians were using it over 5,000 years ago for embalming, as a disinfectant and for other medicinal purposes. For biblical people, this oil symbolized abundance, fertility and spiritual strength. It is still used as a temple incense by the Tibetans and is employed in their traditional medicine.
Oil in the Old Testament appears fundamentally as a source of strength, vitality and life. To possess an oil was evidence of wealth and a mark of the nation’s prosperity. Anointing someone with oil paid the person great honor. So it was spoken of as bringing joy and gladness to festive occasions. Oil created bonds between parties where the anointer showed his authority and assured his support and protection. And in sacred contexts, anointing with an oil acquired the weight of theology and of holiness.