To anoint is to apply perfumed oil. It was a common practice among the Hebrews. The act of anointing was significant of consecration to a holy or sacred use. It was used hence for the anointing of the high priest (Exodus 29:29; Leviticus 4:3) and of the sacred vessels (Exodus 30:26). Anointing is the religious practice of applying specially consecrated oil to someone in order to transfer the magic inherent in the oil to consecrate them to a particular task or role, such as that of a priest or ruler.
"Unction" is another term for anointing.
Priests and kings
High priest and the king are sometimes called "the anointed" (Leviticus 4:3, 5, 16; 6:20; Psalms 132:10). Anointing a king was equivalent to crowning him (1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 2:4, etc.). Prophets were also anointed (1 Kings 19:16; 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalms 105:15). The expression, "anoint the shield" (Isaiah 21:5), refers to the custom of rubbing oil on the leather of the shield so as to make it supple and fit for use in war.
David was anointed as king by the prophet Samuel:
1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
Anointing was also an act of hospitality (Luke 7:38, 46). It was the custom of the Jews in like manner to anoint themselves with oil, as a means of refreshing or invigorating their bodies (Deuteronomy 28:40; Ruth 3:3; 2 Samuel 14:2; Psalms 104:15, etc.). This custom is continued among the Arabians to the present day.
Medicinal and funerals
Oil was used also for medicinal purposes. It was applied to the sick, and also to wounds (Psalms 109:18; Isaiah 1:6; Gospel of Mark 6:13; James 5:14).
The bodies of the dead were sometimes anointed (Mark 14:8; Luke 23:56).
Biblical and the Messiah
In the New Testament, people received the Spirit of God on and inside of them, usually after being baptised in water, but sometimes even before.
The Spirit of God residing in a Christian is also referred to as the anointing.
1 John 2:20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
The promised Deliverer is twice called the "Anointed" or Moshiach (Psalms 2:2; Daniel 9:25, 26), because he was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 61:1) which, in the text, is an expression of nobility and greatness. According to the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth is this anointed One, the Moshiach of the Tanakh (John 1:41; Acts 9:22; 17:2, 3; 18:5, 28).
According to the Jewish Bible, whenever someone received the anointing, the Spirit of God came upon this person, to qualify him or her for a God-given task. However it was not always required to become anointed in order to receive the Spirit of God.
In Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox usage, anointing is part of the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Consecrated oil is also used in confirmation, or, as it is sometimes called (especially in Eastern Orthodox and Eastern-Rite Catholic churches), chrismation, from the Greek word chrismos (χρισμος), meaning oil.
Anointing is also known to Christians as "the burden removing, yoke destroying power of God". This comes from the following verse:
Isaiah 10:27 And it shall come to pass on that day, that his burden shall be removed from upon your shoulder, and his yoke from upon your neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of oil.
Traditionally, this referred to the yoke of Sennacherib, and how his oppressive nature is overturned by that of Hezekiah who was said to be as mild as oil.
In early Christian times, sick people were anointed for healing to take place:
James 5: 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
Sometimes it is also said during Christian meetings that "the anointing is at work" or "the anointing is flowing". This means that the Holy Spirit is at work at such moments.