In Exodus 30, the Lord commanded Moses to make holy anointing oil and incense for the Tabernacle. Hopefully, we’ll learn more about the significance of these two substances that Moses was commanded to make.
The anointing oil was made by blending it together as a perfumer would do. It consisted of 500 shekels of myrrh, 250 shekels of aromatic cinnamon, 250 shekels of aromatic cane, 500 shekels of cassia, and a hin of olive oil. We are somewhat familiar with the names of most of these substances; however, there is some discrepancy over the correct identification of aromatic cane. Some think it is cannabis (same in Greek and English) but the Greek Septuagint uses the Greek word “kalamos” or calamus. Wikipedia suggests this is due to an ancient misunderstanding and that it really is cannabis but Jewish Encyclopedia indicates it is calamus. I guess we’ll have to make our own judgment here.
According to Exodus 30:25-33, “It shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and the ark of the Testimony; 27 the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense; 28 the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base. 29 You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them must be holy. 30 And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests. 31 “And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on man’s flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.'” NKJV
Because of the prohibition in verse 33, some Christians believe the holy anointing oil should not be used at all. Other believers in Christ are of the opinion that it is acceptable to use this particular recipe for consecration, healing, and however else the Lord may lead since God’s people are part of a royal priesthood. Both groups agree that it is definitely not to be used by non-believers or in a casual manner.
The prohibition in verse 33 shows us that this anointing oil is very holy. Initially, it was used to consecrate objects in the Tabernacle as well as the priests. Later, it was also used to anoint prophets and kings. This makes sense considering Jesus the Anointed One is our Prophet, Priest, and King.
Since Messiah means “Anointed One,” the holy anointing oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit who descended upon Jesus after His baptism and gave Him power and authority. Since the Holy Spirit has been poured out on God’s people, I think it further confirms the idea that the anointing oil is only suitable for appropriate use by His people.
We know the virgin olive oil for the menorah represents the Holy Spirit as it compares to the fuel necessary to shine the light of Christ. The additional spices in the anointing oil make it more special than plain virgin olive oil. Just as essential oils derived from various plants contain powerful healing properties, these spices combined with the olive oil most likely parallel the healing power of the Holy Spirit.
After Jesus was baptized and came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Luke 9:35) In a similar manner, when a person is anointed with the holy anointing oil, it represents the seal of the Holy Spirit which shows our relationship to Him. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
I think we should also associate the anointing oil with joy, gladness, and righteousness because Psalm 45:7 says, “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” NKJV
The Lord also commanded Moses to make a most holy incense to be burned on the golden altar. Exodus 30:7-10 explains, “Aaron shall burn on it [golden altar] sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. 8 And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it. 10 And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.”
Exodus 30:34-36 describes the holy incense: “And the Lord said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. 35 You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy.” NKJV
There was a later tradition that added 7 – 9 other ingredients to the four mentioned above. These were myrrh, cassia, flower of nard, saffron, kostus, cinnamon, cinnamon bark, Jordan amber, and a secret unknown ingredient which was necessary to make the incense rise straight up when it was offered twice daily.  This obviously prevented the unauthorized production of the holy incense.
The Scriptures tell us the incense is not to be made in order to smell it. It is not for personal use, it is holy for the Lord. I believe the odor of the holy incense is the actual fragrance of the Lord because its smoke rose straight up into the air just like the pillar of cloud which was a visible sign of His presence as He led the multitude in the wilderness.
Lately, I’ve been praying about the holy anointing oil and the holy incense because I wanted the Lord to reveal their significance to me. Normally, we compare the prayers of the saints to the incense but I suspect it also represents Jesus who lives to intercede for His people (Heb. 7:25).
I recently asked the Lord to come to me and to allow me to smell the incense of His presence. I found this to be an interesting and awesome experience. It’s kind of a sweet smell similar to baby powder and to the anointing oil sold in American Christian bookstores. It’s a unique fragrance. Perhaps the Lord will allow you to smell it too if you ask Him. It may take a minute or two but wait for it. Be sure to inhale deeply through your nose for several minutes so you don’t miss out. Let me know what happens and what you think.
As I reflected on this odor, the Lord pointed out to me that believers have a fragrance too. Second Corinthians 2:15-17 explains, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” NKJV
What is it that causes this fragrance? It’s Christ. Perhaps it’s His righteousness that has been imputed to us. It could be that as we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice by living righteously, holy and acceptable to the Lord, we are bringing an offering of incense to the Lord. This is how we fellowship and worship with Him today.
Amazingly, some of the spices of the incense and anointing oil are in the garden that the Beloved used to describe the Shulamite (the Bride) in Song of Solomon 4:12-15: “A garden enclosed Is my sister, my spouse, A spring shut up, A fountain sealed. 13 Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates With pleasant fruits, Fragrant henna with spikenard, 14 Spikenard and saffron, Calamus and cinnamon, With all trees of frankincense, Myrrh and aloes, With all the chief spices — 15 A fountain of gardens, A well of living waters, And streams from Lebanon.” NKJV
There’s only one person who could cultivate such a beautiful garden–Jesus, the Water of Life and the Light of the World.