The Hebrew māšach (H4886), is the most common word for anointing. Occurring about seventy times, its basic meaning is nothing special, simply to smear something, such as oil on a shield to prevent the leather from cracking (Isa_21:5), paint on a house (Jer_22:14), or oil on wafers as we might spread butter on bread (Exo_29:2). Other nonreligious significance in the ancient Near East included anointing with oil to confirm such things as diplomatic agreements and business contracts.
It is the theological sense of māšach, however, that is crucial. Its primary significance is as a symbol of sanctification and service. In its first occurrence, for example, Jacob awakens from his dream of “the ladder,” builds a monument to the event, consecrating it with oil, and even renaming the place “Bethel” (bēyṯ-‘ēl, H1008, “the house of God,” Gen_31:13). We see this symbol often. Aaron and his sons were anointed to “consecrate them, and sanctify them” so they could “minister unto [God] in the priest’s office” (Exo_28:41), as were prophets (1Ki_19:16; Isa_61:1). The tabernacle, the Ark, and various vessels were anointed and thereby set apart unto God (Exo_30:26-28). Even kings were anointed, such as Saul (1Sa_9:15-16; 1Sa_10:1; 1Sa_2:10) and David (1Sa_16:13; 2Sa_12:7), to set them apart for service to God and leading the people in sanctified obedience.
It is extremely significant that another form of māšach, namely māšiyach (H4899), is the source of the word Messiah. While OT references to Jesus as this future anointed one are not numerous, conservative scholars agree that passages such as Dan_9:24-26 and Psa_2:2, with its context, could not be clearer. Additionally, the Septuagint almost always renders this chriō (G5548), “to daub, smear, anoint with oil,” from which is derived christos (G5547), “Christ.” Chriō appears, in fact, five times in the NT, four of which refer to the Father’s anointing of Christ.
The final appearance of chriō declares that all believers have been anointed by God (2Co_1:21), demonstrating that we all are set apart, “sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2Ti_2:21).
Scriptures for Study: The noun chrisma (G5545) also comes from chriō (G5548). Read its only two occurrences in 1Jn_2:20 (“unction”) and 27 (“anointing”), noting what we have in the Holy Spirit.