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Why would the shepherd in Psalm 23:5 anoint the sheep's head with oil?

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

Psalms 23:5

ESV - 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Clarify Share Report Asked May 09 2020 My picture Jack Gutknecht

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My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
1. Bugs. Sheep are particularly susceptible to flies landing on their noses. These flies travel up the sheep’s nose and lay eggs which turn into worms that can burrow into the animal’s brain. Then the sheep will bang their heads on trees, rocks, posts, or brush, trying to get rid of the irritation. They can die from this. So, each day the shepherd pours oil daily on the sheep’s nose, and the flies slide out instead of flying in.

We Christians need the oil of the Holy Spirit daily to assuage the irritations of life. It, actually He, acts like a salve. In Luke 11:13 Christ, our Shepherd, urges us to ask for the Holy Spirit to be given to us by the Father. 

2. Butts. As in butting heads. Sheep will butt heads with one another to gain position and assert authority. Male sheep especially like to butt heads, but in people, we all do that, don’t we?

A shepherd knows his sheep will clash sometimes and he can’t prevent it, so he puts oil or grease on their heads. (Keller said, 'I used to apply generous quantities of axle grease to the head and nose of each ram.") When they clash, their heads glance off without doing much harm to one another.

Our Good Shepherd knows we can’t always avoid disagreements... but praying with and for one another is one way we can keep from harming each other when we butt heads.

Our Lord just before He went to the cross, in dealing with His 12 disciples, who even then were caught up in jealous bickering and rivalry for prestige [butting heads] {sounds like today to me}, told of the coming of the Comforter--the Spirit of Truth.

John 15:26 "But when the Comforter has come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me:" And when He is in control of my life, then peace, joy, longsuffering, generosity, and contentment become apparent! It's supernatural!

May 09 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
I would say that, while the psalm starts with imagery likening God's care for His followers to the care of a shepherd for his sheep, the verse of the psalm cited in the question marks a shift away from that shepherding metaphor to discussion of other means of God showing favor to the psalmist.

In particular, the anointing of the head with oil was an action performed in connection with festival observations that was symbolic of prosperity and rejoicing.

In addition, Jesus advised His followers in Matthew 6:17 to anoint their head with oil when fasting, so that it would not be obvious to other people that they were going through a period of self-denial.

Similarly, in Luke 7:46, He rebuked the Pharisee who was hosting Him at his house for not having anointed His head with oil as a customary gesture of welcome and hospitality.

May 09 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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Mini James Kraft 74 year old retired pipeline worker
Oil is a type of the Holy Spirit. The same as seed. First John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for HIS SEED, the Holy Spirit, remaineth in him, and He, the Holy Spirit, can not sin, for He is born of God. Ephesians 1:13 The seal of the Holy Spirit is our righteousness before God. 

We still sin, First John 1:8, but the Holy Spirit who seals us unto the day of redemption can not sin. He is Holy. We are not Holy. But we have His perfect righteousness in us. Romans 4:6

May 15 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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