There came unto him a woman
By some thought to be the same that is spoken of in ( Luke 7:37 ) , and by most, to be Mary, the sister of Lazarus, ( John 12:3 ) , which may be true; for it is possible that one and the same woman, might perform a like action at different times; for to neither of the above, at the same time, will the following agree: not to the former, for though that was done in the house of one Simon, yet not Simon the leper, but Simon the Pharisee; who though he had a particular respect for Christ, which few of that sect had, yet appeared to be then of a Pharisaical spirit; that was done in Galilee, this near Jerusalem in Bethany; the woman there anointed the feet of Christ, but this woman poured the ointment on his head; nor did any such conversation as here follow upon it, between Christ and his disciples; but what discourse was had on that occasion, was between Simon and Christ. Not to the latter, for that does not appear to be done in Simon's house, but rather in the house of Lazarus; no mention is made of the alabaster box, nor was the ointment poured on his head, but on his feet; besides, that was done six days before the passover, whereas this was but two; moreover, Judas only objected to that, but the disciples in general had indignation at this; and though the objections to it, and Christ's defence of it, are much in the same language, in one place as in the other, yet it was no unusual thing with Christ, to make use of the same words on a like incident, or when the same objections were made. The fact here recorded, is the same as in ( Mark 14:3 ) , where it stands in the same order as here, and seems to have been done at the supper, of which mention is made, ( John 13:2 ) , when Satan entered into Judas, and put it into his heart to betray his master, the account of which follows this here:
having an alabaster box of very precious ointment;
Mark calls it, "ointment of spikenard", ( Mark 14:3 ) , which was very odorous, and of a very fragrant smell; see ( Song of Solomon 1:12 ) . Some there render it, "pure nard"; unadulterated, unmixed, sincere and genuine; others, "liquid nard", which was drinkable, and easy to be poured out; and some "Pistic" nard, so called, either from "Pista", the name of a place in India, from whence it was brought, as some think; or as Dr. Lightfoot, from (aqtoyp) , "Pistaca", which is the maste of a tree F3, and of which, among other things, Pliny says F4, the ointment of nard was made. The Persic version in both places read it, "ointment of Gallia"; and the just now mentioned writer F5, speaks of "nardum Gallicum", "Gallic nard", which is what may be meant by that interpreter; but be it what ointment it will; it was ointment, very precious: very costly, and of a very great price; for the disciples observe, it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence: and for the better preserving of such ointments incorrupt, they used to be put into vessels made of "alabaster" F6; though some think not the matter, but the form of these vessels is referred to; and observe, that vessels of gold, silver, and glass, for this use, being made in the form of "alabasters", were called by that name; and that this might be made of the latter, since Mark says, that she brake the box; not into pieces, for then she could not be said to pour it out; but either the top, or side of it: though some critics observe, that the word signifies no more, than that she shook it, that the thicker parts of the ointment might liquify, and be the more easily poured out. The Arabic version has omitted that clause, and the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic, read it, "she opened it"; that is, as the Persic adds, "the top of the vessel": she took off the covering of the box, or took out the stopple,
and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat:
which was usually done at festivals, or at any considerable entertainments, as at weddings, &c.
``Says Rab, they "pour ointment on the heads of the doctors"; (the gloss is, the women put ointment on the heads of the scholars;) says R. Papa to Abai, does the doctor speak of the ointment of the bridechamber? He replies, thou orphan, did not thy mother cause for thee, that "they poured out ointment on the heads of the doctors", at thy wedding? for lo! one of the Rabbins got a wife for his son, in the house of R. Bar Ula; and they say, that R. Bar Ula got a wife for his son in the house of one of the Rabbins, (Nnbrd avyra axvym gydrdw) , "and poured ointment on the head of the doctors" F7:''to this custom are the allusions in ( Psalms 23:5 ) ( Ecclesiastes 9:8 ) . The pouring of this ointment on the head of Christ was emblematical of his being anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows; of his having the holy Spirit, and his gifts and graces without measure; which, like the ointment poured on Aaron's head, that ran down to his beard, and the skirts of his garments, descends to all the members of his mystical body: and was a symbol of the Gospel, which is like ointment poured forth; and of the sweet savour of the knowledge of Christ, which was to be diffused, throughout all the world, by the preaching of it; and was done by this woman in the faith of him, as the true Messiah, the Lord's anointed, as the prophet, priest, and king of his church.
F3 T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 69. 1. Gloss. in ib.
F4 Hist. Nat. l. 13. c. 1.
F5 Ib. c. 2. & l. 12. c. 12.
F6 Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 13. 2. & 36. 8.
F7 T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 17. 2.