Verse 2. It is like the precious ointment upon the head. In order that we may the better behold brotherly unity David gives us a resemblance, so that as in a glass we may perceive its blessedness. It has a sweet perfume about it, comparable to that precious ointment with which the first High Priest was anointed at his ordination. It is a holy thing, and so again is like the oil of consecration which was to be used only in the Lord's service. What a sacred thing must brotherly love be when it can be likened to an oil which must never be poured on any man but on the Lord's high priest alone! It is a diffusive thing: being poured on his bead the fragrant oil flowed down upon Aaron's head, and thence dropped upon his garments till the utmost hem was anointed therewith; and even so doth brotherly love extend its benign power and bless all who are beneath its influence. Hearty concord brings a benediction upon all concerned; its goodness and pleasure are shared in by the lowliest members of the household; even the servants are the better and the happier because of the lovely unity among the members of the family. It has a special use about it; for as by the anointing oil Aaron was set apart for the special service of Jehovah, even so those who dwell in love are the better fitted to glorify God in his church. The Lord is not likely to use for his glory those who are devoid of love; they lack the anointing needful to make them priests unto the Lord. That ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard. This is a chief point of comparison, that as the oil did not remain confined to the place where it first fell, but flowed down the High Priest's hair and bedewed his beard, even so brotherly love descending from the head distils and descends, anointing as it runs, and perfuming all it lights upon. That went down to the skirts of his garments. Once set in motion it would not cease from flowing. It might seem as if it were better not to smear his garments with oil, but the sacred unguent could not be restrained, it flowed over his holy robes; even thus does brotherly love not only flow over the hearts upon which it was first poured out, and descend to those who are an inferior part of the mystical body of Christ, but it runs where it is not sought for, asking neither leave nor license to make its way. Christian affection knows no limits of parish, nation, sect, or age. Is the man a believer in Christ? Then he is in the one body, and I must yield him an abiding love. Is he one of the poorest, one of the least spiritual, one of the least lovable? Then he is as the skirts of the garment, and my heart's love must fall even upon him. Brotherly love comes from the head, but falls to the feet. Its way is downward. It "ran down", and it" went down": love for the brethren condescends to men of low estate, it is not puffed up, but is lowly and meek. This is no small part of its excellence: oil would not anoint if it did not flow down, neither would brotherly love diffuse its blessing if it did not descend.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 2. Precious ointment upon the head. Though every priest was anointed, yet only the high priest was anointed on the head, and there is a tradition that this rite was omitted after the Captivity, so that there is a special stress on the name of Aaron. --Neale and Littledale.
Verse 2. The precious ointment... that ran down upon the beard... that went down to the skirts of his garments. Magnificence, misnamed by churls extravagance and waste, is the invariable attribute of all true love. David recognized this truth when he selected the profuse anointing of Aaron with the oil of consecration at his installation into the office of High Priest as a fit emblem of brotherly love. There was waste in that anointing, too, as well as in the one which took place at Bethany. For the oil was not sprinkled on the head of Aaron, though that might have been sufficient for the purpose of a mere ceremony. The vessel was emptied on the High Priest's person, so that its contents flowed clown from the head upon the beard, and even to the skirts of the sacerdotal robes. In that very waste lay the point of the resemblance for David. It was a feature that was very likely to strike his mind; for he, too, was a wasteful man in his way. He had loved God in a manner which exposed him to the charge of extravagance. He had danced before the Lord, for example, when the ark was brought up from the house of Obededom to Jerusalem, forgetful of his dignity, exceeding the bounds of decorum, and, as it might seem, without excuse, as a much less hearty demonstration would have served the purpose of a religious solemnity. --Alexander Balmain Bruce, in "The Training of the Twelve", 1877.
Verse 2. The precious ointment ... that ran down. Of the Hebrew perfumes an immense quantity was annually manufactured and consumed, of which we have a very significant indication in the fact that the holy anointing oil of the tabernacle and temple was never made in smaller quantities than 750 ounces of solids compounded with five quarts of oil, and was so profusely employed that when applied to Aaron's head it flowed down over his beard and breast, to the very skirts of his garments. --Hugh Macmillan, in "The Ministry of Nature", 1871.
Verse 2. That ran down ... that went down, etc. Christ's grace is so diffusive of itself, that it conveys holiness to us, "running down from the head to the skirts", to all his members. He was not only anointed himself, but he is our anointer. Therefore it is called "the oil of gladness", because it rejoiceth our hearts, by giving us spiritual gladness, and peace of conscience. --Thomas Adams.
Verse 2. Down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments. Not the extremity of them, as our version inclines to; for not so great a quantity of oil was poured upon him; nor would it have been decent to have his clothes thus greased from top to bottom; but the upper part of his garment, the top of his coat, on which the beard lay, as Zarchi; the neck or collar of it, as Kimchi and Ben Melech; the hole in which the head went through when it was put on, about which there was a band, that it might not be rent: Exodus 28:32 39:23; where the Septuagint use the same word as here. -- John Gill.
Verse 2-3. In this prayer and song of the unity of the church, it is note worthy how, commencing with the fundamental idea of "brethren", we rise to the realization of the Elder Brother, who is our common anointed High Priest. It is the bond of his priesthood which joins us together as brethren. It is the common anointing which flows down even to the skirts of the garment of our High Priest which marks our being brethren. Whether we dwell north or south, meeting in Zion, and sharing in the blessings of that eternal Priesthood of Christ, we form in reality, and before our Father, but one family -- "the whole family in earth and heaven." Our real bond of union consists in the "flowing down", the "running down", or "descending" of the common blessing, which marks the steps in this Psalm of Degrees ( Psalms 133:2-3 ). And if "the dew of Hermon" has descended upon "the mountains of Zion", long after the sun has risen shall gladsome fruit appear -- in some twenty, in some thirty, and in some a hundred fold. --Alfred Edersheim
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 2. There must have been special reasons why a priestly anointing should be selected for the comparison, and why that of Aaron, rather than of any other of the high priests. They are these --
- The ointment was "holy", prepared in accordance with the Divine prescription: Exodus 30:23-25 . Church union is sacred. It must spring from the love commanded by God; be based on the principles laid down by God; and exist for the ends appointed of God.
- The anointing was from God through Moses, who acted on behalf of God in the matter. Church unity is of the Holy Spirit ( 1 Corinthians 13:13 ), through Jesus as mediator. Therefore it should be prayed for, and thankfully acknowledged.
- By the anointing, Aaron became consecrated, and officially qualified to act as priest. By unity the Church, as a whole, lives its life of consecration, and effectively ministers in the priesthood assigned it.
- The oil was diffusive; it rested not on Aaron's head, but flowed down to the skirts of his garments. Unity will, in time, make its way from a few to the whole, especially from the leaders in a church to the rest of its members. Hence, it is a personal matter. Each should realize it, and by love and wise conduct diffuse it. --J. F.
Verse 2-3. Christian love scatters blessing by the way of coming down: "ran down", "went down", "descended."
- God to his saints.
- Saint to saint.
- Saint to sinner.