Psalm 133:2
It is like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down on the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) It is like.—The italics of the Authorised Version are wrongly inserted. Unity could not be said to flow down. The other term of the simile is implied in Psalm 133:3. (See Note.) Literally, Like the oil, the good oil, on the head descending upon the beard, Aaron’s beard, which (was) descending to the mouth of his robes. Oil meets us as the standing symbol of joy and festivity. (See Psalm 45:7, Note; Isaiah 61:3.) It is also brought closely into connection with love (Song of Solomon 1:3). But while this association, as also the pleasure derived from the fragrance of the oil, would be present here as always in the truly Oriental image, its elaboration in this passage points to a further purpose. It is the holy oil, that whose composition is described in Exodus 30:22-23, that the poet alludes to. This, while the garments of all the priests were sprinkled with it (Exodus 29:21; Leviticus 8:30), was poured on the head of Aaron (Exodus 29:7; Leviticus 8:12; Leviticus 21:10), so that the description of the psalm, unpleasing as it is to Western ideas, of the saturation, not only of his head, but of face and beard, was actually true. It would run down his neck to the collar of the priestly robe. That this is the meaning of “mouth” here is plain from the actual description of the sacerdotal garments (Exodus 28:31-32): “And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue. And there shall be a mouth in the top of it, in the midst thereof: and it shall have a binding of woven work round about the mouth of it, as it were the mouth of a habergeon, that it be not rent.” (Comp. Exodus 39:23; and Job 30:18, where Authorised Version has “collar.”) To the ideas of “joy” and “fragrance,” therefore, must also be added that of “consecration.” But the point of the comparison does not lie even here; nor is it in the freshness of the dew, in the next verse, or its abundance, though dew suggests both of these (see Note, Psalm 110:3), but in the word three times repeated—descending. Our version unfortunately obscures this point, by rendering this recurrent participle each time by a different word, missing, at the same time, the marked peculiarity of the rhythm of these psalms. The oil descends from Aaron’s head over his face and beard; the dew of Hermon descends on Zion—low in actual measurement, but exalted by the Divine favour above the loftiest hills. It is not unity, then, in itself which is the subject of the poem, but the unity of the covenant under which all blessings flowed down from above, rested on Mount Zion, and took outward shape and form there in the political and religious constitution.

Psalm 133:2. It is like the precious ointment, &c. — It is no less grateful and refreshing than that holy anointing oil, which was strongly perfumed, and diffused its fragrance all around, to the great delight of all present, when it was poured upon the head of Aaron, at the time of his consecration to the priestly office, so plentifully, that it ran down his face, even to the collar or binding of his garment. “This verse is explained by Exodus 13:23, &c., where God gave directions concerning the ointment which was to anoint Aaron and his sons. It was to be composed of several rich spices, which, by being rightly tempered and mixed together, yielded a most fragrant odour, and thus became a most expressive emblem of unanimity and concord, in a well-cemented society; all jointly conspiring and contributing, according to their various capacities, tempers, and conditions, to the good of the whole.” — Dodd. Dr. Hammond carries this comparison further, and supposes that this anointing oil, being said to go down to the skirts of Aaron’s garments, implies that unity is a blessing to the subject, as well as to the governor; to the meanest person in the society, as well as the greatest; which is an undoubted truth, though, perhaps, it might not be intended here by the psalmist.133:1-3 The excellency of brotherly love. - We cannot say too much, it were well if enough could be said, to persuade people to live together in peace. It is good for us, for our honour and comfort; and brings constant delight to those who live in unity. The pleasantness of this is likened to the holy anointing oil. This is the fruit of the Spirit, the proof of our union with Christ, and adorns his gospel. It is profitable as well as pleasing; it brings blessings numerous as the drops of dew. It cools the scorching heat of men's passions, as the dews cool the air and refresh the earth. It moistens the heart, and makes it fit to receive the good seed of the word, and to make it fruitful. See the proof of the excellency of brotherly love: where brethren dwell together in unity, the Lord commands the blessing. God commands the blessing; man can but beg a blessing. Believers that live in love and peace, shall have the God of love and peace with them now, and they shall shortly be with him for ever, in the world of endless love and peace. May all who love the Lord forbear and forgive one another, as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven them.It is like the precious ointment upon the head - That is, which was poured upon the head of the high priest, when consecrated to the holy office. The Hebrew is, "the good ointment." For a description of the ointment which was used in the consecration of the high priest, and the holy things of the sanctuary, see Exodus 30:22-30. Compare the notes at Isaiah 61:3, on the phrase "oil of joy." Anointing with oil was common on festivals and joyous occasions (see the notes at Psalm 23:5), and hence, it became an emblem of anything joyous, happy, beautiful; and the idea seemed to be carried to the highest degree when it was connected with the anointing of a high priest to the sacred duties of his office. There is no other resemblance between the idea of anointing with oil and that of harmony among brethren than this which is derived from the gladness - the joyousness - connected with such an anointing. The psalmist wished to give the highest idea of the pleasantness of such harmony; and he, therefore, compared it with that which was most beautiful to a pious mind - the idea of a solemn consecration to the highest office of religion. The comparison is one which would not unnaturally occur to a Jew.

That ran down upon the beard - Descending from the head upon the long, flowing beard. The idea here is that of copiousness, or abundance - as if so much ointment was poured forth as to descend on the whole person, consecrating the entire man.

Even Aaron's beard - The word "even" here, introduced by our translators, weakens the force and beauty of the comparison. The psalmist had the simple image of Aaron before his mind, without intending to compare him with any other.

That went down to the skirts of his garments - literally, "to the mouth of his garment." The idea is that the anointing oil was abundant enough to flow down so as to fall on his entire robe, diffusing a sweet fragrance all around. It is possible, though it may seem like a conceit, that the psalmist may have had an idea of unity in this, as if in the anointing of the high priest the whole man was consecrated, or was "united" in the consecration. It was not merely the head, but the beard, the raiment, the entire person, that partook of the fragrance of the anointing oil. Thus love in a Christian community is so abundant - so overflowing - that it spreads over all the spiritual body, the church; the same sweet and holy influence, represented by the oil of anointing, pervades all, and combines all in one.

PSALM 133

Ps 133:1-3. The blessings of fraternal unity.

1, 2. As the fragrant oil is refreshing, so this affords delight. The holy anointing oil for the high priest was olive oil mixed with four of the best spices (Ex 30:22, 25, 30). Its rich profusion typified the abundance of the Spirit's graces. As the copious dew, such as fell on Hermon, falls in fertilizing power on the mountains of Zion, so this unity is fruitful in good works.

It is no less grateful and refreshing than that oil which was plentifully poured forth upon Aaron’s head at the time of his consecration to the priestly office, which was exceeding pleasant, not only for the extraordinary fragrancy of it, but because by this, together with the other rites prescribed, he was initiated into that sacred office, which was so acceptable to God, and so comfortable and beneficial to the people, as being the happy instrument of making atonement to God for them, and of procuring and maintaining their peace with God, upon which all their happiness of this life and of the next depends.

Skirts; or, skirt; for the Hebrew word is of the singular number. Not to the lower skirt or bottom of his sacerdotal garment, for that the sacred oil was poured forth in so great plenty is not probable, nor was it necessary or convenient; but to the upper skirt of it, or the mouth of it, as this Hebrew word properly signifies; or to the collar of his upper priestly garment, which the ointment falling upon his beard might easily reach. It is like the precious ointment upon the head,.... The composition which Moses was ordered to make of the principal spices, and therefore called precious; and which was poured on the heads of kings and priests, when they were anointed with it, Exodus 30:23;

that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; this was put upon the head of Aaron when he was anointed, and so on any other high priest, and trickled down to his beard; see Exodus 29:7. The reasons Kimchi and Ben Melech give, why the anointing of Aaron and other priests is mentioned, and not the anointing of a king, or of David himself, are, because the anointing of Aaron was first, and also more public and better known by the people;

that went down to the skirts of his garments; or, "the mouth" or "opening of his garments" (a); 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 the coat, on which the beard lay, as Jarchi; 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; where the Septuagint use the same word as here. Suidas (b) says, David means the superior aperture of the garment, that which we call the neck or collar band; and so Theodoret: and the Arabic version renders it, the "aperture", or opening of it; and hitherto the ointment came. This was typical of the grace of the Spirit, the unction from the Holy One; which has been poured on Christ, the head of the church, without measure; and with which he has been anointed above his fellows; and from him it is communicated to all his members; to every one of which is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ; and who from his fulness receive, and grace for grace: and particularly brotherly love is compared to this ointment; because of the preciousness of it, which is true of every grace; and because of the extensiveness of it, reaching to head and members, to Christ and all his saints, the meanest and lowest of them; and because of its fragrancy and sweet odour to all that are sensible of it; and because of its delightful, cheering, and refreshing nature; like ointment and perfume it rejoices the heart; yea, the worst things said, or reproofs given, in brotherly love, are like oil, pleasant and useful, Proverbs 27:9; and is as necessary for the saints, who are all priests unto God, to offer up their spiritual sacrifices; particularly that of prayer, which should be "without wrath", as well as without doubting; and to do all other duties of religion, which should spring from charity or love; as the anointing oil was to Aaron and his sons, in order to their officiating in the priest's office.

(a) , Sept. "super os", Montanus, Piscator; "super os, vel aperturam", Michaelis; "in capitium", Tigurine version; "upon the collar of his garments", Ainsworth. (b) In voce

It is like the precious {b} ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

(b) The ointment was a figure of the graces which come from Christ the head of his Church.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. It is like the goodly oil upon the head descending upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard,

Which descendeth upon the collar of his garments.

Oil was a symbol of joy and festivity (Psalm 45:7), but it is not common oil that is mentioned here. The brotherly concord of the dwellers in Jerusalem is compared to the sacred oil with which the High-priest was anointed (Exodus 30:23 ff.). This sacred oil was poured upon Aaron’s head (Exodus 29:7; Leviticus 8:12; Leviticus 21:10) when he was consecrated to the office of high-priest, whereas the ordinary priests were only sprinkled with it (Exodus 29:21). It would flow down upon his beard and on to his shoulders and his breast, upon which he bore the names of the Twelve Tribes (Exodus 28:9-12; Exodus 28:17-21), symbolising thereby the consecration of the whole nation of which he was the representative. The stream of perfumed oil, carefully compounded with aromatic spices, would diffuse its fragrance all around, symbolising the holy influence which should emanate from the chief religious representative of Israel, and from the nation which he represented. The point of the simile then seems to be, that as the sacred oil flowed down over Aaron’s shoulders, so the harmonious unity of those who dwell in Jerusalem will influence the whole nation for good. The same spirit will be diffused throughout the whole community. Cp. Psalms 122.

Aaron might denote any high-priest; but the Psalmist by the use of the present participles seems rather to intend to recall the scene of the consecration of Aaron himself (Leviticus 8). It might have been thought that he was alluding to some recent ceremony; but according to Jewish tradition, the sacred oil was wanting in the time of the Second Temple, and the high-priest was consecrated by investiture with the pontifical robes only.

It is a question whether the clause which descendeth upon the collar of his garments refers to the oil or to Aaron’s beard. The Massoretic accentuation (unless it is to be regarded as rhythmical and not syntactical) makes it refer to Aaron’s beard: the Ancient Versions take it to refer to the oil. In the former case the beard is thought of as connecting the head and the garments; but the latter interpretation is the more natural, and is supported by the fondness of the Psalms of Ascent for the repetition of words.

The collar not the skirts of the high-priest’s garment is denoted by the Heb. word, which means literally ‘mouth’ or ‘opening,’ i.e. the hole through which the head passed, or its bordering. Cp. Exodus 28:32; Exodus 39:23; Job 30:18.Verse 2. - It is like the precious ointment upon the head. The anointing oil of the sanctuary was an ointment composed of many "precious" ingredients, as myrrh, cinnamon, sweet calamus, and cassia, besides oil olive, which was its basis (Exodus 30:23, 24). Not only Aaron (Leviticus 8:12), but all later high priests, were anointed with it (Exodus 30:30). That ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard. This would be the natural result of a copious "pouring" of the oil upon the top of the head. Though not mentioned historically in Leviticus, it presents itself to the eye of the poet, on whose mental vision the whole scene rises. That went down to the skirts of his garments. Streamed even to the lower fringe of his long vesture (Kay). The high priest at his consecration was a type and symbol of unity. He bore on his breastplate the names of the twelve tribes, so that the holy oil, typical of the grace of God, when it was poured upon him, flowed down on all the tribes, diffusing everywhere an odor of fragrance. Shiloh has been rejected (Psalm 78:60), for a time only was the sacred Ark in Bethel (Judges 20:27) and Mizpah (Judges 21:5), only somewhat over twenty years was it sheltered by the house of Abinadab in Kirjath-Jearim (1 Samuel 7:2), only three months by the house of Obed-Edom in Perez-uzzah (2 Samuel 6:11) - but Zion is Jahve's abiding dwelling-place, His own proper settlement, מנוּחה (as in Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 66:1, and besides 1 Chronicles 28:2). In Zion, His chosen and beloved dwelling-place, Jahve blesses everything that belongs to her temporal need (צידהּ for זידתהּ, vid., on Psalm 27:5, note); so that her poor do not suffer want, for divine love loves the poor most especially. His second blessing refers to the priests, for by means of these He will keep up His intercourse with His people. He makes the priesthood of Zion a real institution of salvation: He clothes her priests with salvation, so that they do not merely bring it about instrumentally, but personally possess it, and their whole outward appearance is one which proclaims salvation. And to all her saints He gives cause and matter for high and lasting joy, by making Himself known also to the church, in which He has taken up His abode, in deeds of mercy (loving-kindness or grace). There (שׁם, Psalm 133:3) in Zion is indeed the kingship of promise, which cannot fail of fulfilment. He will cause a horn to shoot forth, He will prepare a lamp, for the house of David, which David here represents as being its ancestor and the anointed one of God reigning at that time; and all who hostilely rise up against David in his seed, He will cover with shame as with a garment (Job 8:22), and the crown consecrated by promise, which the seed of David wears, shall blossom like an unfading wreath. The horn is an emblem of defensive might and victorious dominion, and the lamp (נר, 2 Samuel 21:17, cf. ניר, 2 Chronicles 21:7, lxx λύχνον) an emblem of brilliant dignity and joyfulness. In view of Ezekiel 29:21, of the predictions concerning the Branch (zemach) in Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12 (cf. Hebrews 7:14), and of the fifteenth Beracha of the Shemone-Esre (the daily Jewish prayer consisting of eighteen benedictions): "make the branch (zemach) of David Thy servant to shoot forth speedily, and let his horn rise high by virtue of Thy salvation," - it is hardly to be doubted that the poet attached a Messianic meaning to this promise. With reference to our Psalm, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, changes that supplicatory beracha of his nation (Luke 1:68-70) into a praiseful one, joyfully anticipating the fulfilment that is at hand in Jesus.
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