“And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always”.
While compiling a chemistry textbook on the subject of oil, I thought it would be instructive for students to look at what the Bible says about oil. The sort of materials that we usually think of as oil usually come from petroleum, the crude mineral oil obtained from the ground. Hence, the name petroleum comes from the Greek words for Rock Oil.
However, oil in the Bible is always olive oil. In fact, the words oil and olive have the same etymology, so the word oil is originally derived from the word for olive. Truly, the olive tree could really be called the oil tree. Our comparison of oily properties, therefore, begins with olive oil.
The first use of oil in the Bible is as an anointing to an altar. After Jacob wakes from his vision of a stairway leading up to heaven, he took the stone that he had used to rest his head and poured oil over it as he named the place the House of God (Bethel).
Oil appears quite frequently in the laws given by Moses. One of its most important uses is to anoint people. In Exodus 29:7, God told Moses, “Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head.” Such anointing with oil was more particularly used to anoint a king. Samuel anointed David as king in this way. The reason for such anointing is that oil is symbolic of the anointing by the Holy Spirit. Its use in anointing and its use for giving light when burnt is a picture of how the Holy Spirit works through us.