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Article: What Does it Mean to “Anoint My Head with Oil” in Psalm 23?

What Does it Mean to “Anoint My Head with Oil” in Psalm 23?

What Does it Mean to “Anoint My Head with Oil” in Psalm 23?

Before the time of the Bible, shepherds applied anointing oil to their sheep. As a matter of fact, the 23rd Psalm functions as a metaphor for comparing the sheep-keeping practices of the time with Christ's shepherding activities. The shepherd provides for all of the needs of the sheep. He leads the sheep to green pastures and calm waters. He leads the sheep along safe paths and leads them through darkness and danger, guiding and defending them with His rod and staff. The shepherd feeds, trims the hooves, and takes care of the sheep even when life-threatening conditions such as freezing temperatures and drought (enemies) are present. The shepherd anoints the sheep's heads with oil.

However, why do shepherds apply oil to their sheep? We will explore this further in the following paragraphs.

In many seasons of the year, sheep are anointed with oil for very practical reasons. Below are three reasons why sheep are anointed with oil:


During autumn, sheep breed, and the rams of flocks on pasture may fight one another, head-on, with overwhelming force, to gain the favor of the ewes. These conflicts may result in serious injury or even death.

In order to avoid this problem, shepherds used to heavily grease rams' horns and heads on impact so that they would slip.

Heavy olive oil was used in the past.  Overall, the most effective method of preventing rutting rams from injuring one another is to keep them apart.


During the summer, flies are a nuisance for sheep. It is the nose flies that are the most problematic, as they hover around a sheep's head trying to lay their eggs in the nose. A flock of sheep can become panicked and run wildly if hovering flies are present. In addition to damaging their meat and milk, this type of activity may cause injury or death.

Upon successful attachment, larvae of the fly will hatch within a few days and burrow into the soft flesh of the sheep's nasal passages. The result is irritation, inflammation, and infection.

In an attempt to escape the intruders, a sheep may rub its head on the ground, thrash through the underbrush, or even bang its head on the trunk of a tree.

The sheep may even attempt to kill themselves in severe cases in order to escape the pain. In the event that the sheep survives, the infection caused by the larvae can lead to blindness. It is imperative for shepherds to pay close attention to nose flies due to the severity of the problems they cause.

Traditionally in biblical times, shepherds applied anointing oil containing olive oil and strongly scented, medicinal essential oils at the first signs of nose flies.


Another condition that is very troublesome in the summertime is a contagious disease known as scab. This is actually a parasitic condition caused by a mite called Psoroptes ovis that is spread from sheep to sheep through friendly head-butting and rubbing.

Applying a thick coat of anointing oil to the sheeps’ heads was believed to kill the parasites and prevent their spread. 

I must admit, I always wondered what this part of Psalm 23 meant. I thought that "He anoints my head with oil" was symbolic of God keeping the Psalmist in good health. I had not considered this parallel.

Let's review.

Anoint my head with oil

"Sheep can get their heads tangled in briers and die trying to untangle them. It is common for small flies to torment sheep by laying eggs in their nostrils which turn into worms and cause the sheep to beat their head against a rock and eventually to die.

Additionally, their ears and eyes are susceptible to tormenting insects. Therefore, the shepherd anoints their heads with oil.

This oil guards them against the evil that seeks to destroy them.

Do you sometimes suffer from mental torment, anxiety? Do the worrying thoughts enter your mind over and over again? Do you beat your head against a wall in an attempt to derail them?

Have you ever requested that God anoint your head with oil? He has an endless supply of it! His oil protects you and enables you to focus your mind, heart, and eyes on Him today and forever.

May our good, good Father anoint your head with oil today so that your cup overflows with blessings! God is good and He is faithful.

1 comment

Such A Wonderful Teaching.
My pegs just increased! Thank you.

Nora Wojick

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