Friday, August 10, 2012

The Oil of Healing: Question 24

James 5:14 is a difficult passage.  In it, James says that if you're sick then you should call for elders (plural) so that they can (1) pray over you; (2) anoint you with olive oil; (3) recite the name of the L-rd (i.e. Yeshua).  James seems to be saying that if we follow these procedures then we can be confident that healing will result.  But what is the social and religious context here?  To understand this we must ask a few questions...

What does olive oil signify in the Bible?  

--It is at times an agent of healing as in the case of lepers in Lev. 14:13-18

--It is a blessing.  Deut 11:13-14 says that if Israel keeps Torah then it will be blessed with grain, wine, and olive oil.

--It is not to be used in certain cases.  In the case of the Sotah, it may not be employed (Number 5:15).

--It is associated with the Ruach.  I john 2:27 talks about the anointing which also "teaches" you.  Also see Zechariah 4.

--It makes the face "shine":  “wine that makes glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart” (Psalm 104:15).

--It is associated with Torah-observant children:  “Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways.  When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.  Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table.  Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD” (Psalm 128:1-4).

--It has medicinal properties:  Isaiah 1:6; Luke 10:34.  [So it's important to keep in mind that James wasn't necessarily advocating against standard medical practices].

--It is used to consecrate prophets (Is 60:1), priests (Ex 29:7), and kings (1 Sam 10:1).

--It is used in the menorah to generate tongues of fire.  See also Acts 2 which records the New Covenant Shavuot during which the disciples were "filled" with the Spirit which Joel prophesied would be "poured out" and manifested as tongues of fire above their heads.

What about the fact that James says that the sick person must summon all the elders?  What is the significance of having multiple elders?

--“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!  It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments” (Psalm 133:1-2). 

This makes it seem that where there is unity there is the Holy Spirit also, pouring itself out like a comforting, healing olive oil on all those gathered together in unity.



Why don't we see James' proposed healing technique employed in congregations today?  [if you have seen it employed then perhaps you will share your stories with us]


  1. I've seen it my entire life and was personally healed of Rumatic Fever over 40 yrs ago. My dad left with my brother and sisters to keep the Feast of Tabernacles but my Mom had to stay home with me. The day he left two ministers stopped at my house and knelt down with me in the hallway. They took out oil and put in on my head and prayed for healing. My parents told me I would be healed and I believe it 100 percent. My dad left and I went to bed very sick having lost most of my weight and the Dr. thinking I would not live. I woke up completely well. My Mom got me on a bus and we made to to the Feast a couple days late but with a miracle story of healing to share with family and friends.

    1. It's a blessing to hear this story. I like that these men of faith understood their responsibility, that they saw your sickness as a problem for the community. So many times there are sick people who feel like they must go through the sickness alone. This is a lie of Satan. We are to share our struggles. A problem with one is a problem with the whole. May your testimony be a blessing to many people.

  2. Something miraculous is taking place at our Erev of Shabbat's. We have a small group that meets, the Mother of the house we meet at is descended from a line of Rabbi's of Damascus Syria. She is a believer in Yeshua.

    About 2 months ago a friend brought her children to join us and the 20 yrs old daughter has a crippling disease from birth and has never walked. Last week with help she raised off the couch and took steps across the room without help, just like a toddler taking first steps. She leaned forward and walked across the room into the arms of my friend who is Husband of the house. She made it back to her seat and played the tambourine during our worship. Someone said "worship the Lord" and she clearly spoke "I am", she uses signs and I have not heard her speak before.

    Last night she had help getting to her twisted feet, but she danced holding hands in a circle and even let go and stood alone, dancing in the midst of our group. Joy filled the room and everyone was so blessed, some had tears of joy and everyones heart was warmed.

    My friend called to day to say that after we had left, she got off the couch all by herself and ran across the room again into my friends arms and back to the couch. Later she was put to bed in the bedroom but came running out later all by herself to the kitchen to get her ipod and sat back in the living room. Her mom said this has never happened before in 20 years.

    My mom says she has seen miracles before, but never like this and neither have I. It's like she is being healed a little at a time each week getting stronger. Her mom says "it's the Shabbat".

    Praise be to God

    1. You are mighty, Lord, who brings healing to the sick,
      You are great in granting salvation,
      providing the living with sustenance, with lovingkindness,
      caring for the sick with great mercies,
      supporting the fallen, healing the sick,
      releasing the captive,
      and keeping faith with those who are lost among the living,
      Who is like you, Master of mighty acts, and who compares to you,
      King who restores health, and causes salvation to sprout,
      You who are faithful, comforting the ill among us,
      Blessed are You, Lord who heals the sick.

  3. I would like to say to anyone else out there in need of healing that our G-d is a G-d who heals the sick. If you are unsure of what to pray over yourself or your friend, I would suggest the Mi Sheberach. It goes like this (you insert name of sick individual in the spaces):

    Mi-sheberakh avoteinu v’imoteinu, Avraham v’Sarah, Yitzhak v’Rivkah, Ya’akov, Rachel v’Leah hu y’varekh et (insert names here) v’yavi aleihem refuat hanefesh u’refuat haguf yachad im kol cholei amo Yisrael. Barukh atah Hashem, rofeh ha’cholim.

    May the One who was a source of blessing for our ancestors, bring blessings of healing upon (insert names here), a healing of body and a healing of spirit. May those in whose care they are entrusted be gifted with wisdom and skill, and those who surround them be gifted with love and trust, openness and support in their care. And may they be healed along with all those who are in need. Blessed are You, Source of healing.

  4. When the Kingdom Offer ceased, at the end of the Acts, the gifts of healing ceased and all the miraculous powers and miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. That's why the Oil of Healing made sense during the time frame of the Acts of the Apostles — when the Epistle of James was written — but not afterwards. The Kingdom Offer ceased, for the time being, at Acts 28:28.

  5. You say this:
    "James 5:14 is a difficult passage. In it, James says that if you're sick then you should call for elders (plural) so that they can (1) pray over you; (2) anoint you with olive oil; (3) recite the name of the L-rd (i.e. Yeshua)."

    #3 says here that one should recite the name of Yeshua. However it's not the name of Yeshua that should be recited, but the Name of Hashem, which is also in line with what Jewish tradition teaches. Check out the major Hebrew translations of the "New Testament" and you'll see they all translate Hashem on the place of the Greek 'Kyriou'.