Perfumed unguents or salves of various kinds used as cosmetics, medicine, and in religious ceremonies. The use of ointments and perfumes appears to have been a common practice in the Ancient Near East, including the Hebrews.
Terminology. The Old Testament uses various words to describe ointment. The most common, shemen, simply means oil (Genesis 28:28; Hosea 2:8). The Old Testament does not distinguish between oil and ointment. In the New Testament, muron, “ointment” (Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3-4; Luke 7:37-38) was a perfumed ointment.
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Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary