Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint
Today’s Passage: Psalm 133
I’m a messy person, but not a dirty one. You’ll find my workspaces littered with scrap paper, post-it notes and assorted office supplies, but every surface and pile will be clean, free of anything “gross.” I’ve never liked messy activities, even as a kid shying away from finger-painting and anything involving mud. A friend recently suggested we do the 5K Color Run, in which the participants are pelted with colored chalk, and I could feel myself having to suppress my expression of revulsion. (I’ll probably go anyway, because I value running and friends, but foreign substances on my skin: ew, ugh.) All of which is to say that when David, the author of Psalm 133, describes oil dripping down a person’s head and through his beard, it doesn’t strike me as the most pleasant experience.
This is a cultural thing, of course. The ancient Jewish practice of anointing involved pouring oil on a person’s head, and it was prescribed for commissioning the Aaronic priesthood in Exodus 29:1-9. So when David says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (133:1) and then compares it to the anointing process, he’s saying that the solidarity of brotherhood is a holy thing, like the priesthood, consecrated by God himself. Oil in the ancient world was precious, and not exactly cheap. Using the oil for ceremonies like these was a symbol of luxury, conveying the value of the process and the office (priest, king, etc.) it was used to inaugurate. And David puts amicable brotherhood in that same category.
For those of us who aren’t into nasty gross oil, David lays down a second simile. He tells us: “It is like the dew of Hermon, coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever” (133:3). Hermon is another name for Mount Zion, also known as Mount Sion (Deuteronomy 4:48), the holy mountain on which Jerusalem was built. Brotherhood is, metaphorically, the solid ground beneath the feet of God’s chosen people, the foundation of Jerusalem itself. Harmonious brotherhood is a blessing, tied in with eternal life, good and pleasant.
But you could tell that from the very first verse, couldn’t you.