The depth of meaning we can uncover in the Scriptures when reading in the original language is really astounding! Every now and then, I come across verses that have been translated one way in English, but their meaning has been weakened by the translation. This week’s verse, Psalm 23:5b, is one of these verses. In Hebrew, one can find a very interesting meaning to the words “you anointed my head with oil”. The Hebrew reads: “דִּשַּׁ֖נְתָּ בַשֶּׁ֥מֶן רֹ֝אשִׁ֗י”, which is traditionally translated into English as “You anointed my head with oil.” However, after much study and thought, I discovered this is a clearer way to translate the phrase: “You fertilized my head with oil”.
The word “דִּשַּׁ֖נְתּ” (deshanta) has a few ways meanings, which together will give us the depth that we need to understand what I believe David meant here. The three meanings of deshanta are:
- Oil (food)
In Scripture, ashes always symbolize death or mourning. In ancient times, when people were in mourning, they would put ashes over their heads. A well-known example is found in the book of Esther, when Mordecai tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and doused his head in ashes once he discovered the plot to kill and destroy the Jewish people:
“When Mordecai learned all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city and wailed loudly and bitterly.” Esther 4:1
The third meaning of the word deshanta is a bit strange because we don’t usually use it in reference to people. Fertilizer is a material used as food to help with the essential growth of plants, i.e. to give nourishment and life to the plant. Yet, when one puts everything together, I believe the meaning of this verse is that instead of putting ashes of mourning, a symbol of death, David acknowledges that the Lord has “fertilized” his head; God has given him the nourishment for growth in his life’s calling, for that which he was anointed!
David knew that he could trust His Shepherd to not only take him to a place of comfort and peace, to not only protect him in times of trouble and provide him with food in hard times even in the presence of his enemies, but also to provide him with the nourishment necessary for his life’s purpose.
We can be encouraged by this for our own lives! Do you trust God to equip you and sustain you for His call on your life? Do you count on Him to provide all you need for each day?
In closing, I would like to point out a prophecy of a time that we can look forward to, and also perfectly sums up what I wrote in this blog entry:
“To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3
Did you know? — Lone Soldier
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