Olive Or Oil - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words

Usage Number: 1
Part Of Speech: Noun
Strong's Number: H8081
Original Word: shemen
Usage Notes: "(olive) oil; olive; perfume; olivewood." Cognates of this word appear in Ugaritic, Akkadian, Phoenician, Syriac, Arabic, and Aramaic. This word appears about 190 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew.

Shemen means olive "oil": "And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it" (Gen. 28:18). Olive "oil" was also used to anoint a future office bearer (Exod. 25:6; 2 Kings 9:6); one's head as a sign of mourning (2 Sam. 14:2); one's head as a sign of rejoicing (Psa. 23:5); and one's ear lobe, thumb, and toe as a ritual cleansing (Lev. 14:17). Shemen is used as a preservative on shield-leather (2 Sam. 1:21) and in baking (Exod. 29:2) and as a medication (Ezek. 16:9). This "oil" is burned for light (Exod. 25:6). Its many uses made olive oil a valuable trade item (Ezek. 27:17).

In many contexts shemen perhaps means the "olive" itself: "… But ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and put them in your vessels …" (Jer. 40:10). Once the word appears to mean lavish dishes, or dishes mixed with much oil: "And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things [nasb, "lavish banquet"]" (Isa. 25:6).

Shemen is "a kind of perfume," or olive oil mixed with certain odors to make a perfume, in passages such as Song. 1:3: "Because of the savor of thy good ointments [nasb, "oils"] thy name is as ointment poured forth…."

Shemen sometimes modifies "wood": "In the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olivewood, each ten cubits high" (1 Kings 6:23, rsv). A related noun mishman appears 4 times. It means "stout or vigorous ones" (Isa. 10:16) and "fertile spots" (Dan. 11:24).

Usage Number: 2
Part Of Speech: Verb

Usage Notes: The verb shaman, which appears 5 times, has cognates in Aramaic, Syriac, and Arabic. The word means "to grow or be fat" (Neh. 9:25; Jer. 5:28).

Usage Number: 3
Part Of Speech: Adjective

Usage Notes: The adjective shamen, which occurs 10 times, in Ugaritic cognates means: "fat" (Ezek. 34:16); "rich" in the sense of fattening (Gen. 49:20, the first occurrence); "fertile" (Num. 13:20); "robust or muscular" (Judg. 3:29); and "large" (Hab. 1:16).

Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words