Here we have a gem that most Westerners miss, not because they don’t read it, but because they don’t get the full depth of meaning. The quintessence of all the biblical covenants together is fellowship and communion on a very personal level. It’s actually rather foreign to Western instincts; we may imagine we get it, but we have nothing like it in the West. It’s hard to overstate that. It’s not just a different custom, in which, for example, Ancient Near Eastern men express more tenderness for each other than Westerners, but a depth of commitment to the welfare of another that simply has no parallel in the West. Westerners are wholly unable to draw that close to other humans, either physically or otherwise, without some silly fear of sexual overtones. In this, Satan has blinded us to the full meaning of revelation.
The underlying image in the first verse pulls us into a simpler time in human history, long ago and far away, where brothers would marry and raise their children within the same household as they were born. They would simply add a room or two onto the structure, whether a tent or stone walls. The culture itself raised the demand of learning how to get along with a depth of fondness and forgiveness that looked past daily spats and even rather serious differences. Everyone knew that alienation was simply untenable. There might be some time and effort to clean up some relational mess, but permanent emotional withdrawal was a scandal. These people knew how to live in each other’s armpits and make it a joyful existence.
This is what God made us for; this is the nature of our wiring. We are not genuinely human without it. Indeed, Creation itself is so wired and demands it of us. That’s the nature of the Covenant, and it’s the greatest of tragedies how latter day legalism killed it. It was the very essence of God’s character woven into the fabric of Creation that all creatures commune in commitment to Him and in a deep personal affinity for Him. It all comes from Him.
So this communion is rather dramatically compared to that high and holy ritual of anointing the High Priest. Indeed, it goes all the way back to the very first High Priest, Aaron. This is the foundation of the Covenant. See how the highly scented oil runs down his hair, his beard and in rivulets down to the hem of his robe. We might consider that messy, but God required it to symbolize the totality of our singular commitment to His ways. It gets all over everything. It’s a heavenly scent that must be allowed to soak into you and all you do. Don’t you dare wash it out!
Mount Hermon was on the far northeastern corner of God’s land grant to Israel during the Conquest. It’s actually a range of three or more peaks, and none of them is particularly forbidding to climb, offering relatively long and gentle sloping sides. But it’s still a very high altitude, so it’s a very wide mountain that catches enough precipitation to remain somewhat snow covered in the summer. It’s one of the wettest places in the whole land of Palestine-Syria.
For that matter, Zion itself is a dew catcher. Without peaks rising high enough to capture some of the moisture in the region, it would all be a desert indeed. But part of God’s provision was the proper mix of dryness that inhibits plagues, with a livable degree of precipitation to provide wild food and domesticated crops, and offer grazing for herd animals.
Both that heavy fragrant anointing and that just-right precipitation represent the utter necessity of humans learning to commune with others. Do you want God’s anointing power? Love others. Do you want the provision of life? Love others. The core of Covenant Law is social stability, and that begins with a due commitment in love. This is echoed in what Jesus taught as the two primary commandments on which all covenants stood: Love God with your full commitment and love your neighbor as yourself.