Q: #582. In (Dan 10:2), it says "Daniel was mourning three full weeks," and during that time, he did not "anoint" himself (Dan 10:3). What does "anoint" mean here?
A: We are not told why “Daniel was mourning for three full weeks” in (Dan 10:2), but it likely had something to do with his people (the Jews). During this time, he refused to eat or drink “pleasant food, meat, or wine,” and he did not “anoint” himself (Dan 10:3). So, what does it mean that Daniel did not “anoint” himself?
In the ancient world, it was a common practice for people to apply oil (or ointment) to their skin for several reasons. It soothed the skin, made it less dry, and helped protect it from the weather (i.e. sun or cold). In addition, perfumes were often added to the oil / ointment to combat the smell that comes with perspiration. Today, think of applying “lotion” or “deodorant” to our skin.
A number of verses in the Bible show these things.
Applying oil after bathing:
(Ruth 3:3)(NASB) “Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not reveal yourself to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.”
(Ezek 16:9) “Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.”
(Mt 6:17)(NKJV) “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face”
Oil mixed with with perfume:
(Lk 7:37-38,46)(NKJV) “And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, (38) and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. (46) You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.”
(Ecc 10:1)(NASB) “Dead flies turn a perfumer’s oil rancid, so a little foolishness is more potent than wisdom and honor.”
(Est 2:12)(NASB) “Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after the end of her twelve months under the regulations for the women – for the days of their beauty treatment were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with balsam oil and the cosmetics for women.”
Also see: (Mt 26:6-13)(Mk 14:3-9)(Jn 12:3-8)
We also see a few other verses paralleling what Daniel did in refraining from “anointing” himself with oil in a time of mourning:
(2 Sam 14:2)(NKJV) “And Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman, and said to her, “Please pretend to be a mourner, and put on mourning apparel; do not anoint yourself with oil, but act like a woman who has been mourning a long time for the dead.”
(2 Sam 12:20) “Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.”
(Amos 6:6)(NASB) “Who drink wine from sacred bowls While they anoint themselves with the finest of oils – Yet they have not grieved over the collapse of Joseph.”
Therefore, when Daniel refused to “anoint” himself with oil during his time of “mourning,” he was denying himself the comfort, relief, and pleasure that oil applied to the skin brought.
P.S. Having a lack of oil to “anoint” themselves with is mentioned in several places as a sign of God’s judgment (Deut 28:40)(Mic 6:15).