I can remember as a child, I used to always hear people say: “The Bible says. . .” They would complete the statement with a quote or a paraphrase that supposedly came from the Bible. Now, although many of the things I heard sounded like good, wise and sound biblical advice, I discovered later on that many of those things were not actually found in the Bible! In fact, not only were they not in the Bible, many of them were not even implied by the Bible and some were even opposite of what the Bible actually said! For example, I heard people say: “The Bible says: ‘God helps those who help themselves!” Now I understood their point. They were saying that a person has to have some initiative to help themselves and not just depend on God or others to do everything for them. But, I discovered that the Bible doesn’t say that! In fact, the Bible seems to imply that God is especially apt to help those who “cannot” help themselves!
So along that line of thought, I have always heard people say that the Bible says: “It’s the anointing that destroys the yoke!” Well, I looked it up and guess what? The Bible does say something similar to that! It’s found in Isaiah 10:27 and it says: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.” (KJV) Whew! I was glad to know that some of what I’ve been hearing people say was in the Bible was actually in the Bible! However, I also discovered that the Bible doesn’t mean it in the way in which most people use it! Let me show you what I’m talking about! Most of the time when I heard and hear this preached or taught, the speaker is making reference to the fact that the anointing of God is able to break any yoke (a yoke being anything that has us in bondage, be it spiritual or physical such as sickness, debt, substance abuse, etc.,) in our lives. Now that sounds good! It sounds like something God would do! But is that actually the meaning and message of the text in Isaiah 10:27? I think not! Let me show you why!
One of the primary rules of proper exegesis (that’s just a fancy word for properly handling and interpreting the text) is that the text cannot be divorced from its context. The context of this text is the Assyrian Captivity. God used Assyria to execute judgment upon the Northern Kingdom of Israel because of sin. However, the Assyrians got the “big-head” and attributed their dominion over Israel, not to an act of the Lord, but to their own strength and power. The words of our text are a promise to the remnant of Israel that eventually the yoke of Assyrian oppression would be destroyed. Note, in the context, that the yoke was really the result of God’s judgment more so than the enemy’s actions.
Now when I looked at this text in some of the English versions other than the KJV/NKJV (King James Version/New King James Version), I discovered that where the KJV/NKJV use the term “anointing,” most of the other English versions use the term “fat” or some derivative of it such as “fatness.” When I looked at the text in the Hebrew and conducted some lexical research, I also discovered that the word the KJV/NKJV translates as “anointing” is the Hebrew word: “shemen” or “semen.” According the TWOT (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) the primary meaning of this Hebrew word is “fat” and “oil.” It is used to covey the idea of prosperity and well-being. The idea in Isaiah 10:27 is that the Assyrian yoke would be broken or destroyed because like oxen that have grown fat, the yoke would be broken and destroyed by Israel’s neck becoming too large to be contained by it! It also interesting to note that, of all the occurrences of this word in the Hebrew text (nearly 200 times!), this is the only occurrence where the KJV/NKJV translates it as “anointing.” All the other times, it is translated as fat, fatness, richness, or fertile. And even where the idea of anointing is clearly present, shemen or semen is translated as “oil” and is always found combined with the Hebrew word “mashach,” which means to smear or anoint.
So what am I saying? Am I saying that the anointing doesn’t break the yoke in the sense that many people say it does? I don’t know! (I do know that it is not wise to base a doctrine, a practice, or a belief on just one verse! Especially when the translation and/or interpretation of that verse is suspect!) What I am saying is that this particular verse cannot be used in all exegetical and hermeneutical honestly to arrive at and support the conclusion that the anointing, as many people refer to it, breaks the yoke. I don’t know about the anointing destroying the yoke, but I do know that the Anointed One (Christ) does! And because he does; I am not so much worried about “having the anointing that destroys the yoke” as I am about having the yoke of the Anointed One! The focus should be on responding appropriately to his call in which he invites us: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 KJV)