Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings
Messiah ~ meshi'ahh
By Jeff A. Benner

The word Messiah is a transliteration of the Hebrew word meshiahh (meh-shee-ahh - the "hh" is pronounced hard like the "ch" in the name Bach). This word comes from the root mashahh meaning "to smear" as in Jeremiah 22:14 where it is usually translated as "painted". In the ancient world olive oil was a very versatile commodity. It was used in cooking as well as a medicine as it is a disinfectant, no shepherd was without a flask of olive oil which he smeared on his or his sheep's injuries. The verb mashahh is also translated as "anointed", as in Exodus 29:7, in the sense of smearing olive oil on the head. This ceremony was performed on anyone becoming a King, Priest or Prophet in the service of Yahweh. From the root mashahh comes the noun meshiahh literally meaning "one who is smeared with olive oil for office of authority" or, as it is usually translated, "anointed". This word is also used for any "one who holds an office of authority" (such as a king or priest) even if that person was not ceremonially smeared with oil. A good example of this is Cyrus, the King of Persia. While he was not ceremonially smeared with oil, he was one of authority who served Yahweh through his decree allowing Israel to return to Jerusalem.

AHLB# 2357 (b)