The Bible employs various tactics to draw readers’ attention to its message. When something new is about to happen, the clearest, direct track is sometimes preferable: “I [the LORD] am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?” (Isa 43:19; emphasis mine). Similarly, in Jeremiah: “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31; emphasis mine). Another method employed by biblical writers repeats carefully chosen words to garner attention: “‘The LORD has done great things for them.’ The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced” (Ps 126:2–3). Isaiah 61 uses yet another editorial device: a unique phrase that attentive listeners would hardly miss. This article is about this third tactic, a unique phrase used to introduce Isaiah’s equally unique message in chapter 61. Most Bible readers are familiar with the moment in the Gospel of Luke when Jesus began his ministry by quoting an ancient passage from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because he has anointed me. . . .” The introductory phrase surely captured attention in Isaiah’s day and again hundreds of years later when Jesus repeated it when speaking about himself. Many modern readers may lack a clear understanding of what “anointing” means and may wonder why both Isaiah and Jesus chose to mention anointing and the poor in the same context. This article examines the ancient concept of “anointing” in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, and then considers what was meant by “the poor” and the “year of the LORD’s favor” (also mentioned in both Isaiah and Luke). It demonstrates that in both Testaments anointed ministry to the poor is a core mandate for all people of faith, and that the vision of social reform has never changed.



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