Elected U.S. presidents are inaugurated on January 20th. But, it wasn’t always that way.

The Congress of the Confederation set March 4, 1789, as the date for “commencing proceedings” of the new government that the Constitution described. George Washington took the oath of office in New York City on April 30th, 1789 due to a difficult winter. His second inauguration occurred on March 4th, 1793 in Philadelphia. While presidential elections occur in November, time was needed to count ballots, assert the victor and travel to Washington for the inauguration. When technology allowed for easier tabulation and travel, the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that was ratified on January 23, 1933, set the inauguration of subsequent presidents for January 20th. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first U.S. president sworn in to office on the new date in 1937, launching FDR’s second term.

In Biblical times, the term of Jewish leaders began by anointing their heads with special oil (Exodus 30:30). This act symbolically consecrated an individual, or even an object (see Exodus 30:26, 29). The Bible mandates that the priests and the objects in the Tabernacle were inaugurated by pouring oil upon them. Eventually Jewish kings were also anointed with this special oil (Samuel I 10:1). The special oil was concocted by mixing pure myrrh, sweet cinnamon, sweet calamus, cassia and olive oil. Only Jewish kings of the Davidic dynasty were anointed with this special oil, as will the future king of Israel, known as the “Messiah,” which means anointed one. The Greek term for anointed is “Christos.”

Moses made the anointing oil by using the ingredients listed in the Torah and cooking it all together. According to tradition, no other oil may be used (see Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Temple Vessels 1:1). Prior to the Babylonian sacking of the Temple, the Judean King Josiah ordered that the Ark of the Covenant, Aaron’s staff, the jar of manna, and the anointment oil be concealed. All of these have yet to be found since that time. Therefore, priests during the Second Commonwealth were not anointed with the oil.

Happy Inauguration Day!

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