Touch Not Mine Anointed

And when they went from nation to nation, and from one kingdom to another people; He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes, Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.  (I Chronicles 16:20-22)

Growing up in the Hyles’ wing of fundamentalism, I heard the “touch not mine anointed” sermon preached more times than I care to say.  Always it was used to warn anyone who dared oppose the preacher. 

When God providentially removed me from that world, I stopped hearing that preached.  I didn’t catch on right away – though if I remember correctly, my first post-Hyles pastor corrected that view, pointing out that the Bible had Israel in mind, not the preacher.  Over the past twenty-five-plus years, I have spent little time thinking about this specific notion.  But currently, I am preaching through I Samuel, where David refused to raise a hand against Saul, so it has come to mind once again.

Serious students of God’s Word know that the Bible never describes the pastor as the “anointed” of the Lord, nor does “touch not mine anointed” refer to a pastor.  I don’t find a single reference where the Bible hints that the pastor is the Lord’s anointed.  In 2 Corinthians 1:21, Paul reminds the Corinthians,

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.  For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.  Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; (2 Corinthians 1:19-21)

I can see where some might attempt to connect this anointing to pastors since Paul specifically mentions himself (an apostle) and Silvanus (aka “Silas”) and Timothy (a pastor).  However, on closer examination, we find that Paul doesn’t speak of pastors exclusively in this passage.  The very next verse (22) says,

Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

We rightly apply this passage to all believers, as every believer is the Lord’s anointed.  John the Apostle confirms this in his epistles:

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.  (I John 2:27)

Clearly, John does not apply this anointing exclusively to pastors.  Since the Bible includes all believers in this “anointing,” we have this awkward fact that the way Jack Hyles and those like him preach “touch not mine anointed” would actually prohibit pastors from touching their people (and I don’t mean “touch” in the Hyles tradition).  If you think “touch not mine anointed” means “never challenge or oppose the pastor,” then you need to apply this prohibition across the board – from pastor to people as well as from people to pastor.

But “touch not mine anointed” has nothing to do with the pastor.  We certainly owe our pastors reverence and respect (Hebrews 13:7, 17). 

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.  And be at peace among yourselves.  (I Thessalonians 5:12-13)

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.  (I Timothy 5:17)

And though we can take “elders” to mean older men, I have to think that since Paul uses the term interchangeably (between pastors and older men) in the passage, he means to include the spiritual leaders in the church when he says,

Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; (I Timothy 5:1)

So, I’m not arguing that we don’t owe our pastors respect or that there should be no protocols for opposing or challenging the pastor.  But when the Bible says, “touch not mine anointed,” it is not speaking of the pastor. 

Photo by Wolfgang Krzemien on

This exact quote, “touch not mine anointed,” appears twice in Scripture, in parallel passages in I Chronicles 16:22 and Psalm 105:15.  The author rehearses the history of God’s providential deliverance of His people Israel – the “anointed.”  The verse that immediately precedes this phrase points to a particular incident in Abraham’s life:

When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people; He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; (I Chronicles 16:20-21 and Psalm 105:13-14)

The “king” God reproved was Abimelech, who took Sarah into his haram.  And God warned Abimelech, “do my prophets (Abraham) no harm.”

Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.  (Genesis 20:7)

Typically when pastors use “touch not mine anointed” to argue against any challenge to pastoral misconduct, they have David in mind.  David repeatedly refused to get revenge on King Saul because Saul was the Lord’s anointed.  He restrained himself and his men, who were very zealous in his defense, from lifting a hand against Saul.  But David’s point was never that Saul shouldn’t be touched.  Instead of touching Saul, David threw him onto the Lord, calling on the Lord to deal with the injustices of King Saul. 

After David became king, his men remembered this restraint and the principle David used to prevent them from harming Saul.  So when Shimei cursed David, Abishai reminded David that Shimei violated this same principle.  Since David used this principle to restrain Abishai, Abishai now used this principle to argue for retaliation against Shimei.   But with the tables turned, David refused to apply this same principle to himself.  Instead, he prevented Abishai from raising a hand against Shimei. 

Three points then:

First, pastors are not above rebuke.  Immediately after he forbids the people from rebuking an elder, Paul says in I Timothy 5:2, “they that sin rebuke before all….”  No pastor should view himself as above the law, untouchable.  “Touch not mine anointed” has been used to give pastors a pass on bad behavior – a vile abuse of a phrase in Scripture.

Second, David’s example teaches us not to seek revenge or take matters into our own hands.  When David restrained his men from harming King Saul, he was not letting Saul’s injustices slide.  Quite the opposite.  David threw his case on the Lord, asking God Himself to judge his case.  Notice what David said when he returned Saul’s spear, which he took from the ground beside Saul’s head while Saul and his men were sleeping.

The LORD render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: for the LORD delivered thee into my hand to day, but I would not stretch forth mine hand against the LORD’S anointed.  And, behold, as thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in the eyes of the LORD, and let him deliver me out of all tribulation.  (I Samuel 26:23-24)

David didn’t let Saul get away with anything.  David turned the sin over to God, letting God deal with it.  Tell me, which is worse?  What David might like to do to Saul, or what the Lord would do to Saul in His time?

Third, every one of us owes the other a great deal of esteem and regard.  “Let each esteem other better than themselves.” If anything, “touch not mine anointed” applies to both the pastor and the people.  Beware of the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, who maintained the superiority of the clergy over the laity.  Preachers who consider themselves untouchable believe they are on a higher plane than the people God has called them to serve.  This spirit has caused much hurt and damage to God’s churches.  Thus, the Lord says,

Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.  (Revelation 2:16)