In a “holy place”:
The phrase “in a holy place” is used in various places in the OT: Exodus 29:31; Leviticus 6:9, 19, 20; 7:6; 10:13; 16:24; 24:9. As a prima facie matter, “holy” in this instances cannot morally correct, because locations cannot have moral qualities or character. Rather, the place, like many items of the tabernacle (and later temple) are holy because they have been set apart for use for ritual relationship with God. Exodus 40:9 provides an interesting understanding of this process:
Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy. Exodus 40:9 (ESV)
The need to anoint and the process of anointing the tabernacle and its furniture was already adumbrated in 29:36; 30 and especially 30:25–29, so the fulfillment of that command can be reviewed here succinctly as finally completed at the occasion of the first erection of the tabernacle. Anointing symbolizes cleanness and purity, as discussed already in chap. 29. These items of furniture had a sacred purpose; their proximity to Yahweh’s symbolized presence in the holy of holies reflected that sacredness and required recognition by the anointing ceremony that they were part of the holiest place in the nation.
Douglas K. Stuart, vol. 2, Exodus, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 787. Stuart’s comment is interesting in tying the relationship of anointing with oil to the sacrificial purification of Exodus 29:33-36:
Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded you. Through seven days shall you ordain them, 36 and every day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement. Also you shall purify the altar, when you make atonement for it, and shall anoint it to consecrate it. Exodus 29:35–36 (ESV)
The consecration was made by way of blood and sacrifice. Later, the anointing oil is to be made “it shall be a holy oil” (Exod. 30:26). The command continues:
29 You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy. 30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 31 And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.’ Exodus 30:29–33 (ESV)
Von Rad comments on holy objects:
The Nazirite was “one set apart for Jahweh”: indeed, whatever in the sphere of worship men, animals, or objects were taken out of daily, secular life, they were “holy for Jahweh”. And right at the very heart of it all were the sacrifices, with or without blood, where the same stereotyped phraseology is to be found. The inference to be drawn from this way of speaking is it, which is both widespread and fixed, is that Israel regarded the cult as the place where pre-eminently it was incumbent upon her to make room for Jahweh’s right and claim which he made. Thus, what took place in the cult can also be designed as the (Hebrew, “justice” “judgment” misphat) of God. This “right” of God’s inhuman life was therefore the primary and constitutive factor – it was the foundation-stone of the cult, and everything else followed from it. No cultic celebration was solemnized fro Israel, but they were all “for Jahweh”. But the sphere in which that right of God (which nullified all human claims) had to be respected was not an ideal one: on the contrary, it was very realistically demarcated by means of a holy place, holy men and women, holy things, and holy seasons. And the holiness of all these stood or fell with the belief in his present there from time to time. The coming of Jahweh – it might be to the sacrifices – was a moment of the highest solemnity, for which the congregation was made ready by the cultic cry, “Silence at the present of Jahweh!” “Slience at the present of Jahweh! He rouses himself from his holy dwelling” (Zeph. 1:7; Zech. 2:17). Finally, it is this presence which imposes upon man a quite definitive behavior, and this behavior is one which, out of consideration of God’s holiness, was subjected to particular rules and regulations demanding careful observance. Wherever we meet this phenomenon we have a right to say that we are in the sphere of the cult (Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, 241-242).
Paul picks up this line of thinking repeatedly in his letters, particularly in Corinthians. Two references are particularly apt. First, the reference to perfume making something “holy”:
14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:14–17 (ESV)
Having been set aside for the work of God, perfumed as it were, the proclamation of the Gospel gives off the same perfume. Paul actually refers to the saints as “the aroma of Christ”. This is not out of line with the rest of his theology. In First Corinthians Paul sets aside the believer’s body as the holy place of God:
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (ESV)
This usage and parallel gives a means to study and profit from meditation upon the “holy place” as described in the OT.