"Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man's counsel is sweet to his friend."
The word oil is the Hebrew word semen which means oil, usually olive oil. It was often a perfume base or an ointment.
This is the Hebrew word qetoret which means incense or perfume. This word is often involved in the offering of incense to the Lord in which the smoke rises up to be a pleasant aroma to the Lord.
Perfuming with dry aromas, and sprinkling with liquid aromas were a mark of honor towards guests and promoted joyful social fellowship. In other words, when a person in the ancient world wanted to make sure that a party was a great time, they would add great perfume and oil to the house, tent, or place where the party was held. The smell of the room added to the lightness of the mood and the ability of people to enjoy one another. In the same way, the counsel of your friends allows you to enjoy life and/or bear up under difficult times. It lightens the load; it is sweet.
This is the standard word leb for heart, mind, attitude, internal aspect of your being. Solomon is asking us to notice that when the external things like smell and visuals are right, it changes your mood immediately. Your attitude is adjusted by the smells, sights, and other contextual things at a party. In the same way, your soul can be changed by the counsel of a friend. You have not done anything different except listen to the counsel of a trusted friend, and you already feel better.
This is the Hebrew word samah which means rejoice, joyful, merry. Clearly Solomon is saying that a festive party is helped by great smells – especially when there was not a lot of bathing going on in that day. Lots of perfume and oil would help immensely if a lot of unbathed people were going to be in an enclosed room. It would make it tolerable to be together, even enjoyable, before you began to talk to anyone.
This is the word nephesh which is the standard word for soul or internal part of a person. The counsel that is given is not just advice but is information and care given from a deep aspect of a friend.
This is the Hebrew word esa which means counsel or purpose. The comparison between perfume and oil and its affect on a party and the mood in a home is very telling. Solomon is saying that it is not necessarily what the friend says; it is the fact of the advice and counsel coming from a trusted adviser and confidant that brings hope and encouragement to you. This is being backed up in the psychological field in that they are finding that the greatest help in counseling is coming not from the advice given but through the relationship of trust built between the counselor and the client. The higher the positive bond, the greater the healing in counseling.
This is the Hebrew word meteq which means sweetness. It is contrasted with honey – sweeter than honey. It means agreeable and pleasant when used metaphorically as in this case.
This is the Hebrew word rea which means friend, companion, close friend.
The wisdom that Solomon is bringing us is often lost on a modern culture with its speed and technology. He is saying that we need trusted friends to listen to us and give us counsel on a regular basis to cheer us up through the hard times of life. Their counsel will give us joy and a change in attitude and hope even though they may not solve the problem. It is the trusted relationship that contributes to the sweetness of the counsel. In the same way that a delightful smell makes you feel better about a party, it changes your attitude.
It is interesting that Solomon would say this and that God would include this bit of advice in the Scriptures. It seems almost trivial, but it is not. We cannot lead a healthy and well-balanced life without friends who will give us sweet counsel from time to time. LIFE IS RELATIONSHIPS. It may seem like you can survive with only your wits and abilities, but you are wrong. Build into your life mentors, friends, and associates who can give you counsel but who, more importantly, clearly like you and want your best. It is the strength of the relationship that will be of the greatest help in the difficult times that will come. Their counsel is sweet because there is great trust.