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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 28

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-43

Chapter 28

Now as we get into chapter twenty-eight, we now move into the priesthood. We now have the tabernacle constructed, at least the architecture, the designs; the blue prints are drawn. Now getting to the priests,

Take thou unto thee Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, [even] Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons. And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty. [So they were to wear these robes.] And thou shalt speak unto all [that are] wise hearted, whom I have filled with my spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office. [So God was going to fill men with the spirit of wisdom, giving them the skill to make these robes.] And these are the garments which thou shalt make; a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, an embroidered coat, a miter, [or a crown] and a girdle: [a sash] and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office. And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. Now the ephod, [sort of a coat that was worn over the shoulders and down] of gold, and blue, and of purple and of scarlet, with cunning work. And it shall have the two shoulder pieces thereof joined at the two edges thereof; and it will be joined together. And the curious girdle of the ephod, which is upon it, shall be of the same, even of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen. Thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the children of Israel ( Exodus 28:1-9 ):

So these onyx stones were actually to tache this ephod here at the shoulders, to tache it together here at his shoulders. But on these onyx were the names of the children of Israel, so that whenever the priest would go before God, he was always bearing the names of the children of Israel, that is the tribes of Israel, on his shoulder. Whenever he would go before God bearing the onyx stones there on his shoulders, the tribes of Israel would be,

Six on each shoulder being carried before God. With the work of the engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, you'll engrave the two stones with the names of the children of Israel: and shall make them to be set in the ouches of gold. And thou shalt put the two stones upon the shoulders of the ephod for stones of memorial unto the children of Israel: and Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord upon his two shoulders for a memorial. And you'll make the ouches of gold; And the two chains of pure gold at the ends; of wreathen work shalt thou make them, and fasten the wreathen chains to the ouches ( Exodus 28:10-14 ).

Now the breastplate on his chest, there was this breastplate that he was to wear.

The breastplate of judgment with cunning work; the work of the ephod shalt thou make it; of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and of fine twined linen shalt thou make it. [It shall be a square and it shall be doubled] Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof ( Exodus 28:15-16 ).

Now a span is the length between your thumb and your finger. So a square like this, this little breastplate that the priest wore on his chest.

And thou shalt set in it the settings of stones, four rows: and three stones in each row: the first row shall be sardius, topaz, carbuncle: The second shall be an emerald, sapphire, and a diamond. The third shall be a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. And the fourth shall be a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper: [so these precious stones] and they shall be set in gold in their enclosings. And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes ( Exodus 28:17-21 ).

So there was to be a golden chain holding this breastplate over his chest so that actually he was bearing now, not only the names of the children of Israel on his shoulders before the Lord, but over his heart. The names of the tribes of Israel over his heart as they were engraved on, each stone representing one of the tribes. The names of the tribes engraved onto the stones.

So verse twenty-nine,

And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goes in unto the holy [place], for a memorial before the Lord continually ( Exodus 28:29 ).

So as he comes in the presence of God. He's bearing really the names of the tribes of Israel, on his shoulders, on his heart.

Now in verse thirty the Urim and the Thummim.

And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the Lord: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually ( Exodus 28:30 ).

Now what is the Urim and the Thummim? Really the words mean, "light", and "perfections". I really don't know. The Bible doesn't tell us what the Urim and the Thummim actually are. But in years to come when they wanted to hear from God, they would oftentimes come to the priest to inquire of the Lord. And the Urim and the Thummim had something to do with the inquiring of God, because they would come to the priest with the Urim and the Thummim and he would inquire of the Lord for them.

So when David wanted to know, "Shall we go out to battle?" Rather than just going out to battle, he would come to the priest and say, "Inquire of the Lord shall we go to battle?" The priest with the Urim and the Thummim would inquire of God and say, "Yes, go." Then they would continue to get directions.

Now some believe that the Urim and the Thummim were actually two stones, a black stone and a white stone; that in the inquiring of the Lord, the priest would reach in and pull out one of the stones. If he pulled out the white stone, it was God saying yes. If he pulled out the black stone, it was God saying no. That is one of the most prominent theories of what the Urim and the Thummim actually were. Two stones by which the priest would say, "God show us shall we go now", and he'd pull in and if the white stone would go out, "Yes, we go now", the black stone would go out, "No, we wait". Then they would keep asking questions that could be answered by yes and no, inquiring of the Lord for directions and guidance.

It is interesting in the New Testament; the disciples were following somewhat similar kinds of leadings when they were wanting to choose a replacement for Judas Iscariot. They sort of drew straws; they cast lots.

Now the casting of lots is much the same. It is, and this was a method, casting of lots was a method used quite often by people to determine the will of God. You remember Saul used the casting of lots to determine who had disobeyed his orders. He said, "We'll divide all of Israel and Jonathan and my son, and we'll cast lots." And the lot fell on Saul and Jonathan. He said, "Jonathan what did you do?" So the casting of lots was a method by which they sought from God answers.

Now all of us desire to be led by God. We would like to make sure that it is God leading. We remember where Gideon put out his fleece of wool, seeking that God would lead by the fleece. "Lord, are You really in this thing? Let the ground be dry and the fleece be wet, so that I can know that You're really in it." Then the next time, "Lord let the fleece be dry, and the ground be wet." He didn't know but what maybe he'd stumbled on some phenomena of nature that fleece will always get wet at night, and the ground even when it is dry, and maybe it's just a phenomena of nature. So, "Lord let's reverse it and see if it works the other way," whereby he was seeking to be sure of the leading of God.

Now we would love to have some way that we could be sure of the leading of God, but this is almost like flipping a coin. I surely wouldn't, I surely wouldn't recommend that. "Heads I go, tails, I stay. God let it land according to Your will."

I knew of a fellow that used to seek the leading of the Lord by putting ten pennies in his pocket. As he would pray and ask God for guidance, he would take out the pennies and put them down, and if they all came up, all ten came up heads, he took that as a yes indication from God. Any other combination he accepted as a no. Well, you know they all come up heads, you are fighting for pretty good odds now. The amazing thing, every once in awhile, they would all come up heads.

The idea is that we would all like some kind of a sure method of knowing when God is saying yes, and when God is saying no. But the problem is we don't always give God all the alternatives. "Well, which one shall it be Matthias or Barsabas that you've chosen to take Judas' place?" So casting lots between Matthias and Barsabas was not good because God had a third party that they didn't even know at that time, except as an enemy, a zealot Jew, Paul, or Saul of Tarsus. "Oh, surely God doesn't want him. We'd never put his name in that pot because no way would God want him." So we don't always give God all the alternatives. We so often say, "Lord shall it be this, or that?" Well, it may be something entirely different from this or that. Something I haven't even thought of.

Now I'm sorry that there is no surefire way of getting a yes or a no, like tossing a coin or pulling out a black or a white rock. We walk by faith. What I do is when I begin the day I say, "God my life is Yours. You guide in the circumstances of this day. I commit this day to You. Bring to pass Your will in my life." Then I just have to trust God to do it. I accept the things that come in the day as from the Lord and the leading of the Spirit. I believe that my life becomes the revelation of God's will, as I submit myself to Him.

"If in all of your ways you acknowledge Him, He will direct your path"( Proverbs 3:6 ). Where you get into trouble is by jumping in because you think, "Oh man, look at this good deal." You don't say, you think, "Oh man, don't even need to inquire of the Lord on this one. It's quite obvious such a good deal I don't even have to ask." That's where I get in trouble. "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path."

The walk of faith is always a difficult walk. It isn't easy. As I say, we would like it much better if we could get some very positive indications of yes or no. It's hard to just walk by faith trusting God. It can be very confusing if we keep getting blocked in something that we're attempting to do. Is it God saying no or is it Satan trying to hinder me from doing the work of God? You know, and so it's so difficult at times to really know when to persevere and when to realize, "Hey, I'm trying to buck God. God isn't wanting me to do this."

I surely wish that I could have a more positive, definite way of ascertaining when God wants me to move, when God doesn't want me to move. I don't. I'm just like you are. I just pray and then I trust God, and then I move and then I hope I've done the right thing. I trust that God is great enough that if I haven't, He knows my heart, He knows the sincerity of my heart. And if I've done the wrong thing, He'll, knowing the sincerity of my heart, He'll overlook it and help me to correct it.

So we really don't know exactly what the Urim and the Thummim was. I am convinced that I know what it wasn't. I know that it wasn't what Joseph Smith said it was. But with the golden tablets that he found, supposedly, he also found this pair of colored glasses that were magic glasses, because when he put them on, he could read the hieroglyphics on the golden tablets. So they were magical, interpretive glasses by which he could read the hieroglyphics. No, that's not what the Urim and the Thummim were. But what they actually were, we don't know.

Now this robe of the ephod was to be all blue. There was to be a hole in the top of it, in the midst: and it should have a binding of woven work round about the hole, as though it were the hole of a habergeon, so it would not be torn. [So sort of a hem really to keep it from being torn.] And beneath upon the hem thou shalt make pomegranates [Now this is on the bottom side of this ephod there were to be these pomegranates] of blue, and purple, and scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about: A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, about the hem of the robe all around it. And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goes into the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not ( Exodus 28:31-35 ).

Now the purpose then around the hem of the ephod was these, were these little golden bells and then a pomegranate. The golden bell, the pomegranate all around the hem. The purpose was that when he went into the Holy of Holies, no one could go in there except the high priest, but coming into the presence of God was really a hazardous job. When the whole thing first got started they realized what a hazardous occupation they'd gotten into as priests.

The very first day that they started their ministry as priests, two of them got wiped out. Nadab and Abihu both got wiped out the very first day. Because when they got the whole thing set up, and they got the altar all set, and the wood on the altar, fire came down from heaven, and the wood just spontaneously started to burn. Aaron's two sons got so excited they grabbed their little incense burners, and they took strange-they took the incense burners, but it took strange fire, and they went in to offer it before God and the fire came from the altar and consumed the two sons of Aaron. It was a dangerous, hazardous job. You're coming into the presence of God, and you better make sure that everything is right; if it isn't, you've had it.

Now even the high priest in coming in before God, coming into the presence of God, everything had to be just right, if it wasn't the high priest would get wiped out. How would they know? The bells would quit ringing. So that was the purpose of the little bells. They would tie a rope on his foot, and if the bells would quit ringing they'd take and drag him out. Occupational hazard.

So that was the purpose of the little golden bells around the hem, is that when he was ministering before God, in the actual going into this area of coming into that area where God's presence was to meet the people, things had to be right or it could mean the life of the high priest. So the golden bells so that they would know in case he died.

Thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, [A crown that the priest was to wear.] and on this little plate you were to grave, engraven on it, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre shall it be. [So this mitre, or crown, blue crown that the priest was to wear, on it this little golden plate, with the engraving, "HOLINESS TO THE LORD".] And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron might bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall sanctify in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord. And thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen, thou shalt make a mitre of fine linen, and thou shalt make a girdle of needlework. And for Aaron's sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets, and thou shalt make for them, for the glory and for the beauty ( Exodus 28:36-40 ).

So they were very ornaments, it was quite-I want to say ornamentation, but it was, it was very ostentatious and awesome as they would come out in these robes.

Thou shalt put upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; thou shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office. And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even to the thighs shall they reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in to the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not the iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever and ever unto him and to his seed after him ( Exodus 28:41-43 ).

So that when they're bearing the iniquity of the people, they don't die themselves.

Now notice that the robes were all of linen. There wasn't to be any woolen garment worn by the priest. For wool causes you to sweat, and God didn't want any man sweating in his labor for Him. That's very interesting, isn't it? When we look at all the perspiration that goes into the work of God today so many times, God doesn't want you to perspire in your work for Him. That is the reason why they wore linen, no wool in their garments, to keep them from perspiration in their service for God.

God wants our service to be inspired service, rather than perspired service. If you have the inspiration, it doesn't take the perspiration. But if you don't have the inspiration, I'll tell ya, even the perspiration's not gonna do it. So the inspired work unto the Lord.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Exodus 28". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/exodus-28.html. 2014.
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