The Priestly Garments
1. All Israel is a 'kingdom of priests' (see on Exodus 19:6), but for the special service of the sanetuary Aaron and his descendants are selected and solemnly consecrated: see Leviticus 8, 9. Nadab and Abihu died (Leviticus 10) and the priesthood was continued in the descendants of Eleazar and Ithamar: see 1 Chronicles 24:1-6, and on Numbers 25:12.
2. Holy garments] The garments are holy because they are specially set apart and consecrated for use in the sanctuary.
3. Whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom] God is the source not only of all spiritual grace, but of every intellectual faculty and artistic gift: cp. Isaiah 28:23-29; James 1:17, and see on Exodus 31:4
6-12. The Ephod.
This is a kind of waistcoat, made of variegated material, supported by straps passing over the shoulders and bound round the waist with a girdle. On each of the shoulder-straps is an onyx stone engraved with the names of six tribes of Israel. On the front of the ephod and attached to it by means of gold chains and rings is a pouch called the 'breastplate '(Exodus 28:15.).
6. The gold was in the form of threads worked into the pattern; see on Exodus 39:3. Cunning work is again embroidery as in Exodus 26:1.
8. Cunous girdle] RV 'cunningly woven band': i.e. embroidered.
9-12. The engraving of gems was an art well known to the Egyptians. The names were those of the twelve tribes. In Exodus 28:12 the stones are called stones of memorial unto the children of Israel. The high priest wore these stones when he ministered before the Lord, as the representative of the people. They served as a kind of visible supplication of His gracious remembrance.
13. Ouches] The word, which is properly 'nouche,' means a rosette or button of gold filigree in which the stone is set.
14. The chains are for attaching the breastplate to the ephod: see Exodus 28:22-25.
15-30. The breastplate] This is really a pouch, one span, or half a cubit, square, made of the same material as the ephod, and ornamented on the outside with twelve jewels set in four rows, each stone being engraved with the name of a tribe. The pouch is intended to hold the Urim and Thummim, by means of which God's judgments are declared (see on Exodus 28:30), and is therefore here called the breast-plate of judgment.
16. Doubled] so as to form a pouch.
17-21. It is not easy to identify the stones mentioned in this and the following vv., the meaning of the Hebrew words being doubtful. The stones in the first row are probably a red jasper, a yellowish green serpentine, and an emerald. In the second row a red garnet, a lapis lazuli, and an onyx. In the third row a yellow agate, a black and white agate, and an amethyst. In the fourth row a yellow jasper, a beryl, and a dark green jasper. With this list of stones may be compared that in Ezekiel 28:13, and that in Revelation 21:19-20 (the foundations of the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem).
22. Chains at the ends of wreathen work] RV 'chains like cords, of wreathen work.'
30. The Urim and the Thummim] The literal meaning of these words is given in RM, 'the Lights and the Perfections.' The Urim and Thummim are nowhere described, but there can be no doubt that they were material objects, as they are said to be put in the breastplate, which was a pocket: cp. also Leviticus 8:8. From 1 Samuel 28:6 we learn that the Urim (and Thummim) served as one of three ways by means of which the divine will might be ascertained: cp. Numbers 27:21. In all probability they were two images or jewels, engraved with distinguishing characters, used in casting lots. In this connexion 1 Samuel 14:38-42 is instructive. 1 Samuel 14:41 in our Hebrew text there is evidently mutilated. The Gk. and Lat. versions read, 'If the iniquity be in me or Jonathan my son, give Urim; and if the iniquity be in the people, give Thummim.' On the casting of lots see on Numbers 26:55, and cp. Leviticus 16:8; 1 Samuel 23:9-12; 1 Samuel 30:7-8; Acts 1:26.
31. The robe of the ephod] This is a frock or cassock, woven entirely of blue, without sleeves, drawn over the head, and worn under the ephod. Its chief characteristic is a row of golden bells attached to the skirt which sounded when the high priest moved, and enabled the people to follow him with their thoughts and prayers when he went into the Holy Place as their representative before God.
32. Habergeon] A sleeveless jacket.
33. Hem] RV 'skirts.' The pomegranate is a tree with a fruit like an apple, with a juicy pulp and full of seeds (hence the name, which means grained or seeded apple), extensively cultivated and highly prized in the East. The Heb. name is rimmon, which enters into many place-names. The pomegranates here are embroidered on the skirt of the robe. The bells are hung upon it.
35. His sound] i.e. its sound: see on Leviticus 25:5. That he die not] To enter God's presence carelessly is profanation and punishable with death.
36-38. The mitre] This is made of fine linen, and is in the form of a turban. Fastened in front of it is a plate of pure gold with the inscription Holiness to the lord
(RV 'Holy to the Lord').
38. The iniquity of the holy things] The 'holy things' are the offerings of the people. As no offerings are ever worthy of God, their acceptance by Him is an act of grace. The high priest, when he enters the divine presence in the manner prescribed by God Himself, 'bears the iniquity of the holy things,' which are accepted in spite of the unworthiness necessarily attaching to them. For the lofty ideal of the sanctification, not only of what is used in divine service in the narrower sense of the term, but in every department of what is called secular life, see Zechariah 14:20, Zechariah 14:21.
39. The coat is different from the robe (see Exodus 29:5). It is an undergarment or shirt of fine linen fastened with an embroidered girdle.
40. Bonnets] RV 'headtires': close fitting caps, probably of a different shape from the turban of the high priest.
41. Anoint them] see on Exodus 29:7. Consecrate] lit. 'fill the hand.' The expression probably refers to some symbolic action indicating the giving of authority at a ceremony of installation to a sacred office: cp. Exodus 29:24.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Exodus 28". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany