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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Exodus 28

Verses 1-43

Exodus 28:15 ; Exodus 28:17

Aaron had to wear upon his breast before the Lord twelve precious stones, not of one sort, but each one reflecting the light differently from his neighbour. There was one nearly black, whatever the diamond thought of him. But all the stones being set equally upon the priest's breast, no one of them might quarrel with another, saying, 'You are quite wrong, you are; you ought to reflect the light as I do. You will never be admitted into the most holy place.' Even the dark jasper reflected its measure of light as freely as brilliant diamond. The former may have a meekness the latter has not. Indeed, it is a known fact that the diamond is harder than any other stone. And hardness is distance from life in proportion to the hardness.

One thing is clear, there is a tribe in Israel corresponding with each stone. And the Lord requested that He might see the twelve stones upon Aaron's breast, with the names of the Twelve Tribes engraven on them, as often as he appeared before Him to minister in the priest's office (Exodus 28:29 ).

Perhaps it was in virtue of his representing, impartially, every tribe of God's people, that he obtained Divine responses pertaining to every tribe. A man cannot be the medium of truth to all the tribes of God, unless all truth has a place in him. Learn, whether the priests and ministers of God ought not to comprehend in their souls and characters considerable breadth and variety.

Dr. Pulford, Quiet Hours.

Exodus 28:21

As the High Priest of old, when he entered into the Holy of Holies, bore upon his breast those twelve jewels which witnessed to the Twelve Tribes of Israel, so now, with a converse fitness and an equal duty, a religious and just people, advancing towards the gates of its new and higher destinies, must bear upon its breast that cause which is the cause of God.

Aubrey De Vere.

Exodus 28:29

If the veil has as yet been but little withdrawn from the Holy of Holies, those who come after us will have learnt at least this one lesson, that this lifting of the veil which was supposed to be the privilege of priests, is no longer considered as a sacrilege, if attempted by any honest seekers after truth.

Max Müller.

References. XXVIII. 29. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii. p. 132.

Exodus 28:30

'May I ask you,' said John Bright to the citizens of Birmingham in 1858, 'to believe, as I do most devoutly believe, that the moral law was not written for men alone in their individual character, but that it was written as well for nations, and for nations great as this of which we are citizens. If nations reject and deride that moral law, there is a penalty which will inevitably follow. It may not come at once; it may not come in our lifetime; but, rely upon it, the great Italian is not a poet only, but a prophet, when he says:

The sword of Heaven is not in haste to smite,

Nor yet doth linger.

We have experience, we have beacons, we have landmarks enough.... We are not left without a guide. It is true we have not, as an ancient people had, Urim and Thummim those oraculous gems on Aaron's breast from which to take counsel, but we have the unchangeable and eternal principles of the moral law to guide us, and only so far as we walk by that guidance can we be permanently a great nation, or our people a happy people.'

References. XXVIII. 36. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Exodus, etc., p. 151. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. 1896, p. 232. XXVIII. 36-38. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2153.

Bacteria in the Chalice

Exodus 28:38

Science tells us that bacteria lurk in the white snow and sparkling dew; and the purest saints are conscious of secret frailty marring holiest things and hours. Infection, alloy, degeneration, play their part in the spiritual as well as the natural sphere.

I. In private devotional hours it is not difficult to shut the door of our chamber, but it is far from easy to close the door of the mind upon base and secular images and feelings. Our prayers are hindered by insincerity, uncharitableness, impatience, and unbelief; we regard iniquity in our heart, and therefore many petitions we offer can never be put into the golden censer.

II. Outside sanctuaries, Sabbaths, and Scriptures are institutions, days, and relations whose sacredness we must not forget The loves of the home, kinship, friendship, citizenship, the treasures of literature, the gifts of beauty, the stewardship of wealth, the flowers and lutes of pleasure these are holy also. But if these things are great and noble, Divine symbols and instruments of infinite suggestion and purport, how often are we forgetful and perverse, awakening in our better moments to reproach ourselves with the sin of sacrilege!

III. We must not think lightly of these sins because they seem in their refinement to stand apart from and beyond ordinary morality. They are not ecclesiastical but real sins, and with all their apparent subtilization they injuriously affect the whole sphere of character and action equally with coarser faults. In coming, the addition to gold of one five-hundredth part by weight of bismuth produces an alloy which crumbles under the die and refuses to take an impression; the very scent of an incongruous element sometimes debases and destroys the whole vast mass into which it enters. And if in physics the influence of minute admixtures is so immense, we may be sure that the iniquity of our holy things is not less pervasive and disastrous, affecting all that we are and do, and vitiating what otherwise would be the pure gold of life and action.

W. L. Watkinson, Themes for Hours of Meditation, p. 66.

References. XXIX. 1. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1203. XXIX. 26-28. J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p. 241. XXIX. 33. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2528. XXIX. 43. A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. 1893, p. 74.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Exodus 28". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/exodus-28.html. 1910.