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EXODUS - CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT
Aaron and his sons were to be consecrated for the ministry of the priesthood. In recognition of this, the garments they wore while officiating in this ministry were to be of a special design, different from the rest of the people. These garments were to be designed and made by those who were skilled in needlework, and who had the spiritual insight to determine the meaning of their work.
The priests’ garments were to be: (1) "for glory. . ." to mark the priests’ office as holy, separate from the rest of the people, as befitting Him who is "holy, separate from sinners" (Heb 7:26).
(2) "For beauty. . ." suitable for the function of the priestly office and in harmony with the beauty of the sanctuary in which they ministered.
The priests’ garments were to be of workmanship and material like that of the tabernacle itself: fine twined linen, with threads colored blue, purple and scarlet. The garments consisted of: breastplate; ephod, or long vest; robe, meil, or mantle; broidered, tashbets, "tasselated," coat, ketnoneth, tunic; mitre, or hat; girdle, or belt; and breeches or trousers (vv. 40-43).
"Ephod" here denotes the special outer garment whose main’ purpose was to hold or support the breastplate. It was a kind of vest or waistcoat made of two pieces, one for the chest and the other for the back. It was joined at the shoulders, then tied at the waist by a "curious girdle" or belt. This belt was woven on either the ephod, and was not to be sewn on the garment later. It was passed around the body and fastened to hold the garment in place.
The ephod was of the same material and workmanship as the curtains of the tabernacle. This identified the high priest with the sacred place in which he served.
Two brooches fastened the garment at the shoulders. These were "ouches" or setting of gold, holding two onyx stones, on which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. They were listed in the order of their birth, six on each stone. The high priest bore these stones on his shoulders as a memorial, symbolizing the Lord’s tender care for His own, see Lu 15:5.
Verses 13, 14:
"Ouches," mishbetsoth, setting for the onyx stones which were for the high priest’s shoulders. These were to be used for fastening the breastplate to the ephod. Chains of pure gold of equal length were to be fastened to these settings. "Wreathed chains" denotes chains woven or twined like a rope.
"Breast-plate," khoshen, "ornament." This carried out the theme for the high priest’s garments, for "glory and for beauty." It was a beautiful ornament, but it was much more: it was the repository for the Urim and Thummim (v. 30), by which the priest consulted God, and showed God’s will to the people.
The material of the breast-plate was fine twined linen, with threads of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet. Its size: a span (half a cubit), (about nine inches) square. Four rows of three each precious stones were mounted in gold settings, then sewn to the breastplate. On each stone was engraved the name of a tribe of Israel.
The first row of stones included: (1) a sardius, odem, or ruby; (2) a topax, pitdah, thought to be the chrysolite, a silicate of magnesium and iron; (3) carbuncle, barequeth, glittering stone, apparently a red stone similar to a ruby or garnet.
The second row: (1) emerald, nophek, a form of beryl, beryllium aluminum silicate; (2) sapphire, sappir, a blue stone, likely the modern lazurite or lapis lazuli; (3) diamond, yahalom. possibly an onyx stone since diamonds were too hard to be engraved.
The third row: (1) ligure, leshum, opal or jacinth, a form of zirconium orthosilicate; (2) agate, shebu, a member of the chalcedony family with banded colors unevenly banded; (3) amethyst, achlamah, a purple to blue-violet form of quartz.
The fourth row: (1) beryl, tarshish, berylium aluminum silicate, translucent sea-green stone, aquamarine, golden color, or reddish; (2) onyx, shoham, similar to the banded agate, with flat bands, composed of calcium carbonate; (3) jasper, yashepheh, a hard, opaque stone whose chief colors are red, yellow, brown, and green, the colors being due chiefly to iron oxide.
These verses explain the manner in which the breastplate was to be attached to the ephod. A gold ring was to be affixed to each corner of the breastplate. Two were in the upper corners, and two just behind the lower. A gold chain was passed through each of the two upper rings, then fastened to the settings holding the onyx stones at the shoulders of the ephod. A blue lace or ribbon was passed through each of the rings on the lower corners of the breastplate, then joined to two gold rings affixed to the "curious girdle" or belt of the ephod. These four fastenings attached the breastplate securely and permanently to the ephod.
Aaron bore the names of Israel’s tribes upon his shoulders, signifying that they were a burden. But he also bore their names on the breast-plate, over his heart, signifying that they were also beloved of God.
The breastplate was made of linen that had been doubled, likely to form a pocket. In this were placed two objects used in determining God’s will: (1) Urim, orim, lights; and (2) Thummin, tummin, perfection. These objects are not described anywhere in Scripture. They were likely stones of some kind, by which God revealed His will to the high priest, and thus to the people. The fact that they are not here described implies that the people were familiar with them.
Under the ephod the high priest wore a robe of blue, woven of one piece. In the top a hole was cut for the head, and the hole was bound to prevent its raveling, in the manner of a "habergeon," takharah, a corset or a coat of mail. It likely extended below the knees. Around the hem of the robe alternated a golden bell and a tassel in the form of a pomegranate, made of threads of blue, purple, and scarlet. As the priest walked about within the "holy place" (holy of holies), the people outside could hear the sound of the bells and know that he was alive and ministering on their behalf. This symbolizes the ministry of Jesus, the believer’s High Priest, Heb 4:14-16.
The head-dress of the high priest was a mitre, similar to a turban, made of white linen. Its only ornament: an engraved plate of pure gold, secured to the mitre with a blue lace or ribbon fastener.
The gold plate had inscribed on it, "KODESH LAJEHOVAH," HOLINESS TO THE LORD. This taught that recognition of the nature of Jehovah is essential to His worship. This must govern the mind and be the focus of the service. This engraved plate denoted that the high priest was representative of Him who alone can purify and cleanse the iniquity of fallen man.
The mitre and coat were made of fine line. The "coat," keloneth, "shirt or tunic," was a long cassock worn immediately over the "breeches" or drawers, and reached to the feet. It had long, tight-fitting sleeves.
The text gives a brief description of the garments worn by the ordinary priests. These included linen "breeches," miknesayim, "trousers, or drawers;" a "coat," kethometh, tunick or long cassock; a girdle or belt; and a "bonnet," migbaoth, "hilt-shaped turban." These garments were to be "for glory and for beauty," like those of the high priest. They were to be of simple design, without elaborate trim or decoration.
The priests were to wear the "breeches" at all times when they were ministering about the tabernacle. The penalty for failure to do so: death. God was diligent to insure the modesty of His servants.
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Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 28". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany