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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Exodus 28

Verses 1-12

The Materials and the Ephod

v. 1. And take thou unto thee Aaron, thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, a man out of their own midst, that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office, as the high priest of the people, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons, who were Aaron's assistants in the capacity of priests.

v. 2. And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron, thy brother, such as were separated from all ordinary use and to be employed in the service of the Tabernacle only, for glory and for beauty, expressive of the high dignity and excellence of the office.

v. 3. And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise-hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom (to the natural skill of the craftsman was added special artistic understanding and ability for this particular work), that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office. For consecration the garments were to serve, to set Aaron apart in the functions of his office, and for the service of the priest's work, all this latter being designated by a single verb in the Hebrew.

v. 4. And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a miter, and a girdle, all these garments being described in this connection and in later ordinances. And they shall make holy garments for Aaron, thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office.

v. 5. And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. In addition to the fine materials which were used in making the precious hangings of the Tabernacle, the artisans were to weave gold threads into the cloth for the priest's garments.

v. 6. And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work, a masterpiece of the weaver's art.

v. 7. It shall have the two shoulder-pieces thereof joined at the two edges thereof; and so it shall be joined together, thus forming a kind of vest, but with the two parts distinct.

v. 8. And the curious girdle of the ephod, the girdle of the fastening, which is upon it, firmly attached to it, shall be of the same, according to the work thereof; even of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, the ephod with its girdle forming practically a single garment, for the girdle was crossed over the stomach and carried around the waist, to hold the ephod firmly in place.

v. 9. And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the children of Israel;

v. 10. six of their names on one stone, and the other six names of the rest on the other stone, according to their birth, according to their respective ages, as the twelve sons of Jacob succeeded one another.

v. 11. With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, thou shalt engrave the two stones with the names of the children of Israel, the ancestors of the twelve tribes; thou shalt make them to be set in ouches of gold, in settings which held them firmly all around.

v. 12. 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. The two stones with the names of the tribes of Israel engraved upon them, in their golden setting, which was continued in the form of a buckle, or clasp, were to bring the remembrance of the people before the Lord whenever the high priest wore this garment. The entire paragraph is typical, foreshadowing the office of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Clothed with incomparable dignity and glory, Christ performed the work of sacrifice for us, and, by virtue of His atonement, brings our names into remembrance before God, commends us to the Lord's grace.

Verses 13-30

The Breastplate

v. 13. And thou shalt make ouches of gold, clasps or buckles;

v. 14. and two chains of pure gold at the ends, attached to the clasps; of wreathen work shalt thou make them, by braiding gold wire, and fasten the wreathen chains to the ouches, so that the buckles, which probably had the form of rosettes, were firmly attached to the braided chains, the entire ornament being intended for holding the breastplate.

v. 15. And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment, that being its full technical name, with cunning work, with the highest artistic workmanship; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it; of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen shalt thou make it.

v. 16. Foursquare it shall be being doubled, folded together to form a sort of pocket; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof, a span being half a cubit.

v. 17. And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, fill its outer side with rows of precious gems, even four rows of stones. The first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle; this shall be the first row.

v. 18. And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond.

v. 19. And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst.

v. 20. And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper (or a chrysolite, a beryl, and a jasper); they shall be set in gold in their inclosings, that is, in their settings. The modern names pretty accurately reproduce the Hebrew names, and may be accepted as fairly exact. The settings of the stones seem to have been ornamental clasps, which were of value also in fastening the stones to the heavy cloth of the breastplate. "The twelve precious stones denote the variety, manifoldness, and totality of the natural and gracious gifts bestowed on the people of God, and united in the one spirit of heavenly preciousness. "

v. 21. And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; everyone with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes, corresponding both in number and in names.

v. 22. And thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen work of pure gold. Cf v. 14.

v. 23. And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate, evidently above.

v. 24. And thou shalt put the two wreathen chains of gold, the braids of gold wire, in the two rings which are on the ends of the breastplate.

v. 25. And the other two ends of the two wreathen chains thou shalt fasten in the two ouches, in the clasps connected with the onyx stones on the shoulders, and put them on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod before it.

v. 26. And thou shalt make two rings of gold, and thou shalt put them upon the two ends of the breastplate in the border thereof, which is in the side of the ephod inward, on the lower edge, on the rear, or inner, side, facing the ephod.

v. 27. And two other rings of gold thou shalt make, and shalt put them on the two sides of the ephod underneath, toward the forepart thereof, over against the other coupling thereof, above the curious girdle of the ephod. The description indicates that these rings were placed on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod in the center below, where it was held together above the girdle.

v. 28. And they shall bind the breastplate by the rings thereof, that is, the lower rings, unto the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, with threads of the hyacinth material which was used in the weaving of the cloth, that it may be above the curious girdle of the ephod, and that the breastplate be not loosed from the ephod. It was not only to be prevented from moving up and down, but also from sliding back and forth as it was worn, and from falling forward as the high priest stooped over.

v. 29. And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment, of judicial sentence, upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the Holy Place, for a memorial before the Lord continually, v. 12.

v. 30. And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment, in the pocket formed by its fold, the Urim and the Thummim (light and perfection; or revelation and truth); 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, that is, the sentence of salvation, or righteousness, and the sentence of judgment; as the high priest he was the mediator between God and the people. Every high priest appearing before the Lord with the Urim and Thummim thereby became the advocate of the people, and usually received from the Lord such illumination as served to protect the children of Israel in their promised rights, Numbers 27:21. Christ is our High Priest. He is our Advocate with the Father; He reveals to us God's light and truth, God's gracious and good will toward us, by which we receive counsel and comfort in dark days. The Word of the Lord is a lamp unto our feet and a light upon our path.

Verses 31-43

The Garments Proper

v. 31. And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod, the robe of office, on which the ephod was fastened, all of blue, of the hyacinth-colored material which reminded them of the heavenly origin and character of the high-priestly office. This outer garment reached to the knees, leaving the skirts of the inner garment in plain sight.

v. 32. And there shall be an hole in the top of it, in the midst thereof; it shall have a binding of woven work, a sort of tape or heavy border, round about the hole of it, as it were the hole of an habergeon, of a linen shirt worn by soldiers, that it be not rent.

v. 33. And beneath, upon the hem of it, thou shalt make pomegranates, ornaments of that shape, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about, which gave forth a musical tinkle as the high priest walked and the skirts of this garment swung back and forth.

v. 34. A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about, the two ornaments fastened alternately.

v. 35. And it shall be upon Aaron to minister; and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the Holy Place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not. For as the pomegranates symbolized the sweet odor and the refreshing taste of the Word of God, Proverbs 25:11, so the golden bells symbolized the beautiful sound of the revelation and proclamation of God. The high priest, therefore, as the representative of the congregation and the bearer of the divine testimony, was not to undertake the work of his office without this official vestment, under penalty of death.

v. 36. And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, holiness to the Lord. This was the high priest's badge of office, a very important part of his priestly insignia, the crown of holiness, Exodus 39:30.

v. 37. And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the miter; upon the forefront of the miter it shall be, held in place by a hyacinth-colored string.

v. 38. And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts. The main function of the high priest's office was to expiate sins, also such transgressions as were connected with the sacrifices of the people. And it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord. Even so the expiation made by our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, removes from us all transgressions, including even that guilt of weakness which is connected with our Christian profession and worship.

v. 39. And thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen, the tunic proper, of white byssus, reaching to the ankles; and thou shalt make the miter, the high turban or headdress, of fine linen, of byssus; and thou shalt make the girdle of needlework, woven out of the same precious materials from which the ephod was made.

v. 40. And for Aaron's sons, as members of the order of priests, thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, caps instead of the more elaborate turban of Aaron, for glory and for beauty, to signify both the great dignity and the peculiar excellence of Jehovah's worship. The garments of the ordinary priests were pure white with the exception of the girdle; for the color of purity was exceptionally appropriate in the case of the priests, who were continually engaged in making offerings in behalf of the people.

v. 41. And thou shalt put them upon Aaron, thy brother, and his sons with him, each one was to receive the garments intended for his special office; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, the application of oil signified the setting apart, the transmitting of the rights and duties, the inducting into office, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto Me in the priest's office.

v. 42. And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness, Cf Exodus 20:26; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach, for these parts must be kept covered on account of both natural or hereditary and acquired guilt. Not only every act of shamelessness, but even everything that called attention to sexual matters was to be avoided in the sanctuary.

v. 43. And they shall be upon Aaron and upon his sons when they come in unto the Tabernacle of the Congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the Holy Place, in their work of offering sacrifices, that they bear not iniquity, and die. It shall be a statute forever unto him and his seed after him. Cf Leviticus 8. All believers of the New Testament have the rank of priests before God, and their garments have been made white by the blood of the Lamb.

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Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Exodus 28". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/exodus-28.html. 1921-23.