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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 28

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary


III. Israel at Sinai ( XIX. XL.) .

The division Num 19– 40 presents difficulties due to its very importance, see introduction to Ex. (last paragraph). But Num 25– 31, 35– 40 readily fall apart from the rest, as containing P’ s account of the Tabernacle ( see on Exodus 25:1), the introduction to which is found in Exodus 19:1-2 a and Exodus 24:15 b Exodus 24:18 a, Exodus 34:29-35 being a link section. All critics confess that in the remainder many details must remain doubtful. The Oxf. Hex. is for the most part followed here. It does not differ very widely from Baentsch, who has made a special study of this part. Gressmann’ s drastic reconstruction is highly suggestive in particulars, but as a whole is over-bold. The noteworthy fact is that both J and E preserve important traditions. In each there is an older stratum preserving these elements of the national memory of the religious and political confederation of the tribes: an awful appearance of God upon Sinai-Horeb (Exodus 19 JE, Exodus 20:18-21 E), and the giving of a sacred code, the (Ten) Covenant Words, inscribed upon stone tablets ( Exodus 31:18 b E, Exodus 34:28 J) and sealed by a solemn sacrificial feast ( Exodus 24:5 E, Exodus 24:11 J). Now these passages concur in presenting a favourable view of Israel at this period: he is the son gratefully responding to the compassionate love of his Father ( cf. Exodus 4:22 *), or the lowly bride returning the affection of her Husband. And this agrees with the view of the period taken by all the pre-exilic prophets who refer to it (see Hosea 2:15; Hosea 11:1; Hosea 11:3 f., Hosea 12:9; Hosea 12:13, Amos 2:9-11; Amos 3:1 f., Jeremiah 2:1-3; Jeremiah 2:34). Even Ezekiel’ s severe view rather points to the ancestral heathenism of the tribes (Egyptian, Exodus 23:3, but Canaanite or Amorite-Hittite, Exodus 16:3) than to any apostasy just at this epoch. Only Hosea 9:11, if it refers to the incident Numbers 25:1-5 JE, implies such a lapse. On these grounds it is probable that Numbers 32 JE (the Golden Calf and its destruction E, and the vengeance of the Levites J), together with not a little expansion elsewhere, belongs to a later stage in the moulding of the tradition. The order of incidents is hard to follow, because the editor who united J and E, in his care to preserve as much as possible of both, took the story of the tablets in J as a re-giving and rewriting of them with a renewal of the broken covenant. Much of Numbers 33 containing the colloquies with the Divine Leader belongs to this stage. All this, of course, involves a considerable disturbance of the Bible order and representation in Ex., which, but for one section, is substantially followed by D. But the essence of the great religious facts is irrefragably secure: Israel did, by whatever stages short or long, emerge from a condition little removed from contemporary heathenism, and learned to worship one gracious and holy God (p. 84). Differences concern only the manner and form of events, and their times. Later historians have so accustomed us to having at least the main events fitted neatly into their centuries B.C. or A.D. that we find it hard to think that serious writers could be centuries out in their reckoning. But just as prophets saw future events near and distant in a foreshortened perspective, so it may be that the Bible historians— called “ the former prophets” (pp. 38, 244) by the Jews— saw their instances of the nation’ s glory and shame as more closely crowded together than they actually were. The main thing is that they actually saw them, and that, too, in the mirror of eternity.” Throughout the whole we see the material, as it were, in a plastic state. As older conceptions were outgrown new touches could modify the details, though, fortunately for our chances of recognising the earlier levels of inspiration, traces of the old were not always obliterated. Sometimes we must suppose that these modifications had already been made during the period of oral tradition.

Verses 1-43

Exodus 28. P ( Exodus 28:26-28; Exodus 28:41 later). Priestly Vestments.— After the sanctuary and its fittings have been ordered, the vestments for the priesthood come up for mention. For the strange story of the development of the priest-hood in Israel, see pp. 106f. Here we find, no doubt, a simple assumption that Aaron and his sons wore the same vestments as were worn by the Zadokite High Priest and his assistants in the Temple of Zerub- babel. Sir_45:9-22 ; Sir_50:1-21 are a complete proof that the splendour of the Temple ritual and its religious value were fully appreciated by the Hebrew sages, cultivated men of the world who cared deeply for religion as well as for morality. Of Aaron’ s four sons, Nadab and Abihu are named in Exodus 24:1; Exodus 24:9 J, and Eleazar in Deuteronomy 10:5 and Joshua 24:33 (both probably E).

Churches that have come to possess a distinctive dress for ministry could desire no happier phrase to describe them than “ holy garments . . . for glory and for beauty:” ( Exodus 28:2). And the need of the uplift of Divine inspiration, as distinct from mere business capacity, for the ecclesiastical craftsman is as fitly noted in 3. After a list of the vestments ( Exodus 28:4), their materials are specified ( Exodus 28:5), as Exodus 25:3 f.* The first garment described is the ephod ( see p. 101, cf. Exodus 39:2-7). The pouch (not as AV, “ breastplate” : it was a bag 7 inches square) was to sparkle with gems in four rows ( Exodus 28:17-20, cf. Revelation 21:19 f.), the stones being, according to the most probable identifications: (i.) cornelian or red jasper, chrysolite, rock-crystal; (ii.) red garnet, lapis lazuli, sardonyx (a stratified stone, red, whitish, and brown); (iii.) cairngorm, agate, amethyst; (iv.) yellow jasper, onyx (or beryl or malachite), green jasper. These were to be set in gold, and engraved with the names of the tribes ( Exodus 28:21). The fastenings of the pouch are described minutely ( Exodus 28:22-28), and it is explained that, as the names were upon the shoulder as marking Aaron’ s representative office, so they are to be on his heart to mark his personal remembrance of the tribes ( Exodus 28:29). It is the “ pouch of judgment,” because the Urim and Thummim (words of uncertain origin and meaning, pp. 100f.), i.e. the sacred lots ( 1 Samuel 14:41 *), were “ put into the pouch” ( Exodus 28:30). With Exodus 28:15-28; cf. Exodus 39:8-21. So the high priest represented man to God by the engraved stones, and God to man by the sacred lots. A long blue or violet robe is next specified ( Exodus 28:31-35; cf. Exodus 39:22-26) to be worn under the ephod, and made without sleeves or fastenings, but slipped over the head; adorned at the bottom with embroidered pomegranates (like a red orange) and golden bells. The meaning of either can only be guessed at. A gold plate, engraved with the words Holy to the Lord, was to be tied to the front of the turban with a violet ribbon, as marking the fitness of the high priest to atone for any unholiness of the people ( Exodus 28:36-38; cf. Exodus 39:30 f.). Besides, Aaron was to have a tunic, a tight-fitting sleeved garment like an alb or cassock, a linen turban, and a long embroidered sash ( Exodus 28:39), while his sons were to have tunics, sashes, and caps ( Exodus 28:40). The reference to the consecration of the priests is premature in Exodus 28:41 . The note about the linen drawers for the priests ( Exodus 28:42 f.) should obviously follow Exodus 28:40 . At a great Phrygian sanctuary the ordinary priests were in white with caps, and the high priest alone wore purple and had a golden tiara.

Observe that “ the holy place” in Exodus 28:43 is used in a wide sense to cover the court.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Exodus 28". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/exodus-28.html. 1919.
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