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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 28

Introduction

A.M. 2513. B.C. 1491.

In this and the following chapter care is taken about the priests that were to minister in this holy place. In this chapter,

( 1,) God pitcheth upon the persons who should be his servants, Exodus 28:1 .

(2,) He appoints their livery; their work was holy, and so must their garments be, and answerable to the glory of the house which was now to be erected, Exodus 28:2-5 . Exodus 28:1 , He appoints the garments of his head-servant, the high-priest, First, An ephod and girdle, Exodus 28:6-14 ; second, A breastplate of judgment, Exodus 28:15-29 , in which must be put the Urim and Thummim, Exodus 28:30 ; third, The robe of the ephod, Exodus 28:31-35 ; fourth, The mitre, Exodus 28:36-39 . Exodus 28:2 , The garments of the inferior priests, Exodus 28:40-43 .

Verse 1

Exodus 28:1. Aaron and his sons Hitherto every master of a family was priest to his own family. But now, as the families of Israel began to be incorporated into a nation, and a tabernacle of the congregation was to be erected, as a visible centre of their unity, it was requisite there should be a public priesthood instituted. Moses, who had hitherto officiated, and is therefore reckoned among the priests of the Lord, (Psalms 99:6,) had enough to do as their prophet, to consult the oracle for them, and as their prince, to judge among them. Nor was he desirous to engross all the honours to himself, or to entail that of the priesthood, which alone was hereditary, upon his own family; but was very well pleased to see his brother Aaron invested with this office, and his sons after him; while (how great soever he himself was) his sons after him would be but common Levites. It is an instance of the humility of that great man, and an evidence of his sincere regard to the glory of God, that he had so little regard to the preferment of his own family. Aaron, that had humbly served as a prophet to his younger brother Moses, and did not decline the office, is now advanced to be a priest to God. God had said to Israel in general, that they should be to him a kingdom of priests; but because it was requisite that those who ministered at the altar should give themselves wholly to the service of God, he had chosen from among them one to be a family of priests, the father and his four sons; and from Aaron’s loins descended all the priests of the Jewish Church, whom we read of both in the Old Testament and in the New.

Verse 2

Exodus 28:2. The priests’ garments were made for glory and beauty Some of the richest materials were to be provided, and the best artists employed in making them, whose skill God, by a special gift, would improve to a very high degree. Eminence, even in common arts, is a gift of God; it comes from him, and ought to be used for him. The garments appointed were, 1st, Four, which both the high-priest and the inferior priest wore, namely, the linen breeches, the linen coat, the linen girdle, which fastened it to them, and the bonnet: that which the high-priest wore was called a mitre. 2d, Four more, which were peculiar to the high-priest, the ephod, with the curious girdle of it, the breast-plate of judgment, the long robe, and the golden plate on his forehead. These glorious garments were appointed, 1st, That the priests themselves might be reminded of the dignity of their office. 2d, That the people might thereby be possessed with a holy reverence for that God whose ministers appeared in such grandeur.

3d, That the priests might be types of Christ, and of all Christians who have the beauty of holiness put upon them.

Verse 6

Exodus 28:6. They shall make the ephod of gold This was the outmost garment of the high-priest. Linen ephods were worn by the inferior priests; but this which the high-priest wore was called a golden ephod, because there was a great deal of gold woven into it. It was a short linen coat without sleeves, of various colours, which hung behind upon the back and shoulders, and came down before upon the breast. The shoulder pieces were buttoned together with two onyx-stones, set in gold, one on each shoulder. And on these two onyx-stones were engraven the names of the twelve sons of Israel, six on each stone, according to their seniority, that the high-priest might bear their names before the Lord in his ministrations, in token of his appearing before God as their representative, and for a memorial, that he might both remember to plead their cause as their advocate, and also might put the Lord in remembrance, so to speak, of his promises to them, Isaiah 9:6. A similar reason is given, (Exodus 28:29,) for his wearing the breast-plate. Le Clerc gives it as his opinion, that these names upon the two precious stones signified further, 1st, The union of all the tribes in one commonwealth; 2d, Their union in one religion and priesthood; and, 3d, That the care of the public religion rested, as it were, upon the high-priest, and was, of all concerns, to be next his heart. According to our translation, and as most interpreters have understood the expression, the ephod was girt on with a girdle over the breast, dyed, embroidered, and interwoven with gold, like the other parts of the ephod.

Thus Christ appeared to John, girt about the paps with a golden girdle, Revelation 1:13. Righteousness was the girdle of his loins. He was girt with strength for the work of our salvation, and was clad with zeal as with a cloak. The government also is upon his shoulders, and he ever liveth to make intercession for his people, bearing their names before God, as a memorial, not engraven on stones of onyx, but in characters of unspeakable and everlasting love upon his heart. Hence, as their representative and advocate, he interposes in their behalf, prevalently pleads their cause, and will present them to himself and to his Father, a glorious church, (Ephesians 5:27,) without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.

Verse 11

Exodus 28:11. Ouches Hollow places, such as are made in gold rings, to receive and hold the precious stones.

Verse 15

Exodus 28:15. The breast-plate of judgment The most considerable of the ornaments of the high-priest was this breast-plate, termed the breast-plate of judgment, because the high-priest wore it upon his breast when he went to ask counsel or judgment of God. The Seventy render the word λογειον , oracle, because hereby the Lord gave answers to the inquiries made by the high-priest in behalf of Israel. It was a rich piece of cloth, curiously wrought with gold and purple, four-square, that is, nine inches long being doubled, and a span broad. The reason of its being doubled was probably for the greater strength and convenience, as it was to hold the weight of twelve precious stones, with the names of the twelve tribes engraven upon them. Some question whether Levi had a precious stone with his name on it or not; if not, Ephraim and Manasseh were reckoned distinct, as Jacob had said they should be, and the high-priest himself being head of the tribe of Levi, sufficiently represented that tribe. Aaron was to bear their names for a memorial before the Lord continually, being ordained for men, to represent them in things pertaining to God; herein typifying our great High- Priest, who always appears in the presence of God for us. The name of each tribe was engraven in a precious stone, to signify how precious in God’s sight believers are, and how honourable, Isaiah 43:4. The high- priest had the names of the tribes both on his shoulders and on his breast, denoting both the power and the love with which our Lord Jesus intercedes for us. How near should Christ’s name lie to our hearts, since he is pleased to lay our names so near his! And what a comfort is it to us, in all our addresses to God, that the great High-Priest of our profession has the names of all his Israel upon his breast before the Lord, for a memorial, presenting them to God!

Verse 30

Exodus 28:30. The Urim and Thummim By which the will of God was made known in doubtful cases, was put in this breast-plate, which is therefore called the breast-plate of judgment. Urim and Thummim signify light and integrity, or lights and perfections: many conjectures there are among the learned what they were: we have no reason to think they were any thing that Moses was to make, more than what was before ordered; so that either God made them himself, and gave them to Moses, for him to put into the breast-plate when other things were prepared; or, as is most probable, no more is meant but a declaration of the further use of what was already ordered to be made. The words may be read thus: And thou shalt give, or add, to the breast-plate of judgment, the illuminations and perfections, and they shall be upon the heart of Aaron That is, he shall be endued with a power of knowing and making known the mind of God in all difficult cases, relative either to the civil or ecclesiastical state. Their government was a theocracy; God was their king, the high-priest was, under God, their ruler, this Urim and Thummim were his cabinet council: probably Moses wrote upon the breast-plate, or wove into it, these words, Urim and Thummim, to signify that the high-priest, having on him this breast-plate, and asking counsel of God in any emergency, should be directed to those measures which God would own. If he were standing before the ark, probably he received instructions from off the mercy-seat, as Moses did, Exodus 25:22. If he were at a distance from the ark, as Abiathar was when he inquired of the Lord for David, (1 Samuel 23:6,) then the answer was given either by a voice from heaven, or by an impulse upon the mind of the high-priest, which last is perhaps intimated in that expression, He shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart. This oracle was of great use to Israel. Joshua consulted it, (Numbers 27:21,) and it is likely, the judges after him. It was lost in the captivity, and never retrieved after. Indeed, according to the Jewish doctors, as Calmet observes, the custom of consulting God by Urim and Thummim continued no longer than under the tabernacle; for under the first temple, they say, (the temple of Solomon,) God spake by the prophets, and under the second temple, or after the captivity of Babylon, by bath koll, or the daughter of the voice, by which they mean a voice sent from heaven, as that which was heard at the baptism of Christ, at his transfiguration, and that mentioned John 12:28.

This Urim and Thummim, whatever they were, and in whatever way the will of God was made known by them, were no more than a shadow of good things to come, and the substance is Christ. He is our oracle; by him God in these last days makes known himself and his mind to us. Divine revelation centres in him, and comes to us through him; he is the light, the true light, the faithful witness; and from him we receive the Spirit of truth, who leads us into all truth. The joining of the breast-plate to the ephod signifies, that his prophetical office was founded on his priesthood; and it was by the merit of his death that he purchased this honour for himself, and this favour for us. It was the Lamb that had been slain that was worthy to take the book, and to open the seals, Revelation 5:9.

Verse 31

Exodus 28:31. The robe of the ephod This was next under the ephod, and reached down to the knees, without sleeves, and was put on over the head, having holes on the sides to put the arms through, or, as Maimonides describes it, was not sewed together on the sides at all. The hole on the top, through which the head was put, was carefully bound about that it might not tear in the putting on. The bells gave notice to the people in the outer court when he went into the holy place to burn incense, that they might then apply themselves to their devotions at the same time, (Luke 1:10,) in token of their concurrence with him, and their hopes of the ascent of their prayers to God in the virtue of the incense he offered. Aaron must come near to minister in the garments that were appointed him, that he die not. It is at his peril if he attend otherwise than according to the institution.

Verses 32-33

Exodus 28:32-33. An habergeon A coat of armour. Pomegranates The figures of pomegranates, but flat and embroidered.

Verse 36

Exodus 28:36. On the golden plate fixed upon Aaron’s forehead, like a half coronet, reaching, as the Jews say, from ear to ear, must be engraved, Holiness to the Lord Aaron must hereby be reminded, that God is holy, and that his priests must be holy. The high-priest must be consecrated to God, and so must all his ministrations. All that attend in God’s house must have holiness to the Lord engraven upon their foreheads, that is, they must be holy, devoted to the Lord, and designing his glory in all they do. This must appear in their forehead, in an open profession of their relation to God, as those that are not ashamed to own it, and in a conversation answerable to it. It must likewise be engraven like the engravings of a signet, so deep, so durable; not painted, so as it may be washed off, but sincere and lasting.

Verse 38

Exodus 28:38. Aaron must have this upon his forehead, that he may bear the iniquity of the holy things, and that they may be accepted before the Lord Herein he was a type of Christ, the great Mediator between God and man. Through him, what is amiss in our services, is pardoned: even this would be our ruin, if God should enter into judgment with us: but Christ, our High-Priest, bears this iniquity; bears it for us, so as to bear it from us. Through him, likewise, what is good is accepted; our persons, our performances, are pleasing to God upon the account of Christ’s intercession, and not otherwise. His being holiness to the Lord, recommends all those to the divine favour that believe in him. Having such a High-Priest, we come boldly to the throne of grace.

Verse 39

Exodus 28:39. The embroidered coat of fine linen Was the innermost of the priestly garments, it reached to the feet, and the sleeves to the wrists, and was bound to the body with a girdle or sash of needle-work. The mitre or diadem was of linen, such as kings anciently wore in the East, typifying the kingly office of Christ.

Verse 41

Exodus 28:41. And shalt anoint them He anointed Aaron by pouring the holy oil upon his head, Leviticus 8:12; but his sons only by sprinkling some of it upon their garments, as he did upon Aaron’s also, together with some blood of the sacrifice, Exodus 29:21; Leviticus 8:30. And consecrate them In the Hebrew it is, Thou shalt fill their hands; alluding, probably, to the ceremony of putting into their hands the ensigns of their office, or to that of putting the wave-offering into their hands, that they might wave it before the Lord, Exodus 29:24; Leviticus 8:27.

Verse 43

Exodus 28:43. It shall be a statute for ever That is, it is to continue as long as the priesthood continues. And it is to have its perpetuity in the substance of which these things were the shadow.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 28". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/exodus-28.html. 1857.