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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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The first bells known in history are those small golden bells which were attached to the lower part of the blue robe (the robe of the ephod) which formed part of the dress of the high-priest in his sacerdotal ministrations (Exodus 28:33-34; comp. Sirach 45:11). They were there placed alternately with the pomegranate-shaped knobs, one of these being between every two of the bells. The number of these bells is not mentioned in Scripture; but tradition states that there were sixty-six. We need not seek any other reason, for this rather singular use of bells than that which is assigned: 'His sound shall be heard when he goeth into the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not' (Exodus 28:35); by which we may understand that the sound of the bells manifested that he was properly arrayed in the robes of ceremony which he was required to wear when he entered the presence-chamber of the Great King; and that as no minister can enter the presence of an earthly potentate abruptly and unannounced, so he (whom no human being could introduce) was to have his entrance harbingered by the sound of the bells he wore. This sound, heard outside, also notified to the people the time in which he was engaged in his sacred ministrations, and during which they remained in prayer (Luke 1:9-10).

'Bells of the Horses' are mentioned in Zechariah 14:20, which were probably such as were hung to the bridles or foreheads, or to belts around the necks, of horses trained for war, that they might thereby be accustomed to noise and tumult, and not by their alarm expose the riders to danger in actual warfare. We incline to think, however, that the use of horse-bells with which the Jews were most familiar, and which the prophet, had in view, was that which at present exists in the East, and in other countries where carriage by pack-horses and mules is common. The laden animals, being without riders, have bells hung from their necks, that they may be kept together, in traversing by night the open plains and deserts, by paths and roads unconfined by fences or boundaries; that they may be cheered by the sound of the bells; and that if any horse strays, its place may be known by the sound of its bell, while the general sound from the caravan enables the traveler who has strayed or lingered, to find and regain his party, even in the night.

That the same motto, Holiness to the Lord, which was upon the miter of the high-priest, should, in the happy days foretold by the prophet, be inscribed even upon the bells of the horses, manifestly signifies that all things, from the highest to the lowest, should in those days be sanctified to God.

It is remarkable that there is no appearance of bells of any kind in the Egyptian monuments.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Bell'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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Sunday, October 25th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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