Exodus 28



v. 1 – “And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him,

from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s

office” - Literally, “Make to draw near to thee.” Moses had hitherto been of all the

people the one nearest to God, the medium of communication. He was now to

abdicate a portion of his functions, transferring them to his brother and his brother’s

sons. By this act he would draw them nearer to him than they were before. It is

worthy of remark that he makes no remonstrance or opposition, (no jealousy) but

carries out God’s will in this matter as readily and willingly as in all others. (See

Leviticus 8:4-30)  -even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar,

Aaron’s sons.” Nadab and Abihu, and again, Eleazar and Ithamar, are always

coupled together in the Pentateuch (ch. 24:1; Leviticus 10:1,12), while a marked

division is made between the two pairs of brothers. It is probably the sin and early

death of the two elder (Leviticus 10:1-2) that causes the separation.



                                    THE HOLY GARMENTS (vs. 2-43)


The special object of the present chapter is to prescribe the form, materials, color,

etc., of the holy garments — or the attire of those who were to minister in the

tabernacle at the time of their ministration. As the service of the tabernacle was about

to be committed to Aaron and his sons, their selection for this office is mentioned in

v. 1, and their investiture and consecration briefly touched in v. 41. Otherwise the

whole chapter is concerned with the attire.  That of Aaron is first prescribed (vs. 4-39).

It consists of an ephod (vs. 6-12); a breastplate (vs. 13-30); a robe (vs. 31-35); a mitre

(vs. 36-38); a coat, or tunic; and a girdle (ver. 39). The dress of his sons follows. It

comprises drawers (v. 42), tunics, girdles, and caps or turbans (v. 40).  Incidentally it

is mentioned in v. 43, that drawers are also to be worn by Aaron; and, in conclusion,

the neglect of this ordinance in the case of either Aaron or his sons is forbidden under

penalty of death.


vs. 2-4 – “And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory

and for beauty” - “For glory.” To exalt the priestly office in the eyes of the people

- to make them look with greater reverence on the priests themselves and the

priestly functions — to place the priests in a class by themselves, in a certain sense,

above the rest of the nation. “For beauty.” As fit and comely in themselves — suitable

to the functions which the priests exercised — in harmony with the richness and

beauty of the sanctuary wherein they were to minister. God, Himself, it would seem,

is not indifferent to beauty. He has spread beauty over the earth, He will have beauty

in His earthly dwelling-place. He requires men to worship Him “in the beauty of

holiness (Psalm 29:2; 96:9; I Chronicles 16:29). He ordains for His priests rich and

splendid dresses “for glory and for beauty.” “And thou shalt speak unto all that

are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom” - Wise-hearted.

In modern parlance the heart is made the seat of the affections and emotions, the

brain of the intellect. But the Hebrew idiom was different. There the heart was

constantly spoken of as the seat of wisdom. (See below, chps. 31:6; 35:10, 25;

36:1-2; Job 9:4; Proverbs 11:29) The spirit of wisdom might seem to be

scarcely necessary for the work of constructing a set of priestly garments; but

where “glory and beauty” are required, high artistic power is needed; and

this power is regarded by the sacred writers, as indeed it is by most of those who

have written on the human understanding — notably Plato and Aristotle — as a

very important part of the intellect – “that they may make Aaron’s garments

to consecrate him, (Investure in the holy garments was made a part of the

ceremony of consecration (ch. 29:5-9; Leviticus 8:7-9, 13) - that he may

minister  unto me in the priest’s office.  And these are the garments which

they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered

coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy

brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.”



                        THE GLORY OF THE HOLY GARMENTS


“Holy garments” — garments appropriated to the service of God in His

sanctuary — will always be “glorious,” however simple they are:


  • As the dress of office for those whose office is of an exalted and

            glorious character, who are “ambassadors for God,” and “stewards of

            His mysteries.”


  • As associated with rites, which show forth, and help forward, the

            glorious work of redemption: and


  • As typical of the glorious robes which will be worn by the saints in

            heaven. The garments assigned by the will of God to the Levitical

            priesthood were, further, glorious in themselves, i.e., splendid,

            magnificent, of rich and beautiful materials. They thus harmonized with

            the richness and magnificence of the tabernacle, and afterwards of the temple,

            and taught the people, by the eye, that whatever is rich and rare should be

            devoted to the service of God. But the highest glory of holy garments is to be       

            found in those “robes of righteousness,” which the set apparel of priests is          

            intended to suggest and signify (Psalm 132:9; Isaiah 61:10). The white linen

            of priestly robes tells of purity and innocence — gold and jewels, of

            precious gifts and graces — azure, the hue of heaven, speaks of heavenly

            thoughts and aspirations — the scarlet and the purple are signs of the

            martyr spirit, which is willing to “resist unto blood” (Hebrews 12:4). If

            the priest or the Levite have no other adorning but that of the outward

            apparel, if they are not “clothed with the garments of salvation” (Isaiah

            1.s.c.), and robed with righteousness, “holy garments’’ will little avail

            either themselves, or those to whom they minister. The “marriage

            garment – (Matthew 22:11-12) required of each Christian in Holy

            Scripture is purity of life and conduct; and certainly without this, “holy     

            garments are vain, and lose both their “glory” and their “beauty.”





v. 5 – “And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine




                                                THE EPHOD  (vs. 6-12)


vs. 6-12 – “And they shall make the ephod (a sort of waistcoat) of gold, of blue,

and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work. (Literally,

work of skilled workmen”) - It shall have the two shoulder-pieces thereof joined

at the two edges thereof; and so it shall be joined together.   And the curious

girdle of the ephod, which is upon it, shall be of the same, according to the work

thereof; even of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen.

And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the

children of Israel:  Six of their names on one stone, and the other six names of

the rest on the other stone, according to their birth.  With the work of an

engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, shalt thou engrave the two

stones with the names of the children of Israel: thou shalt make them to be

set in ouches of gold.  (Settings in open-work or filagree seem to be intended —

a kind of setting which is very common in Egyptian ornaments) - 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.” Rather for the children of Israel

stones, i.e. which should serve to remind God that the high priest represented the

twelve tribes, officiated in their name, and pleaded on their behalf.





The ephod was, par excellence, the priestly garment. When idolatrous rites

grew up in Palestine, which sheltered themselves under the pretence of

being modifications, or adaptations, of the Sinaitic religion, an ephod was

always retained, and made a prominent feature in the new form of worship

(Judges 8:27; 17:5; 18:14). The ephod came to be worn by all Israelitish

priests (I Samuel 22:18; Hosea 3:4), and even by laymen when engaged in

sacred functions (II Samuel 6:14; I Chronicles 15:27). Its materials and

workmanship united it pointedly with the tabernacle (ch. 26:1), and especially

with the holy of holies (ibid. v. 31). It may be considered:



            pieces of the ephod were to be “joined together” (v. 7). The “curious

            girdle” was to be of one piece with it (v. 8). Though formed of various

            parts, it was to be one single indivisible garment, united both above and

            below, and always worn in its entirety. The seamless robe of our Blessed

            Saviour is generally allowed to prefigure His one Church. The ephod as

            worn, was, perhaps, not seamless; but still it was “woven of one piece,”

            and so far resembled the Lord’s garment.



            WITHIN THE CHURCH. The blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen,

            and gold, and gems of the ephod gave it a variety and a beauty which made

            it the most glorious of all the priestly vestments. Variety has a charm of its

            own, and is a mark of the Church, in which there is such vast “diversity of

            gifts,” though there is but one spirit. Gold is especially appropriate for the

            dignity of those whom God has made “both priests and kings.”  -

            (Revelation 1:6) -  “The king’s daughter is all glorious within; her

            clothing is of wrought gold” (Psalm 45:13). Purple, too, is an imperial

            color, and suits those who shall “reign with Christ for ever”

            (Revelation 22:5)




            The onyx, or sardonyx stones, with the twelve names engraved

            upon them, completed the representative character of the ephod, and

            showed clearly that the high priest, when, thus attired, he entered the

            sanctuary, presented before God the Church whereof he was the head, as

            freed from sin by the expiation which he had made at the altar before

            entering, and made meet for the presence of the Most High. And this

            presentation was, we are distinctly told (Hebrews 9:9-12; 10:19-22), a

            type or figure of that far more precious one, which Christ is ever making

            before his Father’s throne in heaven, where he presents to him his Church,

            a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but

            holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27), washed in His blood,

            redeemed by His death, sanctified by His in-dwelling. Christ can and will purge   

            His elect from all sin (I John 1:7); Christ can and will present them pure

            before God. He has His “sealed” ones of all the twelve tribes

            (Revelation 7:4-8); and, besides these, He has others who are equally

            His — “a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations,

            and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues” (ibid, 9) - who “have washed their     

            robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (ibid, 14), and whom

            He will “present faultless” to His Father.  (Jude 1:24)



                                    THE BREAST PLATE (vs. 13-30)


It has been noticed that the ephod had for its main object or purpose to be a receptacle

for the breastplate which was attached to it after it had been put on, and formed its

principal ornament. The Hebrew word khoshen, which is translated “breast-plate,”

means “ornament;” and the khoshen must certainly have been the most striking and

brilliant object in the whole attire of the high priest. Externally, it did but repeat the

symbolism of the ephod, exhibiting the high priest as the representative of the twelve

tribes, whose names were engraved upon its twelve stones, as well as upon the onyxes

of the ephod.  Internally, it had, however, another, and a deeper import. It contained

within it the Urim and the Thummim (v. 30), by means of which God was consulted,

and signified His will to His people. This must be regarded as its main end and use.

It was from the decisions thus given that it received the name of “the breastplate

 (or ornament) of judgment.”


vs. 13-30 – “And thou shalt make ouches” - “Buttons” according to one view (Cook):

sockets,” according to another (Kalisch): “rosettes,” according to a third (Keil).  Some

small ornament of open-work (see the comment on ver. 11), which could be sewn on to

the ephod, and whereto a chain might be attached, seems to be intended. The object

was to fasten the “breast-plate” firmly to the ephod – “of gold.  And two chains of

pure gold at the ends; of wreathen work shalt thou make them, and fasten the

wreathen chains to the ouches.  And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment

with cunning work; 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.

Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a

span shall be the breadth thereof.  And thou shalt set in it settings of stones,

even four rows of stones:  the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a

carbuncle: this shall be the first row.  And the second row shall be an emerald,

a sapphire, and a diamond.  And the third row a ligure” – The term “ligure” is

unknown in modern mineralogy; and it is to the last degree uncertain what stone the

ancients intended by their lingurium or lapis ligurius Some think that “jacinth,”

others that “tourmaline,” is the stone here meant. A few suggest amber, but amber

cannot receive an engraving – “an agate, and an  amethyst.  And the fourth row a

beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings.

(Rather their “settings”)   And the stones shall be with the names of the children

of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet;

every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes.   And thou

shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen work of pure

gold.   And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and

shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate.  And thou shalt put

the two wreathen chains of gold in the two rings which are on the ends of the

breastplate.  And the other two ends of the two wreathen chains thou shalt

fasten in the two ouches, and put them on the shoulderpieces of the ephod

before it.  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.  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.   And they shall bind the breastplate by the rings thereof unto the

rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it may be above the curious girdle

of the ephod, and that the breastplate be not loosed from the ephod.  And

Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of

judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial

before the LORD continually.  And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment

the Urim and the Thummim; 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.”



                        THE TEACHINGS OF THE BREAST-PLATE


The breast-plate of judgment has many aspects, and teaches us several

important truths:




            Israel are represented by gems — gems of the most precious kinds known

            to, and workable by the engravers of the day — sard, and onyx, and

            carbuncle, and lapis lazuli, and chrysolite, and perhaps turquoise. We are

            reminded by this of the saying of the Lord recorded by the prophet Malachi

            -“They (that fear me) shall be mine in that day when I make up my         

            jewels (Malachi 3:17).  His own elect are the “jewels” of Christ,

            wherewith He decks Himself as a bridegroom with His ornaments (Isaiah

            61:10). As Israel was of old, not only His “special people,” but His

            peculiar treasure” (ch. 19:5), so are Christians now — each one of them

            dear to Him; each one of them purchased with His blood; each one of them

            a stone in that glorious temple whereof He is the chief corner stone — a

            white stone,” having on it “a new name written” (Revelation 2:17; 3:12).


  • THE VARIETY IN THEIR GIFTS. Each stone in the breast-plate was

            different from all the rest — each had its own peculiar beauty. One was

            more brilliant, one more lovely in its hue, one more curious from its

            complexity. Yet the breast-plate needed all, would not have been perfect

            without all. None could say to its neighbor — “I have no need of thee.”

            (I Corinthians 12:21) - Contrast with its neighbors heightened the effect

            of each and so added to its beauty. It is the same with Christ’s “jewels”

            no two are alike — each has his own peculiar characteristics, his

            idiosyncrasy. And the crown in which the jewels are set is rendered more  

            beautiful than it would otherwise have been by this diversity and variety.

            An endless repetition of even that which is most lovely, pails. Of the

            thousands upon thousands whom Christ has saved and will save, no two

            but will be different; no one but will add somewhat to the majesty and beauty

            of the Church in heaven by its peculiar and distinctive character.



            KNOWLEDGE. It was not from its external beauty — from the gold and

            purple, and scarlet, and blue, and fine linen of its main fabric, or from its

            ouches and its golden chains of wreathed work; or even from the dazzling

            brilliancy and varied hues of its twelve gems — that the breast-plate of the

            high priest drew either its main value or its honorable title. It was “the

            breast-plate of judgment;” and this “judgment” was wholly unconnected

            with the external beauty and gorgeous appearance of the breast-plate.

            Hidden away in the treasury of its innermost folds lay the mysterious

            objects, known as “light” and “perfection,” by means of which the priest

            pronounced his “judgments,” and declared the will of God to the people.

            These constituted the true glory of the breastplate. While the twelve stones

            symbolised the twelve tribes, with their varied gifts and faculties

            (Genesis 49:3-27; Deuteronomy 33:6-25), the Urim and the

            Thummim symbolised light and perfection — intellectual and moral

            excellence — those best gifts of wisdom and moral knowledge which are

            the crowning graces of the regenerate human being (Ephesians 1:8, 17;

                        Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9-10).



      FOR DECISION. Though the Christian Church does not enjoy, any more

            than did the post-captivity Jewish Church (Ezra 2:63), the advantage of

            oracular responses from on high, though our High Priest is gone before us

            into the holiest, and has taken with Him the light and perfection, which are

            His alone, yet it is still possible to refer doubts to God, and so obtain light

            enough to serve as a guide to conduct. If we take our difficulties to God on

            our knees, and ask His counsel upon them in a faithful spirit, we have FULL

            REASON to trust that we shall receive illumination from Him. What

            after prayerful communion with God appears to us the best course to take,

            we may accept as His decision, His voice speaking to us. How consoling and

            encouraging the thought that we can, each one for himself, in the solitude

            of our chambers cast the burden of our cares upon One who is perfectly

            good and perfectly wise, and who has promised to be our guide unto

            death!  (Psalm 48:14)



                        THE ROBE OF THE EPHOD – (vs. 31-35)


Underneath the ephod and breast-plate the high priest was to wear a robe, or frock,

wholly of blue.  This robe was to have a hole for the head at the top, and was to be

woven without seam (ch. 39:22). It was put on over the head, like a habergeon or

coat of mail, and probably reached below the knee. Josephus says that it had no



vs. 31-35 – “And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue.  And there

shall be an hole in the top of it, in the midst thereof: it shall have a binding of

woven work round about the hole of it, as it were the hole of an habergeon,

that it be not rent.  And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make

pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem

thereof; and bells of gold between them round about:   A golden bell and a

pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe

round about.  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.”  These bells were a call to vigilance and attention -

his sound shall be heard” or “that its sound may be heard.”  The bells were a means

of uniting priest and people in one common service — they enabled the people to

enter into and second what the priest was doing for them, and so to render his

mediation efficacious — they made the people’s worship in the court of the

sanctuary a “reasonable service.”  (Romans 112:1-2)  And hence the threat,

which certainly does not extend to all the priestly garments, implied in the words,

that he die not.”  If the high priest neglected to wear the robe with the bells, he

separated himself off from the people; made himself their substitute and not their

mouthpiece; reduced their worship to a drear formality; deprived it of all heartiness

and life and vigor. For thus abusing his office, he would deserve death, especially as

he could not do it unwittingly, for his ears would tell him whether he was wearing

the bells or not.  (What a grave responsibility!  I have heard it said that a rope was

drawn around the priest’s waist so that if he died in performing his work, he could

be safely pulled out without further loss of life – CY – 2010)



                        THE TEACHINGS OF THE ROBE



            be of one hue — uniform, peaceful; without glitter; something on which

            the eye could rest itself with a quiet satisfaction. And it was to be “blue” -

            the color of heaven, the hue which God has spread over “that spacious

            firmament on high,” which in His word represents to us His dwelling. “The

            blue sky is an image of purity.” Nothing purer, nothing calmer, nothing

            more restful, than the deep soft azure of the eternal unchanging sky. The

            high priest’s robe was to mirror it. He was to present himself before God in

            a robe “all of blue.” So let us present ourselves before Him arrayed in purity

            and peacefulness.


  • THE NEED OF UNITY. If the ephod was to some extent emblematic

            of the oneness of the Church, so, and much more, was “the robe of the

            ephod.” It was of woven work (ch. 39:22), absolutely seamless —

            one, emphatically, in material, in hue, in texture. So Christ prayed that His

            Church might be one — “as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that

            they also may be one in us — one, even as we are one; I in them, and

            thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:21-23).

            Visible unity is broken up; but something of invisible unity there may still be,

            if all true lovers of Christ will cultivate the spirit of unity; judge charitably;

            think the best they can of all branches of the Church; look to the good points

            of each; pray for their advance in holiness and in the knowledge of Christ;

            work with them so far as they can — e.g., for charitable and moral objects,

            amicably. If we thus act, if we be thus minded, we shall, in a true sense, put

            on “the robe of the ephod” — we shall be promoters, and not hinderers, of





            The bells of the robe were to advertise the people of every movement made

            by the high priest, and enable them to take their part in his actions. To

            profit by the contrivance, they had to keep their ears attent to the sound,

            and their minds fixed on the service which was in progress within the

            sanctuary. We Christians have equal need to mount up in thought

            continually to that holy place, whither Christ has taken our nature, and set

            it down at the right hand of God — to join with Him as He pleads His

            meritorious sacrifice on our behalf; to “have boldness” with Him “to enter

            into the holiest;”  (Hebrews 10:19) with Him to ask the Father to pardon

            our sins; with Him to intercede for the whole Church; with Him to pray that          

            strength may be given us to persevere. We do not, indeed, need bells to tell

            us how He is employed at each successive moment, because He is always

            doing all these things for us — always interceding, always pleading His

            sacrifice, always beseeching His Father to forgive us and sustain us.

            “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come

            unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them”

            (Hebrews 7:25) -  We may join Him in these acts at any moment. Thus,

            bells are not necessary for us; but still they may sometimes help us. Many an          

            Israelite, whose thoughts wandered and became fixed on worldly things,

            when no sound issued from the sanctuary, was recalled to a sense of religion,

            and the recollection of his soul’s needs, by the tinkling of the priest’s golden

            bells. So Christians, who ought in heart and mind ever to ascend to where

            Christ sits at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1-3; Ephesians 2:6, ), but

            whose attention will wander to earth and earthly objects, may sometimes by

            the chime of bells, or by their solemn toll, be woke up to higher thoughts, —         

            recalled, as it were, from earth to heaven, taken back from the vain distractions

            of the world to that holy place where their High Priest is ever interceding for




                                                THE MITRE (vs. 36-38)



Josephus tells us that the head-dress of the high priest was “not a conical cap, but a

sort of crown, made of thick linen swathes” (Ant. Jud. 3:7, § 3). It was thus really a

species of turban. The color was white; and the only ornament on it was the gold plate,

with its blue ribbon or fillet.


vs. 36-38 – “And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like

mere ornament of the mitre, was, at once, its most conspicuous and its most

significant feature. Placed directly in front, right over the forehead, and probably of

burnished gold, it would attract universal attention, and catch the eye even more than

the breast-plate. Its position made it “the culminating point of the whole priestly attire”

(Kalisch) — and its inscription gave to that position extraordinary force and

significance. For it taught that “holiness to the Lord” is the very highest crown and

truest excellence of religion — that to which all ceremonial is meant to conduce

that without which all the paraphernalia of worship must ever be in God’s sight a

mockery. It set this truth conspicuously before the eyes, and was apt to impress it

upon the hearts of all. It taught the high priest himself not to rest upon outward forms,

but to aim in his own person, and teach the people to aim continually, at internal

holiness. The extreme importance of this, causes the putting forward at once of the

plate and its inscription before any account of the “mitre” is given.  “And thou shalt

put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre” – that it may be kept in place,

and not slip from its position on the mitre – “upon the forefront of the mitre it shall

be.   And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity

of the holy things” -  Imperfection attaches to everything that man does; and even

the sacrifices that the people offered to God required to be atoned for and purified.

It was granted to the high priest in his official capacity to make the necessary

atonement, and so render the people’s gifts acceptable. For this purpose he was

invested with an official holiness, proclaimed by the inscription upon the plate,

which exhibited him as the type and representative of that perfectly Holy One,

through whom alone can any real atonement be made to the Father – “which the

children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always

upon his forehead” – whenever he ministers -  “that they may be accepted

before the LORD.”



                        THE TEACHINGS OF THE MITRE


The main lesson taught by all the priestly garments is intensified in the mitre, namely,

the need of holiness. “Without holiness no one shall see God” (Hebrews 12:14) –

“Holiness becometh thine house for ever.” (Psalm 93:5) - The high priest was to be:


  • HOLY, OFFICIALLY. By his birth, of Levi and Aaron — by his

            bringing up — by his consecration — by his investiture — by his

            representative position as priestly head of his nation and type of Christ —

            he was set apart from all others, dedicated to holy employments, assigned a

            holy character. Of these things he could not dispossess himself.


  • HOLY, PERSONALLY. To wear holy garments, to be employed

            about holy things, and yet to be impure in heart and life, is to be a “whited

            sepulchre,” beautiful outwardly, but “within full of dead men’s bones and

            of all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). Nothing can be a greater offence to

            God.  A high priest, with “holiness to the Lord” written upon his brow, and

            unholiness working in his brain and nestling in his heart, was a moral

            contradiction, a paradox, a monstrosity. Such there may have been, and

            their official acts for the benefit of others God may have accepted and

            allowed, since otherwise the innocent would have suffered for the guilty;

            but their hatefulness in His sight must have been great, and their punishment

            will be proportionate. We may believe that such cases were few. Not many

            men can bear to be hypocrites. The holy attire, the holy offices, the

            profession of holiness upon the brow, must have helped to make the great

            majority holy, or at least harmless, in life — true “examples to the flock”

            (I Peter 5:3) — holy, not merely officially, but personally.


  • A CAUSE OF HOLINESS IS OTHERS. The high priest, as the

            religious leader of the nation, had to help forward holiness in every

            possible way:


ü      Ceremonially, by his official actions;

ü      Ministerially, by teachings and exhortations;

ü      Individually, by the force of example.


            It was his mission to make the people “accepted before the Lord.” The

            mediation which he offered not only purified from legal defilements, but,

            by virtue of his typical character, purged the conscience and cleansed the

            soul from sin. His exhortations and example had the natural force of one in

            authority, and must have been potent at all times. It was at his peril if he

            took life too easily, and rebuked sin too mildly, and was not “a faithful

            priest,” as appears from the history of Eli (I Samuel 2:22-36; 3:13;

            4:11-15). Unfaithful priests are, in truth, an abomination, and have need to

            tremble at the “terrors of the Lord.” Those who have undertaken a holy

            office are doubly bound to holiness. If men “corrupt the covenant of Levi,”

            God will “send a curse upon them, and curse their blessings” (Malachi

            2:2, 8),



                        THE TUNIC AND THE GIRDLE (v. 39)


From the outer garments, which were the most important and distinctive, a transition

is now made to the inner ones, in which there was nothing very remarkable. The linen

drawers are for the present omitted, as not peculiar to the high priest. Directions are

given for the tunic and the girdle. The former is to be woven in some peculiar way —

so as to be diapered, as some think — and the latter is to be “the work of the



v. 39 – “And thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen, and thou shalt

make the mitre of fine linen, and thou shalt make the girdle of




                                    THE LESSON OF THE TUNIC


The tunic, or inner vest, was to be of fine linen, and of spotless white. Both

the material and the hue denoted purity. God’s priests must be clothed in

purity from top to toe. Purity must wrap them round on every side. This

purity may be hidden — unseen of man, or nearly unseen. But God sees it

and honors it. The tunic, though it must be all of white, shall not lack its

ornamentation. It is to be diapered with a pattern, like the best damask

cloths, and so to be rich and costly.



                              THE LESSONS OF THE GIRDLE


  • Girdles were less for beauty than for use. Men girded themselves for

            battle, for a race, for active exertion of any kind. The high priest was to

            have his loins continually girded, that he might be ready at all times for

            God’s service. But he was not to make a parade of this readiness. The

            girdle was to be hidden under the robe of the ephod.


  • Hidden as it was, the girdle was to be costly and beautiful — of many

            colors, the work of the skilled embroiderer. The Israelites were taught by

            this, that things devoted to God’s service, whether they be seen or not,

            should be of the best. The intention is not to please men’s eyes by beauty

            of color or form, or richness of material, but to do honor to God.

            Scamped work in places where it is not seen has been thought allowable by

            many a church-architect; dust and untidiness in hidden corners are tolerated

            by many who have the care of sacred buildings. True piety will make no

            difference between the seen and the unseen, the hidden and that which is

            open to sight, but aim at comeliness, fitness, beauty, in all that appertains

            to the worship of God.






The chapter concludes with brief directions concerning the official attire of the

ordinary priests. This was to consist of linen drawers like those of the high

priest; of a tunic, also of linen (ch. 39:27), shaped like his, but not

diapered; of a linen girdle, the exact character of which is not stated; and of

a close-fitting cap. The entire dress, with perhaps the exception of the

girdle, was white. The linen drawers were regarded as of primary necessity,

and the priest who did not wear them was threatened with death.



vs. 40-43 – “And for Aaron’s sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make

for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty.”

It is very noticeable, that the extremely simple attire of the ordinary priests — a

dress of pure white, without anything ornamental about it, unless it were

the girdle — is still regarded as sufficient “for glory and for beauty.” White

robes have certainly a vast amount of scriptural testimony in their favor

(Leviticus 16:4; Mark 9:3; John 20:12; Acts 1:10; Revelation 4:4, 6:11; 7:9,14)

“And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with

him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that

they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.  And thou shalt make them

linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs

they shall reach:   And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when

they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation” - Literally, “when they go

into the tent of meeting” — i.e., the place where God and the high priest were to

meet – “or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place;

that they bear not iniquity” - To “bear iniquity” is to incur guilt, or have sin

imputed to one. If even through forgetfulness a priest entered the sanctuary

without this necessary article of clothing, and so risked an unseemly, exposure

of his person, he was to be accounted guilty, and punished by death. This was to

be a “statute for ever,” and to apply both to the high priest and the ordinary priests.

Compare ch.20:26 – “and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his

seed after him.”



                                    THE PRIESTS’ ATTIRE


The dress of the ordinary priests teaches us:




            The priests’ garments are called “holy,” no less than the high priest’s (v.4).

            They are almost entirely of fine white linen. The linen drawers denote

            the need of holiness with respect to sins of the flesh. The linen cap implies

            purity of thought and imagination. The linen tunic is symbolical of the

            complete sanctification in which the whole man should be wrapped. The

            girdle, also of linen, marks the need of purity in respect of all the active

            part of life. In every one of these respects the ordinary priests were on a

            par with the high priest. The same holiness was required of both.



      DEGREE OF BEAUTY.  The priests’ garments were, like the high priest’s

            (v. 2), “for glory and for beauty” (v. 40). And, being designed by God

            for those ends, they doubtless attained them. Yet, unless the girdle was an

            exception, they were all white. So, when Jesus was transfigured, “His

            raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on

            earth can white them” (Mark 9:3). There is a wondrous beauty in pure,

            spotless, snow-white raiment. Still more is there beauty in the simplicity of

            a spotless life. A pure mind — a pure heart — pure conduct — simple,

            uniform performance of every-day duty — what is more lovely, more

            glorious? To such the Divine Bridegroom will address the words

            “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee” (Song of Solomon 4:7).




The Priests and their Garments (vs. 1-43)


From instructions about inanimate things, we come now to persons. Aaron

and his four sons were to be set apart for the office of the priesthood, and

garments were to be made for them, “for glory and for beauty.” Aaron was

to be high priest (“the priest who is higher than his brethren, upon whose

head the anointing oil was poured,” Leviticus 21:10); his sons were to

be ordinary priests. The high priest was a very especial type of Christ.


  • THE INSTITUTION OF THE PRIESTHOOD (v. 1). Hitherto there

had been no distinct class invested with the office of the priesthood. The

need for a separate priesthood arose with the giving of the law, with the

entrance of Israel into covenant relationship with God, and with the

founding of a sanctuary.


Ø      With the giving of the law. A distinct revelation had been made of God’s

holiness. But God’s holiness had as its correlative the unholiness of the

people. By the law came the knowledge of sin. A priesthood, specially

sanctified to God’s service, became necessary to mediate between an

unholy people and a holy God.


Ø      With the establishment of a covenant relationship between Israel and

Jehovah. In virtue of the covenant, Israel became to God “a kingdom of

priests and an holy nation” (see ch. 19:5). It was this priestly calling of

the nation which found official expression in the priesthood of the house

of Aaron. The priests were “vicars,” in the sense of the following

passage — “A truly vicarious act does not supersede the principal’s

duty of performance, but rather implies and acknowledges it ..... In the

old monastic times, when the revenues of a cathedral or cure fell to the l

ot of a monastery, it became the duty of that monastery to perform the

religious services of the cure. But inasmuch as the monastery was a

corporate body, they appointed one of their number, whom they

denominated their vicar, to discharge those duties for them. His service

did not supersede theirs, but was a perpetual and standing

acknowledgment that they, as a whole and individually, were under the

obligation to perform it” (Robertson of Brighton, Sermons, vol. 2. p. 92).

That is to say, the priests stood in a representative relation to the body of

the people. They acted in the name of the community.


Ø      With the founding of a sanctuary. “The groundwork of this new form

of religion stood in the erection of the tabernacle, which God chose for

His peculiar dwelling-place, and through which He meant to keep up a

close and lively relationship with His people. But this relationsip would

inevitably have grown on their part into too great familiarity, and would

thus have failed to produce proper and salutary impressions upon the

minds of the worshippers, unless something of a counteracting tendency

had been introduced, fitted to beget feelings of profound and reverential

awe toward the God who condescended to come so near to them. This

could no otherwise be effectually done than by the institution of a

separate priesthood, whose prerogative alone it should be to enter

within the sacred precincts of God’s house, and perform the ministrations

of His worship” (Fairbairn). The Aaronic priesthood had thus a twofold

function to discharge in relation to the people.


o       Representative. It represented the nation in its priestly standing and

vocation. It performed sacerdotal acts in the name of the tribes. The

representative character culminated in the person of the high priest.


o       Mediatory. The priesthood mediated between the people and Jehovah.

It was the link of communion between the holy and the unholy. Gifts

and offerings, which otherwise, on account of the unholiness of the

people, would not have been accepted, were accepted at the hands

of the priests.  The high priest transacted with God on behalf of his

constituents as well as in their name. It pertained to him, and to the

other priests, “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people”

(Hebrews 2:17). The priesthood, and especially the high priest,

thus typifies Christ:


§         in His Divine appointment to His office (Hebrews 5:5-6);

§         in His personal and official holiness (Hebrews 4:15; 7:26);

§         in His representative relations to His people (Hebrews 6:20);

§         in His work of mediation and intercession (Hebrews 9:11-12,


§         in His heavenly glory (Hebrews 2:9).


Note, however, the following point of difference (one among many)

between the high priest and Christ. The Jewish high priest embodied

priestly rights already existing in the nation. Believers, on the contrary,

derive their priestly rights from Christ. They are admitted to a share in His

priestly standing. Their priesthood, unlike that of the old covenant, is

purely spiritual. It includes privileges formerly possessed only by the

official classes, e.g., the right of direct access to God (Ephesians 2:18;

3:12;  Hebrews 10:19).


  • THE PRIESTLY GARMENTS (vs. 2-43). Having chosen His priests,

God next proceeds to clothe them. As the office was of His appointment, so

must the garments be which are to be the insignia of it. Nothing is left to

individual taste. The articles of attire; their shape, material, color,

workmanship; the manner of their ornamentation; everything is fixed after a

Divine pattern. The garments are to be “for glory and for beauty” (vs. 2, 40),

indicative of the official dignity, of the sacred character, and of the

honorable prerogatives of the wearers of them. Men are even to be

inspired with “the spirit of wisdom” (v. 3), for the purpose of making

them, so entirely are they to be garments of Divine origin. Look:


o       at what these garments were, and

o       at the functions and privileges of the priesthood as

shadowed forth in them.


Ø      The parts of the priestly dress. The dress of the ordinary priests, with

the exception of the girdle of needlework (compare ch.39:29), was to

be of fine white linen. It consisted of an embroidered coat, a cap, and

plain white linen drawers. The high priest’s garments were of a much

richer order. They embraced:


o       the ephod, with its curious girdle (vs. 6-15).

o       The breast-plate, in which were to be placed

the Urim and Thummim” (vs. 15-31).

o       The robe of the ephod, “all of blue,” and embroidered along

the hem with pomegranates. Alternating with the pomegranates

were to be little golden bells, which should give a sound when

the priest went into the holy place, and when he came out

(vs. 31-36).

o       The mitre, on which was to be a plate of gold, fastened with

blue lace, and engraved with the words — “Holiness to the Lord”

(vs. 36-39).

o       A broidered coat, girdle, and drawers, similar to those of the

ordinary priests (v. 39).


Ø      The symbolism of the dress. The blue of the robe of the ephod denoted

the heavenly origin of the priest’s office; the shining whiteness of the

ordinary garments, the purity required in those who served before

Jehovah; the gold, the diversified colors, the rich embroidery and gems,

in the other articles of attire, the exalted honor of those whom Jehovah

had chosen, and caused to approach to Him, that they might dwell in

His courts (Psalm 65:4). More specifically, the garments bore testimony:


o       to the fundamental requirement of holiness in the priesthood.

This requirement found its most distinct expression in the

engraved plate on the high priest’s mitre. Holiness was to be the

characteristic of the people as a whole. Most of all was it

required in those who stood in so peculiarly near a relation

to JEHOVAH, and on whom it devolved to make atonement

for the others. The requirement is perfectly fulfilled in Christ,

whose people, in turn, are called to holy living.


o       To the representative character of the priesthood. This was

beautifully imaged by the fact that, both on his shoulders and on

his breast, the high priest bore precious stones engraved with the

names of the twelve tribes of Israel (vs. 9-13; 17-23). Another

indication of this representative character is found in the order

to place bells upon the hem of the robe of the ephod, that the

people might hear the sound of his movements as he

went in and out of the holy place (v. 35). Conscious that he was

transacting in God’s presence in their name, they were to follow

him with their thoughts and prayers in the different parts of his

sacerdotal task. It was, however, the wearing of “the breast-plate

of judgment” (v. 29), which most specially declared that the high

priest appeared before God as the people’s representative. His

function, as clothed with the breast-plate, was to sustain the

right” of the children of Israel before Jehovah (v. 30).

The “right” included whatever claims were given them on the

justice and mercy of Jehovah by the stipulations of the covenant,

it was a “right” derived, not from unfailing obedience to the law,

but from Jehovah’s goodness. It was connected with atonement.

Our “right,” in like manner, is embodied in Christ, who bears us

on His heart continually in presence of his Father.


o       To the priestly function of mediation. The onyx stones on the

shoulders of the high priest, each having engraved on it six of

the names of the tribes of Israel (v. 12), indicated that on him

rested the burden or responsibility of the entire congregation.

A more distinct expression of this idea is given in v. 38, in

connection with the gold plate of the mitre, engraved with

HOLINESS TO THE LORD“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;

and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be

accepted before the Lord.” Thus a shadow of the higher

mediation of our persons, gifts, and works that find acceptance

only in Christ.


o       To the need of sympathy in the priest, as a qualification for

his office.  The high priest was to bear the names of the children

of Israel upon his heart, graven on the stones of the breast-plate

(v. 23). Christ has perfect sympathy (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14, 16).

The people also, as is hinted in v. 35, were to have sympathy with

their priest.


o       To the function of the priest, as revealer of GOD’S WILL

 (v. 30). Urim and Thummim — whatever these were —

are now superseded by the external word, and the inward

illumination of Christ’s Spirit. Christ gives forth unerring

revelations of the will of the Father. “Lights and perfections”

is not too high a name to bestow upon the Scriptures (Psalm

19:7-12; II Timothy 3:15-16).



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