Exodus 28: The Priests’ Garments

1 “Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 2 And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.

-It makes perfect sense that the high priest should be decorated just like the tabernacle. I did not address it the last two chapters but the word “tabernacle” means dwelling place. Literally, this is created as God’s dwelling place or “God’s tent” among the Israelite people. This is why it had to be made under such specific instruction because God’s dwelling place must always say who he is. Doesn’t your house say who you are when you think about it? If you have not mowed your lawn, it my suggest you are either lazy, busy, or just don’t much care about appearances. If you did not have a garden in front and it was just dirt, it may say the same as well. If you house has not been painted for many years and definitely needs it, it may suggest some of same things or possibly that you are too poor to afford the paint to do it. God’s dwelling place says exactly who He is. So when we look at this symbolism and see how it points to Jesus, it is also telling us who God is, and who Jesus is, at the same time. This only further solidifies the deity of Christ and the truth of the trinity.

3 You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.

-”whom I have filled with a spirit of skill” is an incredible statement with huge implications. It could just be a matter of speech which means God created some people with earthly gifts, knew who they would be and where and when to be used, and that’s simply it. But the wording here and the literally Hebrew to English translation is “whom I have filled with a spirit of wisdom”. Even the word, wisdom, suggests godly knowledge. So it could be debated that even if God gave them something special from the spirit, this is just a special case. But could it be possible that God gives all men, regardless of whether they are saved, spirits of skill or wisdom to do extraordinary things? So often when hearing of stories of how famous inventors, writers, painters, sculptors got the idea for the work, the idea just seem to come to them. Sometimes they have an explanation explaining some event happened to them in their past and they always thought of it. Could it be since as we discussed way back in Genesis 1 that mankind lacks the ability to create that all new ideas and inventions come from God? We have seen many new ideas and inventions come from Israel including the idea of drip irrigation right when it seems God is fulfilling prophecy by developing this nation and making it green again. If all things are literally ordained by God, could it be God is so big that literally nothing is done without him sending a spirit to make it so? Some inventions have been used for evil and many brilliant works of art and architecture have been used in other religions to worship false gods so perhaps not unless satan and forces of evil have a less powerful use of this ability as well. Unfortunately, this is something that cannot be proven although I think scripture suggests that its possible. If God is in control and literally every human being is worked with by God to come to faith in Him then it stands to reason every accomplishment including new inventions the world has never seen come from Him as well. He will work with some men who are world famous, others who are on the bottom of society with no friends or family. Everybody’s path is different but if God is in control and presents a scenario to every man and woman to make a choice, could it not be that every single success or failure is His control?

4 These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. 5 They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. 6 “And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. 7 It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. 8 And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. 9 You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, 10 six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth. 11 As a jeweler engraves signets, so shall you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall enclose them in settings of gold filigree. 12 And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for remembrance.

-Priests are like God’s chosen ambassadors and so since they represent God, it makes sense that the high priest would appear the same as the tabernacle and wear an outfit that matches how God chooses to represent Himself. The fact that all 12 tribes are written in stones on the shoulders of Aaron show that the people of Israel are written onto God’s heart. God does nothing temporary, everything is forever. Israel is written on God’s heart forever. Israel is His bride. We so often in Christian churches say that the church is the bride of Christ and this is true as well. The church is the inclusion of gentiles into the salvation of Israel and both are the bride of Christ just as every individual, including you and I, are one collective bride of Christ.

13 You shall make settings of gold filigree, 14 and two chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; and you shall attach the corded chains to the settings. 15 “You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, in skilled work. In the style of the ephod you shall make it—of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen shall you make it. 16 It shall be square and doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth. 17 You shall set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle shall be the first row; 18 and the second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; 19 and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; 20 and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold filigree. 21 There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel. They shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes. 22 You shall make for the breastpiece twisted chains like cords, of pure gold. 23 And you shall make for the breastpiece two rings of gold, and put the two rings on the two edges of the breastpiece. 24 And you shall put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the breastpiece. 25 The two ends of the two cords you shall attach to the two settings of filigree, and so attach it in front to the shoulder pieces of the ephod. 26 You shall make two rings of gold, and put them at the two ends of the breastpiece, on its inside edge next to the ephod. 27 And you shall make two rings of gold, and attach them in front to the lower part of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, at its seam above the skillfully woven band of the ephod. 28 And they shall bind the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, so that it may lie on the skillfully woven band of the ephod, so that the breastpiece shall not come loose from the ephod.

-Here is a picture of what this outfit is beginning to look like: https://biblechapterpordia.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/75f58-vestments.jpg . Quite a colorful display! The garment itself is a physical representation of how we need to “wear Christ” at all times to be fit to represent Him to others. Even though a person was the high priest, he was not the high priest until he had put on the high priest garments as described here. Otherwise, he was no different than anyone else even though He had the title. God is revealing to us in our own physical terms what type of clothing He would wear to show all mankind who He is because as the old saying goes, “the clothes make the man”. In this case, these clothes tell us who God is. In verse 1, God says to make these clothes “for glory and for beauty”. Isn’t is true that God is glorious and beautiful?

29 So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord. 30 And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly. 31 “You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. 32 It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear. 33 On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them, 34 a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. 35 And it shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the Lord, and when he comes out, so that he does not die.

-God explains the bells are so that the high priest is “announcing his presence” before God and does not die. The people outside the tabernacle could hear these bells so that they will know that God accepted the sacrifice because the high priest was not struck dead. This of course was only inside the Holy Place in the tabernacle, not the Holy of Holies. There is a long-held legend that a rope would be tied around the ankle of the high priest when he would enter the Holy of Holies in case God killed Him for doing something wrong and His body can be recovered but there is no scriptural basis for this so its unknown if its true. Its unlikely given that the curtains that may up the veil were so thick that a body could not be dragged straight through them but the only way to walk through would be to zig-zag through them. Not only that, but the high priest actually washed and changed to a single white linen garment and would be defiling himself if there was a rope around his ankle. Since there is no record of a high priest ever dying in this way, its likely it never happened and a high priest was never killed by God although we do know for sure God did kill some priests who disobeyed such as Aaron’s sons in Leviticus 10.

36 “You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the Lord.’ 37 And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. 38 It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord. 39 “You shall weave the coat in checker work of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash embroidered with needlework.

-Poor Aaron and whoever the high priest is bears the guilt of the people. In the same way, pastors bear the guilt of the congregation and the other elders and staff who work under him. Being on top in the church is not an enviable position.

40 “For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty. 41 And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 42 You shall make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh. They shall reach from the hips to the thighs; 43 and they shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they go into the tent of meeting or when they come near the altar to minister in the Holy Place, lest they bear guilt and die. This shall be a statute forever for him and for his offspring after him.

-Some interpret the verse in Exodus 20:26 which states, “And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness not be exposed on it”, as merely meaning that if you had no underwear and wore nothing but a robe and walked up steps, anyone underneath would be able to see the priests private parts! But there are some issues with this, firstly that the altar that was constructed is not elevated but only 4 and a half feet high. So even though they are instructed to wear undergarments here, it would not solve this problem because they would not be needed for this purpose. Not only this, but this would mean the command in Exodus 20 has already been overruled because instead of saying not to go up by steps, it would be as if God had changed His mind and said, “OK well you can go up by steps, but just make sure you wear your underpants!”. No, the undergarments serve a different purpose and it states that it is to prevent the risk to “bear guilt”. If someone’s robe accidentally came undone when handling a sacrifice or a very strong gust of wind blew it open, nothing would accidentally pop out if they were wearing undergarments. God is having them wear undergarments for their own protection because He doesn’t want them to have to die. God is not creating these requirements to be cruel but everything that is being done reflects who He is so if anything is done that does not reflect who He is, God must punish completely or else it would prove that He is not who He is claiming to be and therefore would not be God. To “bear guilt” in front of God whether speaking of nakedness or metaphorically for our sin would mean instant death because the wages of sin is death. Our sin must be covered or be washed clean or else we can never go before God and will be separated into hell from Him forever.

Sources:)

http://www.bible-history.com/tabernacle/TAB4The_Priestly_Garments.htm

http://www.plaza1.net/Anthony/NoHighPriestDiedInHolyofHolies.pdf

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