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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Exodus 28

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Garments for Priests

A. The command to make garments for the priests.

1. (Exo 28:1-2) The purpose of the garments.

"Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron's sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.

a. Take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him: The priesthood of Israel was not "earned" nor aspired to. It could only be inherited by birthright. One must be born into a priestly family.

i. The priesthood was no place for ambition or self-glory. It was only entered into by God's call and invitation. In the New Covenant, our priesthood is also not earned nor aspired to. We are priests because of our new birth into Jesus' priestly family (1 Peter 2:5).

b. Make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty: The priestly garments were made for glory and for beauty. Since there was something glorious and beautiful - indeed, "heavenly" about the priestly service, it was appropriate to make the garments glorious and beautiful.

i. "Is then the dismal black, now worn by almost all kinds of priests and ministers, for glory and for beauty? Is it emblematic of any thing that is good, glorious, or excellent? How unbecoming the glad tidings announced by Christian ministers is a colour emblematical of nothing but mourning and woe, sin, desolation, and death!" (Clarke)

2. (Exo 28:3-4) What to make and who must make it.

"So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest. And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. So they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister to Me as priest.

a. Speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments: God promised a special gifting from the Holy Spirit given to the craftsmen of these garments.

i. If it is really done to the glory of God, practical, manual service requires the leading of the Holy Spirit just as much as what we normally consider to be "spiritual" service.

b. That he may minister to Me: Three times in these first four verses, this command is repeated. Priests - under the old or new covenants - have their first ministry to God Himself.

B. Garments for the High Priest.

1. (Exo 28:5-14) The ephod.

"They shall take the gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and they shall make the ephod of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, artistically worked. It shall have two shoulder straps joined at its two edges, and so it shall be joined together. And the intricately woven band of the ephod, which is on it, shall be of the same workmanship, made of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. Then you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel: six of their names on one stone, and six names on the other stone, in order of their birth. With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, you shall engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall set them in settings of gold. And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. So Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial. You shall also make settings of gold, and you shall make two chains of pure gold like braided cords, and fasten the braided chains to the settings.

a. Make the ephod of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, artistically worked: The ephod was essentially an ornate apron-like garment, made of gold, blue, purple and scarlet thread.

b. Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel: On the shoulder straps were polished gemstones on each strap, with the inscription of six of the tribes on each stone, so the High Priest would bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial.

i. While the first ministry of a priest is always unto God Himself, a priest also is constantly connected to the people, bearing them on his shoulders. The shoulders are a place of work; therefore in the priest's ministry unto the LORD, he also worked for and with the people.

2. (Exo 28:15-30) The breastplate.

"You shall make the breastplate of judgment. Artistically woven according to the workmanship of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, you shall make it. It shall be doubled into a square: a span shall be its length, and a span shall be its width. And you shall put settings of stones in it, four rows of stones: The first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and an emerald; this shall be the first row; the second row shall be a turquoise, a sapphire, and a diamond; the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold settings. And the stones shall have the names of the sons of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, each one with its own name; they shall be according to the twelve tribes. You shall make chains for the breastplate at the end, like braided cords of pure gold. And you shall make two rings of gold for the breastplate, and put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate. Then you shall put the two braided chains of gold in the two rings which are on the ends of the breastplate; and the other two ends of the two braided chains you shall fasten to the two settings, and put them on the shoulder straps of the ephod in the front. You shall make two rings of gold, and put them on the two ends of the breastplate, on the edge of it, which is on the inner side of the ephod. And two other rings of gold you shall make, and put them on the two shoulder straps, underneath the ephod toward its front, right at the seam above the intricately woven band of the ephod. They shall bind the breastplate by means of its rings to the rings of the ephod, using a blue cord, so that it is above the intricately woven band of the ephod, and so that the breastplate does not come loose from the ephod. So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, when he goes into the holy place, as a memorial before the LORD continually. And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron's heart when he goes in before the LORD. So Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually."

a. Make the breastplate of judgment: The breastplate was also made with gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread. It was attached to the ephod with gold chains.

b. Put settings of stones in it, four rows of stones: On the breastplate were four rows of three gemstones, each stone having one of the names of the twelve tribes inscribed on it. In wearing the breastplate, the High Priest would bear the names of the sons of Israel … over his heart.

i. It was not enough that the High Priest work for the people (having them on his shoulders). He must also love the people - that is, bear them on his heart.

ii. It isn't enough for a priest to have a heart for God. He must also have a heart for the people, and bear them on his heart in his entire ministry unto the LORD.

c. A sardius, a topaz, and an emerald: This begins a list of twelve gemstones set in the breastplate of the high priest. It is impossible to know exactly what all of these gemstones were; but we can come to some likely conclusions. Revelation 21:19-20 describes the foundations of the walls of the New Jerusalem with a series of twelve gemstones, which may answer to these stones in the breastplate.

i. We cannot neglect the fact God commanded the tribes to have their names inscribed on gemstones - truly precious things. God's people are indeed precious to Him.

d. Put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim: Three times in this passage the breastplate is called the breastplate of judgment because it held the Urim and Thummim which were tools for discerning God's will.

i. The use of the discerning tools of Urim and Thummim is described on a few occasions (Numbers 27:21, 1 Samuel 28:6, Ezra 2:63, and Nehemiah 7:65) and their use may be implied in other passages (Judges 1:1; 20:18, 23).

ii. The names Urim and Thummim mean "Lights and Perfections." We aren't sure what they were or how they were used. The best guess is that they were a pair of stones, one light and another dark, and each stone indicated a "yes" or "no" from God. The High Priest would ask God a question, reach into the breastplate, and pull our either a "yes" or a "no."

iii. Meyer suggests the Urim and Thummim were brilliant diamonds, which flashed with a "yes" or dim with a "no" answer from God.

iv. Many consider the Urim and Thummim as crude tools of discernment. In fact, they are better than the tools many Christians use today. It would be better to use the Urim and Thummim than rely on feelings, or outward appearances, or to simply use no discernment!

3. (Exo 28:31-35) The robe.

"You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. There shall be an opening for his head in the middle of it; it shall have a woven binding all around its opening, like the opening in a coat of mail, so that it does not tear. And upon its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around. And it shall be upon Aaron when he ministers, and its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place before the LORD and when he comes out, that he may not die."

a. Make the robe of the ephod all of blue: This was the basic covering of the priest, made of all blue, and seamless and untorn for the head opening.

b. Bells of gold between them all around: On its hem, between the ornate pomegranates of blue and purple, were bells, so the priest could be heard while ministering before God - if he were to die, the bells would stop ringing and he could be pulled out of the Most Holy Place.

4. (Exo 28:36-38) The turban and its engraving.

"You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet: HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And you shall put it on a blue cord, that it may be on the turban; it shall be on the front of the turban. So it shall be on Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD."

a. It shall be on the front of the turban: The turban was a simple wound linen headpiece. More important than the turban itself was the gold plate with the inscription HOLINESS TO THE LORD.

b. That Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts: Even the gifts and sacrifices Aaron and the other priests brought before the Lord were touched with iniquity. Yet when God's appointed priest in God brought them in God's appointed way, God accepted them.

c. That they might be accepted before the LORD: Holiness - not as a legalistic list of rules, but in the power of a life separated to God - is essential for anyone who will appear before God. Hebrews 12:14 reinforces this principle: Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

5. (Exo 28:39) The tunic, the turban, and the sash.

"You shall skillfully weave the tunic of fine linen thread, you shall make the turban of fine linen, and you shall make the sash of woven work."

a. Skillfully weave the tunic of fine linen: These basic garments are simply described as being woven of fine linen.

6. (Exo 28:40-43) Garments for the sons of Aaron.

"For Aaron's sons you shall make tunics, and you shall make sashes for them. And you shall make hats for them, for glory and beauty. So you shall put them on Aaron your brother and on his sons with him. You shall anoint them, consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister to Me as priests. And you shall make for them linen trousers to cover their nakedness; they shall reach from the waist to the thighs. They shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they come into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place, that they do not incur iniquity and die. It shall be a statute forever to him and his descendants after him."

a. For Aaron's sons you shall make tunics: Though the "regular" priests had special garments, they were simple clothes of fine linen. They were special, but not much compared to the glory and beauty of the High Priest's garments.

i. This is because the "regular" priests, though important, had a far lesser office than the High Priest - and were appropriately clothed for this lower position.

ii. Even so, the High Priest's clothing, in total, speaks more of Jesus' glory and beauty than of ours. We are content with simple linen robes.

b. Linen trousers to cover their nakedness: The priests - all of the priests - were to wear undergarments, so it would be impossible for their nakedness to be exposed while ministering.

i. This was probably a reaction to the nakedness of many pagan priests while performing their rituals.

ii. Also, the trousers were to be made of cool linen, instead of warm wool. God doesn't want His servants to sweat.

C. A Contrast between Jesus' clothing when He accomplished His great priestly work and the garments of the High Priest.

1. Jesus wore no beautiful ephod - only a purple robe for mocking.

2. Jesus had no precious gems were on His shoulders, only a cross that we deserved.

3. Jesus had no breastplate with "Israel on His heart," yet He died of a broken heart for Israel - and all of mankind.

4. As the High Priest, Jesus had a seamless robe that was not torn, but it was stripped away at the cross.

5. Jesus heard no delicate sound of bells proving that the High Priest was alive, only the sound of pounding nails insuring our High Priest's death.

6. Jesus wore no fine linen turban, rather a painful crown of thorns.

7. Jesus had no headplate reading HOLINESS TO THE LORD, but a life and death showing nothing but holiness to the LORD!

8. Jesus had no linen trousers to hide His nakedness, rather He bore our sins on the cross in a naked shame.

©2004 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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