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, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons.
(Compare Exodus 39:1-31.) Moses is now commanded to commit all that pertains to the offerings made to the Lord in the sanctuary to the exclusive charge of the members of a single family, who were to hold their office from generation to generation. In the patriarchal times, the external rites of worship had generally been conducted by the head of the tribe or family, in accordance with the principle involved in the dedication of the firstborn Exodus 13:2; Numbers 3:12-13. Moses, as the divinely-appointed and acknowledged leader of the nation, had, on a special occasion, appointed those who were to offer sacrifice, and had himself sprinkled the consecrating blood of the victims on the people Exodus 24:5-6, Exodus 24:8. On the completion of the tabernacle, after Aaron and his sons had been called to the priesthood, he took chief part in the daily service of the sanctuary Exodus 40:23-29, Exodus 40:31-32 until the consecration of the family of Aaron, on which occasion he appears to have exercised the priest's office for the last time (Leviticus 8:14-29; compare Exodus 29:10-26). The setting apart of the whole tribe of Levi for the entire cycle of religious services is mentioned Numbers 3:5-13; Numbers 8:5-26; Numbers 18:1-32.
Nadab and Abihu, the two older sons of Aaron, had accompanied their father and the seventy Elders when they went a part of the way with Moses up the mountain Exodus 24:1, Exodus 24:9. Soon after their consecration they were destroyed for offering "strange fire before the Lord" Leviticus 10:1-2. Eleazar and Ithamar are here mentioned for the first time, except in the genealogy, Exodus 6:23. Eleazar succeeded his father in the High priesthood, and was himself succeeded by his son Phinehas Judges 20:28. But Eli, the next high priest named in the history, was of the line of Ithamar. The representatives of both families held office at the same time in the days of David. See 1 Chronicles 24:1-3; 2 Samuel 8:17.
And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty.
And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office.
The spirit of wisdom - See Exodus 31:3 note. What may be especially noticed in this place is, that the spirit of wisdom given by the Lord is spoken of as conferring practical skill in the most general sense.
Garments to consecrate him - A solemn recognition of the significance of an appointed official dress. It expresses that the office is not created or defined by the man himself Hebrews 5:4, but that he is invested with it according to prescribed institution. The rite of anointing was essentially connected with investiture in the holy garments Exodus 29:29-30; Exodus 40:12-15. The history of all nations shows the importance of these forms.
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.
And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen.
With the exception of the gold, the materials were the same as those of the tabernacle-cloth, the veil of the tabernacle and the entrance-curtain of the tent Exodus 26:1, Exodus 26:31, Exodus 26:36; Exodus 25:4. The gold was made into thin flat wires which could either be woven with the woolen and linen threads, or worked with the needle. In regard to the mixture of linen and woollen threads in the High priest's dress, see Leviticus 19:19.
And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work.
The ephod - Exodus 39:2-7. The Hebrew word has the same breadth of meaning as our word vestment. The garment was worn over the shoulders, and was the distinctive vestment of the High priest, to which "the breast-plate of judgment" was attached Exodus 28:25-28.
Cunninq work - Skilled work, or work of a skilled man Exodus 35:35.
It shall have the two shoulderpieces thereof joined at the two edges thereof; and so it shall be joined together.
Compare Exodus 39:4. The ephod consisted of two principal pieces of cloth, one for the back and the other for the front, joined together by shoulder straps (see Exodus 28:27 note). Below the arms, probably just above the hips, the two pieces were kept in place by a band attached to one of the pieces. On the respect in which the ephod of the High priest was held, see 1 Samuel 2:28; 1 Samuel 14:3; 1 Samuel 21:9; 1 Samuel 23:6-9; 1 Samuel 30:7. But an ephod made of linen appears to have been a recognized garment not only for the common priests 1 Samuel 22:18, but also for those who were even temporarily engaged in the service of the sanctuary 1 Samuel 2:18; 2 Samuel 6:14; 1 Chronicles 15:27.
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.
The curious girdle ... - Rather: the band for fastening it, which is upon it, shall be of the same work, of one piece with it. This band being woven on to one of the pieces of the ephod, was passed round the body, and fastened by buttons, or strings, or some other suitable contrivance.
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.
Like the engravings of a signet - Compare Exodus 28:21, Exodus 28:36. These words probably refer to a special way of shaping the letters, adapted for engraving on a hard substance. Seal engraving on precious stones was practiced in Egypt from very remote times.
Ouches of gold - Gold settings formed not of solid pieces of metal, but of woven wire, wreathed round the stones in what is called cloisonnee work, a sort of filigree, often found in Egyptian ornaments. These stones, as well as those on the breastplate, were perhaps in the form of ovals, or rather ellipses, like the cartouches, containing proper names, in hieroglyphic inscriptions. The word "ouches" is used by Shakespeare, Spenser, and some of their contemporaries in the general sense of "jewels."
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.
Upon the shoulders - i. e. upon the shoulder pieces of the ephod. See Exodus 28:7.
Upon his two shoulders - Compare Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 22:22. The high priest had to represent the Twelve tribes in the presence of Yahweh; and the burden of his office could not be so aptly symbolized anywhere as on his shoulders, the parts of the body fittest for carrying burdens.
Compare Exodus 39:8-21.
And thou shalt make ouches 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.
Rather, two chains of pure gold shalt thou make of wreathen work, twisted like cords. They were more like cords of twisted gold wire than chains in the ordinary sense of the word. Such chains have been found in Egyptian tombs.
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.
The breastplate of judgment - The meaning of the Hebrew word rendered "breastplate," appears to be simply "ornament". The term breastplate relates merely to its place in the dress.
Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof.
Doubled - To give it stability, or to form what was used as a bag for the Urim and Thummim: the latter appears to be the more likely.
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.
Settings - Ouches of "cloisonnec" work, like those mentioned in Exodus 28:11.
A sardius - i. e. "the red stone." The Sardian stone, or sard, was much used by the ancients for seals; and it is perhaps the stone of all others the best for engraving.
Topaz - Not the stone now called the topaz: it may have been the chrysolite, a stone of a greenish hue.
A carbuncle - More probably the beryl, which is a kind of emerald.
And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond.
An emerald - Rather the garnet, which when cut with a convex face is termed the carbuncle.
A sapphire - Not the stone now called the sapphire; the lapis-lazuli is most probably meant.
A diamond - There is no trace of evidence that the ancients ever acquired the skill to engrave on the diamond, or even that they were acquainted with the stone. The "diamond" here may possibly be some variety of chalcedony, or (perhaps) rock crystal.
And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst.
A ligure - Amber, which came from Liguria.
And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings.
A beryl - Supposed to be a brilliant yellow stone, identified with what is now nown as the Spanish topaz.
A jasper - Probably the green jasper.
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.
Chains ... - See Exodus 28:14.
And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate.
On the two ends of the breastplate - The extremities spoken of here, and in the next verse, must have been the upper corners of the square. The chains attached to them Exodus 28:25 suspended the breastplate from the ouches of the shoulder pieces Exodus 28:9, Exodus 28:11-12.
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 two rings of gold shalt thou make and put them on the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, low down in the front of it, near the joining, above the band for fastening it." It would seem that the shoulder pieces were continued down the front of the ephod as far as the band (see Exodus 28:8); the joining appears to have been the meeting of the extremities of the shoulder pieces with the band. These rings were attached to the shoulder pieces just above this joining.
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.
The curious girdle of the ephod - The band for fastening it (see Exodus 28:8 note).
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.
See Exodus 28:12; the same names engraved on the stones of the breastplate were worn over the heart, the seat of the affections, as well as of the intellect, to symbolize the relation of love and of personal interest which the Lord requires to exist between the priest and the people.
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 Urim and the Thummim - "The Light and the Truth, or perfection."
From the way in which they are spoken of here and in Leviticus 8:8, compared with Exodus 28:15-21, it would appear that the Urim and the Thummim were some material things, previously existing and familiarly known, that they were separate from the breastplate itself, as well as from the gems that were set upon it, and were kept in the bag of the breastplate Exodus 28:16.
By means of them the will of Yahweh, especially in what related to the wars in which His people were engaged, was made known. They were formally delivered by Moses to Aaron Leviticus 8:8, and subsequently passed on to Eleazar Numbers 20:28; Numbers 27:21. They were esteemed as the crowning glory of the tribe of Levi Deu 33:8. There is no instance on record of their being consulted after the time of David.
The opinion has prevailed to a great extent that the Urim and the Thummim were of Egyptian origin, and two small images of precious stone, and that the divine will was manifested through them by some physical effect addressed to the eye or the ear.
Others prefer the view that they were some means for casting lots. Appeals to lots were made under divine authority by the chosen people on the most solemn occasions Leviticus 16:8; Numbers 26:55; Joshua 7:14-18; Joshua 13:6; Joshua 18:8; 1 Samuel 14:41-42; Acts 1:26, and it must have been a truth commonly recognized by the people that though "the lot was cast into the lap, the whole disposing thereof was of the Lord" Proverbs 16:33.
And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue.
The robe of the ephod - Exodus 39:22-26. A frock or robe of the simplest form, woven without seam, wholly of blue. It was put on by being drawn over the head. It appears to have had no sleeves. It probably reached a little below the knees. It must have been visible above and below the ephod, the variegated texture of which it must have set off as a plain blue groundwork.
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.
An habergeon - Corselets of linen, such as appear to be here referred to, were well known amongst the Egyptians.
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.
His sound - Its sound, i. e. the sound of the robe, that the people, who stood without, when they heard the sound of the bells within the tabernacle, might have a sensible proof that the high priest was performing the sacred rite in their behalf, though he was out of their sight.
That he die not - The bells also bore witness that the high priest was, at the time of his ministration, duly attired in the dress of his office, and so was not incurring the sentence of death (see also Exodus 28:43). An infraction of the laws for the service of the sanctuary was not merely an act of disobedience; it was a direct insult to the presence of Yahweh from His ordained minister, and justly incurred a sentence of capital punishment. Compare Exodus 30:21; Leviticus 8:35; Leviticus 10:7.
And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.
Compare Exodus 39:27-31.
Holiness to the Lord - This inscription testified in express words the holiness with which the high priest was invested in virtue of his sacred calling.
And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be.
A blue lace - The plate was fastened upon a blue band or fillet, so tied round the mitre as to show the plate in front.
The mitre - A twisted band of linen Exodus 28:39 coiled into a cap, to which the name mitre, in its original sense, closely answers, but which, in modern usage, would rather be called a turban.
And 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.
Bear the iniquity of the holy things - The Hebrew expression "to bear iniquity" is applied either to one who suffers the penalty of sin (Exodus 28:43; Leviticus 5:1, Leviticus 5:17; Leviticus 17:16; Leviticus 26:41, etc.), or to one who takes away the sin of others (Genesis 50:17; Leviticus 10:17; Leviticus 16:22; Numbers 30:15; 1 Samuel 15:25, etc.). In several of these passages, the verb is rightly rendered to forgive. The iniquity which is spoken of in this place does not mean particular sins actually committed, but that condition of alienation from God in every earthly thing which makes reconciliation and consecration needful. Compare Numbers 18:1. It belonged to the high priest, as the chief atoning mediator between Yahweh and His people (see the note at Exodus 28:36), to atone for the holy things that they might be "accepted before the Lord" (compare Leviticus 8:15, note; Leviticus 16:20, Leviticus 16:33, note): but the common priests also, in their proper functions, had to take their part in making atonement (Leviticus 4:20; Leviticus 5:10; Leviticus 10:17; Leviticus 22:16; Numbers 18:23, etc.).
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 needlework.
The coat of fine linen - A long tunic, or cassock. Josephus says that it was worn next the skin, that it reached to the feet, and that it had closely fitting sleeves. The verb translated "embroider" appears rather to mean weave in diaper work. The tissue consisted of threads of one and the same color diapered in checkers, or in some small figure.
The girdle of needlework - The girdle of the work of the embroiderer Exodus 26:1; Exodus 35:35. The word translated "girdle" is different from that so rendered in Exodus 28:8 (see the note), and is probably Egyptian. Josephus says that it was wound several times round the body, and that its ends ordinarily hung down to the feet, but were thrown over the shoulder when the priest was engaged in his work.
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.
Bonnets - Caps of a simple construction which seem to have been cup-shaped.
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.
The dress of white linen was the strictly sacerdotal dress common to the whole body of priests Ezekiel 44:17-18. "These were for glory and for beauty" not less than "the golden garments" (as they were called by the Jews) which formed the high priest's dress of state Exodus 28:2. The linen suit which the high priest put on when he went into the most holy place on the day of atonement, appears to have been regarded with unique respect (Compare Exodus 31:10; Leviticus 16:4, Leviticus 16:23), though it is nowhere stated that it was distinguished in its make or texture, except in having a girdle Exodus 28:39 wholly of white linen, instead of a variegated one. The ancient Egyptian priests, like the Hebrew priests, wore nothing but white linen garments in the performance of their duties.
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, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him.