|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
28:15-30 The chief ornament of the high priest, was the breastplate, a rich piece of cloth, curiously worked. The name of each tribe was graven in a precious stone, fixed in the breastplate, to signify how precious, in God's sight, believers are, and how honourable. How small and poor soever the tribe was, it was as a precious stone in the breastplate of the high priest; thus are all the saints dear to Christ, however men esteem them. The high priest had the names of the tribes, both on his shoulders and on his breast, which reminds us of the power and the love with which our Lord Jesus pleads for those that are his. He not only bears them up in his arms with almighty strength, but he carries them in his bosom with tender affection. What comfort is this to us in all our addresses to God! The Urim and Thummim, by which the will of God was made known in doubtful cases, were put in this breastplate. Urim and Thummim signify light and integrity. There are many conjectures what these were; the most probable opinion seems to be, that they were the twelve precious stones in the high priest's breastplate. Now, Christ is our Oracle. By him God, in these last days, makes known himself and his mind to us, Heb 1:1,2; Joh 1:18. He is the true Light, the faithful Witness, the Truth itself, and from him we receive the Spirit of Truth, who leads into all truth.
Verse 17. - Settings of stones. These were similar to those of the two shoulder stones - i.e. of filagree or cloisonne work - as appears from Exodus 39:13. The first row of the stones is said to have been composed of a sardius, or sard, a topaz, and a carbuncle. Of these names the first only would seem to be tolerably certain. The second cannot be right, since the topaz was too hard a stone to be engraved by the ancient engravers. We may conjecture that the chrysolite, a pale stone not unlike the topaz, but far less hard, was the Genesis intended. The "carbuncle" is also thought to be wrong; and the "beryl" is suggested by some; by others "a sort of precious corundum." Emerald, to which the "smaragdus" of the LXX. and Josephus would seem to point, cannot be right, since that stone is fully as hard as the topaz.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And thou shalt set in it settings of stones,.... Or "fill in it fillings of stones" (d); which shows that there were in it ouches, or sockets of gold, the hollows of which were to be filled up with precious stones:
even four rows of stones; making a four square, and so filling up the measure of the breastplate:
the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle; about these stones, and those that follow, there is a great variety of interpretations of them, both among Jews and Christians; and they seem to be little known: our translators upon the whole seem to be as right as any in giving the names of them; the first of these, the "sardius", is a red stone of a blood colour, as the "cornelian" or "ruby", and which some have thought is here meant, and has its name either from the place where it has been found, Sardis or Sardinia; or rather from its red colour; for "sered" signifies red in Ezekiel 28:13 as Braunius (e) has observed from Kimchi; and so Odem, which is the word here used, signifies, and undoubtedly intends a stone of such a colour; and it is highly probable that this is the Demium of Pliny (f), which is one of the three kinds of sardius in India; and the red is so called from its redness, as the same Braunius observes. The second stone, the "topaz", had its name, according to Pliny (g), from an island in Arabia, in the Red sea, called Topazos; and the best topaz is the topaz of Cush or Arabia, as in Job 28:19. The topaz of the ancients was of a green colour; and so the three Targums call this stone Jarken or Jarketha, which signifies green; hence some have taken this to be the emerald, which is of a fine green colour: the third stone is the "carbuncle", as we render it; whatever stone is meant, it must be a bright and glittering one, like lightning, as the word signifies; wherefore some have taken it to be the emerald, so the Septuagint and Braunius (h); it being a very radiant and glittering stone, of a grass green, and very refreshing to the sight; but Danaeus (i) says, that the carbuncle is that species of the ruby, which of all is most beautiful and excellent, and darts out light like lightning to those that look at it at a distance, and shines in the middle of the night and darkness, so that it enlightens places near it, as if it were a sun:
this shall be the first row; now upon these three stones were engraven the names of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, as both the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem agree.
(d) "et implebis in eo plenitudinem lapidis", Montanus; "vel eum impletione lapidis", Pagninus; "implebis in eo impletione lapidis", Drusius. (e) De Vestitu Sacerd. Heb. l. 2. c. 8. sect. 10. p. 639. (f) Nat. Hist. l. 37. c. 7. (g) Ibid. l. 6. c. 29. (h) Ut supra, (De Vestitu Sacerd. Heb. l. 2.) c. 10. sect. 4. p. 653. (i) Apud De Dieu in loc.
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