Exodus 28
Benson Commentary
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.
Exodus 28:1. Aaron and his sons — Hitherto every master of a family was priest to his own family. But now, as the families of Israel began to be incorporated into a nation, and a tabernacle of the congregation was to be erected, as a visible centre of their unity, it was requisite there should be a public priesthood instituted. Moses, who had hitherto officiated, and is therefore reckoned among the priests of the Lord, (Psalm 99:6,) had enough to do as their prophet, to consult the oracle for them, and as their prince, to judge among them. Nor was he desirous to engross all the honours to himself, or to entail that of the priesthood, which alone was hereditary, upon his own family; but was very well pleased to see his brother Aaron invested with this office, and his sons after him; while (how great soever he himself was) his sons after him would be but common Levites. It is an instance of the humility of that great man, and an evidence of his sincere regard to the glory of God, that he had so little regard to the preferment of his own family. Aaron, that had humbly served as a prophet to his younger brother Moses, and did not decline the office, is now advanced to be a priest to God. God had said to Israel in general, that they should be to him a kingdom of priests; but because it was requisite that those who ministered at the altar should give themselves wholly to the service of God, he had chosen from among them one to be a family of priests, the father and his four sons; and from Aaron’s loins descended all the priests of the Jewish Church, whom we read of both in the Old Testament and in the New.

And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty.
Exodus 28:2. The priests’ garments were made for glory and beauty — Some of the richest materials were to be provided, and the best artists employed in making them, whose skill God, by a special gift, would improve to a very high degree. Eminence, even in common arts, is a gift of God; it comes from him, and ought to be used for him. The garments appointed were, 1st, Four, which both the high-priest and the inferior priest wore, namely, the linen breeches, the linen coat, the linen girdle, which fastened it to them, and the bonnet: that which the high-priest wore was called a mitre. 2d, Four more, which were peculiar to the high-priest, the ephod, with the curious girdle of it, the breast-plate of judgment, the long robe, and the golden plate on his forehead. These glorious garments were appointed, 1st, That the priests themselves might be reminded of the dignity of their office. 2d, That the people might thereby be possessed with a holy reverence for that God whose ministers appeared in such grandeur.

3d, That the priests might be types of Christ, and of all Christians who have the beauty of holiness put upon them.

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.
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.
And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work.
Exodus 28:6. They shall make the ephod of gold — This was the outmost garment of the high-priest. Linen ephods were worn by the inferior priests; but this which the high-priest wore was called a golden ephod, because there was a great deal of gold woven into it. It was a short linen coat without sleeves, of various colours, which hung behind upon the back and shoulders, and came down before upon the breast. The shoulder pieces were buttoned together with two onyx-stones, set in gold, one on each shoulder. And on these two onyx-stones were engraven the names of the twelve sons of Israel, six on each stone, according to their seniority, that the high-priest might bear their names before the Lord in his ministrations, in token of his appearing before God as their representative, and for a memorial, that he might both remember to plead their cause as their advocate, and also might put the Lord in remembrance, so to speak, of his promises to them, Isaiah 9:6. A similar reason is given, (Exodus 28:29,) for his wearing the breast-plate. Le Clerc gives it as his opinion, that these names upon the two precious stones signified further, 1st, The union of all the tribes in one commonwealth; 2d, Their union in one religion and priesthood; and, 3d, That the care of the public religion rested, as it were, upon the high-priest, and was, of all concerns, to be next his heart. According to our translation, and as most interpreters have understood the expression, the ephod was girt on with a girdle over the breast, dyed, embroidered, and interwoven with gold, like the other parts of the ephod.

Thus Christ appeared to John, girt about the paps with a golden girdle, Revelation 1:13. Righteousness was the girdle of his loins. He was girt with strength for the work of our salvation, and was clad with zeal as with a cloak. The government also is upon his shoulders, and he ever liveth to make intercession for his people, bearing their names before God, as a memorial, not engraven on stones of onyx, but in characters of unspeakable and everlasting love upon his heart. Hence, as their representative and advocate, he interposes in their behalf, prevalently pleads their cause, and will present them to himself and to his Father, a glorious church, (Ephesians 5:27,) without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.

It shall have the two shoulderpieces 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.
Exodus 28:11. Ouches — Hollow places, such as are made in gold rings, to receive and hold the precious stones.

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.
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.
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.
Exodus 28:15. The breast-plate of judgment — The most considerable of the ornaments of the high-priest was this breast-plate, termed the breast-plate of judgment, because the high-priest wore it upon his breast when he went to ask counsel or judgment of God. The Seventy render the word λογειον, oracle, because hereby the Lord gave answers to the inquiries made by the high-priest in behalf of Israel. It was a rich piece of cloth, curiously wrought with gold and purple, four-square, that is, nine inches long being doubled, and a span broad. The reason of its being doubled was probably for the greater strength and convenience, as it was to hold the weight of twelve precious stones, with the names of the twelve tribes engraven upon them. Some question whether Levi had a precious stone with his name on it or not; if not, Ephraim and Manasseh were reckoned distinct, as Jacob had said they should be, and the high-priest himself being head of the tribe of Levi, sufficiently represented that tribe. Aaron was to bear their names for a memorial before the Lord continually, being ordained for men, to represent them in things pertaining to God; herein typifying our great High- Priest, who always appears in the presence of God for us. The name of each tribe was engraven in a precious stone, to signify how precious in God’s sight believers are, and how honourable, Isaiah 43:4. The high- priest had the names of the tribes both on his shoulders and on his breast, denoting both the power and the love with which our Lord Jesus intercedes for us. How near should Christ’s name lie to our hearts, since he is pleased to lay our names so near his! And what a comfort is it to us, in all our addresses to God, that the great High-Priest of our profession has the names of all his Israel upon his breast before the Lord, for a memorial, presenting them to God!

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, 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.
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.
Exodus 28:30. The Urim and Thummim — By which the will of God was made known in doubtful cases, was put in this breast-plate, which is therefore called the breast-plate of judgment. Urim and Thummim signify light and integrity, or lights and perfections: many conjectures there are among the learned what they were: we have no reason to think they were any thing that Moses was to make, more than what was before ordered; so that either God made them himself, and gave them to Moses, for him to put into the breast-plate when other things were prepared; or, as is most probable, no more is meant but a declaration of the further use of what was already ordered to be made. The words may be read thus: And thou shalt give, or add, to the breast-plate of judgment, the illuminations and perfections, and they shall be upon the heart of Aaron — That is, he shall be endued with a power of knowing and making known the mind of God in all difficult cases, relative either to the civil or ecclesiastical state. Their government was a theocracy; God was their king, the high-priest was, under God, their ruler, this Urim and Thummim were his cabinet council: probably Moses wrote upon the breast-plate, or wove into it, these words, Urim and Thummim, to signify that the high-priest, having on him this breast-plate, and asking counsel of God in any emergency, should be directed to those measures which God would own. If he were standing before the ark, probably he received instructions from off the mercy-seat, as Moses did, Exodus 25:22. If he were at a distance from the ark, as Abiathar was when he inquired of the Lord for David, (1 Samuel 23:6,) then the answer was given either by a voice from heaven, or by an impulse upon the mind of the high-priest, which last is perhaps intimated in that expression, He shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart. This oracle was of great use to Israel. Joshua consulted it, (Numbers 27:21,) and it is likely, the judges after him. It was lost in the captivity, and never retrieved after. Indeed, according to the Jewish doctors, as Calmet observes, the custom of consulting God by Urim and Thummim continued no longer than under the tabernacle; for under the first temple, they say, (the temple of Solomon,) God spake by the prophets, and under the second temple, or after the captivity of Babylon, by bath koll, or the daughter of the voice, by which they mean a voice sent from heaven, as that which was heard at the baptism of Christ, at his transfiguration, and that mentioned John 12:28.

This Urim and Thummim, whatever they were, and in whatever way the will of God was made known by them, were no more than a shadow of good things to come, and the substance is Christ. He is our oracle; by him God in these last days makes known himself and his mind to us. Divine revelation centres in him, and comes to us through him; he is the light, the true light, the faithful witness; and from him we receive the Spirit of truth, who leads us into all truth. The joining of the breast-plate to the ephod signifies, that his prophetical office was founded on his priesthood; and it was by the merit of his death that he purchased this honour for himself, and this favour for us. It was the Lamb that had been slain that was worthy to take the book, and to open the seals, Revelation 5:9.

And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue.
Exodus 28:31. The robe of the ephod — This was next under the ephod, and reached down to the knees, without sleeves, and was put on over the head, having holes on the sides to put the arms through, or, as Maimonides describes it, was not sewed together on the sides at all. The hole on the top, through which the head was put, was carefully bound about that it might not tear in the putting on. The bells gave notice to the people in the outer court when he went into the holy place to burn incense, that they might then apply themselves to their devotions at the same time, (Luke 1:10,) in token of their concurrence with him, and their hopes of the ascent of their prayers to God in the virtue of the incense he offered. Aaron must come near to minister in the garments that were appointed him, that he die not. It is at his peril if he attend otherwise than according to the institution.

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.
Exodus 28:32-33. An habergeon — A coat of armour. Pomegranates — The figures of pomegranates, but flat and embroidered.

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.
And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.
Exodus 28:36. On the golden plate fixed upon Aaron’s forehead, like a half coronet, reaching, as the Jews say, from ear to ear, must be engraved, Holiness to the Lord — Aaron must hereby be reminded, that God is holy, and that his priests must be holy. The high-priest must be consecrated to God, and so must all his ministrations. All that attend in God’s house must have holiness to the Lord engraven upon their foreheads, that is, they must be holy, devoted to the Lord, and designing his glory in all they do. This must appear in their forehead, in an open profession of their relation to God, as those that are not ashamed to own it, and in a conversation answerable to it. It must likewise be engraven like the engravings of a signet, so deep, so durable; not painted, so as it may be washed off, but sincere and lasting.

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.
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.
Exodus 28:38. Aaron must have this upon his forehead, that he may bear the iniquity of the holy things, and that they may be accepted before the Lord — Herein he was a type of Christ, the great Mediator between God and man. Through him, what is amiss in our services, is pardoned: even this would be our ruin, if God should enter into judgment with us: but Christ, our High-Priest, bears this iniquity; bears it for us, so as to bear it from us. Through him, likewise, what is good is accepted; our persons, our performances, are pleasing to God upon the account of Christ’s intercession, and not otherwise. His being holiness to the Lord, recommends all those to the divine favour that believe in him. Having such a High-Priest, we come boldly to the throne of grace.

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.
Exodus 28:39. The embroidered coat of fine linen — Was the innermost of the priestly garments, it reached to the feet, and the sleeves to the wrists, and was bound to the body with a girdle or sash of needle-work. The mitre or diadem was of linen, such as kings anciently wore in the East, typifying the kingly office of Christ.

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.
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.
Exodus 28:41. And shalt anoint them — He anointed Aaron by pouring the holy oil upon his head, Leviticus 8:12; but his sons only by sprinkling some of it upon their garments, as he did upon Aaron’s also, together with some blood of the sacrifice, Exodus 29:21; Leviticus 8:30. And consecrate them — In the Hebrew it is, Thou shalt fill their hands; alluding, probably, to the ceremony of putting into their hands the ensigns of their office, or to that of putting the wave-offering into their hands, that they might wave it before the Lord, Exodus 29:24; Leviticus 8:27.

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.
Exodus 28:43. It shall be a statute for ever — That is, it is to continue as long as the priesthood continues. And it is to have its perpetuity in the substance of which these things were the shadow.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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