Exodus 28
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
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 28:15; Exodus 28:17

Aaron had to wear upon his breast before the Lord twelve precious stones, not of one sort, but each one reflecting the light differently from his neighbour. There was one nearly black, whatever the diamond thought of him. But all the stones being set equally upon the priest's breast, no one of them might quarrel with another, saying, 'You are quite wrong, you are; you ought to reflect the light as I do. You will never be admitted into the most holy place.' Even the dark jasper reflected its measure of light as freely as brilliant diamond. The former may have a meekness the latter has not. Indeed, it is a known fact that the diamond is harder than any other stone. And hardness is distance from life in proportion to the hardness.

One thing is clear, there is a tribe in Israel corresponding with each stone. And the Lord requested that He might see the twelve stones upon Aaron's breast, with the names of the Twelve Tribes engraven on them, as often as he appeared before Him to minister in the priest's office (Exodus 28:29).

Perhaps it was in virtue of his representing, impartially, every tribe of God's people, that he obtained Divine responses pertaining to every tribe. A man cannot be the medium of truth to all the tribes of God, unless all truth has a place in him. Learn, whether the priests and ministers of God ought not to comprehend in their souls and characters considerable breadth and variety.

—Dr. Pulford, Quiet Hours.

Exodus 28:21

As the High Priest of old, when he entered into the Holy of Holies, bore upon his breast those twelve jewels which witnessed to the Twelve Tribes of Israel, so now, with a converse fitness and an equal duty, a religious and just people, advancing towards the gates of its new and higher destinies, must bear upon its breast that cause which is the cause of God.

—Aubrey De Vere.

Exodus 28:29

If the veil has as yet been but little withdrawn from the Holy of Holies, those who come after us will have learnt at least this one lesson, that this lifting of the veil which was supposed to be the privilege of priests, is no longer considered as a sacrilege, if attempted by any honest seekers after truth.

—Max Müller.

References.—XXVIII. 29.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii. p. 132.

Exodus 28:30

'May I ask you,' said John Bright to the citizens of Birmingham in 1858, 'to believe, as I do most devoutly believe, that the moral law was not written for men alone in their individual character, but that it was written as well for nations, and for nations great as this of which we are citizens. If nations reject and deride that moral law, there is a penalty which will inevitably follow. It may not come at once; it may not come in our lifetime; but, rely upon it, the great Italian is not a poet only, but a prophet, when he says:—

The sword of Heaven is not in haste to smite,

Nor yet doth linger.

We have experience, we have beacons, we have landmarks enough.... We are not left without a guide. It is true we have not, as an ancient people had, Urim and Thummim—those oraculous gems on Aaron's breast—from which to take counsel, but we have the unchangeable and eternal principles of the moral law to guide us, and only so far as we walk by that guidance can we be permanently a great nation, or our people a happy people.'

References.—XXVIII. 36.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy ScriptureExodus, etc., p. 151. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. 1896, p. 232. XXVIII. 36-38.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2153.

Bacteria in the Chalice

Exodus 28:38

Science tells us that bacteria lurk in the white snow and sparkling dew; and the purest saints are conscious of secret frailty marring holiest things and hours. Infection, alloy, degeneration, play their part in the spiritual as well as the natural sphere.

I. In private devotional hours it is not difficult to shut the door of our chamber, but it is far from easy to close the door of the mind upon base and secular images and feelings. Our prayers are hindered by insincerity, uncharitableness, impatience, and unbelief; we regard iniquity in our heart, and therefore many petitions we offer can never be put into the golden censer.

II. Outside sanctuaries, Sabbaths, and Scriptures are institutions, days, and relations whose sacredness we must not forget The loves of the home, kinship, friendship, citizenship, the treasures of literature, the gifts of beauty, the stewardship of wealth, the flowers and lutes of pleasure—these are holy also. But if these things are great and noble, Divine symbols and instruments of infinite suggestion and purport, how often are we forgetful and perverse, awakening in our better moments to reproach ourselves with the sin of sacrilege!

III. We must not think lightly of these sins because they seem in their refinement to stand apart from and beyond ordinary morality. They are not ecclesiastical but real sins, and with all their apparent subtilization they injuriously affect the whole sphere of character and action equally with coarser faults. In coming, the addition to gold of one five-hundredth part by weight of bismuth produces an alloy which crumbles under the die and refuses to take an impression; the very scent of an incongruous element sometimes debases and destroys the whole vast mass into which it enters. And if in physics the influence of minute admixtures is so immense, we may be sure that the iniquity of our holy things is not less pervasive and disastrous, affecting all that we are and do, and vitiating what otherwise would be the pure gold of life and action.

—W. L. Watkinson, Themes for Hours of Meditation, p. 66.

References.—XXIX. 1.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1203. XXIX. 26-28.—J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p. 241. XXIX. 33.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2528. XXIX. 43.—A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. 1893, p. 74.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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