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.
Verses 1-12. - THE HOLY GARMENTS. The special object of the present chapter is to prescribe the form, materials, colour, etc., of the holy garments - or the attire of those who were to minister in the tabernacle at the time of their ministration. As the service of the tabernacle was about to be committed to Aaron and his sons, their selection for this office is mentioned in verse 1, and their investiture and consecration briefly touched in verse 41. Otherwise the whole chapter is concerned with the attire That of Aaron is first prescribed (vers. 4-39). It consists of an ephod (vers. 6-12); a breastplate (vers. 13-30); a robe (vers. 31-35); a mitre (vers 36-38); a coat, or tunic; and a girdle (ver. 39). The dress of his sons follows. It comprises drawers (ver. 42), tunics, girdles, and caps or turbans (ver. 40). Incidentally it is mentioned in verse 43, that drawers are also to be worn by Aaron; and, in conclusion, the neglect of this ordinance in the case of either Aaron or his sons is forbidden under penalty of death Verse 1. - Take thou unto thee. Literally, "Make to draw near to thee." Moses had hitherto been of all the people the one nearest to God, the medium of communication. He was now to abdicate a portion of his functions, transferring them to his brother and his brother's sons. By this act he would draw them nearer to him than they were before. It is worthy of remark that he makes no remonstrance or opposition, but carries out God's will in this matter as readily and willingly as in all others. (See Leviticus 8:4-30.) From among the children of Israel. The LXX. reads "And from among the children of Israel," as if others besides the family of Aaron had been admitted to the priesthood. But this is contrary to the entire tenor of the later narrative. The existing Hebrew text is correct. Nadab and Abihu, and again, Eleazar and Ithamar, are always coupled together in the Pentateuch (Exodus 24:1; Leviticus 10:1, 12; etc.), while a marked division is made between the two pairs of brothers. It is probably the sin and early death of the two elder (Leviticus 10:1-2) that causes the separation. Of Ithamar after the death of his brothers, nothing is known. Eleazar became high priest (Numbers 34:17; Joshua 14:1; Joshua 17:4; etc.).
And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty.
Verse 2. - Holy garments have provoked an extreme aversion and an extreme affection at different periods of the world's history. In Moses' time probably no one thought of raising any objection to them. Priestly dresses of many different kinds were worn in Egypt, and some costume other than that of ordinary life, was probably affected by the priest class of every nation. Without entering into any elaborate "philosophy of clothes," we may say that the rationale of the matter would seem to be that expressed with great moderation by Richard Hooker - "To solemn actions of royalty and justice their suitable ornaments are a beauty. Are they in religion only a stain?" (See Eccl. Pol. 5:29, § 1.) The garments ordered to be made for Aaron and his sons (ver. 41), are said to have been for glory and for beauty.
1. "For glory." To exalt the priestly office in the eyes of the people - to make them look with greater reverence on the priests themselves and the priestly functions - to place the priests in a class by themselves, in a certain sense, above the rest of the nation.
2. "For beauty." As fit and comely in themselves - suitable to the functions which the priests exercised - in harmony with the richness and beauty of the sanctuary wherein they were to minister. God, himself, it would seem, is not indifferent to beauty. He has spread beauty over the earth, fie will have beauty in his earthly dwelling-place. He requires men to worship him "in the beauty of holiness" (Psalm 29:2; Psalm 96:9; 1 Chronicles 16:29). He ordains for his priests rich and splendid dresses "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.
Verse 3. - Wise-hearted. In modern parlance the heart is made the seat of the affections and emotions, the brain of the intellect. But the Hebrew idiom was different. There the heart was constantly spoken of as the seat of wisdom. (See below, Exodus 31:6; Exodus 35:10, 25; Exodus 36:1, 2; Job 9:4; Proverbs 11:29, etc.) The spirit of wisdom might seem to be scarcely necessary for the work of constructing a set of priestly garments; but where "glory and beauty" are required, high artistic power is needed; and this power is regarded by the sacred writers, as indeed it is by most of those who have written on the human understanding - notably Plato and Aristotle - as a very important part of the intellect. Techne, says Aristotle, involves theoria, as well as aesthesis and genesis, requires, i.e., a knowledge of high abstract truths, as well as the perceptive faculty which we commonly call "taste," and the constructive one known as "power of execution." (See Eth. Nic. 6:4, § 4.) It is, with him, one of the five chief intellectual excellences. To consecrate him. Investiture in the holy garments was made a part of the ceremony of consecration (Exodus 29:5-9; Leviticus 8:7-9, 13), as it is in the English Ordinal in the consecration of a bishop.
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.
Verse 4. - These are the garments. The enumeration does not follow the same order exactly as the description. The two agree, however, in giving the precedence to the same three articles of apparel out of the six - viz., the breast-plate, the ephod, and the robe. His sons - i.e., his successors in the office of high priest, The materials of the priestly garments.
And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen.
Verse 5. - The materials for the priestly garments were to be limited to six - precious stones, which are not here mentioned, as being ornamental, rather than essential, parts of the apparel; a blue thread, known as "blue" (compare Exodus 25:4); a purple or crimson one, known as "purple;" a scarlet one, known as "scarlet;" and a white one, which is called "fine linen." These were the same materials as those used for the veil (Exodus 26:31), and curtains (ib, 1, 36) of the sanctuary; but probably the fabric was of a more delicate quality. They shall take - i.e.," They," the wise-hearted men to whom the work was to be entrusted - "shall take," or receive from Moses - "the (necessary) gold, blue, purple," etc. In the original all these words have the definite article prefixed. The Ephod,
And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work.
Verse 6. - They shall make the ephod The word ephod signifies etymologically any "vestment" or "garment;" but in its use it is confined to the special vestment here described, the great object of which was to be a receptacle for the "breast-plate." The ephod was a sort of jerkin or waistcoat, consisting of two pieces, one to cover the chest and the other the back, joined together probably by a seam, above the shoulders, and united at the waist by a band called "the curious girdle of the ephod." This band was of one piece with the ephod, being woven on either to the front or the back part; it held the other part in place, and was passed round the body and fastened either with a clasp, or with buttons, or strings. Of gold, of blue, of purple, etc. - i.e., "of the same materials as the curtains and veil of the sanctuary, with the addition of gold." The gold was probably in the shape of gold thread, or wire of extreme tenuity, and was introduced by the needle after the fabric bad been woven, as was commonly done in Egypt (Herod. 3:47; Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, vol. 3. p. 128: compare below, Exodus 39:3). The white, blue, purple, and scarlet threads were doubtless woven into a pattern of some kind; but it is impossible to say what the pattern was. In Egypt patterns were not much affected, the dress worn being commonly white, with a stripe sometimes at the edge; but the Semitic tribes, who bordered Egypt on the East, affected gay colours and. varied designs, if we may trust the Egyptian wall-paintings. With cunning work. Literally, "work of the skilled (workman)." Some of the Hebrews had evidently carried on the trade of weaving in Egypt, and had brought their looms with them. The Egyptian looms were hand-looms, and of no great size; they admitted of easy transport.
It shall have the two shoulderpieces thereof joined at the two edges thereof; and so it shall be joined together.
Verse 7. - The two shoulder-pieces thereof, Literally, "Two shoulder-pieces." There is no article, and no possessive pronoun. At the two edges thereof. Literally, "at its two ends." A union of the back and front flaps of the dress by a seam at the top of the shoulder seems to be intended. Female dresses were made in this way among the Greeks, but fastened with a brooch or buckle.
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.
Verse 8. - The curious girdle. Josephus says of the ephod, ζώνῃ περισφίγγεται βάμμασι διαπεποικιλμένῃ χρυσοῦ συνυφασμένου, "it is fastened with a girdle dyed of many hues, with gold interwoven in it." Hence its name, khesheb, which means properly "device" or "cunning work." Of the ephod. Rather "of its girding" - i.e. "wherewith it (the ephod) was to be girded." Shall be of the same. Compare above, Exodus 25:19. The girdle was to be "of one piece" with the ephod, woven on to it as part of it, not a separate piece attached by sewing. According to the work thereof. Rather, "of like workmanship with it."
And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the children of Israel:
Verse 9. - Two onyx stones. The correctness of this rendering has been much disputed. The LXX. give σμάραγδος, "emeraid." as the Greek equivalent in the present passage, while many argue for the beryl (Winer, Rosenmuller, Bollermann), and others for the sardonyx. This last rendering has the support of Josephus and Aquila. The sardonyx is, in fact, nothing but the best kind of onyx, differing from the onyx by having three layers - black, white, and red - instead of two - black and white - only. When large, it fetches a high price, as much as a thousand pounds having been asked for one by a dealer recently. The probability is, that it is the stone here intended. It is an excellent material for engraving. With respect to the possibility of Moses having in the congregation persons who could engrave the sardonyx, we may remark that the Egyptians cut stones quite as hard, from a date long anterior to the exodus. Grave on them the names of the children of Israel. Egyptian names are frequently found engraved on rings and amulets in hard stone; these rings and amulets date from the time of the twelfth dynasty. The names here intended are evidently the Israelite tribe names, which are reckoned as twelve, the double tribe of Joseph counting as one only. (Compare Numbers 1:10; Deuteronomy 33:13-17.)
Six of their names on one stone, and the other six names of the rest on the other stone, according to their birth.
Verse 10. - The other six names of the rest. Literally, "The remaining six names." According to their birth - i.e., in the order of seniority - or perhaps, in the order observed in Exodus 1:2-4, where the children of the two legitimate wives are given the precedence.
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.
Verse 11. - With the work of an engraver. Rather, "an artificer." The engravings of a signet. Signets in Egypt were ordinarily rings, on the bezel of which the name of the owner was inscribed. Some were of solid gold; others with cylindrical bezels of glass or hard stone. On the early use of such signet rings in Egypt see Genesis 41:42. Cylinders, strung round the wrist and engraved with a name and titles, were common in Mesopotamia from B.C. 2000. Ouches of gold. Settings in open-work or filagree seem to be intended - a kind of setting which is very common in Egyptian ornaments.
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.
Verse 12. - Stones of memorial unto the children of Israel. Rather "for the children of Israel" - stones, i.e. which should serve to remind God that the high priest represented the twelve tribes, officiated in their name, and pleaded on their behalf.
And thou shalt make ouches of gold;
Verses 13-30. - THE BREAST-PLATE. It has been noticed that the ephod had for its main object or purpose to be a receptacle for the breast-plate which was attached to it after it had been put on, and formed its principal ornament. The Hebrew word khoshen, which is translated "breast-plate," means "ornament;" and the khoshen must certainly have been the most striking and brilliant object in the whole attire of the high priest. Externally, it did but repeat the symbolism of the ephod, exhibiting the high priest as the representative of the twelve tribes, whose names were engraved upon its twelve stones, as well as upon the onyxes of the ephod. Internally, it had, however, another, and a deeper import. It contained within it the Urim and the Thummim (ver. 30), by means of which God was consulted, and signified his will to his people. This must be regarded as its main end and use. It was from the decisions thus given that it received the name of "the breastplate (or ornament) of judgment." Verse 13. - Ouches of gold. "Buttons" according to one view (Cook): "sockets," according to another (Kalisch): "rosettes," according to a third (Keil). Some small ornament of open-work (see the comment on ver. 11), which could be sewn on to the ephod, and whereto a chain might be attached, seems to be intended. The object was to fasten the "breast-plate" firmly to the ephod.
And two chains of pure gold at the ends; of wreathen work shalt thou make them, and fasten the wreathen chains to the ouches.
Verse 14. - At the ends. The meaning of the Hebrew word migaloth is very doubtful. Jarchi and Rosemuller approve of the rendering of our translators. Geddes, Boothroyd, and Dathe render "chains of equal length." Gesenius, Kalisch, Canon Cook, and others, believe the true meaning to be "wreathed," or "of wreathen work," so that the next clause, "after the manner of a rope," would be simply exegetic. Of wreathen work. Literally, "after the manner of a rope." Cords of twisted gold wire were frequently used, instead of chains, by the Egyptians.
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.
Verse 15. - The breast-plate. As the khoshen was to be worn upon the breast (ver. 29), this name is appropriate; but it is not a translation of khoshen. Of judgment. See the introductory paragraph to this section. Kalisch translates "the breast-plate of decision." It was to be made, so far as its main fabric was concerned, of exactly the same materials as the ephod. See ver. 6.
Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof.
Verse 16. - Four square... being doubled. It has been generally supposed that the doubling was merely for the purpose of giving additional strength to the work, which was to receive twelve heavy gems; but Gesenius and others are of opinion that the object was to form a bag, in which the Urim and Thum-mira, which they regard as material objects, might be kept. A span. Half a cubit, or about nine inches.
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.
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.
And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond.
Verse 18. - The second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. Here all the names must be wrong, for none of these three stones could be cut by the ancient engravers. Probably, carbuncle (or garnet), lapis lazuli, and onyx are intended.
And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst.
Verse 19. - The third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. The term "ligure" is unknown in modern mineralogy; and it is to the last degree uncertain what stone the ancients intended by their lingurium or lapis ligurius Some think that "jacinth," others that "tourmaline," is the stone here meant. A few suggest amber, but amber cannot receive an engraving. "Agate" and "amethyst" are generally allowed to be right translations.
And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings.
Verse 20. - The fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper. If the identifications above suggested are allowed, two at least of these translations must be rejected. We have supposed the third stone in the first row to have been the "beryl," and the third in the second the "onyx." Perhaps we should translate, "a turquoise, a sardonyx, and a jasper." (See the comment on ver. 9.) Their inclosings. Rather, "their settings," as in ver. 17.
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.
Verse 21. - The stones shall be with the names. Rather, "according to the names;" the number of the stones shall agree with that of the names, viz., twelve. Everyone with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes. Rather, "every one according to its name, they shall be for the twelve tribes," i.e., each, according to the name that is on it, shall stand for one of the twelve tribes.
And thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen work of pure gold.
Verse 22. - Chains at the ends. Compare the comment on ver. 14. Kalisch translates, "chains of wreathen work, twisted in the manner of ropes."
And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate.
Verses 23-28. - These verses present no difficulty. They describe very minutely, and with some tautology, the mode in which the breast-plate was to be fastened to the ephod. It was to have four rings, two at its two upper corners (ver. 23), and two just behind its two lower corners (ver. 20); a gold twist or cord was to be passed through each of the two upper rings, and then attached to the" ouches" or settings of the shoulder stones (ver. 25; compare vers. 11-14). A blue lace or ribbon was to be passed through each of the two lower rings, and these laces were to be tied to two rings, sewn for the purpose on to the front of the ephod a little above the "curious girdle" (vers. 26, 27). By these four fastenings at its four corners, the breast-plate was securely attached to the ephod, and could not readily get loose from it.
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.
Verse 27. - Over against the other coupling thereof. Rather, "near its joining." The "joining" of the ephod is perhaps the place where the 'curious girdle" was woven on to it.
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.
Verse 29. - And Aaron shall bear, etc. "Aaron," i.e., "shall not only bear the names of the twelve tribes upon his shoulders (ver. 12), but also upon his heart." He shall thus make a double presentation of them to God continually. The explanation is somewhat fanciful, that the names on the shoulder-stones indicated that the people were a burthen to him, while those on the stones of the breast-plate, being upon his breast, indicated that he bore them affection. The breast and the shoulder were probably chosen as being conspicuous and honourable positions.
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.
Verse 30. - Thou shalt put in the breast-plate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim. The words Urim and Thummim mean respectively "Lights "and" Perfections," or perhaps "Light" and "Perfection - the plural form being merely a plural of honour. They were well translated by Aquila and Symmachus, φωτισμοὶ καὶ τελειότητες: less well by the LXX. ἡ δήλωσις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια: still worse by the Vulgate, Doctrina et Veritas. What exactly the two words represented is doubtful in the extreme. It has been supposed by some that they were not material objects, but a method by which God communicated his will; e.g., a miraculous light, or a miraculous voice. But such things as these could not have been put by Moses either "in," or "on the breastplate of judgment." Modern critics are generally agreed that the Urim and Thummim must have been material objects of one kind or another. The objects suggested are -
1. The engraved stones of the breast-plate.
2. Two small images, like the teraphim.
3. A gold plate, engraved with the name of Jehovah.
4. Three plates or slips; one blank, one engraved with "yes," and one with "no."
5. Diamonds, cut and uncut, with marks engraved on them.
Against the first of these views it is urged with very great force that the present passage shows the Urim and Thummim to be something quite distinct from the breast-plate - something which was to be added to the breast-plate after all the stones had been set in it; and which Aaron was to bear upon his breast in addition to the breast-plate and its jewels (compare ver. 29 with ver. 30). Against the fourth and fifth, it is sufficient to observe that they are pure conjectures, without any basis of authority, either in Scripture or tradition. The second and the third remain. The third has important Jewish names in its favour, but is open to the objection that it makes a single object correspond to both words. The second alone seems to have any basis in Scripture, which certainly connects the use of teraphim with the use of an ephod (Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14, 17, 20; Hosea 3:4). On the whole, while admitting that there is no sufficient evidence to determine the question, we incline to regard the Urim and Thummim as small images, kept in the bag of the "breast-plate" (ver. 16), by means of which the high priest gave a decision when he was consulted. How the decision was arrived at, is an even more difficult problem than the one which we have attempted to solve. Some suppose the two images to have been used as lots, one giving an affirmative and the other a negative answer. Others imagine, that by gazing attentively upon them, and fixing his thoughts on the qualities which they symbolised - illumination and perfection - the high priest was thrown into an ecstatic state which enabled him to prophesy aright. The notion has even been started, that an angel spoke by their lips, and answered any question that was put to them. The truth seems to be that no theory on the subject can be more than a theory - quite arbitrary and conjectural - neither Scripture nor tradition furnishing any hint on the matter. If we knew how men divined from teraphim (2 Kings 23:24; Ezekiel 21:21; Zechariah 10:2), we might thence obtain some inkling of the truth, since there is much probability in the view, that the teraphim were employed as an unauthorised substitute for the Urim and Thummim. (See Judges 17:5; Judges 18:5, 6, 14-20.) But the method of this divination is wholly unknown. It is not however likely to have been a mere casting of lots, which is a very simple process, and requires no images; nor can this explanation of the decision by Urim and Thummim be regarded as having probability m its favour. Perhaps, of all the theories, that which supposes the Urim and Thummim to have been objects gazed at by the high priest until he entered the ecstatic state, is the least objectionable. It must not, however, be considered an essential part of this theory, that the material objects were derived from the religion of Egypt (Plumptre). The objects must have been well known to Moses and to those for whom he wrote; otherwise, they could not have been introduced, without any account of their nature, as," The Urim" and "The Thummim." They had probably been long possessed and consulted by the nation, which was accustomed to believe that it received enlightenment from them. Perhaps they were a sort of teraphim, but unconnected with any idolatrous worship. It is quite conceivable that an old usage, hitherto un-authorised, but not debased by any flagrant corruption, should have been adopted by Divine command into the Mosaic ritual, purified of any evil that attached to it, and consecrated to an important purpose.
And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue.
Verses 31-35. - THE ROBE OF THE EPHOD. Underneath the ephod and breast-plate the high priest was to wear a robe, or frock, wholly of blue. This robe was to have a hole for the head at the top, and was to be woven without seam (Exodus 39:22). It was put on over the head, like a habergeon or coat of mail, and probably reached below the knee. Josephus says that it had no sleeves. Verse 31. - All of blue. This plainness and uniformity offered a strong contrast to the variegated hues of the breast-plate and ephod, and threw those portions of the attire into greater prominence. If the blue used was indigo, the effect of the contrast must have been heightened
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.
Verse 32. - An hole in the top of it. A mere circular hole for the head to go through, unaccompanied by a slit or longitudinal opening. In the midst of it. Midway between the two arm-holes. A binding of woven work round about the hole of it. This would strengthen the edge of the opening) and prevent it from tearing or fraying. The binding was probably sewn on after the frock was woven. As it were the hole of an habergeon. Linen corselets or habergeons have been found in Egypt. They were sometimes covered with metal scales, and were of the make here indicated. (See the author's History of Egypt, vol. 1. p. 446.) The word here used for "habergeon" (takharah) is Egyptian.
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:
Verse 33. - Upon the hem of it. Literally "at its edge" Pomegranates. Tassels in the shape of pomegranates, of three colours, seem to be intended. An ornament of the kind is common in Assyria, but not in Egypt. Bells of gold between them. The bell is not often found in Egypt, and seems certainly not to have born in common use there. It was, however. often hung round the necks of horses in Assyria (Ancient Monarchies, vol. it. pp. 8, 14, 15, 27), and is so simple an object that its invention was probably very early. The Assyrian bells are shaped almost exactly like our own. as are the classical ones.
A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about.
Verses 34, 35. - A golden bell and a pomegranate. Hebrew tradition gives a most uncertain sound with respect to the number of the bells. According to some, they were 12 only; according to others, 72; according to a third school, 3651 Equally conflicting are the explanations given of their symbolism -
(1) that they typified the proclamation and expounding of the law by the high-priest -
(2) that they were a musical offering of praise -
(3) that they marked kingly dignity, since Oriental kings sometimes wore bells - and
(4) that they were a call to vigilance and attention. This last view is supported by the words of verse 35 - it shall be upon Aaron to minister, and his sound shall be hoard, or "that its sound may be heard." The bells were a means of uniting priest and people in one common service - they enabled the people to enter into and second what the priest was doing for them, and so to render his mediation efficacious - they made the people's worship in the court of the sanctuary a "reasonable service." And hence the threat, which certainly does not extend to all the priestly garments, implied in the words, "that he die not." If the high priest neglected to wear the robe with the bells, he separated himself off from the people; made himself their substitute and not their mouthpiece; reduced their worship to a drear formality; deprived it of all heartiness and life and vigour. For thus abusing his office, he would deserve death, especially as he could not do it unwittingly, for his ears would tell him whether he was wearing the bells or not.
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.
Verses 36-38. - THE MITRE. Josephus tells us that the head-dress of the high priest was "not a conical cap, but a sort of crown, made of thick linen swathes" (Ant. Jud. 3:7, § 3). It was thus really a species of turban. The colour was white; and the only ornament on it was the gold plate, with its blue ribbon or fillet. Verse 36. - Thou shalt make a plate of pure gold. The plate, though a mere ornament of the mitre, was, at once, its most conspicuous and its most significant feature. Placed directly in front, right over the forehead, and probably of burnished gold, it would attract universal attention, and catch the eye even more than the breast-plate. Its position made it "the culminating point of the whole priestly attire" (Kalisch) - and its inscription gave to that position extraordinary force and significance. For it taught that "holiness to the Lord" is the very highest crown and truest excellence of religion - that to which all ceremonial is meant to conduce - that without which all the paraphernalia of worship must ever be in God's sight a mockery. It set this truth conspicuously before the eyes, and was apt to impress it upon the hearts of all. It taught the high priest himself not to rest upon outward forms, but to aim in his own person, and teach the people to aim continually, at internal holiness. The extreme importance of this, causes the putting forward at once of the plate and its inscription before any account of the "mitre" is given.
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.
Verse 37. - Thou shalt put it on a blue lace. In Exodus 39:31, it is explained that the blue lace, or ribbon, was "tied to it," probably at either end. That it may be upon the mitre - i.e., "that it may be kept in place, and not slip from its position on the mitre."
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.
Verse 38. - It shall be upon his forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the sacred things. Imperfection attaches to everything that man does; and even the sacrifices that the people offered to God required to be atoned for and purified. It was granted to the high priest in his official capacity to make the necessary atonement, and so render the people's gifts acceptable. For this purpose he was invested with an official holiness, proclaimed by the inscription upon the plate, which exhibited him as the type and representative of that perfectly Holy One, through whom alone can any real atonement be made to the Father. It shall be always upon his forehead - i.e., whenever he ministers.
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.
Verse 39. - THE TUNIC AND GIRDLE. From the outer garments, which were the most important and distinctive, a transition is now made to the inner ones, in which there was nothing very remarkable. The linen drawers are for the present omitted, as not peculiar to the high priest. Directions are given for the tunic and the girdle. The former is to be woven in some peculiar way - so as to be diapered, as some think - and the latter is to be "the work of the embroiderer." Verse 39. - Thou shalt embroider. This is certainly not the meaning of the Hebrew. Some peculiar mode of weaving the coat is intended. The coat. Rather, "the tunic" or "shirt." The keloneth was a long linen gown or cassock, worn immediately over the drawers. It reached to the feet, and had tightly-fitting sleeves (Joseph. Ant. Jud. 3:7, § 2). Whether it showed beneath the "robe of the ephod," or not, is uncertain; but the sleeves must certainly have been visible. The keloneth was white. Thou shalt make the mitre of fine linen. This direction had not been previously given. It is a little out of place. Thou shalt make the girdle of needlework. Literally, "of the work of the embroiderer." The girdle was worn directly over the linen shirt, and under "the robe of the ephod." It would seem that it was not seen at all, unless its ends hung down below "the robe of the ephod." It was however to be artistically embroidered (See Exodus 39:29.)
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.
Verses 40-43. - THE APPAREL OF THE ORDINARY PRIESTS. The chapter concludes with brief directions concerning the official attire of the ordinary priests. This was to consist of linen drawers like those of the high priest; of a tunic, also of linen (Exodus 39:27), shaped like his, but not diapered; of a linen girdle, the exact character of which is not stated; and of a close-fitting cap. The entire dress, with perhaps the exception of the girdle, was white. The linen drawers were regarded as of primary necessity, and the priest who did not wear them was threatened with death. Verse 40. - For Aaron's sons. His actual sons at this time - his descendants afterwards, to whom the priesthood was rigidly confined. Thou shalt make coats. The verb is different from that used in ver 39, and seems to imply that the priests' tunics were not to be patterned. Girdles. It has generally been supposed that these were of the same material and workmanship as the high priest's; but this is nowhere stated. In Exodus 39:29, the high priest's girdle alone is spoken cf. Bonnets. Certainly not "bonnets "in the modern sense. Plain, close-fitting caps, shaped like a cup, or rather basin, seem to be meant. Such caps were often worn in Egypt, but not by the priests. For glory and for beauty. See above, ver. 2. It is very noticeable, that the extremely simple attire of the ordinary priests - a dress of pure white, without anything ornamental about it, unless it were the girdle - is still regarded as sufficient "for glory and for beauty." White robes have certainly a vast amount of scriptural testimony in their favour (Leviticus 16:4; Mark 9:3; John 20:12; Acts 1:10; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:9, 14, etc.).
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.
Verse 41. - Thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, etc. These words serve to connect the present chapter with the following one. They contain the first intimation that Moses is not only to cause the holy garments to be made, but to invest the priests in them, and further to consecrate both Aaron and his sons by anointing. On this point, see the comment on Exodus 29:7-9.
And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:
Verse 42. - Linen breeches. Rather, "linen drawers" (Kalisch), such as we see worn by the Egyptians generally, reaching from the waist to a little above the knee. (See Wilkinson in Rawlinson's Herodotus, vol. 2. p. 113, 2nd ed.) This also was of linen (Herod. 2:83). Unto the thighs - i.e., to the bottom of the thighs where they adjoin on the knee.
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.
Verse 43. - When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation. Literally," when they go into the tent of meeting - i.e., the place where God and the high priest were to meet. The holy place. The "holy place" seems in this passage to include the court of the tabernacle, wherein the altar was situated. That they bear not iniquity. To "bear iniquity" is to incur guilt, or have sin imputed to one. If even through forgetfulness a priest entered the sanctuary without this necessary article of clothing, and so risked an unseemly, exposure of his person, he was to be accounted guilty, and punished by death. This was to be a "statute for ever," and to apply both to the high priest and the ordinary priests. Compare Exodus 20:26.