Make holy garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and splendor.
I. OBSERVE HOW THE INDIVIDUAL IS HERE SUBORDINATED TO THE OFFICE. Jehovah tells Moses here, amid the solemnities of the mount, that his brother Aaron and Aaron's sons are to be taken for service in the priest's office; but no word is said concerning the characters of any of these men, not even Aaron himself. There is a demand that those who made the priestly garments should be wise-hearted, men with a spirit of wisdom which Jehovah himself would put into them; but nothing is said as to Aaron himself being wise-hearted. Nor is there any indication given beforehand of any personal fitness that he had for the office. We gather much as to the way in which God had been training Moses; but Aaron so far as we can see, seems to have been led by a way that he knew not. All the commandment to Moses is, "take to thee Aaron thy brother." He is indicated by a natural relation, and not by anything that suggests spiritual fitness. It is interesting to compare the utter absence of any reference here to personal character with the minute details of what constitutes fitness for bishop and deacon, as we find these details in the epistles to Timothy and Titus. In the old dispensation where there was but the shadow of good things to come, the trappings of the official and the ceremonies of the office were of more importance than the character of any individual holder. The purpose of Jehovah was best served, in proportion as the people, beholding Aaron, forgot that it was Aaron, and were chiefly impressed by the fact that they were looking on the appointed priest of the Most High.
II. OBSERVE WHAT WAS AIMED AT IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE PRIESTLY GARMENTS. They were to be for glory and for beauty. Not only different from the garments of the common people, but much more splendid. Gold was worked into the very substance of these garments; precious stones glittered upon them; and everything was done to make them beautiful and impressive. Nor was the splendour of these garments for a mere occasional revelation. Though not worn constantly, yet they had to be assumed for some part of every day; and thus all eyes were continually directed to symbols of the glory, beauty, and perfection which God was aiming to produce in the character of his people. There was as yet no finding of these things in human nature. The gold of human nature could not yet be purified from its debasing dross; but here for a symbol of the refined and perfected man, was gold, pure and bright, we may imagine, as ever came out of the furnace; and here were these precious stones, inestimably more precious since the tribal names were graven on them, and with the preciousness crowned when they took their place on the shoulders and breasts of the priest. Thus, whenever these stones flashed in the light, they spoke forth afresh the great truth, that this priest so gloriously attired, was the representative of the people before God; not a representative whom they had elected for themselves, and who would therefore go to God on a peradventure, but one who, because God himself had chosen him, could not fail to be acceptable. The principle underlying the direction to make these splendid garments is that which underlies the use of all trappings by government and authority. The outward shows of kingly state, the crown, the sceptre, the throne, the royal robes - these may not be impressive now as once they were; but they have been very serviceable once, and may still serve an important purpose, even though it be not easily perceived. It might make a difference in the administration of justice, if the garb of those who are the chief administrators were to differ nothing in public from what it is in private.
III. OBSERVE THAT TO SHOW FURTHER THE IMPORTANCE ATTACHED TO THESE GARMENTS, GOD HIMSELF PROVIDED SKILL FOR THE MAKING OF THEM. Much skill might be needed, far more than could be guessed by the observer, to make these garments graceful and impressive. What was all the richness of the material unless there was also dextrous, tasteful, and sympathetic workmanship? The gold, and the blue, and the purple, and all the rest of the promising materials would have availed nothing in some hands to avert a clumsy and cumbrous result. The people provided all they could, and it was a great deal; but God had to provide the craftsmen in order to make full use of the people's gift. - Y.
shesh, bleached, but not dyed. White raiment was emblematic of ethical purity. It was "the righteousness of the saints." As worn by the priest, it signified that those who were admitted to intimacy with the Holy One of Israel must be pure in heart and life. The material also contributed something to the significance of the dress. The garments must all be of linen; and in the vision of Ezekiel the directions given for the official raiment of the priests add to the requirement of linen the express prohibition of anything woollen. The reason of the requirement lies, doubtless, in the greater cleanliness possible in a warm climate to one whose garments are exclusively of this material. Not only was the costume of a priest significant in its material, colour, and number of pieces, but each of the four garments of which it was composed contributed an element peculiar to itself. The coat, or tunic, was first in importance, as it was in size. Reaching from the neck to the ankles, it was merely coincident, as a covering of the person, with the whole costume; so that the other three garments were supplements to this, rather than its equals. Its import, as might be expected, is also nearly the same as that of the whole dress. As the entire costume of four pieces, by means of its material and its dominant colour, was suggestive of holiness, so was the coat in particular, as it invested the person from the neck to the ankles with linen white and shining as light. Moreover, this garment was woven in one piece to represent, by this sort of integrity, moral wholeness or holiness. The tunic of the priest was also woven so as to exhibit checks like the pattern called damask; for such is the meaning of the descriptive adjective which the English translators incorrectly regarded as equivalent to "broidered." The coat was therefore covered throughout with four-sided figures of small size. Bahr thinks that these were symbols of like import with the precious stones in the breastplate of the high priest; as if every member of the sacerdotal family bore on his person visible signs that as a priest he was the representative of the tribes of Israel, these symbols designedly having, in the case of the subordinate priests, only a reflection of the glory and beauty of those which distinguished the head of the order. A girdle of some kind was in ancient times, as it is even now, essential to the completeness of an oriental costume; and, by means of diversity in material, size, shape, and ornamentation, was easily made a badge of office. The girdle of the Hebrew priest seems to have been, more than any other article of his attire, an official badge. According to the traditional law of the Hebrews, the priest must remove his girdle when he ceased to officiate, but might, if more convenient, continue to wear the other official garments through the day. How the girdle of the priest symbolized his office as an attache of the Tabernacle, is evident when we consider its peculiar ornamentation. Like the other garments it was of white linen; but, unlike them, it was interwoven with threads of blue, purple, and crimson. The four colours of the Tabernacle signified that the wearer belonged to the institution. This badge of office certified that he had a right to enter the habitation where these significant colours were dominant. The Arab wears on his head a cap similar to the Turkish fez, which he calls a tarbush. The Bedouin spreads over it a handkerchief folded so that three of the four corners hang down on the back and shoulders, and binds it in place with a twisted rope of goat's hair or camel's hair, reaching around his head. The Syrian Arab, if he wishes any addition to his tarbush, ties a handkerchief over it, or winds around it a shawl of wool, silk, or cotton, so as to form a turban. The oriental turban has exhibited both in modern times and in the remotest antiquity, a great variety of form, material, and colour. By means of this diversity it has served to distinguish between men of different nations, and of different classes in the same nation. As an ancient Assyrian king was distinguished by a head-dress of a peculiar shape and ornamentation, as a descendant of Mohammed is known by the colour of his turban, so the dignity of the Hebrew priest, as an attendant on Jehovah in His holy habitation, was symbolized by a turban peculiar to his order in its material, its colour, and perhaps its shape. The priests must wear drawers while officiating, to cover their nakedness; and neglect to do so was to be punished with death, even if no exposure of the person resulted. The covering was therefore symbolic. It was a removal from the significant tableau in which the priest was engaged, of those parts of his person which, as excretory, were especially representative of defilement. The significance of the costume of the Hebrew priest cannot be fully seen by one who overlooks the fact that it left his feet uncovered. An oriental does not wear a shoe or sandal for protection from cold, but from filth, and lays aside at least the outermost covering of his feet when he enters a house, because he will not need such protection in such a place, and because his shoe might bring filth into the house. The costume of the high priest consisted of the four pieces worn by his subordinates, and of four others peculiar to him as the head of the order. Over the tunic he wore the robe of the ephod, the significance of which resulted from its blue colour and the ornamental fringe which hung from its border at the bottom. To understand the meaning of this fringe see Numbers 15:38, 89. The ornaments were intended to remind the wearer of the commandments of Jehovah, and were connected with his garment, whatever its colour, by a cord or ribbon of blue, to signify the heavenly origin of that which he was to keep in remembrance. But this fringe, in the case of the high priest, consisted of tassels in the shape of pomegranates, alternated with little golden bells. If, as seems probable, the pomegranates symbolized the law in its totality as including every specific requirement, it is at least a plausible conjecture that the bells with which they alternated signified that the high priest, or rather the covenant people whom he represented, were not only to remember the commandments of Jehovah, but by obeying to proclaim them. So far as they remembered and obeyed it, the Word of the Lord sounded out from them. The specifications for the ephod make its shoulder-pieces so prominent that the Greek and Latin versions give it names in those languages which characterize it as a shoulder-garment. But the shoulder as the seat of strength was, in the early times, when the strongest ruled, the seat of authority, and the most appropriate position for an emblem of government. We infer, then, that the ephod was a symbol of rank; and from the materials of which it was made, that it invested the wearer as a badge of royalty. This garment was provided for the high priest as the representative of the holy nation, that the jewels on its shoulders, and the threads of beaten gold woven into it throughout, might signify that they were kings as well as priests. The breastplate of judgment was closely connected in significance with the ephod, indicating that the wearer was a ruler endowed with wisdom for the decision of important questions relating to the public welfare. He wore it on his heart because the heart was regarded as the seat of wisdom. The head-dress of the high priest was distinguished from that of his subordinates not only by its shape, but by its plate of gold bearing the inscription, "Holiness to Jehovah." This plate, peculiar to him as the head of the priesthood, and of the nation as a kingdom of priests, was another badge of rank, and equivalent in meaning to a crown. The inscription, peculiarly important from its position on the forehead, proclaimed that the high priest, through his election, his physical faultlessness, his separation from common life, his investment with the robes of office, and his consecration, was so holy that he might not only approach Jehovah, but could take away the sins of his people (ver. 38). Their iniquity was taken away, and they were accounted holy because their representative was holy.
Holy garments for Aaron.
1. And speaking of these garments generally, you will notice that it was God's especial command that they should all be made of linen, which, being a material of a very simple and natural kind, has always been understood by the Church to be typical of that human nature which Christ wears still in His glorified state, and in which, as man, we are distinctly to understand that He now executes, as our Representative, all the services of His exalted Priesthood.
2. And, further, it is to be observed generally, that all the garments were carefully fastened together so as to be one. The girdle binding the ephod, and the ephod the robe, and the breastplate carefully joined to the ephod by chains of gold; signifying, again, the complete unity which there is in all Christ's work for His people, so that it cannot be divided; for if we have Him in one of His offices so, necessarily, we hold Him in all. A blessed truth I there is no such thing as anything partial in the work of Jesus; no partial pardon; no partial peace! If you have one promise, you have every promise!
3. And yet, once more, generally, you will see that (unlike the description of our Saviour's garments in the 59th chapter of Isaiah, and unlike that which is provided for the believer in the 6th chapter of Ephesians)all these are robes, not of war, but of peace. Indicating that the warfare is now accomplished, and that our Saviour, having triumphed over His enemies and ours, is now set down in the calm and quiet of His holy, peaceful functions. A thought which should be one of unselfish joy to the Christian.
4. The robe of ephod represents the perfect robe of the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ, which He wore as man, and which He will always present to the Father for our sakes. Its seamless fabric denotes the perfectness and the unity of the righteousness which He has wrought.
5. The ephod itself was a closer vestment — long behind, and short in front — which was worn over the robe, and fastened by clasps, or "ouches," over the shoulders; it was also "for beauty and for glory" — "of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine-twined linen, with cunning work," costly and magnificent. Upon each shoulder, in the "ouches," was placed an onyx stone, and on either onyx stone were engraven the names of six of the tribes of the children of Israel, placed according to their seniority. Concerning this engraving, God was very express: "With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet," that is, very accurately, very deeply, very beautifully, "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, then, the ephod was girt about with a girdle of the same kind. Here, then, we have our great High Priest continually standing in heaven, and always of necessity bearing, as part of His own glory, the names of all His people in holy remembrance before God. He both remembers us, and causes us to be remembered. We are held in perpetual remembrance. The weakest and the strongest — the greatest saint with the unworthiest and guiltiest sinner — we are all remembered: everything which goes to make our name is there: the smallest work, the secret sorrow that the world knows nothing of: it is all in the memorial: our prayers, and tears, and sighs — they are all gone there! they are all rivetted there! There they are! They are knit into the dignity of Jesus, into the glory and the excellency of Jesus!
6. The breastplate teaches that Christ not only bears His people on His shoulders for strength, but lays them separately on His heart for love. He identifies His interest with ours. It becomes a dear and fond thing to Him to have us upon His breast, that He may save us and magnify us for ever! We live always in His love, and God sees us there; in that love, loves us — unloveable though we be — for the love He has to us. And, living on His heart, each one in his own proper place and order, we hold in Him safe and privileged intercourse.
7. The high priest wore a mitre of linen, with this inscription, "Holiness to the Lord." Now observe the comfort of this thought. Here we all are assembled, in our holy devotions before the mercy seat of God, but every prayer we have put up this day is stained, and every service is unclean before Him "who chargeth His angels with folly"! Presently, your petitions will go up in your own bedroom; and the very supplication, in which you ask for pardon, only goes to increase the amount of the guilt that has to be pardoned. It is all unclean! The brand of sin, the degradation of sin, is everywhere! But He, in His very character and being, as our Representative, is standing before God; and high emblazoned upon His front is His own proper righteous title, "HOLINESS TO THE LORD" — not for Himself, He needs it not, but for us! He "bears the iniquity of our holy things" — what a thought! even as if we were the holy, we poor worms — as if we were the holy — we stand before God: "Holiness to the Lord." A poor sinner, incapable of one pure thought, lifts himself up in Christ, and looks in the face of God, and stands there, in his High Priest — "Holiness to the Lord"; — and God recognizes His own eternal counsel, and acknowledges the unworthiest services of the poorest sinner to be — "Holiness to the Lord."
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
1. The function to be glorious and excellent.
2. The fitness of their persons to that office.
3. The glory of the true High Priest, Jesus Christ, of whom Aaron was but a figure.For all the glistering show of these priestly garments set forth the more angelical brightness of all the virtues which should shine in Jesus Christ. The priestly garments appointed by God were ten in number; of which four belonged to the inferior priests (vers. 40, 42).
1. A linen garment. Which signified the white garment of Christ's righteousness and innocency; which they were to appear in before the Lord, if they would be acceptable in their persons and duties. Noting to us by the way, that every godly minister wears a white linen garment, not woven and made by men, but by God; not without him, but within him; not a shadow or ceremony, but the substance and truth, to which all shadows give place. Nay, there is no private man that is godly, but he must wear this white linen garment, having put it on in the laver of regeneration: as Galatians 3, 27.
2. A girdle (ver. 40). Which signifies constancy and stability in the truth, both in our High Priest, Jesus Christ, who was not a reed shaken, but a firm rock: as also in His members, who are commanded to stand fast, their loins girt with verity (Ephesians 6:14). Hence follows, that the minister's word must be yea and nay; his course must be constantly gracious and watchful. And for private Christians (Hebrews 13:9).
3. A bonnet (ver. 40). A symbol and sign to them of God's protection still covering them in their faithful service: signifying to us the Lord's cover and faithful protection both over our head, and over His member's for His sake.
4. The breeches (ver. 42). Putting more comeliness upon the uncomely parts. Signifying to them and us —(1) What reverence we ought to use in the service of God; far removing thence every uncomely thing.(2) Shadowing out the true and perfect holiness, with which Christ's humanity was clothed; and not only with that, but with the majesty of His Deity, which highly graced and honoured the despised and frail humanity, which had no form nor beauty (Isaiah 53:2).(3) Not darkly representing that care and respect which our Lord and Saviour Christ hath of His inferior, base, and despised both ministers and members through the world (Isaiah 41:14). To the high priest belonged six peculiar garments:
I. First the EPHOD (ver. 4), in which —
1. The matter. It was not wool or silk, but linen, which riseth out of the earth (Ezekiel 44:17). Signifying that holy flesh of Christ which veiled His Deity as a garment; and that it was taken not from heaven, but from His mother on earth, as the matter of that garment grew immediately out of earth.
2. The form. It was a long white garment: signifying the long white garment of Christ's absolute righteousness; white, innocent and unspotted; and long, to cover all our nakedness, without patching of merits.
3. The ornament of it. In it were set two onyx stones, and in them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel engraven, which Aaron carried upon his shoulders; signifying —(1) That the names of the godly are not lightly written, but fast engraven in the love and memory of Christ. as those names were engraven in very hard stones.(2) That Christ doth still carry His Church on His shoulders; lifting them up out of dust and misery, and bearing them upon the shoulders of His power and providence, as on eagles' wings (Isaiah 40:31).
II. The second garment peculiar to the high priest was called THE BREASTPLATE OF JUDGMENT (ver. 15), the most precious part of all his garments.
1. In respect of the twelve costly and glittering stones, which were set in four rows, according to the number of the tribes (ver. 17-22). In which —(1) The shining of these stones signified the shining purity and innocency of Jesus Christ, both in Himself and in His members. If they be pure as the sun, fair as the moon, what is He?(2) Their price of great value and worth signified what a price the Lord Jesus valued His Church at.(3) Their place or situation. They are set in the pectoral, and Aaron must carry them on his heart: signifying that Christ hath as much care of His Church, as if it were enclosed in His heart; lets out His blood to make room in His heart for them.(4) Their number; twelve, according to all the tribes: noting that there is room in the heart of Christ for every one of the elect. None can anticipate or prevent the other. With Him is plentiful redemption. The former without the latter shall not be perfected (Hebrews 11:40).(5) Their order. They stand in four rows in a comely quadrangle: signifying the comely order that Christ hath established in the Church: some in higher places, some in lower, some in one rank and office, and some in another, as those stones, but all stand seemly and fitly. And this order we must maintain, keeping our ranks as they did.(6) The figure. The foursquare (ver. 16), signifying the stability and firmness of the Church, as a foursquare, turn it any way 'tis firm. Satan and all deceivers shall not pick one stone out of Christ's pectoral. The gates of hell shall not prevail against him that is fixed in that rock and stone of Israel.(7) Their use. That Aaron, who before bare the names of Israel on his shoulders before the Lord, might now bear them on his heart continually for a remembrance before the Lord, when he goeth into the holy place (ver. 29). Signifying —(a) The ardent love of Jesus Christ towards His Church, who bears it not only on His shoulders as a shepherd, or only in His arms as a nurse; but upon His heart, and in His heart, never to forget our good.(b) Bearing of the names continually before the Lord on His heart signifieth the continual mindfulness and intercession of Jesus Christ for His Church in that heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 7:25). By virtue of which all our prayers get audience and acceptance.(8) The quantity. As all the names of Israel were gathered into a narrow compass: so Jesus Christ our Mediator shall gather together into one all the dispersed sons of God, and present them before God as the most beautiful and precious parts of the world (John 11:52).
(T. Taylor, D. D.)
(E. E. Atwater.)
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