Exodus 28


‘Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honour. Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests.’ Exodus 28:1-4

The garments described here were for the high priest, for Aaron and his successor. The purpose of the ornate garments was for two reasons.

First, the garments were a sign to all that God had designated the heritage of Aaron to function as priests throughout the generations of Israel. The style of their clothing would be a reminder to both the people and Aaron’s sons that they were established as mediators between God and Israel.

Second, the ornate beauty of the priests’ garments brought their clothing into conformity with the beauty of the tabernacle.

The Ephod

‘Make the ephod of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen—the work of skilled hands. It is to have two shoulder pieces attached to two of its corners, so it can be fastened. Its skilfully woven waistband is to be like it—of one piece with the ephod and made with gold, and with blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and with finely twisted linen. “Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel in the order of their birth—six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other. Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the LORD. Make gold filigree settings and two braided chains of pure gold, like a rope, and attach the chains to the settings.’ Exodus 28:5-14

The Ephod is the apron-like garment worn by the high priest, Exodus 39:2-7, It was made in four colours, blue, purple, scarlet and the white of the fine linen. These are the same colours that can be seen at the Door to the Outer Court, the Door to the Sanctuary and in the Veil, they refer to Christ as He is revealed in the four Gospels.

In the four colours, we see Jesus as He was in His earthly ministry. Jesus has lived as a man on earth, a working man, the carpenter of Nazareth, Mark 6:3, He also knows what is involved when having to rely on others to provide for His living, Luke 8:3.

He knows what it means to be tired out, John 4:6, hungry, Matthew 4:2 / Mark 6:31, thirsty, John 4:7, pressurised, Mark 1:32-34 / Mark 2:2 / Mark 5:22-24, tempted, Luke 4:2 / Hebrews 2:18, bereaved, John 11:35, desperate in prayer, Luke 22:44 / Hebrews 5:7, disappointed by friends in a time of need, Luke 22:45-46, in pain, Matthew 27:26, mocked and spat on, Matthew 27:29-31, He knows what it is to die, Luke 23:46. Because He has passed through all these experiences, and many others also, the four colours tell us He is able to sympathize with us, Hebrews 4:15.

There is an important additional feature of the Ephod, though, gold thread, cut from gold plate, was interwoven with the other colours, Exodus 39:3. Gold is not only precious, it implies ‘of God, divine and heavenly’.

The gold thread is a beautiful ‘type’ of Christ’s heavenly ministry as great High Priest for His own. He is risen from the dead, He has ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 / Hebrews 1:3. There, as a merciful and compassionate High Priest, Jesus always lives and prays for His own to help them in their difficulties, Hebrews 2:17.

Furthermore, because He is risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, He is also ABLE to do something through His interceding for us, Hebrews 7:25, He aids us, Hebrews 2:16, showing us His mercy and ministering to us the supply of His grace to help in time of need, Hebrews 4:16, especially when we face temptation, Hebrews 2:18.

The Shoulder Stones

On each shoulder piece of the Ephod was a precious stone. Six names were written on each of the stones, altogether naming the twelve tribes of Israel. Every time the high priest went before God at the Golden Incense Altar, the names of all the people of God were upon His shoulders.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, John 10:11. He knows His sheep, John 10:14, and goes after each one that is lost in the wilderness, Luke 15:4. Individually, when He finds each sheep that is lost, the Good Shepherd lays them on His shoulder, Luke 15:5-7.

The shoulder stones represent the collective good shepherding by the Lord Jesus in millions of lives. He bears them all before God as today in heaven He is interceding for us, Romans 8:34 / Hebrews 7:25. The shoulders speak of His strength. How powerful and prevailing His intercession has been in our lives!

The Breastplate

‘Fashion a breastpiece for making decisions—the work of skilled hands. Make it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. It is to be square—a span long and a span wide—and folded double. Then mount four rows of precious stones on it. The first row shall be carnelian, chrysolite and beryl; the second row shall be turquoise, lapis lazuli and emerald; the third row shall be jacinth, agate and amethyst; the fourth row shall be topaz, onyx and jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes. “For the breastpiece make braided chains of pure gold, like a rope. Make two gold rings for it and fasten them to two corners of the breastpiece. Fasten the two gold chains to the rings at the corners of the breastpiece, and the other ends of the chains to the two settings, attaching them to the shoulder pieces of the ephod at the front. Make two gold rings and attach them to the other two corners of the breastpiece on the inside edge next to the ephod. Make two more gold rings and attach them to the bottom of the shoulder pieces on the front of the ephod, close to the seam just above the waistband of the ephod. The rings of the breastpiece are to be tied to the rings of the ephod with blue cord, connecting it to the waistband, so that the breastpiece will not swing out from the ephod. “Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the LORD. Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the LORD. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD.’ Exodus 28:15-30

The breastplate was square in its proportions, and also embroidered with gold. Set into the Breastplate in gold were twelve precious stones, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Each stone had the name of the respective tribe engraved upon it.

This shows the Good Shepherd knows His sheep so well He calls them each by their own name, John 10:3. The high priest bears the names on the Breastplate “over His heart” when he goes before the Lord “as a memorial,” Exodus 28:29, foreshadowing the eternal love of the Lord Jesus for His sheep, John 13:1.

The names known to the high priest are engraved on the stones. This is no passing whim, they cannot be erased, “I give My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand,” John 10:28.

As the high priest goes about the service of the Holy Place, wearing the Breastplate with the engraved names, he passes the Lampstand and light shines onto the names, the Light of Life, John 8:12, he approaches the Showbread Table and the names correspond with one another in a fellowship of nourishment, the Bread of Life, John 6:35, he comes before the Golden Incense Altar and bears the names individually and collectively before God, praying that we may be given eternal life, which means to know the only true God in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, John 17:3.

Here in the Holy Place, the emphasis is on life. Jesus the great High Priest has come so that they, the names, may have life, even eternal life, and have it abundantly, John 10:10. The High Priest must yet bring us into the Holy of Holies for the fullest view and experience of eternal life, though.

For us to enter in and have this life abundantly and eternally, the Veil must be removed. It must be rent from top to bottom, by God, Matthew 27:51. Then we have access through Him, the Veil, inside One Spirit, typified by both the anointed unique high priest and by the anointed Tabernacle, now made into just one room, unto the Father, Ephesians 2:18.

Jesus our great High Priest carries the names of all His redeemed ones on His strong shoulders. Besides that, all the individual names are brought together in groups, separated only by genealogy and by locality of dwelling, like the tribes of Israel.

The collective names are permanent, like each engraved stone of the breastplate, carried on His loving heart. The Breastplate is therefore a foreshadow of the one Church expressed as local churches, one in each place, in God’s design.

Urim And Thummim

The Breastplate was folded double to form a pocket. Inside the pocket, the Urim and Thummim were kept. Urim means ‘lights’ and Thummim means ‘perfections’. They were probably two jewels.

When someone had to make an important decision, the request was made known to the high priest. He would stand before the Lampstand, holding the Urim in one hand and the Thummim in the other.

As the light reflected from the Urim and the Thummim onto the stones of the Breastplate, this flash of light provided up to 24 combinations, 2 x 12. Since there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, the flashes of light could produce strings of letters.

As God breathed through the Ark, the Veil would move, permitting a breeze to flicker the flames in the Lampstand to momentarily alter the angle of direction of the light onto the Urim and Thummim, and thence to the Breastplate. Thus, God was able to communicate directly, but not audibly, to the high priest and answer the enquiry.

The Urim and Thummim were a means of revelation entrusted to the high priest. No description of them is given. This oracular apparently consisted of a material object or objects since it was physically stored in the breastpiece of the high priest, Exodus 28:30 / Leviticus 8:8.

Most people today think that the Urim and Thummim were a lot oracle, but this is by no means certain. Besides being mentioned by their full name, Exodus 28:30 and Leviticus 8:8 and Ezra 2:63 and Nehemiah 7:65, in reverse order with possessives, Deuteronomy 33:8, the Urim and Thummim could also be referred to by Urim alone, Numbers 27:21 and 1 Samuel 28:6.

Sometimes the mention of the ephod, on which the breastpiece housing the Urim and Thummim were fastened, includes a reference to the Urim and Thummim, 1 Samuel 23:9-12 and 1 Samuel 30:7-8. Also, the verb ‘inquire of’ followed by ‘the Lord’ or ‘God’ when no means of revelation is specified refers to a usage of the Urim and Thummim.

The Urim and Thummim were used at critical moments in the history of God’s people when special divine guidance was needed. The civil leader was expected to make use of this means for all important matters for which he needed direction.

Although referred to in Ezra 2:63 and Nehemiah 7:65, there is no convincing evidence that the Urim and Thummim were used after the time of David.

The reason for the demise of the Urim and Thummim is not explicitly given. Since the Urim and Thummim, in whatever way they functioned, were a physical means of revelation, it appears that God was taking his people away from the easy certainty inherent in a mechanical means of revelation to the more consistent use of prophecy and the Word alone.

This would require the more difficult application of the norms for true and false prophecy, Deuteronomy 13:1-4 and Deuteronomy 18:20-22 and thus necessitate a faithful teaching priesthood, Deuteronomy 33:10 / Malachi 2:7.

Although the lot theory has wide support today, there are significant difficulties with so identifying the Urim and Thummim. It is questionable whether the key evidence, the Greek text of 1 Samuel 14:41, is really to be preferred over the Hebrew text. Also, the vocabulary of lot casting is not used, and the answers contain more information than the casting of lots could yield, e.g. 1 Samuel 1:1 and 1 Samuel 5:23-24.

This last point suggests the involvement of prophecy and the divine inspiration of the high priest in giving revelation. It can also be noted that the use of the actual object(s) constituting the Urim and Thummim appears to have been self-authenticating.

Even in extremely difficult circumstances, the guidance of the Urim and Thummim is followed, Judges 20:18-28. It could be theorised that a perfect light that miraculously shone from the gem(s) constituting the Urim and Thummim, which belonged to God, Deuteronomy 33:8 gave the needed authentication to the actual answer spoken by the high priest under divine inspiration.

In this way, the judgment of the Urim, the light, may have been given, Numbers 27:21. Such authentication would not have been out of place in Old Testament times when special signs were provided more often.

The Robe

‘Make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth, with an opening for the head in its centre. There shall be a woven edge like a collar around this opening, so that it will not tear. Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the LORD and when he comes out, so that he will not die.’ Exodus 28:31-3

The Robe was made entirely of blue. It had a hem, attached to which were pomegranate motifs, in blue, purple and scarlet, with golden bells alternating in between the pomegranates.

The golden bells were an audible announcement of the high priest’s service, a beautiful sound, backed up by beautiful fruits, the pomegranates. This same balance of words and deeds we find in the Lord Jesus, Luke 24:19.

The Turban And The Crown

‘Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD. “Weave the tunic of fine linen and make the turban of fine linen. The sash is to be the work of an embroiderer.’ Exodus 28:36-39

The Turban was made of white fine linen. Generally, fine white linen signifies righteous deeds, Revelation 19:8. Here the emphasis is on our mind, the covering of our thought processes, “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:5, by taking “the helmet of salvation,” Ephesians 6:17.

Our mind is the big problem. When Zechariah saw the vision of Joshua, Zechariah 3:1-5, the Lord began to address the problem of the filthy garments, by putting a clean Turban on his head. Since the Hebrew words for Joshua, ‘Yoshuah’ and salvation, ‘yeshuah’, are so close, we see here the picture of taking up the helmet of salvation, to deal with our filthy thoughts of unrighteousness.

Attached to the Turban and upon the forehead of the high priest was the Crown, a gold plate on which “HOLY TO THE LORD” was engraved. This seal of God is legitimately there on the forehead of our Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest.

But for us, whom He has also made priests, Revelation 1:5-6, there is a clear indication that we are not just to be outwardly dressed up in Christ, He must transform us, by the renewing of our mind that we may prove the will of God, our sanctification, Romans 12:2 / 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

How we need to be renewed in the spirit of our mind, to put on the new man created in righteousness and true holiness, Ephesians 4:23-24 / Hebrews 3:1 / Hebrews 4:14-16.

Ordinary Priest

‘Make tunics, sashes and caps for Aaron’s sons to give them dignity and honour. After you put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. “Make linen undergarments as a covering for the body, reaching from the waist to the thigh. Aaron and his sons must wear them whenever they enter the tent of meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place so that they will not incur guilt and die. “This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants.’ Exodus 28:40-43

No priest, neither ordinary priest nor the High Priest himself, was fit to serve in the Tabernacle unless he was wearing the priestly garments. The lay, or ordinary, priests must wear four garments. The belt was woven with four kinds of threads, blue, purple, scarlet and fine white linen.

The belt was wound around the tunic and the two ends were tied in front. It was about three inches wide and quite long. The hat was not of the kind that we are used to, but rather a long strip of fabric that was wound around the head.

The pants were made of white linen as was the tunic. These garments were made from white flax, hence they were referred to as the “garments of white,” and they were also worn by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement.

This is a picture of the high priest in his “holy garments for ministering in the Holy Place,” Exodus 39:1. Aaron was the first high priest, he was Moses’ brother. After Aaron died, subsequent high priests were his descendants, the sons of Aaron.

The high priest was responsible for the Tabernacle, its daily offerings and functions and also its regular Feasts, three times in the year, at Passover, at Pentecost and at the Day of Atonement, which was followed by a week of joy in the Feast of Tabernacles, as seen from Leviticus 23.

On the Day of Atonement, it was uniquely the high priest’s responsibility to take the blood of the sacrificed goat into the Holy of Holies on behalf of all God’s people, for the forgiveness of their sins. This awesome responsibility required a sanctified person, Exodus 29, the high priest, dressed in “holy garments”.

The uppermost holy garment is apron-like and is called the Ephod. On top of the Ephod, there is the square breastplate, with twelve precious stones. On the shoulders are two additional precious stones.

The blue garment is called the robe, under which the high priest wore a white fine linen woven tunic. On his head is the white fine linen turban. Round the base of the turban is the crown of gold, saying “HOLY TO THE LORD”.

All of these garments and items have a wonderful significance. Once we understand what these tell us about the heavenly High Priest, Jesus, we will find a deep-seated thankfulness rising up from within our spirit, and an encouragement to draw near to God with a purified heart in full assurance of faith, Hebrews 13:15 / Hebrews 10:22.

Go To Exodus 29