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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

February 21, 2018

Exodus  28:1-42

  1. Brief introduction. Exodus 28 contains a detailed description of the garments God commanded to be made and worn by the priests. These were “sacred garments” to bestow Aaron and his sons with “dignity and honor” (verse 2). Some parts of the priestly garments were worn for safety. The high priest was required to have gold bells attached to the hem of his garment, so that “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 28:35). The turban was plain white, with a gold plate placed at the forehead. On the plate were inscribed the words “Holy to the Lord.” This gold plate “will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that [the children of Israel] will be acceptable to the Lord” (Exodus 28:38). This reminder of consecration, placed so conspicuously on the outfit, symbolized the importance of approaching the Lord God in holiness. All the garments worn by the Old Testament priests were symbolic of being set apart for God’s work of atoning for sin. Compliance with the “dress code” was required. This is noted in verse 43: “Aaron and his sons must wear [the garments] 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.”

  2. Verse l. God tells Moses to set aside Aaron and his four sons to serve as priests. These men would handle the sacrifice, and go before the Lord on behalf of the people. Remember that the people did not have any system of worship or any regular worship practices due to their long bondage in Egypt. They are starting from scratch. God first tells them to set up the worship area, now he is telling them about the priesthood.

  3. Verses 2-5. Aaron and his sons will be the priests, but Aaron will serve as the high priest. The high priest would wear a special garment to identify him as the high priest. Aaron‘s sons are a picture of us, and Aaron is a picture of Christ. We are all sons. (1st John 3:2, Romans 8:14, Galatians 4:4-7). Moses is instructed to find people who are skilled in making clothes to make these priestly garments for Aaron. A breastplate, ephod, robe, tunic using gold, linen with purple, blue and red yarn. Eight items of clothing are listed for the priest. There were four “inner” garments to be worn by all the priests: underpants, tunic, sash, and hat. The remaining four articles were “over” garments to be worn by Aaron and the high priests that followed him: robe, ephod, breastpiece, and diadem.

  4. Verses 6-14. The ephod. This was perhaps the most important item of the priestly clothing. A kind of apron made of materials woven out of gold and linen thread and variously colored yarns, it covered the back and chest, reaching nearly to the knees. It was fastened to the body by two shoulder straps and a belt with which it was lined. Upon the shoulder straps were two onyx stones, on which the names of the sons of Israel were engraved in the order of their birth. These two onyx stones, called “stones of remembrance,” were not so much to remind Aaron of all the tribes he should serve, but to constantly present all the tribes to God. Thus, in effect, there was a kind of wordless intercessory prayer. The front and the back would be connected from the sides by gold chains.

  5. Verses 15-30. The Breastpiece. God wanted Aaron to wear the “breast piece of decision” to symbolize that the high priest represented the people before God: “Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart . . . as a continuing memorial before the Lord” (Exodus 28:29). It was called the “breast piece of decision” because the Urim and Thummim, which were associated with the breast piece, were used to determine God’s will in various matters. The literal translation of these words seems to be “light” and “perfections.” There is no proof that there were only two items; some early rabbis believed that the urim and thummim were a series of stones with Hebraic characters on them by which the Lord could spell out a message for the high priest. However, most scholars believe them to be two sticks or stones, perhaps precious stones that God used in a miraculous way to reveal His will. They were used for national decisions like going to war, and for priestly matters. The priest could use the urim and thummim to determine God’s will in a particular situation. We are not exactly sure what the urim and thummim were, but the priest carried in his breastplate perhaps two sticks or stones, that would give a yes or no answer to a specific question. The breastpiece, was a pouch made from the same materials as the ephod. Chains of braided gold and golden rings with loops of blue secured the breastpiece in position. Its primary purpose was to contain the Urim and Thummim. By wearing them above his heart, Aaron would indicate that justice originates with God and would remind God to maintain the administration of justice in Israel. The breastpiece also had stones on it. “set it with four rows of mounted stones; the first row; a ruby, an emerald and a topaz. The second row: a carbuncle, a sapphire, and a quartz crystal. The third row: a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst. The fourth row: a chrysolite, an onyx and an opal. These stones shall be placed in gold settings. The stones shall contain the names of the twelve children of Israel, one for each of the twelve stones; each one’s name shall be engraved as on a signet ring to represent the twelve tribes.”

  6. Verses 31-35. The Robe The first piece to be put on was the robe. This garment, probably sleeveless, was essentially a large blue mantle with a hole for the wearer's head. A closely woven binding bordered the edge of the head opening to prevent tearing. The skirts of this robe were fringed with alternating woolen pomegranates (i.e., woolen balls shaped like pomegranates) and golden bells. Pomegranates were used for decorative purposes. (1 Kings 7:20, 42). This fruit was also popular as a fertility symbol because of its many seeds, suggesting incomparable fruitfulness, God's promise to Abraham and to Moses that Israel would become a great nation. The bells provided sound by which the people could follow the progress of the priest.

  7. Verses 36-38. The Turban or headdress. This tall, cone-shaped headdress was made of linen. (The Hebrew term means “that which is wrapped” and suggests a long piece of linen that was wound around the head many times.) Attached to this turban was a plate of pure gold on which were engraved the words “Holy to the Lord.” This gold plate was equivalent to a diadem or crown, symbolizing the regal splendor of the high priest. The phrase “Holy to the Lord” signified that the high priest and, through his intercession, the entire nation belonged to the Lord and were set apart for His peculiar service. By wearing this turban, the priest could compensate for any deficiencies in his conduct of worship so that there would be no infringements on the demands of holiness. The wearing of this hat assured the acceptance of the people before the Lord.

  8. Verse 39. Tunic--This item, part of the normal dress of every man, was to be worn under the outer garment. It was a long or half-sleeved shirt like garb reaching to the ankles. Made of linen, as were all the “inner” garments.

  9. Verses 40-4l. Moses was instructed to have tunics, sashes and caps for the sons as well. These items were to signify that the sons of Aaron were consecrated to the service of the Lord.

  10. Verse 42. This garment was a type of linen underwear, was to assure the modesty demanded of the priest when officiating at the altar (20:26). Ancient people otherwise did not wear anything under their tunics. In other cultures of the time, pagan priests would officiate naked, because they often performed fertility rites that had strong sexual content. But God wanted worship of him to be utterly unlike the pagan worship of the surrounding nations.

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