The Priestly Garments

Exo 28:1-43 Exo 39:1-31

A. The Garments v. 1-5

1. Their purpose v. 2-3, 40

a. for glory – kabod – also honor, dignity

b. for beauty – also splendour, glory

c. for consecration – dedicated to sacred use

A solemn recognition of the significance of an appointed official dress. It expresses that the office is not created or defined by the man himself Heb 5:4, but that he is invested with it according to prescribed institution. Barnes’ Notes

To consecrate him, i.e. to be an outward sign of my calling and consecration of him to my holy service. Matthew Poole

2. Specific items

a. The High Priest v. 4, 42-43

i. Breastplate, ephod, robe, tunic, turban, sash, linen trousers (undergarments)

b. “assistant” priests – Aaron’s sons v. 40-43

i. tunic, sash, turban, linen trousers (undergarments)

3. General materials

a. linen ( בּד : Bad ) and fine linen ( שׁשׁ ; Shesh )

b. gold for:

i. thread v. 5-8

ii. gemstone settings v. 11, 13, 20

iii. chains v. 14, 22

iv. rings v. 23-24, 26-28

v. bells v. 33-34

vi. half coronet v. 36-37

c. blue, purple and scarlet thread – probably wool – for:

i. the ephod v. 5-6

ii. the breastplate v. 15

iii. the robe (solid blue) v. 31ff

iv. the pomegranates v. 33

v. the sash v. 39 (implied since it is described as “embroidered” or “woven work”)

d. precious stones

i. shoulder pieces v. 12

ii. breastplate v. 17-21

4. order of attiring

a. linen trousers

b. tunic

c. robe

d. ephod

e. breastplate

f. sash

g. turban

B. The Ephod v. 6-14

fine linen embroidered with blue, purple, scarlet yarn and also hammered gold “wire”; see Exodus 39:3; the colors signifying, as in the tabernacle, the regal majesty of the savior king whom the priests served

two pieces, connected at the shoulder, with an attached waistband

connections at the shoulder served as settings for two onyx stones and also the breastplate

onyx stones:

one engraved with Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali;

the second with Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin

C. The Breastplate v. 15-30

same construction as the ephod

9″ x 9″ after it was folded double

attached to the ephod with braided gold “chains”

4 rows of gemstones in gold settings

stones of somewhat questionable identity – names have changed

suitable for engraving
arranged right to left – as Hebrew is read
individual/unique stone for each tribe

Urim and Thummim oo-reem’ toom-meem’

little known or able to be understood about these

The most we know is that in a way known to Aaron and his successors God made his will known to the Israelites by way of the high priest inquiring of God while wearing Urim and Thummin.


The burden of office rests upon the shoulder – see Isaiah 9:6; 22:22; the onyx stones would remind the priest that his office was to represent all the people before God, to bring their needs before God and take His response back to the people.

The onyx stones as well as the stones of the breastplate served as a reminder to God of the covenant relationship with His people and of the high priest’s office as intercessor. Both purposes precisely typify the office of Christ as King and Priest – bearing the weight of office as our King, bearing our names before the Father as ones for whom he has made satisfaction by His atonement.

D. The Robe v. 31-35

woven of blue yarn – signifying the heavenward focus and dignity of the office

sleeveless, with a reinforced “collar” to limit wear

blue, purple and scarlet pomegranates alternating with gold bells around the lower hem

The bells would serve to announce his entrance into and exit from the Most Holy Place – even the High Priest should not enter God’s presence unannounced; it would also signify to the people that he had lived to come out from God’s presence.

The pomegranates pointed to the Divine Law as sweet and delicious spiritual food (see Deut. 8:3)

E. The Turban, Tunic and Sash v. 36-39

introduced by the pure gold plate inscribed with “Holy to the Lord”

It is not without reason that this inscription is placed upon the priest’s forehead, that it may be conspicuous; for not only did God thus testify that the legal priesthood was approved of, and acceptable to Him, since He had consecrated it byHis word, but also that holiness was not to be sought elsewhere. These two things, then, are to be observed, — first, that the priesthood of His own appointment is pleasing to God, and so, that all others, however magnificently they may be spoken of, are abominable to Him, and rejected by Him; and secondly, that out of Christ we are all corrupt, and all our worship faulty; and however excellentour actions may seem, that they are still unclean and polluted. Thus, therefore, let all our senses remain fixed on the forehead of our sole and perpetual Priest, that we may know that from Him alone purity flows throughout the whole Church. John Calvin

the turban and tunic made from fine white linen, perhaps acquired from Egypt among the things given at the time of the Exodus.

the sash made from fine linen embroidered, probably, with the same color scheme as the robe – blue, purple and scarlet yarn accompanied by gold “thread”

were to serve as signs of the honor and dignity of priestly office

white would have indicated ritual purity pointing to God’s requirement of holiness – “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 19:2; 20:7; 20:26; etc.); also, the purity credited to the forgiven sinner – “Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they will be like wool.” Isa. 1:18

F. Linen Trousers (Undergarments) v. 42-43

intended for modesty

They are particularly ordered, in their ministration, to wear linen breeches, Exo 28:42. This teaches us modesty and decency of garb and gesture at all times, especially in public worship. It also intimates what need our souls have of a covering, when we come before God, that the shame of their nakedness may not appear. Matthew Henry

The nature of the priestly office – ephod, breastplate & robe

The fitness of the priest for office – the plate, turban, tunic and trousers

Heb 5:1-10 Heb 7:11-28

The High Priest

human nature – “taken from men” Heb 5:1

appointed in service to God; called by God Heb 5:1, 4

serving on behalf of the people Heb 5:1

offering (non-bloody) gifts and (blood) sacrifices Heb 5:1
“The first word includes, as I think, various kinds of sacrifices, and is therefore a general term; but the second denotes especially the sacrifices of expiation. Still the meaning is, that the priest without a sacrifice is no peace-maker between God and man, for without a sacrifice sins are not atoned for, nor is the wrath of God pacified. Hence, whenever reconciliation between God and man takes place this pledge must ever necessarily precede. Thus we see that angels are by no means capable of obtaining for us God’s favor, because they have no sacrifice”
John Calvin

empowered to act with moderation (μετριοπαθὴς) toward sinners; that is, not passionate (παθὴς) or apathetic (ἀπαθὴς) Heb 5:2

“That there was a close connection between the priesthood of Aaron and that of Christ is evident from the opening verse of our present passage. Having stated, “No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as Aaron,” the apostle now adds, “So also Christ” (verse 5), or, “In like manner Christ.” Thus, unmistakably, a parallel is here drawn. As it was with the Levitical high priests in all things necessary to that office, so, in like manner, was it with the Christ. In verses 5-10 the same five things (personal sin excepted) predicated of Aaron and his successors were found in our great High Priest. That there were, also, dissimilarities was inevitable from the personal imperfections that appertained to Aaron and his descendants: had there been anything in Christ which corresponded to their blemishes and failures, He had been disqualified.” A. W. Pink, Hebrews

temporary Aaronic priesthood Heb 7:11, 23

need a better high priest Heb 7:26-28

we have one Heb 8:1-2

There’s always an element of frustration when I read the gospels. I read of these men who traveled with Jesus, who followed him month after month, who drank in nearly every word of his earthly ministry. And yet somehow they just did not get it. Somehow the full reality of who he was and what he would do escaped them. It was only in hindsight, only after all was unmistakably clear, only in the book of Acts, that they finally understood.

I’ve been reading Richard Ganz’s recent book Take Charge of Your Life and he offers a good perspective on this. Why did they not get it? Quite simply because they couldn’t! Here is what Rich says:

We look back at the disciples, and we wonder, “What in the world was wrong with them? How could they not get it?” The reality is quite the opposite. We should ask instead, “How could they get it?” It is impossible. It is beyond comprehension. The Old Covenant sacrifices, as powerful a pointer as they were, had a limited purpose. Their purpose was simply to show us how even the most rational and beautiful picture of grace–a blood sacrifice for sin–falls flat in front of what Jesus actually did.

Jesus trained men who, because of their background, should have been ready for the great blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. They weren’t. They were still utterly incapable of “getting it” just from the facts. This is understandable. The ultimate fact is that it is absolutely impossible to come to an understanding of God’s grace just from an assessment of the facts.

There is nothing in human experience alone that can awaken a person to the full reality of God’s grace. What Jesus did for us, the grace that His life and death is for us, is eternally impossible to fully comprehend. The fact that people like us will live with God FOREVER is purely His gracious gift to us. Sadly, even though we know so much about grace, we continue to make obeying rules the high watermark of our lives, rather than grace.

The disciples did not catch on because the disciples could not catch on. Though they had so often seen the Old Covenant sacrifices, these were a mere shadow of what Christ accomplished. Though the sacrifices pointed to Jesus, they did so in a dim way. The simple facts were not enough to make the connection. It took a supernatural work for the disciples to understand.

This should be an encouragement to us as we seek to tell others about what Jesus has done. Though the facts are important–crucial even–they are not enough. For anyone to come to Jesus, to understand who he is and what he has done, requires a supernatural act of God. This was true of the disciples and it is true of all who believe.


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