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Vestments for the Priesthood


Then bring near to you your brother Aaron, and his sons with him, from among the Israelites, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 2You shall make sacred vestments for the glorious adornment of your brother Aaron. 3And you shall speak to all who have ability, whom I have endowed with skill, that they make Aaron’s vestments to consecrate him for my priesthood. 4These are the vestments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban, and a sash. When they make these sacred vestments for your brother Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests, 5they shall use gold, blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine linen.

The Ephod

6 They shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen, skillfully worked. 7It shall have two shoulder-pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. 8The decorated band on it shall be of the same workmanship and materials, of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen. 9You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, 10six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth. 11As a gem-cutter engraves signets, so you shall engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel; you shall mount them in settings of gold filigree. 12You shall set the two stones on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel; and Aaron shall bear their names before the L ord on his two shoulders for remembrance. 13You shall make settings of gold filigree, 14and two chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; and you shall attach the corded chains to the settings.

The Breastplate

15 You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, in skilled work; you shall make it in the style of the ephod; of gold, of blue and purple and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen you shall make it. 16It shall be square and doubled, a span in length and a span in width. 17You shall set in it four rows of stones. A row of carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald shall be the first row; 18and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire, and a moonstone; 19and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; 20and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper; they shall be set in gold filigree. 21There shall be twelve stones with names corresponding to the names of the sons of Israel; they shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes. 22You shall make for the breastpiece chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; 23and you shall make for the breastpiece two rings of gold, and put the two rings on the two edges of the breastpiece. 24You shall put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the breastpiece; 25the two ends of the two cords you shall attach to the two settings, and so attach it in front to the shoulder-pieces of the ephod. 26You shall make two rings of gold, and put them at the two ends of the breastpiece, on its inside edge next to the ephod. 27You shall make two rings of gold, and attach them in front to the lower part of the two shoulder-pieces of the ephod, at its joining above the decorated band of the ephod. 28The breastpiece shall be bound by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a blue cord, so that it may lie on the decorated band of the ephod, and so that the breastpiece shall not come loose from the ephod. 29So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart when he goes into the holy place, for a continual remembrance before the L ord. 30In the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the L ord; thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the Israelites on his heart before the L ord continually.

Other Priestly Vestments

31 You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. 32It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a coat of mail, so that it may not be torn. 33On its lower hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, all around the lower hem, with bells of gold between them all around— 34a golden bell and a pomegranate alternating all around the lower hem of the robe. 35Aaron shall wear it when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the holy place before the L ord, and when he comes out, so that he may not die.

36 You shall make a rosette of pure gold, and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, “Holy to the L ord.” 37You shall fasten it on the turban with a blue cord; it shall be on the front of the turban. 38It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take on himself any guilt incurred in the holy offering that the Israelites consecrate as their sacred donations; it shall always be on his forehead, in order that they may find favor before the L ord.

39 You shall make the checkered tunic of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash embroidered with needlework.

40 For Aaron’s sons you shall make tunics and sashes and headdresses; you shall make them for their glorious adornment. 41You shall put them on your brother Aaron, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, so that they may serve me as priests. 42You shall make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh; they shall reach from the hips to the thighs; 43Aaron and his sons shall wear them when they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place; or they will bring guilt on themselves and die. This shall be a perpetual ordinance for him and for his descendants after him.

4. And these are the garments. Here again I must remind my readers, that they should abandon all subtle speculations, and be contented with simplicity. I might repeat many plausible allegories, which perhaps would find more favor with some than a sound knowledge of facts. If any should delight in this kind of child’s play, let him only read what Jerome wrote to Fabiola; in which he collected almost everything that he possibly could from the writings of others; but nothing will be found except dull trifling, the folly of which it is painful even to report, much more to refute. Those who are conversant with my writings, are aware that I do not willingly find fault with the opinions of others; but when I reflect how dangerous are those itching ears, with which many are troubled, I am obliged to prescribe this remedy. Six principal parts of the dress are enumerated. What the Greeks call the λογεῖον, and the Latins the pectorale, was like a square breastplate attached by small chains, so as to be connected with the ephod. Inclosed in it were twelve stones to represent the tribes of Israel; and the Urim and Thummim were also annexed to it. But what its form might be, cannot be certainly declared from the words of Moses; and since even the Jews also differ among themselves, let us be satisfied with its comparison to a breastplate. I have no objection to the opinion, that its name 162162     The Hebrew name of the breastplate, viz., חשן, is a word whose root has not been preserved in the Heb. But in the Arabic its root signifies elegant, or adorned with beauty, according to Simon’s Lexicon. There is no discoverable reason for its signifying strength, or a treasure. W. was derived from strength, or a treasure. But this is worthy of the utmost attention, that the priest bore the sons of Abraham as it were upon his heart, not only that he might present them to God, but that he might be mindful of them, and anxious for their welfare. The twelve precious stones were by no means given to be symbols of the twelve tribes as a cause for awakening their pride, as if they were so highly esteemed on the score of their own dignity or excellence; but they were thus reminded that the whole value, in which believers are held by God, is derived from the sanctity of the priesthood. Therefore, let us learn from this figure, that:, however vile and abject we may be in ourselves, and so altogether worthless refuse, yet inasmuch as Christ deigned to ingraft us into this body, in Him we are precious stones. And to this Isaiah seems to allude in the passage before cited, where, speaking of the restoration of the Church, which was to take place under the reign of Christ, he says, “Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires; and I will make thy windows with carbuncles, and all thy borders with pleasant stones;” for immediately after the exposition follows, “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:11-13.) Therefore what was to be fulfilled in Christ, was typified by the external sign under the Law; viz., that though we sojourn in the world, yet are we united with Christ by faith, as if we were one with Him; and, besides, that He takes care for our welfare, as if He bore us enclosed in His heart; and, finally, that when our heavenly Father regards us in Him, He esteems us above all the wealth and splendor of the world.

As to the Urim and Thummim, it appears probable to me that they were two conspicuous marks on the breastplate, corresponding to these names; for the supposition of some of the Jews, 163163     “R. Salomon thinketh, that the Urim and Thummim was nothing else but the name of Jehovah, which was written in letters and put within the breastplate; which name some ancient Hebrews, even before Christ, did take to signifie the Trinitie. In this word, יהוה Jehovah, they would have the first letter yod, taken for the Father; he, for the Son, which letter is doubled to signifie his two natures, the humane and divine; and vau, which is a conjunctive copulative, signifieth the Holy Ghost. — Vatab. But between these words, Urim and Thummim, and the name Jehovah, there seemeth to be small affinitie.” — Willet in loco. that the ineffable name of God was placed beneath its texture, is not free from foolish and dangerous superstition. I pass over other fancies, which are equally frivolous; nor am I anxious to know what was the form of either of them; the fact itself is sufficient for me. By the Urim, therefore, or splendors, I doubt not but that the light of doctrine, wherewith the true Priest illuminates all believers, was represented; first, because He is the one “light of the world,” without which all things are full of darkness; and because in Him “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (John 8:12; 9:5; Colossians 2:3.) Hence did Paul justly glory that he knew nothing but Jesus Christ, (1 Corinthians 2:2,) since His priesthood sufficiently and more than sufficiently enlightens us. As then the people were admonished that their eyes should be directed to the splendor of the priest, so now we must diligently remember what Christ Himself teaches, that “he that followeth him shall not walk in darkness.” (John 8:12.) On the other hand, the Thummim, which signifies perfections, was a symbol of the perfect and entire purity which is only to be sought in Christ; for He would not have been a meet high priest unless He had been perfect, free from every spot, and deficient in nothing which is required unto complete holiness. It is not, then, an improper distinction, that the Urim refers to the light of doctrine, and the Thummim to the life; and this is indeed in some measure applicable to the pastors of the Church, who ought to shine both in sound doctrine and in integrity of life. But it was God’s design to shew that neither of these things is to be sought anywhere except in Christ; since from Him we obtain both light and purity, when He deigns to make us partakers of them according to the measure of His free bounty. Whence it follows, that they who seek for the least spark of light or drop of purity out of Christ, plunge themselves into a labyrinth, where they wander in mortal darkness, and inhale the deadly fumes of false virtues unto their own destruction.

What the Scripture sometimes relates, as to the inquiries made by Urim and Thummim, it was a concession made by God to the rudeness of His ancient people. The true Priest had not yet appeared, the Angel of His Almighty counsel, by whose Spirit all the Prophets spoke, who, finally, is the fountain of all revelations, and the express image of the Father; in order then that the typical priest might be the messenger from God to man, it behooved him to be invested with the ornaments of Christ. Thus even then believers were taught in a figure, that Christ is the way by which we come to the Father, and that He also brings from the secret bosom of His Father whatever it is profitable for us to know unto salvation, hence that fiction of the Jews is contradicted, that the responses were given in this way: if a question was asked respecting a particular tribe, that the stone which represented it was lighted up; and that the colors of the stones were changed according as God refused or assented. For even if we allow that the Urim and Thummim were the rows of precious stones themselves, still this imagination is altogether unmeaning. But, as I have said, by the very form of the breastplate God would testify that the fulness of wisdom and integrity was contained in it; for which reason it is called “the breastplate of judgment,” i.e., of the most perfect rectitude, which left nothing to be desired; for the word משפט mishphot, often signifies in Scripture whatsoever is well and duly ordered. The interpretation which some give, that “judgment” means “inquiry,” because the priest only asked for responses when he had the breastplate on, is too restricted, and is even proved to be erroneous by sundry passages. Let this then be deemed settled, that this honorable appellation is meant to express a correct and infallible rule (ordinem.) Because the breastplate was, as it were, a part of the ephod, it is therefore sometimes comprehended in that word; in which it may be well also to observe, that this peculiar ephod of the high priest’s was different from the others, of which mention is made elsewhere; for all of the sacerdotal lineage wore an ephod in the performance of religious duties. (1 Samuel 14:3; 23:6.) Even David, when he danced before the Ark, wore his ephod, (2 Samuel 6:14;) and this custom is still retained by the Jews at their chief festivals. The rest I will introduce presently in their proper places.

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