His Plain Linen Garments. The high priest had two sets of garments. One was of plain white linen, Ex. 39:27,28, like these of the common priest, except the mitre and the girdle. The priests wore "goodly bonnets," Ex. 29:28, while the linen mitre of the high priest was somewhat conical in shape. The girdle of the common priest, being merely to bind about the coat, passed only about the waist. Josephus says that the girdle of the high
priest passed over the shoulder, crossed upon the breast, passed under the arms, twice around the body, and tied in front, the ends hanging down to the feet, thus rendering the high priest more venerable.
The high priest wore these plain garments only on the day of atonement, when he went into the most holy place to minister for his own sins as well as for those of the people. Then he appeared in the humble character of a suppliant. As he approached into the very presence of God, symbolized in the Shekinah, he did so in pure white linen attire, Lev. 16:2-4, without ornament or ornamentation of any kind - garments befitting reverence and humility. These garments were also "the emblem of that perfect purity which was sought by the expiations of that day."
These special garments worn by the high priest on the day of atonement have no counterpart in the work of the heavenly High Priest, because when Christ began His work in the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary, He went in
- not to make atonement for His own sins, for He had none
- He went in to make atonement for the sins of the people only. Therefore in this, the antitypical day of atonement, Jesus is represented as clothed âWith precious garments,â those with "a bell and a pomegranate," and with the breastplate that "glittered like diamonds." EW 251.
The "Broidered Coat." In the high priest's "golden garments" the embroidered coat was worn next over the under garment. Like all the garments of the priest and the high priest, this coat was made of fine linen, and woven in one piece. It was richly embroidered.
In his Bible Dictionary, Smith describes this embroidery as worked in a tesselated manner, in squares such as stones might be set. Webster's Dictionary defines tesselated as formed of little squares, oblongs, or pieces approximating squares like mosaic work. The Hebrew word for embroider in Ex. 28:39 is rendered "to interweave colored threads in squares, to incase gems in gold.
This must have been a most beautiful and exquisite type of embroidery requiring special skill and care. The coat extended down to the foot. Rev. 1:13.
"No rent must be made in the priestly robes, for this would mar the representation of heavenly things. The high priest who dared to appear in holy office . . . with a rent robe, was looked upon as having severed himself from God . . . He was no longer accepted by God as an officiating priest, he pronounced sentence upon Christ as a blasphemer, and expressed his horror of this sin by rending his official robe, but in this act he himself was committing blasphemy. Even after the death of Christ, as a fulfillment of prophecy, His garment was not rent. John 19:23,24; Ps. 22:18.
The Embroidered Girdle. In the East great value was attached to the girdle as being the part of the military dress connected with the sword and the bow. This was especially true if it had been
worn by a sovereign or his eldest son and heir. When Jonathan gave David his robe, he gave "even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle." 1 Sam. 18:4. This was not only a ratification of their covenant of brotherhood for life, but also a sign that he had surrendered to David his royal inheritance.
A girdle of sackcloth was expressive of sorrow; a girdle of leather, such as was worn by Elijah and John the Baptist, expressed deep humility. The girdle was also a symbol of strength and victory. Ps. 18:39,40. Rich girdles were sometimes given as rewards to soldiers. Paul referred to this custom when he said, "Have your loins girt about with truth." Eph. 6:14.
Thus we see that the girdle was expressive of various emotions and meanings; the deeper and more exalted the idea to be expressed, the richer and more elaborate the girdle. The girdle worn by the high priest to bind about his embroidered coat was made "of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet," beautifully and fittingly decorated with "needlework." Ex. 28:39; 39:29.
As elsewhere, the pure white linen symbolized spotless righteousness, and being "fine twined" it was righteousness of the highest order, even the righteousness of Christ. The blue, and scarlet, and purple corresponded to these royal colors in the sanctuary itself, indicating obedience to divine truth, complete and unselfish sacrifice, and kingly royalty. All these were characteristics of the great Antitype, Jesus Christ, our High Priest.
A high priest less perfectly clothed could not represent Christ as our sin bearer. Therefore of Joshua the high priest, who was clothed with "filthy garments," the Lord commanded, "Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him He said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquities to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment . . . And the angel of the Lord stood by." Zech. 3:3-7. Filthy garments represent sin, in this case evidently the sin of Israel which the high priest by virtue of his office must bear, Num. 18:1, while the pure white linen symbolized the righteousness of Christ with which the high priest must be clothed in order to bear the sins of Israel.
The Blue Robe of the Ephod. This was the garment worn next over the embroidered coat. It was "of woven work, all of blue," this color, as always, being a symbol of heavenly truth, or of heaven itself. Like the embroidered coat, it was in one peice. It had no sleeves, but only slits in the sides for the arms to come through, and an opening in the top for the head. Upon the hem of the robe were fastened bells of pure gold, between which were "pomegranates of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and twined linen;" both were expressive of the character and work of our heavenly High Priest. Ex. 28:31-35; 39:22-26. The Bible does not tell us how many of these ornaments there were, but Jewish tradition has it that there were 72 bells. Others state that there were 72 ornaments in all - 36 of each, which seems more reasonable. However, as someone has wisely said, "It is more modest to be silent where God is silent, than to indulge ourselves in boundless and groundless fancies."
Lessons from the Golden Bells. What do the bells and the pomegranates signify? Because these were equal in number, someone has suggested that they well illustrated the lesson that in our Christian experience there should be as much fruit as sound, or profession. At any rate, the bells were not made of "sounding brass," symbol of lack of love, I Cor. 13:1, but of pure gold, representing great value. The bells also had a special purpose on the day of atonement. their joyful sound indicating to the people that the high priest had finished his work in safety, and that God had accepted the sacrifice for their sins.
Lessons from the Pomegranates. Why did God command that the alternate ornament be a pomegranate instead of some other fruit? The poffiegranate is a round fruit about the size of an apple. Its purplish-red shell is completely packed with seeds, each of which is encased in a sack of blood red, delicious but sometimes bitter juice. Each fruitis a veritable âseed basketâ of "precious seed." "The seed is the Word of God." Luke 8:11. By actual count one pomegranate of ordinary size contained approximately 650 seeds, suggesting at least that the Word of God is literally packed with precious promises. The blood red juice suggests the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanseth from all sin. The fine-twined linen in royal colors of blue and purple and scarlet, of which these ornaments
were made, has the same significance here as elsewhere in the sanctuary-heavenly truth, royalty, and sacrifice.
Not only is the scarlet indicative of the sacrificial character and work of Christ, but also the sacrifice of His followers even to death itself which is often necessary in order to carry the truth of God to those in darkness. The linen represents not only the righteousness of Christ, but the righteousness required of those whom God calls to His work. "Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord." Isa. 52:11. They sow the precious seed beside all waters, bringing things new and old out of God's Word. "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed (margin, seed basket), shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Ps. 126:6.
Other Lessons from These Ornaments. The bells and pomegranates were not on the coat of white linen, nor were they on the golden ephod; they were in the blue robe, blue, a symbol of God's eternal truth. How beautiful is the thought expressed in the pomegranate seed baskets, as hour by hour the High Priest went about his daily duties, officiating in behalf of the repentant sinner and dispensing "seeds" of hope and cheer, comfort and instruction from God's Word, that wonderful "seed basket!" With what joy does he take from his 'seed basket" and give to the repentant sinner this seed of encouragement: The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin;" I John 1:7; and another: "Thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace." Mark 5:34; "Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee." John 5:14.
Then, as the sinner receives the Word into his heart, and the joyful sound of the golden bells is heard, comes that inspiring seed: "Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." Luke 15:7. As the golden bells on the hem of the high priest's robe "all of blue," sound out their joy, the response is taken up by the angels in heaven as they sweep the strings of their golden harps." Luke 15:7. How this does bring back from memory's hall that little child song:
"Ring the bells of heaven, There is joy today,
For the wand'rer now is reconciled." And then the chorus:
Glory! Glory! how the angels sing!
Glory! Glory! how their loud harps ring!"
If you have never heard a group of innocent little children with their sweet voices singing that song, you have missed a heavenly thrill.
The Ephod. The ephod, which was worn outside the blue robe, was the peculiar official garment of the high priest of Israel. The word ephod is sometimes translated apron, being shorter than the blue robe, and sleeveless. PP 351. It was the most costly and the most magnificent of his garments, being entirely of "gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen," Ex. 39:3, every thread of which represented the perfect character of Christ. This gorgeous material richly embroidered with real gold thread identified the high priest personally and officially with the gate of the court, the door of the tabernacle, the veil, and the beautiful inner covering of the sanctuary, all of which were of the same costly material and skillful workmenship as the ephod. This, perhaps, accounts in part at least for the fact that at his death the dress of the high priest passed on to his successor. Ex. 29:29.
The Onyx Stones.1 The front and the back of the ephod were clasped together at the shoulders with two onyx stones, on each of which were engraved six of the names of the tribes of Israel. Ex. 28:10; 39:6, These onyx stones were nearly white with pink streaks like agate. They were enclosed in ouches, or resettes, of gold, and the names were "graven as signets are graven." Ex.
1 Because of the difference in language in which the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament were written, the names of some of the jewels in Revelation differ from those given in Ezekiel and Exodus, but the jewels themselves are the same. In the New Testament, according to Smith's Bible Dictionary, jacinth is the same as ligure, chalcedony is a variety of agate, sardonyx is a sard variety of onyx, while chrysoprasus and chrysolite, both jewels of great brilliancy, are evidently the carbuncle and diamond of the Old Testament.
39:3,7. A signet is a seal used by a sovereign in sealing official documents. It gives validity to the document and represents the authority of the government over which the officer rules. Likewise, the names graven on these onyx stones indicated that those thus represented were officially set apart and sealed to become loyal servants of their heavenly Sovereign. Badges of honor and authority are often worn on the shoulders of government officials, or others who have won distinction. As the Messiah was to bear the government upon His shoulder, Isa. 9:6, so the shoulder stones of
the high priest expressed God-given honor and responsibility. The burden bearing shoulder signifies submission to servitude. Issachar "bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute." Gen. 49:15. The onyx stones fastened to the shoulder of the ephod indicated that the high priest was to bear the physical burdens of Israel, even as the heavenly High Priest, carries our burdens "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee." Ps. 55:22, is no idle promise, and for any of us to be a burden bearer for God is a high and heavenly honor.
The names of Israel in the onyx stones were engraved "according to their birth," Ex. 28:10, Reuben, the eldest to Benjamin the youngest. As these were borne on the shoulders the lambs of the flock and those newly born into the family of God. Luke 15:4-6. These names represent the new recruits who are preparing to respond to the call of their mighty General for reinforcements to His loyal army represented in the breastplate jewels. Both the onyx stones and the breastplate jewels were engraved "for a memorial," something that God will never forget. "Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee," for "I have graven thee," not upon precious stones, but that which is infinitely more precious, "upon the palms of my hands." Ex. 28:12, 29; Isa. 49:15,16. God will never forget those who are preparing for His service, or those who are actually engaged in it. This is the promise of the Lord to Zion.
The Breastplate of Judgment. Like the ephod, the breastplate was made of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine-twined linen. This richly embroidered piece of brocade when doubled was foursquare, measuring a span, approximately nine inches each way. Within its border "in ouches (rosettes) of gold," Ex. 39:13, were set four rows of precious stones, three in each row. On each of these stones was engraved the name of one of the twelve tribes. Ex. 28:15-21. They glistened like diamonds, reflecting the light, and magnifying the names engraved upon them. EW
251. These jewels, each measuring nearly two by three inches, were not only of external splendor, but precious stones of great intrinsic value. Hebrew writers say that the ensign or banner of each tribe bore the same color as that of the precious stones representing that tribe in the breastplate of the high priest.
"Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment (or justice) upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial (a reminder) before the Lord continually." Ex. 28:29. Just so day by day "continually" Christ, our heavenly High Priest is reminded of His own. He "bears upon His heart the name of every repentant, believing soul." PP
351. He "continually" thinketh upon every "poor and needy" one. Ps. 40:17. He bears not only our physical burdens, but all our heart burdens.
These twelve breastplate jewels, no two alike, borne on the heart of the high priest, represent God's special treasure, âMy jewels.â Mal. 3:17. They are gathered to the heart of Christ, the Redeemer of the twelve tribes, from every nation and country, some from the depth of the ocean, some from earth's darkest mines.
The Order of the Names. The names in the breastplate were engraved "according to the twelve tribes." Ex. 28:21. Those only were numbered in the tribes who were old enough "to go forth to war in Israel," Num. 1:3, mature enough to fight the spiritual battles of the Lord. In their warfare and service for Him, Christ bears these on His heart "continually." They are His âmemorial,â and He will never forget them. What a comfort this should be to all who labor in His service! The order of these names would naturally be the same as when the tribes were encamped around the sanctuary, and when they marched from place to place. Num. 2:3-13. See accompanying diagram.
The Urim and the Thummim. "Thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment (justice) the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart when he goeth in before the Lord; and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart so to observe that both point back to Eden. . . In Ezekiel 28:13 there is mention of the following precious stones having been in Eden - the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle. (The Septuagint gives all twelve stones.) It would almost appear as if the breastplate of the high priest pointed back to Eden, promising to God's Israel readmission into its glories, while New Jerusalem speaks of the same, presenting to the redeemed all, and more than all, the glory of Paradise, into which they are introduced by the Lamb - the true High Priest who bears their names on His heart."
Ezekiel calls these stones the "covering" of Lucifer, king of Tyrus. Eze. 28:12-19. How beautiful is the thought that the breastplate of the high priest spans the gulf between the time when through Lucifer sin entered Eden, tearing its inhabitants from the heart of the Creator, and the time when through Christ sin is entirely and forever blotted out and His children are restored to the heart of their Redeemer, the true High Priest!
Ephraim and Dan "Cut Off"-Why? In the list of tribes given in Revelation 7, whose names are written on the gates of the Holy City, Rev. 21:12, Joseph takes the place of Ephraim of whom it is written, "Ephraim is joined to idols: Let him alone." Hos. 4:17. Anyone who is joined to his idols of silver or gold, liquor, tobacco, coffee, jewelry, or any other idol, will at last receive
the same verdict: "let him alone." Dan, the backbiter, "a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward," Gen. 49:17, also drops out, and Levi takes his place. What a warning this should be to anyone who is given to criticism or backbiting in any form! Would it not at least be charitable for those who are tempted on
this point to reflect on these well-known words:
"There is so much good in the worst of us, And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly behooves any of us To talk about the rest of us."
When we remember that it is Satan the "serpent" who is "the accuser of our brethern," Rev. 12:10, should we not forever cast aside any such spirit, that we be not classed with him, and finally cast down with him, and lose our place among the redeemed of Israel?
Onyx Stones and Breastplate Bound Together. When the breastplate was finished, a ring of pure gold was set in each of its four corners, two above and two below. To the two upper rings "wreathen chains" of pure gold were fastened with "ouches" or clasps, of gold. These chains reached to rings In the onyx shoulder pieces of the ephod to which they were joined with clasps of gold, thus binding the onyx stones to the breastplate - the army's reserve to the mature and tried warriors. These chains were made double strong, being "wreathen" - twisted and interwoven - veritable cables of pure gold. Ex. 28:13, 14: 39:15-18. So Christ binds His children together, young and old, and according to His Word, no one shall "pluck them out of My Father's hand." John 10:29. How important that these chains were of "wreathen" gold!
In the two lower rings, the breastplate was fastened to gold rings on the two sides of the ephod, next to the curious girdle with a "lace of blue." Ex. 28:28. Think of it! A lace of blue, representing obedience to heavenly truth, bound Israel's warriors close to the girdle - that part of the military dress which was connected with the sword, in this case "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Eph. 6:17. Thus bound together and thus equipped, Israel's warriors are sure to be victors in their spiritual warfare.
The "Courious Girdle" of the Ephod. "Curious" here means skillful, or expert in workmanship. This girdle was about a hand's breadth wide, wound twice about the upper part of the waist, and fastened in front, the long ends hanging down. Like the ephod, its royal colors were
richly embroidered with threads of pure gold, thus fitly representing Christ, who was "girt about the paps with a golden girdle." Rev. 1:13. Such a girdle was a mark of excellent honor, majesty, and royalty, the rich golden girdle of Christ indicating the excellence of His ministration as High Priest.
The mitre, like the other garments, was made of fine linen, thus forming a triple crown, "one within another." It was a symbol of the triple crown of Christ. Fastened to the forefront of it with a ribbon of blue, was a plate of pure gold on which was engraved the inscription, "HOLINESS TO THE LORD." Because of this, the mitre was called "the holy crown." Ex. 39:30,31. This plate with its blue ribbon was to be "upon Aaron's forehead," thus symbolizing that as high priest, he understood and was obedient to, the Word of God, a true representative of Christ.
When at the beginning of the one thousand years, the redeemed are associated with Christ as priests, Rev. 20:4,6, they, too, will wear a holy crown. As their initiation into holy office, Jesus places upon the head of each "the crown of glory . . . bearing his own 'new name' and the inscription 'Holiness to the Lord." GC 646; Isa. 62:2; Rev. 2:17; 3:12; 22:4. Those who finally wear this holy crown will in their daily lives on earth be that which it represents.
Summary of Priests' Garments. The following comp&rative summary shows all the garments of priest and high priest.
Common Priests' Garments
High Priest's Garments for the Day of Atonement
The High Priest's
Linen under garment
Linen under garment
Linen under garment
Plain linen coat
Plain linen coat
Plain linen girdle
Plain linen mitre
Mitre with gold plate
Ex. 28:40,42; 39:27-29;
Ex. 39:27,28; Lev. 16:4,
Blue robe of the ephod Ephod with onyx stones Breastplate