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Exodus 28:36

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Thou shalt make a plate of pure gold - The word ציץ tsits, which we render plate, means a flower, or any appearance of this kind, The Septuagint translate it by πεταλον, a leaf; hence we might be led to infer that this plate resembled a wreath of flowers or leaves; and as it is called, Exodus 29:6, נזר nezer, a crown, and the author of the book of The Wisdom of Solomon 18:24, who was a Jew, and may be supposed to know well what it was, calls it διαδημα, it was probably of the form, not of the ancient diadem, but rather of the radiated crown worn by the ancient Roman emperors, which was a gold band that went round the head from the vertex to the occiput; but the position of the Jewish sacerdotal crown was different, as that went round the forehead, under which there was a blue lace or fillet, Exodus 28:37, which was probably attached to the mitre or turban, and formed its lowest part or border.

Holiness to the Lord - This we may consider as the grand badge of the sacerdotal office.

  1. The priest was to minister in holy things.
  • He was the representative of a holy God.
  • He was to offer sacrifices to make an atonement for and to put away Sin.
  • He was to teach the people the way of righteousness and true holiness.
  • As mediator, he was to obtain for them those Divine influences by which they should be made holy, and be prepared to dwell with holy spirits in the kingdom of glory.
  • In the sacerdotal office he was the type of that holy and just One who, in the fullness of time, was to come and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
  • It is allowed on all hands that this inscription was, in the primitive Hebrew character, such as appears upon ancient shekels, and such as was used before the Babylonish captivity, and probably from the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. The ליהוה קדש Kodesh Laihovah, of the present Hebrew text, would in those ancient characters appear thus as this illustration, which, in the modern Samaritan character, evidently derived from that illustration. And the Samaritan word in this ancient and original character is the famous Tetragrammaton, or word of four letters, which, to the present day, the Jews will neither write nor pronounce. The Jews teach that these letters were embossed on the gold, and not engraven in it, and that the plate on which they were embossed was about two fingers broad, and that it occupied a space on the forehead between the hair and the eyebrows. But it is most likely that it was attached to the lower part of the mitre.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible
    Verses 1-43

    (Compare Exodus 13:2; Numbers 3:12-13. Moses, as the divinely-appointed and acknowledged leader of the nation, had, on a special occasion, appointed those who were to offer sacrifice, and had himself sprinkled the consecrating blood of the victims on the people Exodus 24:5-6, Exodus 24:8. On the completion of the tabernacle, after Aaron and his sons had been called to the priesthood, he took chief part in the daily service of the sanctuary Exodus 40:23-29, Exodus 40:31-32 until the consecration of the family of Aaron, on which occasion he appears to have exercised the priest‘s office for the last time (Numbers 3:5-13; 8:5-26; 18:1-32.

    Exodus 28:1

    Nadab and Abihu, the two older sons of Aaron, had accompanied their father and the seventy Elders when they went a part of the way with Moses up the mountain Exodus 24:1, Exodus 24:9. Soon after their consecration they were destroyed for offering “strange fire before the Lord” Leviticus 10:1-2. Eleazar and Ithamar are here mentioned for the first time, except in the genealogy, Exodus 6:23. Eleazar succeeded his father in the High priesthood, and was himself succeeded by his son Phinehas Judges 20:28. But Eli, the next high priest named in the history, was of the line of Ithamar. The representatives of both families held office at the same time in the days of David. See 1 Chronicles 24:1-3; 2 Samuel 8:17.

    Exodus 28:3

    The spirit of wisdom - See Exodus 31:3 note. What may be especially noticed in this place is, that the spirit of wisdom given by the Lord is spoken of as conferring practical skill in the most general sense.

    Garments to consecrate him - 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 Hebrews 5:4, but that he is invested with it according to prescribed institution. The rite of anointing was essentially connected with investiture in the holy garments Exodus 29:29-30; Exodus 40:12-15. The history of all nations shows the importance of these forms.

    Exodus 28:5

    With the exception of the gold, the materials were the same as those of the tabernacle-cloth, the veil of the tabernacle and the entrance-curtain of the tent Exodus 26:1, Exodus 26:31, Exodus 26:36; Exodus 25:4. The gold was made into thin flat wires which could either be woven with the woolen and linen threads, or worked with the needle. In regard to the mixture of linen and woollen threads in the High priest‘s dress, see Leviticus 19:19.

    Exodus 28:6-12

    The ephod - Exodus 39:2-7. The Hebrew word has the same breadth of meaning as our word vestment. The garment was worn over the shoulders, and was the distinctive vestment of the High priest, to which “the breast-plate of judgment” was attached Exodus 28:25-28.

    Cunninq work - Skilled work, or work of a skilled man Exodus 35:35.

    Exodus 28:7

    Compare Exodus 39:4. The ephod consisted of two principal pieces of cloth, one for the back and the other for the front, joined together by shoulder straps (see Exodus 28:27 note). Below the arms, probably just above the hips, the two pieces were kept in place by a band attached to one of the pieces. On the respect in which the ephod of the High priest was held, see 1 Samuel 2:28; 1 Samuel 14:3; 1 Samuel 21:9; 1 Samuel 23:6-9; 1 Samuel 30:7. But an ephod made of linen appears to have been a recognized garment not only for the common priests 1 Samuel 22:18, but also for those who were even temporarily engaged in the service of the sanctuary 1 Samuel 2:18; 2 Samuel 6:14; 1 Chronicles 15:27.

    Exodus 28:8

    The curious girdle … - Rather: the band for fastening it, which is upon it, shall be of the same work, of one piece with it. This band being woven on to one of the pieces of the ephod, was passed round the body, and fastened by buttons, or strings, or some other suitable contrivance.

    Exodus 28:11

    Like the engravings of a signet - Compare Exodus 28:21, Exodus 28:36. These words probably refer to a special way of shaping the letters, adapted for engraving on a hard substance. Seal engraving on precious stones was practiced in Egypt from very remote times.

    Ouches of gold - Gold settings formed not of solid pieces of metal, but of woven wire, wreathed round the stones in what is called cloisonnee work, a sort of filigree, often found in Egyptian ornaments. These stones, as well as those on the breastplate, were perhaps in the form of ovals, or rather ellipses, like the cartouches, containing proper names, in hieroglyphic inscriptions. The word “ouches” is used by Shakespeare, Spenser, and some of their contemporaries in the general sense of “jewels.”

    Exodus 28:12

    Upon the shoulders - i. e. upon the shoulder pieces of the ephod. See Exodus 28:7.

    Upon his two shoulders - Compare Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 22:22. The high priest had to represent the Twelve tribes in the presence of Yahweh; and the burden of his office could not be so aptly symbolized anywhere as on his shoulders, the parts of the body fittest for carrying burdens.

    Verse 13-30

    Compare Exodus 39:8-21.

    Exodus 28:14

    Rather, two chains of pure gold shalt thou make of wreathen work, twisted like cords. They were more like cords of twisted gold wire than chains in the ordinary sense of the word. Such chains have been found in Egyptian tombs.

    Exodus 28:15

    The breastplate of judgment - The meaning of the Hebrew word rendered “breastplate,” appears to be simply “ornament”. The term breastplate relates merely to its place in the dress.

    Exodus 28:16

    Doubled - To give it stability, or to form what was used as a bag for the Urim and Thummim: the latter appears to be the more likely.

    Exodus 28:17

    Settings - Ouches of “cloisonnec” work, like those mentioned in Exodus 28:11.

    A sardius - i. e. “the red stone.” The Sardian stone, or sard, was much used by the ancients for seals; and it is perhaps the stone of all others the best for engraving.

    Topaz - Not the stone now called the topaz: it may have been the chrysolite, a stone of a greenish hue.

    A carbuncle - More probably the beryl, which is a kind of emerald.

    Exodus 28:18

    An emerald - Rather the garnet, which when cut with a convex face is termed the carbuncle.

    A sapphire - Not the stone now called the sapphire; the lapis-lazuli is most probably meant.

    A diamond - There is no trace of evidence that the ancients ever acquired the skill to engrave on the diamond, or even that they were acquainted with the stone. The “diamond” here may possibly be some variety of chalcedony, or (perhaps) rock crystal.

    Exodus 28:19

    A ligure - Amber, which came from Liguria.

    Exodus 28:20

    A beryl - Supposed to be a brilliant yellow stone, identified with what is now nown as the Spanish topaz.

    A jasper - Probably the green jasper.

    Exodus 28:22

    Chains … - See Exodus 28:14.

    Exodus 28:23

    On the two ends of the breastplate - The extremities spoken of here, and in the next verse, must have been the upper corners of the square. The chains attached to them Exodus 28:25 suspended the breastplate from the ouches of the shoulder pieces Exodus 28:9, Exodus 28:11-12.

    Exodus 28:27

    “And two rings of gold shalt thou make and put them on the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, low down in the front of it, near the joining, above the band for fastening it.” It would seem that the shoulder pieces were continued down the front of the ephod as far as the band (see Exodus 28:8); the joining appears to have been the meeting of the extremities of the shoulder pieces with the band. These rings were attached to the shoulder pieces just above this joining.

    Exodus 28:28

    The curious girdle of the ephod - The band for fastening it (see Exodus 28:8 note).

    Exodus 28:29

    See Exodus 28:12; the same names engraved on the stones of the breastplate were worn over the heart, the seat of the affections, as well as of the intellect, to symbolize the relation of love and of personal interest which the Lord requires to exist between the priest and the people.

    Exodus 28:30

    The Urim and the Thummim - “The Light and the Truth, or perfection.”

    From the way in which they are spoken of here and in Leviticus 8:8, compared with Exodus 28:15-21, it would appear that the Urim and the Thummim were some material things, previously existing and familiarly known, that they were separate from the breastplate itself, as well as from the gems that were set upon it, and were kept in the bag of the breastplate Exodus 28:16.

    By means of them the will of Yahweh, especially in what related to the wars in which His people were engaged, was made known. They were formally delivered by Moses to Aaron Leviticus 8:8, and subsequently passed on to Eleazar Numbers 20:28; Numbers 27:21. They were esteemed as the crowning glory of the tribe of Levi Deuteronomy 33:8. There is no instance on record of their being consulted after the time of David.

    The opinion has prevailed to a great extent that the Urim and the Thummim were of Egyptian origin, and two small images of precious stone, and that the divine will was manifested through them by some physical effect addressed to the eye or the ear.

    Others prefer the view that they were some means for casting lots. Appeals to lots were made under divine authority by the chosen people on the most solemn occasions Leviticus 16:8; Numbers 26:55; Joshua 7:14-18; Joshua 13:6; Joshua 18:8; 1 Samuel 14:41-42; Acts 1:26, and it must have been a truth commonly recognized by the people that though “the lot was cast into the lap, the whole disposing thereof was of the Lord” Proverbs 16:33.

    Exodus 28:31-35

    The robe of the ephod - Exodus 39:22-26. A frock or robe of the simplest form, woven without seam, wholly of blue. It was put on by being drawn over the head. It appears to have had no sleeves. It probably reached a little below the knees. It must have been visible above and below the ephod, the variegated texture of which it must have set off as a plain blue groundwork.

    Exodus 28:32

    An habergeon - Corselets of linen, such as appear to be here referred to, were well known amongst the Egyptians.

    Exodus 28:35

    His sound - Its sound, i. e. the sound of the robe, that the people, who stood without, when they heard the sound of the bells within the tabernacle, might have a sensible proof that the high priest was performing the sacred rite in their behalf, though he was out of their sight.

    That he die not - The bells also bore witness that the high priest was, at the time of his ministration, duly attired in the dress of his office, and so was not incurring the sentence of death (see also Exodus 28:43). An infraction of the laws for the service of the sanctuary was not merely an act of disobedience; it was a direct insult to the presence of Yahweh from His ordained minister, and justly incurred a sentence of capital punishment. Compare Exodus 30:21; Leviticus 8:35; Leviticus 10:7.

    Exodus 28:36-43

    Compare Exodus 39:27-31.

    Exodus 28:36

    Holiness to the Lord - This inscription testified in express words the holiness with which the high priest was invested in virtue of his sacred calling.

    Exodus 28:37

    A blue lace - The plate was fastened upon a blue band or fillet, so tied round the mitre as to show the plate in front.

    The mitre - A twisted band of linen Exodus 28:39 coiled into a cap, to which the name mitre, in its original sense, closely answers, but which, in modern usage, would rather be called a turban.

    Exodus 28:38

    Bear the iniquity of the holy things - The Hebrew expression “to bear iniquity” is applied either to one who suffers the penalty of sin (Exodus 28:43; Leviticus 5:1, Leviticus 5:17; Leviticus 17:16; Leviticus 26:41, etc.), or to one who takes away the sin of others (Genesis 50:17; Leviticus 10:17; Leviticus 16:22; Numbers 30:15; 1 Samuel 15:25, etc.). In several of these passages, the verb is rightly rendered to forgive. The iniquity which is spoken of in this place does not mean particular sins actually committed, but that condition of alienation from God in every earthly thing which makes reconciliation and consecration needful. Compare Numbers 18:1. It belonged to the high priest, as the chief atoning mediator between Yahweh and His people (see the note at Exodus 28:36), to atone for the holy things that they might be “accepted before the Lord” (compare Leviticus 8:15, note; Leviticus 16:20, Leviticus 16:33, note): but the common priests also, in their proper functions, had to take their part in making atonement (Leviticus 4:20; Leviticus 5:10; Leviticus 10:17; Leviticus 22:16; Numbers 18:23, etc.).

    Exodus 28:39

    The coat of fine linen - A long tunic, or cassock. Josephus says that it was worn next the skin, that it reached to the feet, and that it had closely fitting sleeves. The verb translated “embroider” appears rather to mean weave in diaper work. The tissue consisted of threads of one and the same color diapered in checkers, or in some small figure.

    The girdle of needlework - The girdle of the work of the embroiderer Exodus 26:1; Exodus 35:35. The word translated “girdle” is different from that so rendered in Exodus 28:8 (see the note), and is probably Egyptian. Josephus says that it was wound several times round the body, and that its ends ordinarily hung down to the feet, but were thrown over the shoulder when the priest was engaged in his work.

    Exodus 28:40

    Bonnets - Caps of a simple construction which seem to have been cup-shaped.

    Exodus 28:41-43

    The dress of white linen was the strictly sacerdotal dress common to the whole body of priests Ezekiel 44:17-18. “These were for glory and for beauty” not less than “the golden garments” (as they were called by the Jews) which formed the high priest‘s dress of state Exodus 28:2. The linen suit which the high priest put on when he went into the most holy place on the day of atonement, appears to have been regarded with unique respect (Compare Exodus 31:10; Leviticus 16:4, Leviticus 16:23), though it is nowhere stated that it was distinguished in its make or texture, except in having a girdle Exodus 28:39 wholly of white linen, instead of a variegated one. The ancient Egyptian priests, like the Hebrew priests, wore nothing but white linen garments in the performance of their duties.

    Exodus 28:43

    That they bear not iniquity and die - See Exodus 28:35, note; Exodus 28:38 note.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    The robe of the ephod was under the ephod, and reached down to the knees, without sleeves. Aaron must minister in the garments appointed. We must serve the Lord with holy fear, as those who know they deserve to die. A golden plate was fixed on Aaron's forehead, engraven with "Holiness to the Lord." Aaron was hereby reminded that God is holy, and that his priests must be holy, devoted to the Lord. This must appear in their forehead, in open profession of their relation to God. It must be engraven like the engravings of a signet; deep and durable; not painted so as to be washed off, but firm and lasting; such must our holiness to the Lord be. Christ is our High Priest; through him sins are forgiven to us, and not laid to our charge. Our persons, our doings, are pleasing to God upon the account of Christ, and not otherwise.
    Ellen G. White
    Patriarchs and Prophets, 351

    Over the ephod was the breastplate, the most sacred of the priestly vestments. This was of the same material as the ephod. It was in the form of a square, measuring a span, and was suspended from the shoulders by a cord of blue from golden rings. The border was formed of a variety of precious stones, the same that form the twelve foundations of the City of God. Within the border were twelve stones set in gold, arranged in rows of four, and, like those in the shoulder pieces, engraved with the names of the tribes. The Lord's direction was, “Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually.” Exodus 28:29. So Christ, the great High Priest, pleading His blood before the Father in the sinner's behalf, bears upon His heart the name of every repentant, believing soul. Says the psalmist, “I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me.” Psalm 40:17. PP 351.1

    At the right and left of the breastplate were two large stones of great brilliancy. These were known as the Urim and Thummim. By them the will of God was made known through the high priest. When questions were brought for decision before the Lord, a halo of light encircling the precious stone at the right was a token of the divine consent or approval, while a cloud shadowing the stone at the left was an evidence of denial or disapprobation. PP 351.2

    The miter of the high priest consisted of the white linen turban, having attached to it by a lace of blue, a gold plate bearing the inscription, “Holiness to Jehovah.” Everything connected with the apparel and deportment of the priests was to be such as to impress the beholder with a sense of the holiness of God, the sacredness of His worship, and the purity required of those who came into His presence. PP 351.3

    Not only the sanctuary itself, but the ministration of the priests, was to “serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.” Hebrews 8:5. Thus it was of great importance; and the Lord, through Moses, gave the most definite and explicit instruction concerning every point of this typical service. The ministration of the sanctuary consisted of two divisions, a daily and a yearly service. The daily service was performed at the altar of burnt offering in the court of the tabernacle and in the holy place; while the yearly service was in the most holy. PP 351.4

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 469

    Then the Angel, who is Christ Himself, the Saviour of sinners, puts to silence the accuser of His people, declaring: “The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” Israel had long remained in the furnace of affliction. Because of their sins they had been well-nigh consumed in the flame kindled by Satan and his agents for their destruction, but God had now set His hand to bring them forth. In their penitence and humiliation the compassionate Saviour will not leave His people to the cruel power of the heathen. “A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench.” 5T 469.1

    As the intercession of Joshua is accepted, the command is given, “Take away the filthy garments from him,” and to Joshua the Angel declares, “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” “So they set a fair miter upon his head, and clothed him with garments.” His own sins and those of his people were pardoned. Israel were clothed with “change of raiment”—the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. The miter placed upon Joshua's head was such as was worn by the priests and bore the inscription, “Holiness to the Lord,” signifying that, notwithstanding his former transgressions, he was now qualified to minister before God in His sanctuary. 5T 469.2

    After thus solemnly investing him with the dignity of the priesthood the Angel declared: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then thou shalt also judge My house, and shalt also keep My courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.” He would be honored as the judge or ruler over the temple and all its services; he should walk among attending angels, even in this life, and should at last join the glorified throng around the throne of God. 5T 469.3

    “Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth My servant the Branch.” Here is revealed the hope of Israel. It was by faith in the coming Saviour that Joshua and his people received pardon. Through faith in Christ they were restored to God's favor. By virtue of His merits, if they walked in His ways and kept His statutes, they would be “men wondered at,” honored as the chosen of heaven among the nations of the earth. Christ was their hope, their defense, their justification and redemption, as He is the hope of His church today. 5T 469.4

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    Ellen G. White
    Prophets and Kings, 584

    Then the Angel, who is Christ Himself, the Saviour of sinners, puts to silence the accuser of His people, declaring, “The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” Verse 2. Long had Israel remained in the furnace of affliction. Because of their sins they had been well-nigh consumed in the flame kindled by Satan and his agents for their destruction, but God had now set His hand to bring them forth. PK 584.1

    As the intercession of Joshua is accepted, the command is given, “Take away the filthy garments from him;” and to Joshua the Angel says, “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” “So they set a fair miter upon his head, and clothed him with garments.” Verses 4, 5. His own sins and those of his people were pardoned. Israel was clothed with “change of raiment”—the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. The miter placed upon Joshua's head was such as was worn by the priests, and bore the inscription, “Holiness to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36), signifying that notwithstanding his former transgressions, he was now qualified to minister before God in His sanctuary. PK 584.2

    The Angel now declared to Joshua: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then thou shalt also judge My house, and shalt also keep My courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.” Zechariah 3:7. If obedient, he should be honored as the judge, or ruler, over the temple and all its services; he should walk among attending angels, even in this life; and at last he should join the glorified throng around the throne of God. PK 584.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Patriarchs and Prophets, 351

    Over the ephod was the breastplate, the most sacred of the priestly vestments. This was of the same material as the ephod. It was in the form of a square, measuring a span, and was suspended from the shoulders by a cord of blue from golden rings. The border was formed of a variety of precious stones, the same that form the twelve foundations of the City of God. Within the border were twelve stones set in gold, arranged in rows of four, and, like those in the shoulder pieces, engraved with the names of the tribes. The Lord's direction was, “Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually.” Exodus 28:29. So Christ, the great High Priest, pleading His blood before the Father in the sinner's behalf, bears upon His heart the name of every repentant, believing soul. Says the psalmist, “I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me.” Psalm 40:17. PP 351.1

    At the right and left of the breastplate were two large stones of great brilliancy. These were known as the Urim and Thummim. By them the will of God was made known through the high priest. When questions were brought for decision before the Lord, a halo of light encircling the precious stone at the right was a token of the divine consent or approval, while a cloud shadowing the stone at the left was an evidence of denial or disapprobation. PP 351.2

    The miter of the high priest consisted of the white linen turban, having attached to it by a lace of blue, a gold plate bearing the inscription, “Holiness to Jehovah.” Everything connected with the apparel and deportment of the priests was to be such as to impress the beholder with a sense of the holiness of God, the sacredness of His worship, and the purity required of those who came into His presence. PP 351.3

    Not only the sanctuary itself, but the ministration of the priests, was to “serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.” Hebrews 8:5. Thus it was of great importance; and the Lord, through Moses, gave the most definite and explicit instruction concerning every point of this typical service. The ministration of the sanctuary consisted of two divisions, a daily and a yearly service. The daily service was performed at the altar of burnt offering in the court of the tabernacle and in the holy place; while the yearly service was in the most holy. PP 351.4

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