In this and the following chapter care is taken about the priests
that were to minister in this holy place.
In this chapter,
He pitcheth upon the persons who should be his servants, ver. 1.
He appoints their livery; their work was holy, and so must
their garments be, and answerable to the glory of the house
which was now to be erected, ver. 2 - 5.
He appoints the garments of his head - servant, the high - priest,
An ephod and girdle, ver. 6 - 14.
A breast - plate of judgement, ver. 16 - 29.
in which must be put the Urim and Thummim, ver. 30.
The robe of the ephod, ver. 31 - 35.
The mitre, ver. 36 - 39.
(2.) The garments of the inferior priests, ver. 40 - 43
1: Aaron and his sons - Hitherto every master of a family was priest
to his own family. But now the families of Israel began to be
incorporated into a nation, and a tabernacle of the congregation was to
be erected, as a visible centre of their unity, it was requisite there
should be a publick priesthood instituted. Moses, who had hitherto
officiated, and is therefore reckoned among the priests of the Lord,(Ps 99:6), had enough to do as their prophet, to consult the oracle for
them, and as their prince, to judge among them. Nor was he desirous to
ingross all the honours to himself, or to entail that of the priesthood,
which alone was hereditary, upon his own family; but was very well
pleased to see his brother Aaron invested with this office, and his sons
after him; while (how great soever he was) his sons after him would be but
common Levites. It is an instance of the humility of that great man,
and an evidence of his sincere regard to the glory of God, that he had so
little regard to the preferment of his own family. Aaron, that had
humbly served as a prophet to his younger brother Moses, and did not
decline the office, is now advanced to be a priest to God. God had said to
Israel in general, that they should be to him a kingdom of priests;
but because it was requisite that those who ministered at the altar should
give themselves wholly to the service, God here chose from among them
one to be a family of priests, the father and his four sons; and from
Aaron's loins descended all the priests of the Jewish church, whom
we read of both in the Old Testament and in the New.
2: The priests garments were made for glory and beauty - Some of
the richest materials were to be provided, and the belt artists employed
in making them, whose skill God, by a special gift, would improve to
a very high degree. Eminency, even in common arts, is a gift of God;
it comes from him, and, ought to be used for him.
The garments appointed were,
Four, which both the high - priest and the inferior priests wore,
viz. The linen breeches, the linen coat, the linen girdle which
fastened it to them, and the bonnet; that which the high - priest wore is
called a mitre.
Four more which were peculiar to the high - priest, the ephod, with the
curious girdle of it, the breast - plate of judgment, the long robe, and the
golden plate on his forehead. These glorious garments, were appointed,
That the priests themselves might be minded of the dignity of their
That the people might thereby be possessed with a holy reverence of
that God whose ministers appeared in such grandeur.
That the priests might be types of Christ, and of all Christians who
have the beauty of holiness put upon them.
6: The ephod, was the outmost garment of the high - priest; linen
ephods were worn by the inferior priests, but this, which the high - priest
wore, was called a golden ephod, because there was a great deal of gold
woven into it. It was a short coat without sleeves, buttoned close to him
with a curious girdle of the same stuff. The shoulder pieces were
buttoned together with two precious stones set in gold, one on each
shoulder. In allusion to this, Christ our high priest appeared to John,
girt about the paps with a golden girdle, such as was the curious girdle
of the ephod, (Re 1:13). Righteousness is the girdle of his loins.
He is girt with strength for the work of our salvation. And as Aaron
had the names of all Israel upon his shoulders in precious stones, so He
presents to himself and to his Father a glorious church, (Eph 5:27).
He bears them before the Lord for a memorial, in token of his
appearing before God as the representative of all Israel, and an
advocate for them.
11: Ouches - Hollow places, such as are made in gold rings, to
receive and hold the precious stones.
15: The most considerable of the ornaments of the high priest was this
breast - plate, a rich piece of cloth curiously wrought with gold and purple,
two spans long, and a span broad; so that, being doubled, it was a span
square. In this breast - plate, the tribes of Israel were recommended to
God's favour in twelve precious stones. Some question whether Levi had
a precious stone with his name on or no; if not Ephraim and Manasseh
were reckoned distinct, as Jacob had said they should be, and the high
priest himself being head of the tribe of Levi, sufficiently represented
that tribe. Aaron was to bear their names for a memorial before the
Lord continually, being ordained for men, to represent them in things
pertaining to God; herein typifying our great High Priest, who always
appears in the presence of God for us. The name of each tribe was engraven
in a precious stone, to signify how precious, in God's sight,
believers are, and how honourable, (Isa 43:4).
The high priest had the names of the tribes both on his shoulders and on
his breast, noting both the power and the love with which our
Lord Jesus interceeds for us. How near should Christ's name lie to our
hearts, since he is pleased to lay our names so near his? And what a
comfort is it to us, in all our addresses to God, that the great High Priest
of our profession has the names of all his Israel upon his breast,
before the Lord, for a memorial, presenting them to God?
30: The Urim and Thummim - By which the will of God was made known in
doubtful cases, was put in this breast - plate, which is therefore called the
breast - plate of judgment. Urim and Thummim signify light and
integrity: many conjectures there are among the learned what they were:
we have no reason to think they were any thing that Moses was to make,
more than what was before ordered; so that either God made them himself, and
gave them to Moses, for him to put into the breast - plate when other
things were prepared; or, no more is meant but a declaration of the farther
use of what was already ordered to be made. The words may be read thus,
And thou shalt give, or add, to the breast - plate of judgment, the
illuminations and perfections, and they shall be upon the heart of Aaron
- That is, he shall be endued with a power of knowing and making known the
mind of God in all difficult cases relating either to the civil or
ecclesiastical state. Their government was a theocracy; God was their king,
the high priest was, under God, their ruler, this Urim and Thummim
were his cabinet council: probably Moses wrote upon the breast - plate, or
wove into it, these words, Urim and Thummim, to signify, that the
high - priest, having on him this breast - plate, and asking council of God in
any emergency, should be directed to those measures, which God would own.
If he were standing before the ark, probably he received instructions
from off the mercy - seat, as Moses did, (Ex 25:22). If he were at a
distance from the ark, as Abiathar was when he enquired of the Lord for
David, (1Sa 23:6), then the answer was given either by a voice
from heaven, or by an impulse upon the mind of the high priest, which last
is perhaps intimated in that expression, he shall bear the judgment of
the children of Israel upon his heart. This oracle was of great use to
Israel, Joshua consulted it. (Nu 27:21), and it is likely, the
judges after him. It was lost in the captivity, and never retrieved after.
It was a shadow of good things to come, and the substance is Christ. He is
our oracle; by him God in these last days, makes known himself and his mind
to us. Divine revelation centers in him, and comes to us through him; he is
the light, the true light, the faithful witness; and from him we receive the
Spirit of truth, who leads into all truth. The joining of the
breast - plate to the ephod notes, that his prophetical office was
founded on his priesthood; and it was by the merit of his death that he
purchased this honour for himself, and this favour for us. It was the
Lamb that had been slain that was worthy to take the book and to
open the seals. (Re 5:9).
The judgment - The breast - plate of judgment: That breast - plate which
declared the judgment or mind of God to the Israelites.
31: The robe of the ephod - This was next under the ephod, and
reached down to the knees, without sleeves, and was put on over their head,
having holes on the sides to put the arms through, or, as Maimonides
describes it, was not sewn together on the sides at all. The hole on the
top through which the head was put was carefully bound about, that it might
not tear in the putting on. The bells gave notice to the people in the
outer court, when he went into the holy place to burn incense, that they
might then apply themselves to their devotions at the same time,(Lu 1:10), in token of their concurrence with him, and their hopes of
the ascent of their prayers to God in the virtue of the incense he offered.
Aaron must come near to minister in the garments that were appointed
him, that he die not. 'Tis at his peril if he attend otherwise than
according to the institution.
33: Pomegranates - The figures of Pomegranates, but flat and
36: On the golden plate fixed upon Aaron's forehead, like an
half coronet, reaching, as the Jews say, from ear to ear, must be
engraven, Holiness to the Lord - Aaron must hereby be minded, that God
is holy, and that his priests must be holy. The high priest must be
consecrated to God, and so must all his ministrations. All that attend in
God's house must have holiness to the Lord engraven upon their
foreheads, that is, they must he holy, devoted to the Lord, and
designing his glory in all they do. This must appear in their forehead,
in an open profession of their relation to God, as those that are not
ashamed to own it, and in a conversation answerable to it. It must likewise
be engraven like the engravings of a signet, so deep, so durable; not
painted, so as it may he washed off, but sincere and lasting.
38: Aaron must have this upon his forehead, that he may
bear the iniquity of the holy things, and that they may be accepted
before the Lord - Herein he was a type of Christ, the great Mediator
between God and man. Thro' him what is amiss in our services is
pardoned: even this would be our ruin, if God should enter into judgment
with us: but Christ our high priest bears this iniquity; bears it
for us, so as to bear it from us. Thro' him likewise what is
good is accepted; our persons, our performances are pleasing to God upon
the account of Christ's intercession, and not otherwise. His being
holiness to the Lord, recommends all those to the divine favour that
believe in him. Having such a high priest, we come boldly to the
throne of grace.
39: The embroidered coat of fine linen - Was the innermost of the
priestly garments, it reached to the feet, and the sleeves to the wrists,
and was bound to the body with a girdle or sash of needlework.
The mitre or diadem was of linen, such as kings anciently wore in the
east, typifying the kingly office of Christ.
43: It shall be a statute for ever - That is, It is to continue as
long as the priesthood continues. And it is to have its perpetuity in the
substance, of which these things were the shadows.