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Deeper Commentary

Exo 28:1 Bring Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, near to you from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.

Exo 28:2 You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.
Exo 28:3 You shall speak to all who are wise-hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to sanctify him, that he may minister to Me in the priest’s office-

The wise were given wisdom, in keeping with God’s principle of confirming people in the way in which they themselves choose to go. This is how God's Spirit works today on human hearts.

Exo 28:4 These are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash; and they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, and his sons, that he may minister to Me in the priest’s office.
Exo 28:5 They shall take the gold, and the blue, and the purple, and the scarlet, and the fine linen.

Exo 28:6 They shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, the work of the skilful workman-
The ephod was a kind of waistcoat, onto which the breastplate was attached.

Exo 28:7 It shall have two shoulder straps joined to the two ends of it, that it may be joined together.
Exo 28:8 The skilfully woven belt band which is on it, that is to be put on him, shall be like its work and of the same piece; of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen-
The significance of the colours should not be over emphasized. Israel in the wilderness only had a limited range of things with them, and as with the use of the shittim wood for the tabernacle construction, God was [and is] in a sense limited by the material He choses to have available to work with.

Exo 28:9 You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the children of Israel:
Exo 28:10 six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the six that remain on the other stone, in the order of their birth-
 According to their birth
- Jacob had tried to re-arrange the order of his sons according to his judgment of them, but his judgment was somewhat human. God takes no notice of it here. Note that we are to wear the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14); all that is true of Christ is in some sense true of those who are in Him. We too are to seek to bear others' burdens of sin, enter the Most Holy and seek to reconcile others to God. The many applications of the OT High Priestly language to ordinary believers would've been so difficult for our early Christian Jewish brethren to accept. We are right now sitting in heavenly places [cp. the Most Holy] with Christ, who sits there at God's right hand (Eph. 2:6).

Exo 28:11 With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, you shall engrave the two stones, according to the names of the children of Israel: you shall make them to be enclosed in settings of gold.
Exo 28:12 You shall put the two stones on the shoulder straps of the ephod, to be stones of memorial for the children of Israel; and Aaron shall bear their names before Yahweh on his two shoulders for a memorial-
Bearing on the shoulders by the High Priest in order to gain atonement surely looks forward to the Lord bearing the cross on His shoulders. Yet He bore our sins. The cross is presented as symbolic of the weight of our sins. This is symbolic of how Christ, our High Priest, carries the names of all God’s people on His shoulders and over His heart (:29) as He stands for us in God’s presence. The preciousness of the stones reflects our high value in God’s sight. .

Exo 28:13 You shall make settings of gold,
Exo 28:14 and two chains of pure gold; you shall make them like cords of braided work: and you shall put the braided chains on the settings.
Exo 28:15 You shall make a breastplate of judgment, the work of the skilful workman; like the work of the ephod you shall make it; of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, you shall make it.
Exo 28:16 It shall be square and folded double; a span shall be its length of it, and a span its breadth.
Exo 28:17 You shall set in it settings of stones, four rows of stones: a row of ruby, topaz, and beryl shall be the first row-

The faithful believers are likened to a stone with a unique name written on it (Rev. 2:17). We are each called to uniquely reflect and refract the light of God’s glory in a way slightly different to anyone else, just as the stones on the breastplate all glimmered with their own unique beauty. Unity isn’t the same as uniformity.

Exo 28:18 and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire, and an emerald;
Exo 28:19 and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst;
Exo 28:20 and the fourth row a chrysolite, an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be enclosed in gold in their settings.
Exo 28:21 The stones shall be according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names; like the engravings of a signet, each one according to his name, they shall be for the twelve tribes.
Exo 28:22 You shall make on the breastplate chains like cords, of braided work of pure gold.
Exo 28:23 You shall make on the breastplate two rings of gold, and shall put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate.
Exo 28:24 You shall put the two braided chains of gold in the two rings at the ends of the breastplate.
Exo 28:25 The other two ends of the two braided chains you shall put on the two settings, and put them on the shoulder straps of the ephod in its forepart.
Exo 28:26 You shall make two rings of gold, and you shall put them on the two ends of the breastplate, on its edge, which is toward the side of the ephod inward.
Exo 28:27 You shall make two rings of gold, and shall put them on the two shoulder straps of the ephod underneath, in its forepart, close by its coupling, above the skilfully woven band of the ephod.
Exo 28:28 They shall bind the breastplate by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it may be on the skilfully woven band of the ephod, and that the breastplate may not swing out from the ephod.
Exo 28:29 Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment on his heart, when he goes in to the holy place, for a memorial before Yahweh continually-

The Hebrew word for 'intercede' means also 'to meet'; every prayer is a meeting with God (Job 21:15; Is. 47:3; 64:5; Jer. 7:16; 15:11). Phinehas "executed judgment" or, as some translations, 'prayed / interceded' for Israel (Ps. 106:30). Judgment and prayer are linked. The "breastplate of judgment" enabled the High Priest to bear the names of all Israel before the Lord in mediation- and their judgment was carried by him, as it is by Jesus, in the process of mediating for them (Ex. 28:29,30). Romans is full of legal language, of interceding, pleading, finding a favourable verdict etc., and refers this to the judgment and also to the cross. But Romans 8 uses these very ideas in relation to prayer, for in coming before the throne of grace now on account of the Lord's sacrifice, we come in essence before judgment. Coming before the throne of God in prayer (Heb. 9:24; Ps. 17:1,2) is the language of the judgment seat. If we become before His throne and are accepted, it follows that this is a foretaste of the outcome of the judgment for us, were we to be judged at that time. Our boldness before the Father in prayer will be the same attitude we have to Him at the judgment throne (1 Jn. 2:28; 3:21; 4:17; 5:14 all use the same Greek word).

Exo 28:30 You shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before Yahweh; and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel on his heart before Yahweh continually.
Exo 28:31 You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue.
Exo 28:32 It shall have a hole for the head in its midst: it shall have a binding of woven work around its hole, as it were the hole of a coat of mail, that it not be torn.
Exo 28:33 On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, around its hem; and bells of gold between and around them-

The golden bells on the High Priest's garments (Ex. 28:33) were familiar in local religions as charm to ward off demons by their noise. But they are used in the Divine scheme of things to remind of God's holiness and the danger of human sin impinging upon this and thus leading to death. And thereby fear of demons was to be replaced by fear of God's holiness and human sin. Likewise the plate or rosette on the High Priest's turban would've recalled pagan plates which warded off supposed demons; but this one spoke of "Holiness to Yahweh", again replacing the negative with the positive.

Exo 28:34 a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe.
Exo 28:35 It shall be on Aaron to minister; and his sound shall be heard when he goes in to the holy place before Yahweh, and when he comes out, so that he will not die-
"Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16) may be alluding to how the High Priest had to have bells so that "his sound may be heard... that he die not" (Ex. 28:35; this idea of the sound being heard is picked up in Ps. 19 concerning the spread of the Gospel).

Exo 28:36 You shall make a plate of pure gold, and engrave on it, like the engravings of a signet, ‘HOLY TO YAHWEH’-
Most of the surrounding tabernacles featured quite a lot of noise- especially incantations and spoken formulas regarding the holiness of the god and shrine. There were few spoken words in the Mosaic rituals; "Holy to the Lord" was written upon the forehead of the High Priest rather than stated by incantations (Ex. 28:36). We could maybe go so far as to say that we see here the exaltation of God's written word, with all the faith and understanding which this requires, as opposed to the incantations of other worship systems.

Exo 28:37 You shall put it on a lace of blue, and it shall be on the sash; on the front of the sash it shall be.
Exo 28:38 It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall make holy in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always on his forehead, that they may be accepted before Yahweh-
 Accepted -
Heb. delighted in, great pleasure. Those whose names are carried by the High Priest thereby and therefore become God's great pleasure and delight. His delight in us, seeing us as unblemished, is a great Bible theme. The transaction seems in a sense unfair- that because of the work of one man, many could come into that status. But this is the challenge of faith.

Exo 28:39 You shall weave the coat in chequer work of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash, the work of the embroiderer-
That the Priest’s crown was to be made of linen rather than solid gold or some other precious metal could appear some kind of anticlimax- most leaders of other religions had something solid on their heads. White linen represents righteousness (Rev. 19:8); it’s as if the intention was to highlight the fact that simple righteousness is of such great value and power in God’s sight rather than any visible ostentation.

Exo 28:40 You shall make coats for Aaron’s sons, and you shall make sashes for them and you shall make headbands for them, for glory and for beauty.
Exo 28:41 You shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister to Me in the priest’s office-

The Lord died that He might "sanctify" us to God. This is the word used by the LXX to describe the consecration of the priests to service of the body of Israel (Ex. 28:41). If we reject the call to priesthood today, we reject the point of the Lord's saving suffering for us.

Exo 28:42 You shall make them linen breeches to cover the flesh of their nakedness; from the waist even to the thighs they shall reach.
Exo 28:43 They shall be on Aaron, and on his sons, when they go in to the Tent of Meeting, or when they come near to the altar to minister in the holy place; that they don’t bear iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute forever to him and to his descendants after him-
"Bear iniquity" is therefore an idiom for being personally guilty. Yet the idiom is used about Christ in His bearing of our iniquity on the cross (Is. 53:11). The Lord Jesus was our sin bearer and yet personally guiltless. This is the paradox which even He struggled with, leading to His feeling of having been forsaken by God (Mt. 27:46). This means that although Christ never sinned, He knows the feelings of sinners, because His identity with us was so deep and complete.