For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2005 James Melough

28:1.  “And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.”


This records the inauguration of the Aaronic priesthood with God’s sovereign choice of Moses’ brother Aaron, meaning light-bringer, to be Israel’s first high priest, and his sons to be the priests under him.


Nadab means the willing one; Abihu my father is he, or father of him; Eleazar God is helper; and Ithamar palm-coast, the meanings of these names pointing to what ought to characterize everyone who would render God acceptable service: it is to be uncompelled, willingly given, and rendered in the knowledge that God is our Father and our Helper; while Ithamar palm-coast reminds us that as palm trees frequently grow on the shore, so do we stand on the shore metaphorically, i.e., on the margin of the great sea of unconverted humanity, see Isaiah 57:20, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”


These five priests (number of responsibility) are representative of believers, we too being a kingdom of priests whose duty it is also to minister to, i.e., serve God, see 1 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should shew forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”


28:2.  “And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty.”


Since garments are to the body what habits are to the life, the lesson being taught here is that we who have been clothed with the garment of salvation are responsible to glorify the Lord by living holy lives, so that men might see Christ living His life in us.


The mention of glory and beauty reminds us that our manner of life is to be such as will glorify God, and manifest the beauty of holiness in our daily lives.


28:3.  “And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.”


Relative to the “wise hearted” Scripture informs us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding,” Proverbs 9:10.  No matter what his mental attributes or his attainments may be, the man who hasn’t accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior, is a fool in the eyes of God.  It is only the believer who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, it being He alone who is the Spirit of wisdom.  Only those thus endowed with God’s Spirit are wise: all others are fools.


To “consecrate” is to set apart for a special purpose, and in the case of Aaron his special garments were to be the outward evidence of his consecrated state.  Since, as already noted, garments are to the body what habits are to the life, the practical lesson for us is that godly living is to characterize our lives, because men look at what we do rather than what we say, for every one who professes to be a Christian places himself immediately under the scrutiny of others who watch to see whether the profession of our lips is confirmed by the character of our lives.


“... that he may minister unto me,” i.e., “that he may serve me in the priest’s office.”  Every believer is under a similar obligation.  We are saved to serve, our principal work being to spread the Gospel in obedience to the Lord’s command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark 16:15.                                 


28:4.  “And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a miter, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.”


According to The New Bible Dictionary “the breastplate was a square pouch ... with gold rings at the four corners .... The lower rings were fastened by blue laces to rings above the girdle of the ephod .... On the breastplate were set twelve gems engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel ... and gold cords fastened the upper rings to the two similarly engraved gems on the shoulders of the ephod .... Thus, symbolically, on the one hand the nation, in God’s sight, rested on a high-priestly person and work; on the other hand, the priest carried continually into God’s presence the people, as a loved responsibility ... and equally, as containing the oracular Urim and Thummim ... hence the title ‘breastplate of judgment ... the breastplate symbolizes the priest as the announcer of God’s will to man....”


The ephod was a shirt-like garment reaching from the shoulders down to below the hips; while the robe reached from the shoulders to the ankles.  The broidered (embroidered) coat is believed to have been a shorter garment reaching from the shoulders to just above the knees, and was worn over the robe. 


The miter (mitre) was a turban or turban-like headdress; and the girdle was a sash worn around the waist.


28:5.  “And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen.”


28:6.  “And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of  scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work.” 


Gold speaks of Divine glory; blue, of heaven or of what is heavenly in its nature; purple, of royalty; scarlet, of sin, or of the blood which alone can expiate sin; and fine linen is the biblical symbol of righteousness.  Since the high priest is a figure or type of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Great High Priest, these garments of Aaron represent corresponding attributes of Christ.


28:7.  “It shall have the two shoulderpieces thereof joined at the two edges thereof; and so it shall be joined together.”


The two parts of the ephod, one covering Aaron’s back; and the other, his front, may be the symbolic revelation of the Lord’s eternal existence.  He always has been, and always will be.  He is from everlasting to everlasting.


28:8.  “And the curious (skillfully woven) girdle of the ephod, which is upon it, shall be of the same, according to the work thereof; even of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen.”


The girdle encircling the waist speaks of that which is eternal, and here the gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, of which it was composed, declare the truth that these things symbolize the corresponding eternally existing attributes of the Lord Jesus Christ.


28:9.  “And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the children of Israel:”


Scholars disagree as to the exact nature of what is here called onyx stones, but the majority accept them as having been of a pale green color, probably beryl; and since green is the color of life, the spiritual lesson is that those whose names were engraved on those stones were God’s redeemed people.  Their being divided into two sets of six may indicate that they represent believers both of the OT age, and those also of this present age, i.e., those who have eternal life.


28:10.  “Six of their names on one stone, and the other six names of the rest on the other stone, according to their birth.”


As noted above, they represent believers, or at least professed believers, but since six is the number of man, weakness, incompleteness, failure, sin, the truth being announced is that while believers are perfect as to their standing in God’s sight, as those still in human bodies they manifest little of that perfection in their daily lives.  The two sets of six may indicate that we are to view them as representing believers of both the OT and NT ages.


28:11.  “With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, shalt thou engrave the two stones with the names of the children of Israel: thou shalt make them to be set in ouches (settings or sockets) of gold.”


The engraving of the names on the two precious stones speaks of the eternal security of the believers of both the Old and NT ages, their seal of everlasting safety being further signified by the fact that those stones rested on the shoulders - the biblical symbol of strength - of the High Priest, who is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Lord Himself declared the eternal safety of every believer when He gave the assurance, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand,” John 10:27-28.


Since gold represents glory, their being set in sockets of gold is the symbolic declaration of the truth announced by Paul when he said of believers, “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified,” Romans 8:30.


28:12.  “And thou shalt put the two stones upon the shoulders of the ephod for stones of memorial unto the children of Israel: and Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord upon his two shoulders for a memorial.”


The shoulder is the biblical emblem of strength, so that the assurance of the believing Israelites’ perpetual acceptance before God points to the eternal security of all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.


28:13.  “And thou shalt make ouches (sockets, settings) of gold;”


28:14.  “And two chains of pure gold at the ends; of wreathen (braided or entwined) work shalt thou make them, and fasten the wreathen chains to the ouches.”


This continues to emphasize the assurance of the believers’ eternal security and glorification.


28:15.  “And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it; of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen, shalt thou make it.”


See comments on verse 4 relative to the significance of the breastplate.


28:16.  “Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof.”


When doubled the breastplate formed a square, each side of which measured a span, i.e., a hand’s length, about nine inches, the four sides pointing to the universal aspect of God’s love as declared symbolically in the breastplate.


Since the breast speaks of love and care, as portrayed in a mother’s suckling her child, these human measurements of the breastplate point symbolically to the Lord’s love for those He has redeemed by His blood, see Isaiah 49:15, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.  Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands....” Isaiah 49:15-16.


28:17.  “And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row.”


These precious stones, each one of which represented a tribe of Israel, declare in symbol the preciousness of each believer to the Lord Jesus Christ.


Since four is the biblical number of earth and testing, the four rows declare the universality of God’s love for men; but they remind us also that since man in his natural, i.e., unconverted state, is at enmity with God, he must be born again spiritually in order to make himself an heir of blessing rather than wrath.


The three stones in each row point to the fact that believers have been raised up out of spiritual death into spiritual life, for three is the biblical number of resurrection.


28:18.  “And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond.”


28:19.  “And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst.”


28:20.  “And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings (mountings, settings).”


I believe that each stone points also to a special aspect of blessing, but regret being unable to see what those features are.


28:21.  “And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet (seal-ring, official stamp); every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes.”


Ten and twelve are governmental numbers, ten being associated with the governor or ruler; and twelve, with the governed, e.g., God’s government is declared in the Ten Commandments, while the twelve tribes of Israel are representative of those under His government.  But Israel’s being a type of the Church reminds us that we too are responsible to obey Him.


28:22.  “And thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen (braided or linked) work of pure gold.”


Since gold is the biblical symbol of glory, these golden chains are the symbolic announcement of the truth that man’s obedience glorifies not only God, but also those who obey Him, see Romans 8:16,17,30, “... we are the children of God ... if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together .... Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”


28:23.  “And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate.”


28:24.  “And thou shalt put the two wreathen chains of gold in the two rings which are on the ends of the breastplate.”


28:25.  “And the other two ends of the two wreathen chains thou shalt fasten in the two ouches, and put them on the shoulderpieces of the ephod before it.”


28:26.  “And thou shalt make two rings of gold, and thou shalt put them upon the two ends of the breastplate in the border thereof, which is in the side of the ephod inward.”


28:27.  “And two other rings of gold thou shalt make, and shalt put them on the two sides of the ephod underneath, towards the forepart thereof, over against the other coupling thereof, above the curious girdle of the ephod.”


See comments on verse 4 relative to the significance of the breastplate.  The details given here emphasize the impossibility of a believer’s ever being separated from the love of Christ, as declared in Romans 8:35-39, “Who shall separate us from the love of God .... For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


28:28.  “And thou shalt bind the breastplate by the rings thereof unto the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it may be above the curious girdle of the ephod, and that the breastplate be not loosed from the ephod.”


The blue - color of heaven - lace emphasizes the truth that our eternal security rests, not on human power, but on the immutable word of the God of heaven.


28:29.  “And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in into the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually.”


As already noted, Aaron is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest; and the truth being declared here is that He, in resurrection glory in heaven interposes His precious blood against every accusation brought against us by Satan, as it is written, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?  It is God that justifieth.  Who is he that condemneth?  It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us ... For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 8:33-39


28:30.  “And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment 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 before the Lord continually.”


Urim means lights; and Thummim perfections; and “judgment” here means verdict, sentence, i.e., it was an answer to a question rather than just a legal verdict.  It seems that in connection with the use of the Urim and Thummim the questions were to be posed in such fashion as would require a Yes or No answer, one of the stones meaning Yes, and the other No.  To obtain God’s answer to a question, the priest apparently put his hand into the breastplate without being able to distinguish the one stone from the other until he had taken it out, the possibility of human manipulation thus being eliminated.


The fact that the breastplate was to “be upon Aaron’s heart” is the symbolic assurance that all of God’s dealings with Israel, as also with us, were and are governed by his immeasurable love.  Its being “upon his heart before the Lord continually” certifies the eternal continuance of that love.


28:31.  “And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue.”


For the spiritual significance of “blue” see comments on verse 28.


28:32.  “And there shall be an hole in the top of it, in the midst thereof: it shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole of it, as it were the hole of a habergeon, that it be not rent.”


A habergeon was a piece of mail, usually of leather, to which were attached small strips of metal, the hole in the top being to permit the garment to be pulled down over the wearer’s head so that it rested on his shoulders.  The robe of the ephod was to be of similar design; and the binding on the edge of the opening was to prevent fraying.


28:33.  “And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about:”


28:34.  “A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about.”


These ornamental pomegranates represented the tribes of Israel, and the individual churches of this present age.  The blue speaks of their heavenly character; the purple, of their royal standing; the scarlet, of their redeemed state; and the gold, of their eternal glorification.


The golden bells portray the glory of their, and our, testimony to the nations.  Sadly, neither they nor we have comprehended the magnitude of the glory connected with the privilege of being the Lord’s evangelists to the unconverted.  The fear of man’s ridicule or laughter has all too often sealed our lips, to our shame and eternal loss.


Their being inseparably attached to the hem of the High Priest’s robe speaks of the impossibility of our ever being separated from the love of Christ, see Romans 8:35-39.


William MacDonald makes the pertinent observation that the pomegranates speak “of testimony and fruit,” and he adds the further comment that, “... there was no covering on their (the priests’) feet ... because they were on holy ground when they ministered to the Lord.”


28:35.  “And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not.”


Aaron’s going in to the holy place speaks of our assembling around the Lord’s Table to eat the Lord’s Supper on the first day of each week, the sound of the bells on the hem of his robe corresponding to the presentation of our worship.  While some of the men, acting as Spirit-impelled spokesmen for the whole company, are privileged to present that worship audibly, as the others, and the women, offer theirs silently, the fact remains that there ought not to be a single cold indifferent participant at that remembrance Supper procured by the Lord’s sin-atoning death.  Each guest at that feast should have some measure of worship to offer; but if we are not worshippers during our own times of study, meditation, and prayer, it is folly to believe that we will be able to worship when we sit at the Lord’s Table. Worship is not a mechanical religious ritual: it is the spontaneous expression of gratitude, love, and adoration to God for having secured the eternal redemption of our souls through the death of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


“... that he die not” is the solemn warning that the charade which passes in Christendom for worship, is anathema to God, and will provoke His wrath rather than His blessing.


28:36.  “And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.”


This engraving upon a plate of pure gold reminds us that God’s glory and His holiness are inseparable components of His nature, and warn us of the need to ensure that we don’t sully His glory by permitting sin in our lives.  Whether our sin is that of commission or omission, it dishonors Him.


28:37.  “And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, upon the forefront of the miter it shall be.”


See comments on verse 28 for the significance of the blue lace.


28:38.  “And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.”


In contrast with the breast which speaks of love and affection, the head speaks of intelligence and reason; and Aaron’s bearing “the iniquity of the holy things” means “that he may bear away any sin arising from the holy things,” “take on himself any shortcomings there may be,” ”so that Aaron himself shall bear any guilt connected with the sacred offerings.”


This teaches the truth that there is sin connected with even the best of our spiritual activities, but that that sin too has been atoned for by the Lord’s vicarious death.


28:39.  “And thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen, and thou shalt make the miter of fine linen, and thou shalt make the girdle of needlework.”


In Revelation 19:8 we read that, “... the fine linen is the righteousness of saints,” so that all of these garments of fine linen declare symbolically that every believer stands before God clothed in Christ’s righteousness.  At the moment of conversion the “filthy rags” of our own self-righteousness were taken away, and were replaced with His spotless righteousness, so that we are now as acceptable to God as is the Lord Himself.


The embroidery of blue, purple, and scarlet has the same significance here as in 26:1.  The girdle is a biblical symbol of power, and declares that every believer is girded with that same power imparted by the indwelling Holy Spirit.


28:40.  “And for Aaron’s sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty.”


The fact that Aaron’s sons were clothed in garments similar to his continues to assure us that every believer is clothed in Christ’s righteousness, and is thus fitted for God’s holy presence.


28:41.  “And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.”


Their being anointed points to the truth that every believer is anointed with the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion.  Their being consecrated foreshadows the fact that every believer is also consecrated, i.e., devoted to God’s service; while their being sanctified means that they were set apart for that service, as is every believer.  It is our responsibility to ensure that all of this finds tangible expression in our daily lives, for we too are a royal kingdom of priests, as it is written, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light,” 1 Peter 2:9.


28:42.  “And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:”


These linen garments were to cover their bodies from the waist to above the knees, i.e., those parts involved in physical reproduction, the lesson symbolically taught in this being that all that pertains to the flesh is unacceptable to God, Paul having declared that, “... flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Corinthians 15:50, hence the imperative of Christ’s warning, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God .... Ye must be born again,” John 3:3,7.


28:43.  “And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him.”


This continues to emphasize the truth that everything pertaining to the flesh is unacceptable to God.  Corresponding to their being forbidden to enter the Tabernacle, or to try to render any service within its precincts, is the imperative that we not permit any activity of the fleshly mind in connection with our worship or our service.  All that is not impelled by the Holy Spirit is unacceptable to God, see comments on 23:18.


“... that they bear not iniquity,” may be also translated “... lest they bring guilt upon themselves and die,” “as a precaution against incurring some fault that would mean death,” “on pain of death.”

[Exodus 29]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough