Read Exodus 28
The Priestly Garments
28 “Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. 2 Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor.3 Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. 4 These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests. 5 Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen.
6 “Make the ephod of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen—the work of skilled hands. 7 It is to have two shoulder pieces attached to two of its corners, so it can be fastened. 8 Its skillfully woven waistband is to be like it—of one piece with the ephod and made with gold, and with blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and with finely twisted linen.
9 “Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel 10 in the order of their birth—six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other. 11 Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings 12 and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord. 13 Make gold filigree settings 14 and two braided chains of pure gold, like a rope, and attach the chains to the settings.
15 “Fashion a breastpiece for making decisions—the work of skilled hands. Make it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. 16 It is to be square—a span long and a span wide—and folded double. 17 Then mount four rows of precious stones on it. The first row shall be carnelian, chrysolite and beryl; 18 the second row shall be turquoise, lapis lazuli and emerald; 19 the third row shall be jacinth, agate and amethyst; 20 the fourth row shall be topaz, onyx and jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. 21 There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.
22 “For the breastpiece make braided chains of pure gold, like a rope. 23 Make two gold rings for it and fasten them to two corners of the breastpiece. 24 Fasten the two gold chains to the rings at the corners of the breastpiece, 25 and the other ends of the chains to the two settings, attaching them to the shoulder pieces of the ephod at the front. 26 Make two gold rings and attach them to the other two corners of the breastpiece on the inside edge next to the ephod. 27 Make two more gold rings and attach them to the bottom of the shoulder pieces on the front of the ephod, close to the seam just above the waistband of the ephod. 28 The rings of the breastpiece are to be tied to the rings of the ephod with blue cord, connecting it to the waistband, so that the breastpiece will not swing out from the ephod.
29 “Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord. 30 Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord.
Other Priestly Garments
31 “Make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth, 32 with an opening for the head in its center. There shall be a woven edge like a collar around this opening, so that it will not tear.33 Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. 34 The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. 35 Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he comes out, so that he will not die.
36 “Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: holy to the Lord. 37 Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. 38 It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord.
39 “Weave the tunic of fine linen and make the turban of fine linen. The sash is to be the work of an embroiderer. 40 Make tunics, sashes and caps for Aaron’s sons to give them dignity and honor. 41 After you put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them. Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.
42 “Make linen undergarments as a covering for the body, reaching from the waist to the thigh. 43 Aaron and his sons must wear them whenever they enter the tent of meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they will not incur guilt and die.
“This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants.
As we read this chapter, we can’t help but notice the precision, care, and detail given. In these chapters of Exodus, God not only gives the Israelites specific instructions on how to worship Him and where to worship Him, here in chapter 28, He also gives great detail for how the priests are to dress and how they will serve the Israelites.
We would expect God’s first instruction regarding the priests to deal with their role and duties. Instead, God begins with a description of the priest’s clothing—a subject occupying the entire chapter. They had to be dressed in a manner that radiated sanctity, holiness, and glory. Each garment has significance and purpose. With great intentionality, God lays out the dress code for the priesthood—a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban, and a sash.
Three times in the first four verses, God says, “that he may minister to me.” Priests–under the old or new covenants–have their first ministry to God Himself. However, God, with His creative clothing designs, weaves reminders into the fabric of their garments that the priests are to help the community come closer to God. Their service is constantly connected to the people, bearing the names of the people on their shoulders and also bearing the names across their hearts.
The priesthood is a hereditary institution. One had to be born into it. Only the descendants of Aaron are designated as priests. The priesthood was no place for ambition or self-glory. It was only entered into by God’s call and invitation. Through Jesus, our great High Priest, we are extended an invitation to be a part of the priesthood. There is nothing we can do to earn it or work for it. We simply accept the free grace given to us through Jesus’ death on our behalf.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NIV
Why do you think God cared so deeply about the priestly garments?
What do you learn about the character of God in this chapter?
What is one thing you will do today to help someone come closer to God or connect with God?
Did You Know?
The names Urim and Thummim mean “Lights and Perfections.” It is unclear what they were or how they were used. The best guess is that they were a pair of stones, one light and another dark, and each stone indicated a “yes” or “no” from God.