The Ephod and the Breastplate of Judgment
The sacred vestment and breastplate worn by the High Priest Aaron
The Ephod is a sacred vestment that was originally worn by the High Priest Aaron. It is an outer garment, woven of gold, blue, purple, scarlet and linen threads with shoulder-pieces.
“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. And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty. 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. And these [are] the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, 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. And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen.”
“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. Foursquare it shall be [being] doubled; a span [shall be] the length thereof, and a span [shall be] the breadth thereof. 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. And the second row [shall be] an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings. And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, [like] the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes. And thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends [of] wreathen work [of] pure gold. And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate.” (Exodus 28:15-23 av)The Breastplate of Judgment was attached to the Ephod, and the Ephod curious girdle, with chains of pure gold.
“And thou shalt put the two wreathen [chains] of gold in the two rings [which are] on the ends of the breastplate. 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. 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. And two [other] rings of gold thou shalt make, and shalt put them on the two sides of the ephod underneath, toward the forepart thereof, over against the [other] coupling thereof, above the curious girdle of the ephod. And they shall 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.” (Exodus 28:24-28 av)High Priest Aaron bore the names of the Children of Israel in the Breastplate of Judgment upon his heart when he went into the Holy place of the Tabernacle, and stood before the LORD GOD. Inside the Breastplate of Judgement was placed the Urim and the Thummim. The Urim (Lights) and the Thummim (Pefection and Truth) were stones kept in a pouch on the High Priest’s Breastplate, used in determining God’s decision concerning certain questions and issues.
“And 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. 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.” (Exodus 28:29-30 av)The robe of the Ephod is blue, with golden bells and pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet hanging from the hem.
“And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all [of] blue. 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 an habergeon, that it be not rent. 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: A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about.” (Exodus 28:31-34 av)The golden bells would sound when the High Priest entered into or left the Tabernacle, and the LORD GOD would be alerted by the sound, assuring the safety of the Priest and preventing his death from exposure to too much of the Glory of the LORD GOD. A turban with a plate of pure gold, with the words "Holiness to the LORD" written upon it, and wrapped in blue lace was worn on the High Priest's forehead, to ensure that Israel would be cleansed and made righteous in all their holy gifts and be accepted by Him.
“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. And thou shalt make a plate [of] pure gold, and grave upon it, [like] the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be. 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. And thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen, and thou shalt make the mitre [of] fine linen, and thou shalt make the girdle [of] needlework.” (Exodus 28:35-39 av)Aaron's sons who were also clothed with glorious and beautiful coats, girdles and bonnets, and anointed, consecrated and sanctified in order to minister to the LORD GOD through the priest's office. This sanctification and clothing protected the priests from bearing iniquity and dying when they came near the altar or entered into the Tabernacle of the Congregation. It is important to note the differences between the clothing of Aaron and his sons. The High Priest Aaron was the only one with a Breastplate of Judgment, an Ephod and a Mitre, and he was the only one that was allowed entrance into the portion of the Tabernacle called the Holy of Holies, the place with the glorious presence of the LORD GOD.
“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. 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. And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: 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.” (Exodus 28:40-43 av)There were specific instructions by the LORD GOD, and a detailed process in sanctifying and consecrating the High Priest Aaron and his sons, and dressing them accordingly. This process assured Israel that the Tabernacle would be sanctified by the Glory of the LORD GOD, and that He would dwell among the children of Israel and be their God.
“And this [is] the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them, to minister unto me in the priest’s office: Take one young bullock, and two rams without blemish, And unleavened bread, and cakes unleavened tempered with oil, and wafers unleavened anointed with oil: [of] wheaten flour shalt thou make them. And thou shalt put them into one basket, and bring them in the basket, with the bullock and the two rams. And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water. And thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the coat, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the curious girdle of the ephod: And thou shalt put the mitre upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the mitre. Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour [it] upon his head, and anoint him. And thou shalt bring his sons, and put coats upon them. And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest’s office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons. And thou shalt cause a bullock to be brought before the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the bullock. And thou shalt kill the bullock before the LORD, [by] the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And thou shalt take of the blood of the bullock, and put [it] upon the horns of the altar with thy finger, and pour all the blood beside the bottom of the altar. And thou shalt take all the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul [that is] above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that [is] upon them, and burn [them] upon the altar. But the flesh of the bullock, and his skin, and his dung, shalt thou burn with fire without the camp: it [is] a sin offering. Thou shalt also take one ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. And thou shalt slay the ram, and thou shalt take his blood, and sprinkle [it] round about upon the altar. And thou shalt cut the ram in pieces, and wash the inwards of him, and his legs, and put [them] unto his pieces, and unto his head. And thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar: it [is] a burnt offering unto the LORD: it [is] a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And thou shalt take the other ram; and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the ram. Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put [it] upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about. And thou shalt take of the blood that [is] upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle [it] upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons’ garments with him. Also thou shalt take of the ram the fat and the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul [above] the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that [is] upon them, and the right shoulder; for it [is] a ram of consecration: And one loaf of bread, and one cake of oiled bread, and one wafer out of the basket of the unleavened bread that [is] before the LORD: And thou shalt put all in the hands of Aaron, and in the hands of his sons; and shalt wave them [for] a wave offering before the LORD. And thou shalt receive them of their hands, and burn [them] upon the altar for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour before the LORD: it [is] an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And thou shalt take the breast of the ram of Aaron’s consecration, and wave it [for] a wave offering before the LORD: and it shall be thy part. And thou shalt sanctify the breast of the wave offering, and the shoulder of the heave offering, which is waved, and which is heaved up, of the ram of the consecration, [even] of [that] which [is] for Aaron, and of [that] which is for his sons: And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’ by a statute for ever from the children of Israel: for it [is] an heave offering: and it shall be an heave offering from the children of Israel of the sacrifice of their peace offerings, [even] their heave offering unto the LORD. And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons’ after him, to be anointed therein, and to be consecrated in them. [And] that son that is priest in his stead shall put them on seven days, when he cometh into the tabernacle of the congregation to minister in the holy [place]. And thou shalt take the ram of the consecration, and seethe his flesh in the holy place. And Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram, and the bread that [is] in the basket, [by] the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And they shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate [and] to sanctify them: but a stranger shall not eat [thereof], because they [are] holy. And if ought of the flesh of the consecrations, or of the bread, remain unto the morning, then thou shalt burn the remainder with fire: it shall not be eaten, because it [is] holy. And thus shalt thou do unto Aaron, and to his sons, according to all [things] which I have commanded thee: seven days shalt thou consecrate them. And thou shalt offer every day a bullock [for] a sin offering for atonement: and thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it, and thou shalt anoint it, to sanctify it. Seven days thou shalt make an atonement for the altar, and sanctify it; and it shall be an altar most holy: whatsoever toucheth the altar shall be holy.”
“But Samuel ministered before the LORD, [being] a child, girded with a linen ephod. Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought [it] to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the LORD. And they went unto their own home.” (1 Samuel 2:18-20 av)King David also wore a linen ephod when he danced before the Ark of the LORD GOD, as they brought it to Jerusalem and set it in place in the midst of the Tabernacle.
“And it was told king David, saying, The LORD hath blessed the house of Obededom, and all that [pertaineth] unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into the city of David with gladness. And it was [so], that when they that bare the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings. And David danced before the LORD with all [his] might; and David [was] girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. And they brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it: and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. And as soon as David had made an end of offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts.” (2 Samuel 6:12-18 av)The golden earrings of the Ishmaelites were melted down into a golden ephod by Gideon, which became a snare unto him and his house.
“Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you. And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they [were] Ishmaelites.) And they answered, We will willingly give [them]. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey. And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred [shekels] of gold; beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that [was] on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that [were] about their camels’ necks. And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, [even] in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house. Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.” (Judges 8:22-28 av)It was prophesized by the Prophet Hosea that the children of Israel would abide many days without a king, prince, sacrifice, image, teraphim and an Ephod, until the latter days when they once again fear the LORD GOD.
“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and [without] teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:4-5 av)
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About the Authors
Joanne B. Holstein is a Becker Bible Studies teacher and author of Guided Bible Studies for Hungry Christians. She is seeking a second degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology after completing her study of Psychology/Christian and Bible Counseling. She is well-known as a counsleor to Christian faithful who are struggling with tremendous burden in these difficult times. She is a leading authority on the history of development of the Christian churches and the practices and beliefs of world religions and cults.