Posted by: davidlarkin | August 10, 2017

The Power of the High Priest’s Vestments

Priestly Vestments

This illustration of the vestments of the High Priest of Israel as God dictated to Moses in Exodus 28:2-4 (ESV) :

And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests.

Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first High Priest of the children of Israel. The High Priest was the leading position of the Jews because of his “lifelong sanctity” of one authorized by God to annually make atonement for the sins of the whole community.

Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.

Exodus 30:10 (ESV)

In Exodus 28:5-39 (ESV), God instructed Moses specifically how the vestments of the High Priest were to be created, as illustrated above:

The Priests’ Garments

They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.

“And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth. As a jeweler engraves signets, so shall you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall enclose them in settings of gold filigree.  And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for remembrance.  You shall make settings of gold filigree, and two chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; and you shall attach the corded chains to the settings.

“You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, in skilled work. In the style of the ephod you shall make it—of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen shall you make it.  It shall be square and doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth.  You shall set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle shall be the first row;  and the second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond;  and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold filigree.  There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel. They shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes.  You shall make for the breastpiece twisted chains like cords, of pure gold.  And you shall make for the breastpiece two rings of gold, and put the two rings on the two edges of the breastpiece.  And you shall put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the breastpiece.  The two ends of the two cords you shall attach to the two settings of filigree, and so attach it in front to the shoulder pieces of the ephod. You shall make two rings of gold, and put them at the two ends of the breastpiece, on its inside edge next to the ephod.  And you shall make two rings of gold, and attach them in front to the lower part of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, at its seam above the skillfully woven band of the ephod.  And they shall bind the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, so that it may lie on the skillfully woven band of the ephod, so that the breastpiece shall not come loose from the ephod.  So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord.  And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.

 “You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue.  It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear.  On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them,  a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. And it shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the Lord, and when he comes out, so that he does not die.

“You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the Lord.’  And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban.  It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.

“You shall weave the coat in checker work of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash embroidered with needlework.

The Vestments were considered to be necessary for the High Priest to make annual atonement, and for this reason were treated as precious, and were safeguarded by the authorities at the time of Jesus, to avoid rebellion.

This character of office was transmitted to the [High Priest] by the investiture with the eight-parts of the splendid high-priestly vesture. This vesture possessed atoning power and each of the eight parts atoned for specific sins. Consequently, for Jewry it was the very symbol of their religion. Only thus can it be understood that neither Herod the Great, Archelaus, nor the Romans later could find a more effective safeguard against rebellion than to keep the high-priestly robes in custody in the temple fortress of Antonia, handing them over to the High Priest only on feast days. It also explains why the Jews struggled so tenaciously to have the vestments released, a struggle that ended only when the Emperor Claudius ordered their release by a decree in his own hand, on 28 June AD 45; for the campaign over the High Priest’s vesture was for Jewry a religious campaign.

Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the times of Jesus, Fortress Press, Philadelphia (1969) pp.148-49.

Proper care for the High Priest vestments would keep them safe and ceremonially clean and pure, as the Lord required them to be:

A Vision of Joshua the High Priest

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”  And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.

Zechariah 3:1-5 (ESV)

But now, we have one High Priest forever, Jesus Messiah!

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:14-15 (ESV)

Jesus our High Priest has made the atoning sacrifice once for all.

He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

Hebrews 7:27 (ESV)

And therefore, our great High Priest is no longer clothed in the in the former vestments of atonement.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,

Psalm 104:1 (ESV)

 

 

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