Today we will look into the facts surrounding a garment worn by the priest of Israel called the ephod.
There are some very interesting facts surrounding the priestly garments made during the days of Moses. The things that God described to Moses set the pattern for the things that the priests of God would use and do throughout the whole priesthood of the Hebrew people and eventually the priesthood of Christianity as we know it today.
Welcome to this week’s lesson for our ongoing on-line bible study called COME AS A CHILD. Today’s scripture reference can be found in Exodus, Chapter 28.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PRIESTLY GARMENTS STARTED WITH THE WILDERNESS TABERNACLE
Practically everything done in today’s religion of Christianity and today’s religion of the Jewish culture started with the priesthood in the wilderness tabernacle.
HISTORY IS RICH WITH THE STORIES OF THESE PRIESTLY GARMENTS
Even when the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, King Ahasuerus had possession of priestly garments among his treasures. There is mention of him putting them on instead of his royal garments just before he threw the great feast in the story of Esther which brought us to the history of Purim.
We also know many stories of David, Saul and Samuel and other people wearing the priestly garments that included the object of our discussion today; the ephod.
In the case of King Ahasuerus, the never yet worn garments would have been preserved from way back in time. Every priestly order of Israel had to have skilled craftsmen to make them again, whenever they were needed by the many, many priest serving over the years. Each generation used the same stipulations that God had given directly to Moses.
MAKING THE GARMENTS KEPT MANY PEOPLE VERY BUSY
Keeping these garments made was quite a production in the days of Moses and also later in the days of the temple.
Eventually the priesthood grew. There were many priest who served in some capacity and each of them were personally fitted for their own original garments.
The garments were never washed, if they were stained they were discarded in an unknown place (hidden away) and new ones were made to replace the stained garments. This kept many, many skilled craftsmen and weavers busy for many, many years.
THE IMPORTANCE IN IDENTIFICATION OF THE PRIESTHOOD
From the very beginning the garments were extremely important in identifying a true priest.
It was this holy uniform that validated the priestly position and if a priest did not have the garments; any sacrifice he offered up would be considered invalid. It seems that the actual garments themselves served as proof that the wearer was standing in the high service of the Divine God of the Universe.
TODAY’S UNIFORM FOR PRIESTHOOD
In today’s congregations, long after the use of animal sacrifices, there is an even holier uniform that a priest must be wearing in order to be considered valid. He must be clothed in the blood of Christ and called and ordained by God to be serving the community. Without these holy garments; he is not worthy or qualified to be ministering as a priest. The garments worn by the original priests in the wilderness tabernacle are symbolic of the covering of Christ. They pointed to the future of God’s church.
TWO TYPES OF GARMENTS
Back in the days of Moses and in the day of the Temple; the high priest had two sets of garments.
One set was for wearing all year long, and one set was for wearing only on the Day of Atonement.
( NOTE: If you wish to know more about The Day of Atonement these articles might be helpful: https://theinseasonlifestyle.com/sacred-appointed-times-and-seasons/ https://theinseasonlifestyle.com/seasons-why-place-so-much-emphasis-on-seasons/ .)
The set of garments the high priest wore all year consisted of eight pieces, an ephod, a breastplate, a robe, a tunic, a turban, a belt, a crown and pants.
The other set of garments (worn only as he officiated on the Day of Atonement) consisted of four pieces; a tunic, pants, a belt and a turban.
All of these special garments were made of white linen woven from white flax with six-ply thread made from six strands of fabric. The second set contained two tunics, one that was worn in the morning and one that was worn in the evening.
THE REMOVAL OF THE WHITE GARMENTS AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS ACT
Once the high priest wore the white garments for the Day of Atonement and he took them off after the service was done; the garments were to be hidden in the place where he removed them.
He would never again wear them.
Who can read of these things without thinking of Jesus folding up the white linen grave-clothes inside the tomb after His Resurrection and walking outside to proclaim everlasting life to all of us?
He would never taste the sting of human death again.
He had overcome death.
This is what the high priest was representing in a symbolic way back those many, many years before it ever happened. The prophetic meanings here are very significant and quite astounding to ponder.
MORE SIGNIFICANCE IS PLACED ON THE ORDINARY
The ordinary priest (not the high priest) wore the same garments year round that the high priest wore only on the Day of Atonement.
These four white garments being worn always by the ordinary priests but put on only by the high priest for The Day of Atonement also speak of Jesus. They speak of how he gave up His high position of divinity and came down to earth to live and die as an “ordinary” man.
This also speaks to us of how each “ordinary” man is qualified to become the priest of his own home on this earth.
The garments for atonement spoke of every day ordinary service. That is what God seeks from us today.
THE WHITE LINEN IS VERY SIGNIFICANT
Another amazing thing to ponder is the quality of linen that was used to make the white garments that were used by the ordinary priest and the high priest on the Day of Atonement. You would have to understand the amazing qualities of linen to fully appreciate these garments.
I recently did a fascinating study of the qualities of linen from flax and I hope to write a separate article on my discoveries in the future. To summarize though; the Torah mentions ONLY linen and wool as useable fabrics and there are specific instructions not to mix the two.
Linen and wool have distinct scientific frequencies and if you mix them together these frequencies cancel each other out.
Ezekiel 44:17-18 speaks of the above:
“And it shall be, whenever they enter the gates of the inner court, that they shall put on linen garments; no wool shall come upon them while they minister within the gates of the inner court or within the Temple. They shall have linen turbans on their heads and linen trousers on their bodies; they shall not clothe themselves with anything that causes sweat.”
The discussions of the priesthood and the use of linen make me think of Edna Hibel’s famous paintings of King David and Samuel. She did a series of David that shows him wearing the white linen turban. This is something that was never relayed to me in my early Sunday School classes as a child. There were always pictures of David as a young boy wearing the garments of the shepherd, but never the garments of the priest or the king. These paintings showing David as a King who wore the priestly garments were very eye-opening to me; and I have grown very fond of this particular series of paintings by this particular artist; who still paints in a little town called Jupiter, Florida.
WHITE LINEN IS VERY STRONG AND DURABLE
The clothes that David wore, the priestly garments of white linen were made of vegetable fibers three times stronger than cotton. This linen made from flax is lint free and gets softer whenever it is washed. It has a high moisture retention. It resists dirt and stains and is strong and durable. It is so durable that when Tutankhamen’s tomb was opened the ancient linen curtains (made of this type of linen) were found fully intact.
The various colors of the flax flower are blue, violet, scarlet and white; which just happen to be the colors God specified to be used in the wilderness tabernacle.
THE HEALTH QUALITIES OF LINEN
Linen has great and wonderful health and healing qualities. Have you ever slept on linen sheets? Try it and see. You will fall asleep easier and faster and you will sleep deeper. You will wake up in a good mood every morning. As you sleep the qualities in the linen actually help to repair the body by harmonizing with your body’s cells. The elements in the flax that makes the linen protects from chemical exposure, noise and dust.
LINEN GARMENTS HAVE A PROTECTIVE QUALITY ABOUT THEM
Linen clothing made from flax reduces solar gamma radiation by almost half thereby protecting people wearing linen.
A Nobel prize winner named Dr. Otto Heinrich Warburg identified something in humans called signature frequency numbers. Most humans average from 70 to 90 frequencies when they are healthy. When they get chronic diseases these frequencies go down to 50. If the frequencies drop to 15 or below the person affected is usually dealing with life-threatening illnesses.
THE TWO BIBLICAL FABRICS
Wool worn by itself has a frequency measurement of 5,000. Linen worn by itself also has a frequency measurement of 5,000. For people wanting to maintain proper health in their body frequencies; it is recommended that thy wear either wool or linen.
It seems that God created the perfect fibers for making fabrics; one suitable for summer (linen) and one suitable for winter (wool.) Never wear them together because as we mentioned above – they each cancel out the benefits of the other when combined.
I could continue this discussion on the amazing quality of linen forever; but we want to talk about the ephod today. Still; I wanted to point out how important the linen fabric is that makes up the fabric of the ephod which covers the body of the priest wearing the ephod.
There were actually two types of ephod; one for the ordinary priest (made of white linen) and one for the high priest (made of carefully woven colored linen threads.)
EACH GARMENT STANDS FOR ATONEMENT OF SOME TYPE OF SIN
Last week we spoke of the priestly garment called the Breast-piece and its importance. If you missed that lesson you may review it here: https://theinseasonlifestyle.com/clothes-of-the-ancient-priest/
Each of the priestly garments stand for atonement of some type of sin. The breast-piece that represented righteousness stood for the atonement of any errors in judgment.
THE EPHOD SYMBOLIZES THE ATONEMENT FOR IDOLATRY
Today we want to talk about the Ephod and how it was used by the priests to obtain God’s word for the people of Israel.
The ephod represents “a covering” and stands for the atonement of idolatry.
It has been pointed out by many wise men that the elaborate gold and glamorous appearance of the temple which evolved from the wilderness tabernacle were only coverings.
You could only see the outside of the building on first glimpse. It was given glorious coverings of great honor and elaborate beauty on the outside.
However; it is very important to remember that the surface of something is only its covering. It is the essence of God beneath the surface and within that makes anything holy, not the materialistic glamour given by men to be seen on the outside.
So this special garment is called an ephod; meaning in Hebrew “a covering.”
The holy men were brought this special covering which was sanctified to be used specifically for the purpose of serving before God.
In a much similar fashion today, many Jews wrap themselves up in a sanctified covering called a Tallis. The practice is the same as the use of the ephod in many ways. Both are used as an outside covering designed to protect what dwells on the inside.
THERE IS A PROTECTIVE ELEMENT TO THE EPHOD
It is believed that this sacred “covering” will protect those who have been guilty of the sin of idolatry. This was very important; as we will see in the later events that happened to Israel in the wilderness.
Without the proper covering for the sins of idolatry; there might not have been a priest left in the bunch. The ephod protected the priests by covering the unholy things that they subconsciously harboured in their hearts. It sheltered their humanity among the sacred.
GOD’S GRACE REPRESENTED IN THE EPHOD
This sheltering quality of the ephod therefore makes the ephod speak to us of the saving grace of God. This gives a whole new meaning of that famous line which we all use so often that says “you shelter me beneath your wings.” God is always providing protection and shelter for the people who He loves. His grace shelters us from ourselves and our proud humanity.
THE EPHOD WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT GARMENT OF ALL
The ephod is considered the most important garment that the priest could wear. This makes perfect sense when you consider how much God hated idolatry.
The ephod is very similar to an apron in appearance. It is worn on back on top of the other garments and is fastened by a long belt in the front opposite the heart.
There are shoulder straps attached to this garment that have gold settings for two sardonyx stones; one for each shoulder area.
The ephod itself extended over the back just below the elbows all the way down to the heals.
THE SARDONYX STONES
The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were engraved upon the sardonyx stones upon each shoulder of the high priest; one stone on the left and one stone on the right.
Six names were on one stone and six names were on another stone and they were written there in accordance with the dates of the birth order of the twelve sons of Israel.
These stones were called “remembrance stones” as each time Aaron would carry them into the Holy of Holies on his shoulders God would remember his promise to the descendants of Abraham and to Israel and HIs promise to them to have mercy upon the people of Israel.
Two square gold settings were designed under these sardonyx stones. These were a place for fastening the breastplate to the ephod by golden chains and hooks.
On the breastplate fastened over the ephod were twelve stones that were engraved with each name of each tribe of Israel.
The scripture that defines these stones follows:
“And you shall set it with four rows of mounted stones, the first row a ruby, an emerald, and a topaz. The second row a carbuncle, a sapphire, and a quartz crystal. The third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst. The fourth row a chrysolite, an onyx and an opal. These stones shall be placed in gold settings. The stones shall contain the names of the twelve children of Israel, one for each of the twelve stones. Each one’s name shall be engraved as on a signet ring, to represent the twelve tribes.” (Exodus 28:17-21)
THE MEANINGS OF THE NAMES ARE UNKNOWN TO MANKIND AND BEYOND OUR COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING
The original Hebrew names of these twelve stones are very obscure and impossible to translate properly.
Their identification varies even with the highest and most knowledgable of human experts.
What we do know for sure is that the colors represented by such stones corresponded with the banners of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Here is a list of what colors were used for each tribe’s banner. The stones are possibilities for the stones that might have been used. A “possible” known stone is suggested for each color:
The Tribe of Ruben – red – ruby
The tribe of Shimon – green – jade
The tribe of Levi – agate – red/white/black-striped
The tribe of Judah – carbuncle- bluish-green
The tribe of Issachar – Lapis Lazuli – Blue
The tribe of Zebulun – Quartz Crystal – Clear
The tribe of Dan – Turquoise – Blue
The tribe of Naftali – Amethyst – Purple
The tribe of Gad – Agate – Grey
The tribe of Asher – Aquamarine – Blue-Green
The tribe of Joseph – Onyx – Black
The tribe of Benjamin – Opal – A stone that possesses all colors
THE MIRACLE OF THE ENGRAVING OF THE NAMES ON THE STONES
There is a theory that the names were engraved naturally, by inking the names on the stones and the cutting was done by a rare form of worm called a “shamir” that existed from the time of creation until the destruction of the temple.
Moses used this worm that could cut stone simply by its glance. This kept any part of the stone from fracturing and breaking and the whole stone remained in tact even after the carving of the name became obvious.
No man touched the stones, but the worm made the names carve out like a fig which ripens and splits open in summer, it splits open but yet no part of it is missing.
As I read of this I became amazed by many things.
First I was amazed with how God created this worm, the lowest of creatures, for such an important task and of how amazing the skill of the worm was that just by looking at something the worm could carve a shape without even touching the original object and without harming anything around the area being carefully carved.
Only God could have thought of such an idea as this.
Second, I was amazed at the meaning behind the symbolism of the names on each stone on the ephod. The purpose of these twelve stones was to represent a perpetual remembrance before God.
A FORM OF COMMUNICATION WITH GOD
This breastplate and ephod were said to have an oracle-like aspect. An oracle was a divine message invoked for an answer to priestly prayers.
The mystical Divine Name of God was written on a piece of parchment and inserted into a flap of the garment. This was called The Urim VTummim. That name and those words do not refer to the object that was inserted actually; but to the name that it had written upon it. The presence of the Divine Name of God brought a message of divine guidance through the shinning of certain letters on the stones.
THE POWERFUL NAME OF GOD
There seems to be a lesson here for us in using the name of God.
God’s true identity is actually so high and so sacred that it is beyond the reach of any human knowledge. There are however certain words for His Name that He has allowed us in our humble and limited humanity to use.
These names that we utter (taken from the holy scriptures) are the same words that God used in the Creation of the Universe.
THE GREAT POWER OF THE NAME OF GOD
God’s names have great power. That is why the use of the Name of God in the Urim VTummim is powerful and brings answers that were unattainable before they were invoked.
The name placed behind the ephod is the name of God that was handed down directly to Moses straight from God at Mt. Sinai. The name is not of any human origin; and since it came only directly from God to Moses, this fact makes the place where the name is held totally different from any other part of the garments and much more powerful than any other part or piece of the sacred garments.
To put this in more understandable language; can you imagine walking around wearing a garment that held a message that the finger of God had written and had delivered to earth?
AARON WAS THE FIRST TO WEAR THE NAME OF GOD ON HIS GARMENTS
Moses took this original Urim VTummim, written by the finger of God and placed it inside the breastplate of judgment after Aaron donned the ephod.
This gives the sense that once the name is placed inside the breastplate over the heart that person is branded and/or “marked” for God’s service. The mark of God would be directly over their heart stating that they belong to God and to no one else.
I suppose if the devil saw the Name of God written over the heart of the priest of God that he would flee from bothering that priest; wouldn’t you?
THE WAY THE DIVINE COMMUNICATION WORKED
In the use of these divine tools of communication with God; a high-ranking official would come with the very important questions of the nation (BIG things such as asking if they should engage in war or not) and stand behind the High Priest who would be facing the Ark of The Testimony.
The questioner (never a common person but always an important and recognized official) asks his question in a quiet prayer to God.
The High Priest meditates upon The Holy Name of God as this question is posed in prayer.
The High Priest gazing at the breastplate receives a divine answer through a prophetic vision of the letters of the stones of the breastplate.
When this vision is clear the High Priest informs the answer to the person presenting the question.
God has spoken.
The matter is decided.
THE SIMILAR MODE OF COMMUNICATION THAT STILL EXISTS TODAY
This was the way that the priesthood of the wilderness tabernacle reached the very important decisions they made for the nation as they traveled through the wilderness on to the promised land.
The source of their answers was an instrument handed directly to Moses and it had been written down by the finger of God.
So too were the ten commandments.
The ten commandments, coupled with prayer, have become the way of discernment used by today’s modern priests serving in God’s congregations.
These commandments combined and used, followed and obeyed properly hold all of the power of the ancient Urim VTummim. Any nation proclaiming them and obeying them would be giving honor and glory to the very Name of God. Any man doing so individuallly would be as if God had carved his holy name over his heart.
Now, with Christ’s holy covering over us we can allow God to take his finger and carve His name over our hearts. All it takes is believing on Christ and being obedient to The Word of God.
As a nation of holy priest dedicated to the service of God; let the modern world rise up and give God the glory and honor that He deserves. He will guide us through the wilderness of our culture wars and moral decay. He will lead us on with discernment to a place that He has prepared for us.
Hold on to what you have been given and do not be afraid.