Today we begin Exodus Chapter 39.
For the Complete Jewish Bible, click here.
For the King James version, click here.
Chapter 39 is a detailed recounting of the priestly garments or to be more specific the creation of Aaron’s garments who will become Israel’s first High Priest.
This chapter is a perfect opportunity to review the details and awesome symbolism these garments represent.
This many-layered garment consisting of rare and expensive yarns and blue, purple and scarlet colored cloths was quite difficult to manufacture.
Chapter 39 focuses on the outer pieces of the uniform beginning with the EPHOD.
Recall that the EPHOD and the breastplate are two different pieces.
However, it was common to just refer to both of these pieces as simply “the EPHOD”.
The Ephod was the apron and the Breastplate was the square metallic piece attached to the EPHOD and contained 12 precious and semi-precious stones arranged in rows and columns.
Each of the stones had the name of a tribe of Israel engraved on it.
Thus, the Breastplate represented all the 12 tribes of Israel.
The Breastplate was affixed to the EPHOD via two rings attached to the EPHOD and was worn on the chest kind of like a protective shield covering the heart.
There were two shoulder straps connecting the front side of the EPHOD to a piece on the back.
Affixed to each of these straps were two large onyx stones that rested on the top of the right and left shoulders.
We’re told that the names of the 12 tribes of Israel were also engraved on these two stones.
Although not specified in Scripture, the Jewish sages for the most part agree that the names of the 12 tribes were evenly divided into two groups.
In other words, 6 Tribes of Israel were engraved on one stone and the last 6 on the other.
Again, the symbolism represented by these stones is awesome.
The individual tribe name being engraved on each stone indicates the unique identity of each tribe.
Yet the fact that they are grouped together indicates that they are ECHAD or one.
Although I can’t be dogmatic about this, I’ve heard some Torah teachers say that the two large stones placed on the shoulders seem to be prophetic of Israel eventually being split up into two kingdoms about 400 years into the future when upon King Solomon’s death, there will be a civil war that will split Israel.
The only problem I would have with this is that when Israel was separated, it wasn’t an even split, but rather a division of 2 tribes and 10 tribes.
Another teaching that makes more sense is that 6 tribes on each shoulder represents a perfect balance (like the balancing on a scale).
And when this balance is broken, that’s when the Lord expresses his anger and judgement follows.
In Scripture, 12 is the number indicating “government” and 6 is the number for “mankind”.
So another idea is that the High Priest, by being especially chosen to represent Israel in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, carries the responsibility of mankind upon his shoulders (thanks for sharing this with me Kathy!).