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Bible: What Does Exodus 27-28 Teach Us About the Tabernacle and the Aaronic Priesthood?

Updated on September 9, 2016

The Courtyard

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The Altar and the Court

Next, artisans will construct a square, wooden altar, its length and width measuring seven and one-half feet and its height four and one-half feet, and having four horns overlaid with bronze on its corners (vv. 1-2).

They will also make various utensils, a grate with four rings at its corners, and poles with which to carry the grate—all of bronze (vv. 3-4, 6-7)—, and place the grate midway up the altar under the rim (v. 5).

According to the divine pattern, they will make the altar hollow with boards (v. 8).

[The bronze from which they make those articles of furniture indicates that the function of these items pertains to judgment].

Surrounding the tabernacle is the court, constructed of woven, linen hangings on pillars with their bronze sockets and silver hooks and bands.

On the north and south, the hangings extend about one hundred fifty feet, and on the east and west about seventy-five (vv. 9-13).

A thirty-foot long gate/screen woven from the same materials as other curtains offers entrance into the court; hangings and pillars with their sockets take up the other forty-five feet (vv. 14-17).

The court’s length is one hundred fifty feet, its width is seventy-five, and its height is seven and one-half (v. 18).

Every socket, utensil, and peg is bronze (v. 19).

Before giving directions concerning the garments of the priesthood, the LORD tells Moses how Israel should take care of the lampstand.

The lamps must continually burn pure oil of pressed olives (v. 20), and Aaron and his sons must tend it forever.

[Notice the precise location of the lampstand (v. 21)].

Aaron, the High Priest

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Aaron, the High Priest

Exodus 28

Speaking of Aaron and his four sons, God commands Moses to set apart his brother to “minister to Me” as “priest,” and the four sons to act as Aaron’s assistants (v. 1).

[Eleazar and Ithamar succeed Nadab and Abihu after the latter two perish for offering “strange fire” (cf. Num. 10:1)].

Artisans, filled in their spirit with divine wisdom, will make Aaron special garments “for glory and for beauty” (vv. 2-3).

The Aaronic Priesthood

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Priestly Garments

The LORD lists the several pieces of his clothing (v. 4a), but then describes their making in the following order:

(1) breastplate (vv. 15-30);

(2) ephod (ornamented vest) [vv. 5-14];

(3) robe (vv. 31-35);

(4) plate and cord (vv. 36-37); and

(5) other garments (tunic, turban, and sash) [v. 39].

A third time God states the purpose of choosing and clothing Aaron thus: “that he may minister to Me as priest” (v. 4b).

Next, the LORD provides directions for making the ephod.

This vest, composed of varicolored thread and woven linen (vv. 5-6), includes two shoulder straps joined at its edges, and a woven band (vv. 7-8).

Artisans will engrave the twelve names of the sons of Israel on two onyx stones—six on each stone—, and place them in gold settings (vv. 9-11).

As a memorial of their names, Aaron will bear these stones on the shoulders of the ephod (v. 12).

Two golden, braided cord chains he will fasten to the golden settings (vv. 13-14).

Stones in Breastplate


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Meaning of a Term


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The Breastplate of Judgment

Second, God teaches them how to make the “breastplate of judgment.”

Woven of the same material as the ephod, the breastplate is “doubled into a square,” a span long and a span wide (vv. 15-16).

Set in gold settings, four rows of various precious stones (three to a row) will reside in the breastplate; each stone has a name of a son of Israel inscribed on it (vv. 17-21).

Artisans will pass the two braided gold chains through two gold rings on the ends of the breastplate, fasten the other ends of the chains to the two settings, and put them on the shoulder straps in the front (vv. 22-26).

Also on the shoulder straps are two other gold rings, located under the ephod at the seam of the band (v. 27).

Using a blue cord, the artisans secure the breastplate to the ephod by means of its rings (v. 28).

[When he enters the holy place, Aaron will bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart (mentioned three times), because he carries their names as a memorial as well as the Urim and the Thummim (“the Lights and Perfections”) (vv. 29-30)].

Under his ephod Aaron will wear a blue robe which will have an opening for his head, and a woven binding around the opening to prevent its tearing (vv. 31-32).

“A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate” will be all around the hem of the robe (vv. 33-34).

The bells will ring as he ministers before the LORD in the holy place (v. 35).

A golden plate with “Holiness to the LORD” engraved on it will adorn the front of his turban; it will remain in that location “that they may be accepted before the LORD” (vv. 36-38).

[What does the text mean when it says that Aaron “bears the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts”? (v. 38)]

The final section regards the fitting of Aaron and his sons.

They will wear tunics, sashes, and turbans, for “glory and beauty” (vv. 39-40), and receive an anointing of oil, consecration, and sanctification to their roles as priests to the LORD (v. 41).

They will also wear trousers from waist to thighs.

Whenever they enter the tabernacle or approach the altar to serve the holy place, they must wear all these articles of clothing lest they die (vv. 42-43).

© 2013 glynch1

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