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Exodus 28:33-43

Context
28:33 You are to make pomegranates 1  of blue, purple, and scarlet all around its hem 2  and bells of gold between them all around. 28:34 The pattern is to be 3  a gold bell and a pomegranate, a gold bell and a pomegranate, all around the hem of the robe. 28:35 The robe 4  is to be on Aaron as he ministers, 5  and his sound will be heard 6  when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he leaves, so that he does not die.

28:36 “You are to make a plate 7  of pure gold and engrave on it the way a seal is engraved: 8  “Holiness to the Lord.” 9  28:37 You are to attach to it a blue cord so that it will be 10  on the turban; it is to be 11  on the front of the turban, 28:38 It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron will bear the iniquity of the holy things, 12  which the Israelites are to sanctify by all their holy gifts; 13  it will always be on his forehead, for their acceptance 14  before the Lord. 28:39 You are to weave 15  the tunic of fine linen and make the turban of fine linen, and make the sash the work of an embroiderer.

28:40 “For Aaron’s sons you are to make tunics, sashes, and headbands 16  for glory and for beauty.

28:41 “You are to clothe them – your brother Aaron and his sons with him – and anoint them 17  and ordain them 18  and set them apart as holy, 19  so that they may minister as my priests. 28:42 Make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked bodies; 20  they must cover 21  from the waist to the thighs. 28:43 These must be on Aaron and his sons when they enter 22  to the tent of meeting, or when they approach 23  the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they bear no iniquity and die. 24  It is to be a perpetual ordinance for him and for his descendants 25  after him. 26 

1 sn This must mean round balls of yarn that looked like pomegranates. The fruit was very common in the land, but there is no indication of the reason for its choice here. Pomegranates are found in decorative schemes in Ugarit, probably as signs of fertility. It may be that here they represent the blessing of God on Israel in the land. The bells that are between them possibly have the intent of drawing God’s attention as the priest moves and the bells jingle (anthropomorphic, to be sure), or that the people would know that the priest was still alive and moving inside. Some have suggested that the pomegranate may have recalled the forbidden fruit eaten in the garden (the gems already have referred to the garden), the reason for the priest entering for atonement, and the bells would divert the eye (of God) to remind him of the need. This is possible but far from supportable, since nothing is said of the reason, nor is the fruit in the garden identified.

2 tn The text repeats the idea: “you will make for its hem…all around its hem.”

3 tn The words “the pattern is to be” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarity and for stylistic reasons.

4 tn Heb “it”; the referent (the robe) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

5 tn The form is a Piel infinitive construct with the lamed (ל) preposition: “to minister” or “to serve.” It may be taken epexegetically here, “while serving,” although S. R. Driver takes it as a purpose, “in order that he may minister” (Exodus, 308). The point then would be that he dare not enter into the Holy Place without wearing it.

6 sn God would hear the bells and be reminded that this priest was in his presence representing the nation and that the priest had followed the rules of the sanctuary by wearing the appropriate robes with their attachments.

7 tn The word צִּיץ (tsits) seems to mean “a shining thing” and so here a plate of metal. It originally meant “flower,” but they could not write on a flower. So it must have the sense of something worn openly, visible, and shining. The Rabbinic tradition says it was two fingers wide and stretched from ear to ear, but this is an attempt to give details that the Law does not give (see B. Jacob, Exodus, 818).

8 tn Heb “the engravings of a seal”; this phrase is an adverbial accusative of manner.

9 sn The engraving was a perpetual reminder of the holiness that was due the Lord (Heb “Yahweh”), that all the clothing, the furnishings, and the activities were to come under that description. This corresponded to the symbolism for the whole nation of binding the law between the eyes. It was to be a perpetual reminder of commitment.

10 tn The verb is the perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive; it follows the same at the beginning of the verse. Since the first verb is equal to the imperfect of instruction, this could be as well, but it is more likely to be subordinated to express the purpose of the former.

11 tn Heb “it will be,” an instruction imperfect.

12 tn The construction “the iniquity of the holy things” is difficult. “Holy things” is explained in the passage by all the gifts the people bring and consecrate to Yahweh. But there will inevitably be iniquity involved. U. Cassuto explains that Aaron “will atone for all the transgressions committed in connection with the order of the service, the purity of the consecrated things, or the use of the holy gifts, for the declaration engraved on the plate will prove that everything was intended to be holy to the Lord, and if aught was done irregularly, the intention at least was good” (Exodus, 385).

13 tn The clause reads: “according to/by all the gifts of their holiness.” The genitive is an attributive genitive, the suffix on it referring to the whole bound construction – “their holy gifts.” The idea of the line is that the people will consecrate as holy things gifts they bring to the sanctuary.

14 tn This clause is the infinitive construct with the lamed preposition, followed by the prepositional phrase: “for acceptance for them.” This infinitive provides the purpose or result of the act of wearing the dedicatory frontlet – that they will be acceptable.

15 tn It is difficult to know how to translate וְשִׁבַּצְּתָּ (vÿshibbatsta); it is a Piel perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive, and so equal to the imperfect of instruction. Some have thought that this verb describes a type of weaving and that the root may indicate that the cloth had something of a pattern to it by means of alternate weaving of the threads. It was the work of a weaver (39:27) and not so detailed as certain other fabrics (26:1), but it was more than plain weaving (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 310). Here, however, it may be that the fabric is assumed to be in existence and that the action has to do with sewing (C. Houtman, Exodus, 3:475, 517).

16 sn This refers to a band of linen wrapped around the head, forming something like a brimless convex cap, resembling something like a half egg. It refers to the headgear of ordinary priests only (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 310-11).

17 sn The instructions in this verse anticipate chap. 29, as well as the ordination ceremony described in Lev 8 and 9. The anointing of Aaron is specifically required in the Law, for he is to be the High Priest. The expression “ordain them” might also be translated as “install them” or “consecrate them”; it literally reads “and fill their hands,” an expression for the consecration offering for priesthood in Lev 8:33. The final instruction to sanctify them will involve the ritual of the atoning sacrifices to make the priests acceptable in the sanctuary.

18 tn Heb “fill their hand.” As a result of this installation ceremony they will be officially designated for the work. It seems likely that the concept derives from the notion of putting the priestly responsibilities under their control (i.e., “filling their hands” with work). See note on the phrase “ordained seven days” in Lev 8:33.

19 tn Traditionally “sanctify them” (KJV, ASV).

20 tn Heb “naked flesh” (so NAB, NRSV); KJV “nakedness.”

21 tn Heb “be.”

22 tn The construction for this temporal clause is the infinitive construct with the temporal preposition bet (ב) and the suffixed subjective genitive.

23 tn This construction is also the temporal clause with the infinitive construct and the temporal preposition bet (ב) and the suffixed subjective genitive.

24 tn The text has וְלאֹ־יִשְׂאוּ עָוֹן וָמֵתוּ (vÿlo-yisuavon vametu). The imperfect tense here introduces a final clause, yielding a purpose or result translation (“in order that” or “so that”). The last verb is the perfect tense with the vav consecutive, and so it too is equal to a final imperfect – but it would show the result of bearing the iniquity. The idea is that if they approached the holy things with a lack of modesty, perhaps like the pagans who have nakedness and sexuality as part of the religious ritual, they would pollute the holy things, and it would be reckoned to them for iniquity and they would die.

25 tn Heb “seed.”

26 sn So the priests were to make intercession for the people, give decisions from God’s revealed will, enter his presence in purity, and represent holiness to Yahweh. The clothing of the priests provided for these functions, but in a way that brought honor and dignity. A priest was, therefore, to serve in purity, holiness, and fear (Malachi). There is much that can be derived from this chapter to form principles of spiritual leadership, but the overall point can be worded this way: Those whom God selects to minister to the congregation through intercessory prayer, divine counsel, and sacrificial worship, must always represent the holiness of Yahweh in their activities and demeanor.



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