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Exodus 28:9-36

Context

28:9 “You are to take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, 1  28:10 six 2  of their names on one stone, and the six remaining names on the second stone, according to the order of their birth. 3  28:11 You are to engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel with the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a seal; 4  you are to have them set 5  in gold filigree 6  settings. 28:12 You are to put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod, stones of memorial for the sons of Israel, and Aaron will bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for a memorial. 7  28:13 You are to make filigree settings of gold 28:14 and two braided chains of pure gold, like a cord, and attach the chains to the settings.

28:15 “You are to make a breastpiece for use in making decisions, 8  the work of an artistic designer; you are to make it in the same fashion as the ephod; you are to make it of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twisted linen. 28:16 It is to be square 9  when 10  doubled, nine inches 11  long and nine inches wide. 28:17 You are to set in it a setting for stones, four rows of stones, a row with a ruby, a topaz, and a beryl – the first row; 28:18 and the second row, a turquoise, a sapphire, and an emerald; 28:19 and the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; 28:20 and the fourth row, a chrysolite, an onyx, and a jasper. 12  They are to be enclosed in gold in their filigree settings. 28:21 The stones are to be for the names of the sons of Israel, twelve, according to the number of 13  their names. Each name according to the twelve tribes is to be like 14  the engravings of a seal.

28:22 “You are to make for the breastpiece braided chains like cords of pure gold, 28:23 and you are to make for the breastpiece two gold rings and attach 15  the two rings to the upper 16  two ends of the breastpiece. 28:24 You are to attach the two gold chains to the two rings at the ends of the breastpiece; 28:25 the other 17  two ends of the two chains you will attach to the two settings and then attach them 18  to the shoulder pieces of the ephod at the front of it. 28:26 You are to make two rings of gold and put them on the other 19  two ends of the breastpiece, on its edge that is on the inner side of the ephod. 28:27 You are to make two more 20  gold rings and attach them to the bottom of the two shoulder pieces on the front of the ephod, close to the juncture above the waistband of the ephod. 28:28 They are to tie the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod by blue cord, so that it may be above the waistband of the ephod, and so that the breastpiece will not be loose from the ephod. 28:29 Aaron will bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of decision over his heart 21  when he goes into the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually.

28:30 “You are to put the Urim and the Thummim 22  into the breastpiece of decision; and they are to be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the Lord. Aaron is to bear the decisions 23  of the Israelites over his heart before the Lord continually.

28:31 “You are to make the robe 24  of the ephod completely blue. 28:32 There is to be an opening 25  in its top 26  in the center of it, with an edge all around the opening, the work of a weaver, 27  like the opening of a collar, 28  so that it cannot be torn. 29  28:33 You are to make pomegranates 30  of blue, purple, and scarlet all around its hem 31  and bells of gold between them all around. 28:34 The pattern is to be 32  a gold bell and a pomegranate, a gold bell and a pomegranate, all around the hem of the robe. 28:35 The robe 33  is to be on Aaron as he ministers, 34  and his sound will be heard 35  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 36  of pure gold and engrave on it the way a seal is engraved: 37  “Holiness to the Lord.” 38 

1 tn Although this is normally translated “Israelites,” here a more literal translation is clearer because it refers to the names of the twelve tribes – the actual sons of Israel.

2 tn This is in apposition to the direct object of the verb “engrave.” It further defines how the names were to be engraved – six on one and the other six on the other.

3 tn Heb “according to their begettings” (the major word in the book of Genesis). What is meant is that the names would be listed in the order of their ages.

4 sn Expert stone or gem engravers were used to engrave designs and names in identification seals of various sizes. It was work that skilled artisans did.

5 tn Or “you will mount them” (NRSV similar).

6 tn Or “rosettes,” shield-like frames for the stones. The Hebrew word means “to plait, checker.”

7 sn This was to be a perpetual reminder that the priest ministers on behalf of the twelve tribes of Israel. Their names would always be borne by the priests.

8 tn Heb “a breastpiece of decision” (חֹשֶׁן מִשְׁפָּט, khoshen mishpat; so NAB). The first word, rendered “breastpiece,” is of uncertain etymology. This item was made of material similar to the ephod. It had four rows of three gems on it, bearing the names of the tribes. In it were the urim and thummim. J. P. Hyatt refers to a similar object found in the Egyptian reliefs, including even the twisted gold chains used to hang it from the priest (Exodus [NCBC], 282).

9 tn Heb “four.”

10 tn “when” is added for clarification (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 375).

11 tn The word זֶרֶת (zeret) is half a cubit; it is often translated “span.”

12 sn U. Cassuto (Exodus, 375-76) points out that these are the same precious stones mentioned in Ezek 28:13 that were to be found in Eden, the garden of God. So the priest, when making atonement, was to wear the precious gems that were there and symbolized the garden of Eden when man was free from sin.

13 tn For clarity the words “the number of” have been supplied.

14 tn The phrase translated “the engravings of a seal” is an adverbial accusative of manner here.

15 tn Heb “give, put.”

16 tn Here “upper” has been supplied.

17 tn Here “the other” has been supplied.

18 tn Here “them” has been supplied.

19 tn Here “other” has been supplied.

20 tn Here “more” has been supplied.

21 sn So Aaron will have the names of the tribes on his shoulders (v. 12) which bear the weight and symbol of office (see Isa 9:6; 22:22), and over his heart (implying that they have a constant place in his thoughts [Deut 6:6]). Thus he was to enter the presence of God as the nation’s representative, ever mindful of the nation’s interests, and ever bringing the remembrance of it before God (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 306).

22 sn The Urim and the Thummim were two objects intended for determining the divine will. There is no clear evidence of their size or shape or the material of which they were made, but they seem to have been familiar items to Moses and the people. The best example of their use comes from 1 Sam 14:36-42. Some have suggested from the etymologies that they were light and dark objects respectively, perhaps stones or sticks or some other object. They seem to have fallen out of use after the Davidic period when the prophetic oracles became popular. It may be that the title “breastpiece of judgment” indicates that these objects were used for making “decisions” (J. P. Hyatt, Exodus [NCBC], 283-84). U. Cassuto has the most thorough treatment of the subject (Exodus, 378-82); he lists several very clear rules for their uses gathered from their instances in the Bible, including that they were a form of sacred lot, that priests or leaders of the people only could use them, and that they were used for discovering the divine will in areas that were beyond human knowledge.

23 tn Or “judgment” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV). The term is מִשְׁפָּט (mishpat), the same word that describes the breastpiece that held the two objects. Here it is translated “decisions” since the Urim and Thummim contained in the breastpiece represented the means by which the Lord made decisions for the Israelites. The high priest bore the responsibility of discerning the divine will on matters of national importance.

24 tn The מְעִיל (mÿil), according to S. R. Driver (Exodus, 307), is a long robe worn over the ephod, perhaps open down the front, with sleeves. It is made of finer material than ordinary cloaks because it was to be worn by people in positions of rank.

25 tn Heb “mouth” or “opening” (פִּי, pi; in construct).

26 tn The “mouth of its head” probably means its neck; it may be rendered “the opening for the head,” except the pronominal suffix would have to refer to Aaron, and that is not immediately within the context.

27 tn Or “woven work” (KJV, ASV, NASB), that is, “the work of a weaver.” The expression suggests that the weaving was from the fabric edges itself and not something woven and then added to the robe. It was obviously intended to keep the opening from fraying.

28 tn The expression כְּפִי תַחְרָא (kÿfi takhra’) is difficult. It was early rendered “like the opening of a coat of mail.” It occurs only here and in the parallel 39:23. Tg. Onq. has “coat of mail.” S. R. Driver suggests “a linen corselet,” after the Greek (Exodus, 308). See J. Cohen, “A Samaritan Authentication of the Rabbinic Interpretation of kephi tahra’,” VT 24 (1974): 361-66.

29 tn The verb is the Niphal imperfect, here given the nuance of potential imperfect. Here it serves in a final clause (purpose/result), introduced only by the negative (see GKC 503-4 §165.a).

30 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.

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

32 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.

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

34 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.

35 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.

36 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).

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

38 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.



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