Notes for Exodus 28:1LEB

Some modern scholars find this and the next chapter too elaborate for the wilderness experience. To most of them this reflects the later Zadokite priesthood of the writer’s (P’s) day that was referred to Mosaic legislation for authentication. But there is no compelling reason why this should be late; it is put late because it is assumed to be P, and that is assumed to be late. But both assumptions are unwarranted. This lengthy chapter could be divided this way: instructions for preparing the garments (1–5), details of the apparel (6–39), and a warning against deviating from these (40–43). The subject matter of the first part is that Yahweh requires that his chosen ministers reflect his set-a-part nature; the point of the second part is that Yahweh requires his ministers to be prepared to fulfill the tasks of the ministry, and the subject matter of the third part is that Yahweh warns all his ministers to safeguard the holiness of their service.


The verb is the Hiphil imperative of the root קָרַב (qarav, "to draw near"). In the present stem the word has religious significance, namely, to present something to Yahweh, like an offering.


This entire clause is a translation of the Hebrew לְכַהֲנוֹ־לִי (lékhahano-li, "that he might be a priest to me"), but the form is unusual. The word means "to be a priest" or "to act as a priest." The etymology of the word for priest, כֹּהֵן (kohen), is uncertain.


Notes for Exodus 28:2LEB

The genitive "holiness" is the attribute for "garments" – "garments of holiness." The point of the word "holy" is that these garments would be distinctive from ordinary garments, for they set Aaron apart to sanctuary service and ministry.


The expression is לְכָבוֹד וּלְתִפְארֶת (lékhavod ulétifaret, "for glory and for beauty"). W. C. Kaiser ("Exodus," EBC 2:465), quoting the NIV’s "to give him dignity and honor," says that these clothes were to exalt the office of the high priest as well as beautify the worship of Yahweh (which explains more of what the text has than the NIV rendering). The meaning of the word "glory" has much to do with the importance of the office, to be sure, but in Exodus the word has been used also for the brilliance of the presence of Yahweh, and so the magnificence of these garments might indeed strike the worshiper with the sense of the exaltation of the service.


Notes for Exodus 28:3LEB

"And you, you will speak to."


"wise of heart." The word for "wise" (חַכְמֵי, khakhme, the plural construct form) is from the word group that is usually translated "wisdom, wise, be wise," but it has as its basic meaning "skill" or "skillful." This is the way it is used in Exodus 31:3-6LEB and Exodus 35:10LEB etc. Yahweh gave these people "wisdom" so that they would know how to make these things. The "heart" for the Hebrews is the locus of understanding, the mind and the will. To be "wise of heart" or "wise in heart" means that they had the understanding to do skillful work, they were talented artisans and artists.


There is no necessity to take this as a reference to the set-a-part Spirit who produces wisdom in these people, although that is not totally impossible. A number of English versions (e.g., NAB, NIV, NCV, NRSV, TEV, CEV, NLT) do not even translate the word "spirit." It probably refers to their attitude and ability. U. Cassuto has "to all the artisans skilled in the making of stately robes, in the heart [i.e., mind] of each of whom I have implanted sagacity in his craft so that he may do his craft successfully" (Exodus, 371).


The form is the perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive; after the instruction to speak to the wise, this verb, equal to an imperfect, will have the force of purpose.


Or "to sanctify him" (ASV) or "to consecrate him" (KJV, NASB, NRSV). It is the garments that will set Aaron apart, or sanctify him, not the workers. The expression could be taken to mean "for his consecration" (NIV) since the investiture is part of his being set apart for service.


Notes for Exodus 28:4LEB

The breastpiece seems to have been a pouch of sorts or to have had a pocket, since it was folded in some way (Exodus 28:16LEB; Exodus 39:9LEB) and contained the Urim and Thummim (Exod 28:30LEB; Lev 8:8LEB).


The word "ephod" is taken over directly from Hebrew, because no one knows how to translate it, nor is there agreement about its design. It refers here to a garment worn by the priests, but the word can also refer to some kind of image for a god (Judg 8:27LEB).


The word תָּשְׁבֵּץ (tashbets), which describes the tunic and which appears only in this verse, is related to a verb (also rare) of the same root in Exodus 28:39LEB that describes making the tunic. Their meaning is uncertain (see the extended discussion in C. Houtman, Exodus, 3:473–75). A related noun describes gold fasteners and the "settings," or "mountings," for precious stones (Exodus 28:11-18LEB; cf. Ps 45:14LEB). The word "fitted" in 28:4 reflects the possibility that "the tunic is to be shaped by sewing, … so that it will fit tightly around the body" (C. Houtman, Exodus, 3:475).


Notes for Exodus 28:5LEB

"and they." The word "artisans" is supplied as the referent of the pronoun, a connection that is clearer in Hebrew than in English.


"receive" or "take."


Notes for Exodus 28:7LEB

Here the Pual perfect with the vav (ו) consecutive provides the purpose clause (equal to a final imperfect); the form follows the use of the active participle, "attached" or more "joining."


Notes for Exodus 28:8LEB

This is the rendering of the word חֵשֶׁב (kheshev), cognate to the word translated "designer" in v. 6. Since the entire ephod was of the same material, and this was of the same piece, it is unclear why this is singled out as "artistically woven." Perhaps the word is from another root that just describes the item as a "band." Whatever the connection, this band was to be of the same material, and the same piece, as the ephod, but perhaps a different pattern (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 301). It is this sash that attaches the ephod to the priest’s body, that is, at the upper border of the ephod and clasped together at the back.


"from it" but meaning "of one [the same] piece"; the phrase "the ephod" has been supplied.


Notes for Exodus 28:9LEB

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.


Notes for Exodus 28:10LEB

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.


"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.


Notes for Exodus 28:11LEB

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.


Or "you will mount them" (NRSV similar).


Or "rosettes," shield-like frames for the stones. The Hebrew word means "to plait, checker."


Notes for Exodus 28:12LEB

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.


Notes for Exodus 28:15LEB

"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).


Notes for Exodus 28:16LEB



"when" is added for clarification (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 375).


The word זֶרֶת (zeret) is half a cubit; it is often translated "span."


Notes for Exodus 28:20LEB

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 Yahweh. 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.


Notes for Exodus 28:21LEB

For clarity the words "the number of" have been supplied.


The phrase translated "the engravings of a seal" is an adverbial accusative of manner here.


Notes for Exodus 28:23LEB

"give, put."


Here "upper" has been supplied.


Notes for Exodus 28:25LEB

Here "the other" has been supplied.


Here "them" has been supplied.


Notes for Exodus 28:26LEB

Here "other" has been supplied.


Notes for Exodus 28:27LEB

Here "more" has been supplied.


Notes for Exodus 28:29LEB

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


Notes for Exodus 28:30LEB

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 14:36–42LEB. 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 set-a-part 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.


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 Yahweh made decisions for the Israelites. The high priest bore the responsibility of discerning the divine will on matters of national importance.


Notes for Exodus 28:31LEB

The מְעִיל (il), 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.


Notes for Exodus 28:32LEB

"mouth" or "opening" (פִּי, pi; in construct).


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.


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.


The expression כְּפִי תַחְרָא (kéfi takhra’) is difficult. It was early rendered "like the opening of a coat of mail." It occurs only here and in the parallel Exodus 39:23LEB. 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.


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).


Notes for Exodus 28:33LEB

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 Yahweh on Israel in the land. The bells that are between them possibly have the intent of drawing Yahweh’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 Yahweh) 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.


The text repeats the idea: "you will make for its hem…all around its hem."


Notes for Exodus 28:34LEB

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.


Notes for Exodus 28:35LEB

"it"; the referent (the robe) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


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 set-a-part Place without wearing it.


Yahweh 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.


Notes for Exodus 28:36LEB

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).


"the engravings of a seal"; this phrase is an adverbial accusative of manner.


The engraving was a perpetual reminder of the holiness that was due the Lord ("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.


Notes for Exodus 28:37LEB

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.


"it will be," an instruction imperfect.


Notes for Exodus 28:38LEB

The construction "the iniquity of the set-a-part things" is difficult. "set-a-part 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 set-a-part gifts, for the declaration engraved on the plate will prove that everything was intended to be set-a-part to the Yahweh, and if aught was done irregularly, the intention at least was good" (Exodus, 385).


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 set-a-part gifts." The idea of the line is that the people will consecrate as set-a-part things gifts they bring to the sanctuary.


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.


Notes for Exodus 28:39LEB

It is difficult to know how to translate וְשִׁבַּצְּתָּ (véshibbatsta); 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 (Exodus 39:27LEB) and not so detailed as certain other fabrics (Exodus 26:1LEB), 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).


Notes for Exodus 28:40LEB

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).


Notes for Exodus 28:41LEB

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 8:33LEB. The final instruction to sanctify them will involve the ritual of the atoning sacrifices to make the priests acceptable in the sanctuary.


"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 8:33LEB.


Traditionally "sanctify them" (KJV, ASV).


Notes for Exodus 28:42LEB

"naked flesh" (so NAB, NRSV); KJV "nakedness."




Notes for Exodus 28:43LEB

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


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


The text has וְלאֹ־יִשְׂאוּ עָוֹן וָמֵתוּ (vélo-yisu avon 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 set-a-part 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 set-a-part things, and it would be reckoned to them for iniquity and they would die.




So the priests were to make intercession for the people, give decisions from Yahweh’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 Yahweh 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.