Exodus 28:31 - The Complete Pulpit Commentary

Bible Comments


THE ROBE OF THE EPHOD. Underneath the ephod and breast-plate the high priest was to wear a robe, or frock, wholly of blue. This robe was to have a hole for the head at the top, and was to be woven without seam (Exodus 39:22). It was put on over the head, like a habergeon or coat of mail, and probably reached below the knee. Josephus says that it had no sleeves.

Exodus 28:31

All of blue. This plainness and uniformity offered a strong contrast to the variegated hues of the breast-plate and ephod, and threw those portions of the attire into greater prominence. If the blue used was indigo, the effect of the contrast must have been heightened

Exodus 28:32

An hole in the top of it. A mere circular hole for the head to go through, unaccompanied by a slit or longitudinal opening. In the midst of it. Midway between the two arm-holes. A binding of woven work round about the hole of it. This would strengthen the edge of the opening) and prevent it from tearing or fraying. The binding was probably sewn on after the frock was woven. As it were the hole of an habergeon. Linen corselets or habergeons have been found in Egypt. They were sometimes covered with metal scales, and were of the make here indicated. The word here used for "habergeon" (takharah) is Egyptian.

Exodus 28:33

Upon the hem of it. Literally "at its edge" Pomegranates. Tassels in the shape of pomegranates, of three colours, seem to be intended. An ornament of the kind is common in Assyria, but not in Egypt. Bells of gold between them. The bell is not often found in Egypt, and seems certainly not to have born in common use there. It was, however. often hung round the necks of horses in Assyria, and is so simple an object that its invention was probably very early. The Assyrian bells are shaped almost exactly like our own. as are the classical ones.

Exodus 28:34, Exodus 28:35

A golden bell and a pomegranate. Hebrew tradition gives a most uncertain sound with respect to the number of the bells. According to some, they were 12 only; according to others, 72; according to a third school, 3651 Equally conflicting are the explanations given of their symbolism—

(1) that they typified the proclamation and expounding of the law by the high-priest—

(2) that they were a musical offering of praise—

(3) that they marked kingly dignity, since Oriental kings sometimes wore bells—and

(4) that they were a call to vigilance and attention.

This last view is supported by the words of Exodus 28:35it shall be upon Aaron to minister, and his sound shall be hoard, or "that its sound may be heard." The bells were a means of uniting priest and people in one common service—they enabled the people to enter into and second what the priest was doing for them, and so to render his mediation efficacious—they made the people's worship in the court of the sanctuary a "reasonable service." And hence the threat, which certainly does not extend to all the priestly garments, implied in the words, "that he die not." If the high priest neglected to wear the robe with the bells, he separated himself off from the people; made himself their substitute and not their mouthpiece; reduced their worship to a drear formality; deprived it of all heartiness and life and vigour. For thus abusing his office, he would deserve death, especially as he could not do it unwittingly, for his ears would tell him whether he was wearing the bells or not.


Exodus 28:31

The Teachings of the Robe.

I. THE NEED OF HEAVENLY CALM AND PURITY, The robe was to be of one hue—uniform, peaceful; without glitter; something on which the eye could rest itself with a quiet satisfaction. And it was to be "blue "-the colour of heaven, the hue which God has spread over "that spacious firmament on high," which in his word represents to us his dwelling. "The blue sky is an image of purity." Nothing purer, nothing calmer, nothing more restful, than the deep soft azure of the eternal unchanging sky. The high priest's robe was to mirror it. He was to present himself before God in a robe "all of blue." So let us present ourselves before him arrayed in purity and peacefulness.

II. THE NEED OF UNITY. If the ephod was to some extent emblematic of the oneness of the Church, so, and much more, was "the robe of the ephod." It was of woven work (Exodus 39:22), absolutely seamless—one, emphatically, in material, in hue, in texture. So Christ prayed that his Church might be one—"as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us—one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one" (John 17:21-43). Visible unity is broken up; but something of invisible unity there may still be, if all true lovers of Christ will cultivate the spirit of unity; judge charitably; think the best they can of all branches of the Church; look to the good points of each; pray for their advance in holiness and in the know]edge of Christ; work with them so far as they can—e.g; for charitable and moral objects, amicably. If we thus act, if we be thus minded, we shall, in a true sense, put on "the robe of the ephod"—we shall be promoters, and not hinderers, of unity.

III. THE NEED OF KEEPING OUR ATTENTION FIXED ON THE ACTIONS OF OUR TRUE HIGH PRIEST, AND JOINING IN THEM. The bells of the robe were to advertise the people of every movement made by the high priest, and enable them to take their part in his actions. To profit by the contrivance, they had to keep their ears attent to the sound, and their minds fixed on the service which was in progress within the sanctuary. We Christians have equal need to mount up in thought continually to that holy place, whither Christ has taken our nature, and set it down at the right hand of God—to join with him as he pleads his meritorious sacrifice on our behalf; to "have boldness" with him "to enter into the holiest;" with him to ask the Father to pardon our sins; with him to intercede for the whole Church; with him to pray that strength may be given us to persevere. We do not, indeed, need bells to tell us how he is employed at each successive moment, because he is always doing all these things for us—always interceding, always pleading his sacrifice, always beseeching his Father to forgive us and sustain us. We may join him in these acts at any moment. Thus, bells are not necessary for us; but still they may sometimes help us. Many an Israelite, whose thoughts wandered and became fixed on worldly things, when no sound issued from the sanctuary, was recalled to a sense of religion, and the recollection of his soul's needs, by the tinkling of the priest's golden bells. So Christians, who ought in heart and mind ever to ascend to where Christ sits at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1-51; Ephesians 2:6, etc.), but whose attention will wander to earth and earthly objects, may sometimes by the chime of bells, or by their solemn toll, be woke up to higher thoughts,—recalled, as it were, from earth to heaven, taken back from the vain distractions of the world to that holy place where their High Priest is ever interceding for them.

Exodus 28:31-35

31 And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue.

32 And there shall be an hole in the top of it, in the midst thereof: it shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole of it, as it were the hole of an habergeon, that it be not rent.

33 And beneath upon the hemc of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about:

34 A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about.

35 And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the LORD, and when he cometh out, that he die not.