Exodus 28:31 - The Biblical Illustrator

Bible Comments

The robe of the ephod.

The robe of the ephod

The third peculiar garment of the high priest was the robe of the ephod (Exodus 28:5; Exodus 28:31). On the skirts of which were fastened--

1. The pomegranates of blue silk, and purple, and scarlet round about. This fruit hath a most pleasant smell, sweet in itself, and sweetening other things round about it; and is full of precious juice and liquor.

2. Bells of gold between them round about, a golden bell and a pomegranate; the use of which was, that his sound might be heard round about when he went into the sanctuary and holy of holies. The whole garment signified the righteousness of Christ’s human nature, which is--

(1) Most sweet itself, having a most pleasant savour as the pomegranate.

(2) Full of most precious juice and virtue, to qualify and abate the raging heat of God’s displeasure, as the juice of pomegranates doth allay the burning heat of an ague that would shake the body to pieces.

(3) Casts upon us a sweet savour being wrapped in it. For we, by nature, stinking in our sins and rottenness, are loathsome to the Lord; but once covered with this mantle, we are a sweet savour to God.

3. This garment hath a sweet sound, as of golden bells, which to hear were most delectable, because the garment of Christ’s righteousness brings grace to us no otherwise than by the sound of the gospel. For faith, by which we put on Christ, is wrought by hearing the sweet sound and golden bell of the gospel. Whence some have thought, that by this part of the priest’s attire, is shadowed the prophetical office of Christ. Sweet is the proclamation of the gospel of peace!

4. The use. That by these bells the priests must be heard when he goeth into the sanctuary; signifying the power of Christ, our High Priest’s, perpetual intercession (being entered into the sanctuary of heaven) for His elect and chosen. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

The blue robe

The robe was of one piece, and was all of blue. This colour sets forth that which was pre-eminently heavenly in the character of Christ, and it reminds us of that perfect, seamless robe of Christ’s righteousness, which is “unto all and upon all them that believe”(Romans 3:22). The bottom of this long robe was ornamented with golden bells and pomegranates. Here were sound and fruit, and as much fruit as sound. As he moved about in the court or in the tabernacle, every step sent forth a sweet golden sound from each of the many little bells hanging about his feet, and Aaron would seem to say by this sound, “I am ready to serve you, and to bless you.” The pomegranates would often remind him that a priest must do more than make a sound; he must work as well as talk; he must produce both sound and fruit, and both must be good. These bells and pomegranates were about the feet--the walk of the high priest; reminding us of the loveliness of Christ’s walk, and of the sweetness and pleasantness of His conversation. The sound of these bells would not be heard in the camp, and but faintly, if they could be heard at all, outside the court. To hear this sweet sound distinctly, a man must have come as far as to the brazen altar; but he could not come there without an offering. And as the first offering he was required to bring was a sin-offering, if a man stood at the altar of brass and listened to the sweet and joyful sound of the golden bells about the hem of the priest’s blue robe, we are quite sure that he had come, first of all, as a sinner to be pardoned and saved. So now a man must feel himself a sinner, and in need of a sin-offering: he must come out from the world; must draw near to Him who is both the altar and the sacrifice; must lay his hand by faith on the head of Christ. (G. Rodgers.)

The robe of the ephod

This robe embodied the colour of the heavens; it was all of blue. It seems to have typified the especial glory of the true High Priest, whose name is “Prince of Peace,” the “Lord of Peace”; and who wears His princely robes as King of Righteousness, and King of Peace, upon the ground of having made full, perfect, and eternal peace through the blood of His cross. God, known as love, is the God of peace: and He has brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the eternal covenant. That title, “the Great Shepherd of the sheep,” seems to sum up in one name the whole of the priesthood of Christ, as described in the Epistle to the Hebrews. He is the Great Shepherd; for He is King as well as Priest. He has royal power; a royal heart; royal glory; and His dominions are righteousness and peace; and He is the Shepherd, having proved His love and care for the sheep, in laying down His life for them; and all His priestly service on their behalf is conducted with the heart of a good Shepherd, who loves His own, and whose own the sheep are. This is, therefore, a princely, priestly, shepherd robe. It displays the love of God as seen in the gift of His Son and as manifested by the Son Himself, in laying down His life, and so making peace. It was a robe which covered the high priest from head to foot, and showed the great object of His priesthood, namely, to maintain, on the behalf of His own, that peace with God which He had procured at the cost of His own blood, and which the God of peace had sealed and established, by raising Him from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant. This robe was all of one piece, woven from the top throughout, and a provision was made by means of a binding of woven work round about the hole in the top of it, that it should not rend or be rent. Is not this very significant of the unchanging love of Christ? (H. W. Soltau.)

A golden bell and a pomegranate.

Golden bells

I am glad that the first use of bells was a religious use; and hereafter the gospel of God to me shall be a chime of bells; and whether I hear them in the garments of the high priest, or in the cathedral tower, they shall suggest to me the gladness, the warning, and the triumph of the gospel.

1. These gospel bells, like those that adorned the high priest’s robe, are golden bells. Other bells are made of coarser materials--zinc, and lead, and tin, and copper; but these gospel bells are bells of gold. There is one bell in Europe that cost three hundred thousand dollars. It was at vast expense that metallic voices were given to the towers of York, and Vienna, and Oxford. But all the wealth of heaven was thrown into this gospel bell. No angel can count its value. Eternity cannot demonstrate its cost. When the bell of the Russian Kremlin was being fused, the lords came and threw their gold into the molten mass; but when this Gospel bell was to be constructed, the kings of heaven, the hierarchs of eternity, threw into it their crowns and their sceptres. It is a golden bell. Do you believe it? Hear it ring! “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “Him hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

2. I remark, further, that these gospel bells, like those around the high priest’s garment, are bells of invitation. When the Jews heard the clash of those bells in the hem of the priest’s robe they knew it was an invitation to worship. That is the meaning of every church tower from San Francisco to New York, and from London to St. Petersburgh. It is, “Come--come.”

3. I remark, further, that the gospel bells, like those on the high priest’s robe, are bells of warning. When the Jews heard the clash and ring of these bells, it was a warning for them to worship, lest their God be offended. On Bell Rock, in the German Ocean, there is a lighthouse, and there are two bells, that every half-minute ring out through the fog, through the darkness, through the storm, and over the sea. Beware! Beware! The helmsman on the ship, hearing the warning, turns the wheel and steers off. It is a startling thing, at midnight, to hear the heavy clang of a fire bell, if you live in the third ward, and the tongue of the bell strike one, two, three! If a city is besieged, and the flash of the musketry is seen on the hill-tops, and the cavalry horses are dashing up and down, and the batteries are being unlimbered, all the bells of the city call, to arms! to arms! So this gospel bell is a bell of alarm.

4. I remark, further, that the bells on the high priest’s robe were bells of joy. When the Jews heard the chiming of those bells on the priest’s robe, it announced to them the possibility of pardon for their sins, and of deliverance. “Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all people.” There have been bells rung on days of victory. The bell of London rang after Waterloo. The bells in many of our cities rang after the settlement of our national strife. The great bells of York, and Oxford, and Vienna, at some time, have sounded the victory.

5. These gospel bells, of which I speak, are bells of triumph. Aye! they are ringing now: “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” “And He shall reign for ever and for ever!” The Bishop of Malta, in superstition, had all the bells of the city rung, in the hope that the storm that was raging in the city might be quieted. That was superstition: but I think it is faith in God that leads us to believe that the ringing of these gospel bells will yet silence all the storms of this world’s sin, and all the storms of this world’s trouble. Oh! when Jesus, our Great High Priest, in full robes shall enter into His glory, the bells on the hem of His garments will ring with the music of an eternal merriment.

6. But we shall have no share in that joy unless now we listen to the gospel tiding. There is a bell on the other side of the waters, weighing two hundred and eight thousand pounds; and it takes twenty-four men to ring it. But to bring out all the sweetness of this gospel bell would take all the consecrated spirits of earth--seraphim and archangel. Who in this august assembly will listen? Who will listen now? In New England they have what they call a passing bell; that is, when some one dies in a village, word is sent to the sexton, and he sounds the bell just as often as the man lived years: and when the sound is in the tower, the people are solemn, and they say, “Some one is dead--who is it?” For us the passing bell will soon sound. Gone from the family. Gone from the church. Gone from the last opportunity of salvation. (T. De Witt Talmage.)


As the priests must have in their skirts both bells and pomegranates: so must every evangelical minister.

1. The bells allow them not to be dumb dogs (Isaiah 56:10), but the sound of the law and gospel must clearly sound in their mouths, to be heard afar off.

2. These bells must be of gold, to put ministers in mind that their doctrine be pure; not corrupt, not savouring of popish liberty, or self-respect.

3. They must never come into the congregation without these bells; for ministers must still be furnished with some sound matter of instruction and edification. How is it then that many come into the congregation and never bring bells? Many are afraid lest the sound of their bells should be heard too much, and that it would disgrace them to be counted diligent preachers. And many scorn others that their bells sound so often.

4. To the bells, ministers must join pomegranates: with the wholesome word, join good works and holy life. He carries the bell, a minister whose life is agreeable with the holy doctrine (Matthew 5:19). He that keepeth the commandments, and teacheth others so to do, shall be great in the kingdom of God. John Baptist had both bells (being a burning light in himself), and pomegranates; being a shining light unto others. And as the pomegranates smelled sweet; so must ministers labour to leave a sweet smell behind them everywhere. (T. Taylor, D. D.)

The church-going bells

In considering the usefulness of church bells, it may be proper to say: First, that they render a worthy claim for their existence in promoting the temporal welfare of communities where their voice is heard. But, secondly, the worth of a bell is perhaps still more evident when we consider its use for religious purposes. The ways of its usefulness, when calling the people together for worship, are easily seen.

I. It calls attention to the claims of God for love and service. Nothing is more manifest than that men are apt to become careless in respect to these claims.

II. It is useful in promoting a larger attendance upon the services of the sanctuary, than would be secured but for its influence.

III. Added to an increase of attendants, the bell pronotes punctuality.

IV. The bell is useful in the influence it has in preparing the mind of those who obey its call for worship.

V. The bell is useful because of the sacred associations connected with its sound, and the hallowed memories its notes inspire. (G. L. Foster.)

The dumb bell

Mr. Gatty, in his book on “Bells,” gives the following anecdote, on the credit of Cardinal Baronius: “When Charles II., king of France, A.D. 615, was at Sens, in Burgundy, he heard a bell in the church of St. Stephen, the sound of which pleased him so much that he ordered it to be transported to Paris. The Bishop of Sens, however, was greatly displeased at this, and the bell so sympathized with him that it turned dumb on the road and lost all its sound. When the king heard of this he commanded that the bell should be carried back to its old quarters, when, strange to relate, as it approached the town, it recovered its original tone, and began to ring so as to be heard at Sens, whilst yet about four leagues distant from it.” The true preacher grows silent if forced to any other service than his Lord’s. If he attempts to speak on any other topic than that which concerns his Lord and the gospel, he misses his former force; he is not at home, he is glad to end his speech and sit down. Our bell is dumb if it does not ring out for Jesus. The world would soon dismiss us if it had hired us to be its orator, for our heart is elsewhere, and only upon the one dear, familiar theme can be eloquent. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

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.