Holy Garments (Exodus 28)

“You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.” (Exodus 28:2)

The focus in Chapters 28 and 29 of Exodus moves away from the Tabernacle itself to the priests who will serve in it. Like all the other elements described within the Tabernacle, the clothing that the priests will wear in their service is to be designed according to the exact specifications given by God.

Before getting into the details, we are shown the purpose for the distinct garments which the priests, “the sons of Aaron”, will wear. For beauty and glory, we are told in Verse 2, is the reason given for the clothes to be made a certain way. Notice the description of the materials given in Verse 5:

“They shall take the gold and the blue and the purple and the scarlet material and the fine linen.”

As we considered back in Chapter 25 (click here for that post), these colors symbolize the characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ; they are His colors. The garments of the priests are adorned with the glory and beauty of the Lord. God clothed the priests with garments reflecting His own glory and beauty.

Under the New Testament, those in Christ are called priests and the Church is a “Kingdom of Priests” (1 Peter 2:5-9, Revelation 1:6, 5:10). We, too, are clad in garments reflecting the glory and beauty of the Lord for we have been clothed with robes of righteousness and garments of Salvation (Psalm 132:9, Isaiah 61:10,  Revelation 7:9-14).

It is God’s glory and beauty which the servants of the Lord must reflect and magnify; we possess no glory or beauty of ourselves. There can be no place for pride or glorying in the works of the flesh in our ministry to God. Verse 42 of Exodus 28 instructs that linen undergarments are to cover the exposed flesh of the priests; no display of the flesh must be present in the priest’s service to the Lord.

God has given those who serve Him the inestimable privilege of participating in His beauty and glory as they reflect and magnify the things of the Lord. He has clothed His servants with His own authority as ambassadors on this earth for the Kingdom of Heaven. We serve Him in garments which display His characteristics and righteousness as we reach out in the name of Jesus to a lost and dying world. May all who serve the Lord glory not in their own deeds but glory in the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:17).

The Breastplate And The Ephod

"These are the garments which they shall make: a breastpiece and an ephod and a robe and a tunic of checkered work, a turban and a sash, and they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister as priest to Me." (Exodus 28:4)
“These are the garments which they shall make: a breastpiece and an ephod and a robe and a tunic of checkered work, a turban and a sash, and they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister as priest to Me.” (Exodus 28:4)

In addition to the description of the priests’ garments being a type of the individual believer in Christ, we also see symbolized a type of Jesus Christ Himself, our High Priest under the New Covenant (Hebrews 4:14-15, 5:10). Upon the shoulders of the High Priest were two onyx stones which were engraved with the twelve names of the tribes of Israel (Exodus 28:9-12). The shoulders represent the place of strength and the carrying of burden; the High Priest literally bore the weight of the nation on his shoulders when he entered the Most Holy Place. Likewise, the Lord Jesus bears those who belong to Him upon His shoulders and carries us into the presence of the Father.

Upon the breastplate we find twelve precious stones each representing one of the tribes of Israel and this symbolizes that the nation was close to the heart of the High Priest. We, too, have a High Priest in Jesus Christ Who sympathizes with our weaknesses and is touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15). For the Lord Jesus Christ bears upon His own heart the names of each and every one of His own and they are very precious and dear to Him.

We can be sure that there is meaning behind each and every one of the twelve gems. Nothing pertaining to the Tabernacle or the priests’ garments was chosen randomly. We see a similar description given in Revelation 21 of the twelve gates and the twelve foundations representing the tribes of the Children of Israel and the Twelve Apostles in the New Jerusalem. There is a parallel between the gems mentioned here and those mentioned in connection with the foundations of the Holy City.

The Urim And The Thummim

“You shall put in the breastpiece of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the Lord; and Aaron shall carry the judgment of the sons of Israel over his heart before the Lord continually.” (Exodus 28:30)

Although many have speculated as to what the Urim and the Thummim specifically were, we cannot be certain. The terms mean “lights and perfections” and seem to have been used to determine the will of the Lord in certain matters (e.g., Numbers 27:21, 1 Samuel 28:6, and Ezra 2:63). Whatever they were and however they were actually used, we know that those of us in Christ have both the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit by which to know God’s will. To appeal to any other source to determine God’s will is to invite error and is tantamount to laying out a fleece (Judges 6:36-40); a method which the Christian should never practice.

Bells And Pomegranates

“You shall make on its hem pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material, all around on its hem, and bells of gold between them all around:  a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the hem of the robe.” (Exodus 28:33-34)

At the bottom of the priests’ garments were sewn ornamental golden bells and pomegranates. These bells and pomegranates symbolize both the witness and the fruit in the life of God’s servants. A Christian should possess both a witness for the Lord and he should bear fruit in his life. Some who claim to know the Lord have a witness, that is, they are quick to name His name, yet their life contains no fruit of the Spirit. They are hypocrites at worse and nothing more than sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1 KJV) at best. They make a lot of noise about what God has done in their lives, but the fruit does not verify their testimony.

Others have fruit in their lives but no witness. People know that there is something different about them, but have no idea what it is because they never speak about the Lord or share the Gospel. They are genuine believers but, for whatever reason, they are not giving a testimony to the goodness of God. As priests of God, we are to have both a bell and a pomegranate, a witness and fruit, in our lives as a testimony of our Redemption in Jesus Christ. Notice how the above verse describes the alternation of a bell and pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate; It takes both to be effective witnesses for the Lord.

Holy To The Lord

“You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, ‘Holy to the Lord.’  You shall fasten it on a blue cord, and it shall be on the turban; it shall be at the front of the turban.  It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take away the iniquity of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrate, with regard to all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.” (Exodus 28:36-38)

Finally, we see a great parallel between this verse and Revelation 22:4 which mentions we will bear the name of the Lord Jesus in our foreheads. This speaks of our identification with the Lord and our carrying of His name. Revelation 2:17 and 3:12 also refer to a new name by which we will be identified with our Lord and Savior. Notice that it is the covering of this seal in Aaron’s forehead which takes away the iniquity of those things consecrated to the Lord. Sin can only be taken away when we are identified with and set apart unto the Lord.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,



**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible  (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.