The robe of the priest was described in detail, but some of the references are unclear to us since we are so far removed from the times. The garments were to be set apart or holy from ordinary clothing. The garments were to be for the purpose of being “for glory and for beauty.” The garments then were a symbol of the priest social status in rank as well as their particular relationship to God. The garments of Aaron were those of the High Priest, and were much more ornate than those of his sons, who were just ordinary priest.
The “ephod” may have been a vest like garment supported by two straps that were fastened at the shoulder by two stone clasps, which were engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel. When the High Priest was serving in the tabernacle he was bearing with him the entire nation of Israel.
Upon the priest chest was the “breastplate of judgment” that may have been a small pouch hung across the chest. It was so called because within it was the sacred lots, “Urim and the Thummim.” These names literally mean “the Lights and the Perfections.” They may have been used to describe the nature of God whose will they were thought to reveal. There are numerous instances in the Bible where lots were cast to determine the will of God. The pouch in which the lots were kept was the lodging place of the judgments of God. The pouch was decorated with twelve stones and served the same purpose as the stone claps of the ephod.
On the skirts of the priestly robe were the golden bells that were intended to ring as the priest moved about in the holy place. This allowed the people outside to know that the priest was not dead. That he was alive and moving demonstrated that their offering had been accepted by God.
“Pomegranates were ancient symbols of fruitfulness. Whether they had meaning here or were merely decorative is unclear. Most likely, they intended to represent Israel’s fruitfulness as a gift from God.
The golden plate on the turban was engraved with the motto “Holy to the LORD.” It was symbolic of Israel’s offering to God. It had the purpose of making them acceptable before God.
Near the end of the priestly garments was the commands “anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them.” Anointing was done with holy oil and set apart that person or thing specifically to God’s service. “Ordain” as used here, literally means “you shall fill their hand.” This reference probably meant to put in his hand the tasks of the priesthood. Consecration was to set someone apart, to make them holy, for the service of God.
After the description of the garments for the ordinary priest were the specifications of the “linen breeches.” This was probably designed to indicate that Israel’s worship was in no way to be similar to the fertility cults of the surrounding nations. Other nations played up the sexual nature of their worship, Israel demonstrated that their worship had no sexual overtones at all.
Click this link to advance to Exodus Chapter 29.