Christian Churches of God
White Linen Garments
of the Priest
(Edition 1.0 20060312-20060312)
The entire process of growing flax and producing linen is very similar to the process of our calling and qualifying to be a son of God. In this paper we will review the process of making linen then look at the white linen garments of the priests. We will learn when the High Priest only wore white linen garments and what our white linen garments should be today.
White Linen Garments of the Priest
The white linen garments of the priests carried much symbolism, anciently, which is also for us today. This lesson will review the history of linen, the white linen garments of the priesthood, when only the High Priest wore linen garments, what the priests will wear when the temple sacrifices are started again and what our white linen garments should be today and in the future.
We will start with some of the characteristics of flax and linen as well as what happens to it during its growth and process into fabric. Flax is the plant linen is made from. There are many common things associated with the making of linen and our calling. Linen is mentioned over 90 times in the Bible and wool is only mentioned 14 times. The entire plant (roots and all) is used in the production of linen. The process is long and hard. Wool comes from animal and the animal is sheared (has its fur cut off) and the fibers are processed and turned into fabric.
We know if we are called now, and baptized, we are the naos or Temple of God. We see linen was used extensively in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness (see the paper The Tabernacle in the Wilderness (No. CB42).
Linen requires a lot of water to grow in its production and manufacture into yarn and fabric as well as in its care. Another thing to remember is that water often represents the Holy Spirit.
Linen containing 540 threads to the inch, and some warp yarns containing more than 360 separate fiber strands has been found in Egyptian tombs. This cloth is finer then any woven today.
Sewing needles have been discovered, allegedly, dating from around 10,000 BCE (or early in human history) with eyes so small that only carefully processed fibers could go through them.
The earliest techniques for spinning were very simple and required no other equipment than the human body. The flax fibers were spread on the ground and the spinner took one or two fibres in her hand, pulling and twisting them between hand and thigh progressively incorporating other fibres, twisting all the while and as the thread lengthened it was wrapped around her fingers until it got too big. Then she started all over again. Later spindles were added and then the spinning whorl. Spinning wheels weren’t invented until quite late in history.
An interesting side note: the Egyptians used a lot of slaves in the production of their linen, so one would assume the Israelites really knew how to make fine linen.
The plants are grown very close together so they will be straight and tall reaching heights of three to four feet. They are planted in the northern spring and harvested in late August for the best fiber. Flax is grown in moist wet areas.
When the flax is ready to be harvested it is pulled by its roots. The fibre grows down into the roots and the longer fibres are better for spinning. So the roots and stalk are part of the thread that becomes fabric.
First the stalks are tied into bundles and allowed to dry, usually in the sun. After drying the stalks are combed to remove the seeds, which are used for other purposes. This could be like us when we go through trials and are tested in the fiery furnace.
Next, the plants go through a retting process, which is actually a form of rotting or fermentation. This can be done in several different ways. One way is to spread the plants out in the fields allowing the dew and bacteria to slowly decompose/break down the outer layer of the stalks. Another way to accomplish this was to place the plants in a slow moving river or bog. Chemicals are now used for retting which is faster, but the dew process produces a stronger fibre. The plants are then rinsed, squeezed dry and allowed to dry out in preparation for the next step called breaking or scutching.
Here again we can relate the removal of coarse fibers, seeds and dirt from the flax plant so it can become pure linen to our trials that break down our nature contrary to God’s will so we can become a member of His family.
This stage entails beating the stalks to separate the textile fibers from the woody plant parts. Formerly, this was done with wooden knives until the fibres were completely free of the stalks. Now they are run through fluted rollers. The fibres were then scraped with iron knives prior to being handed over to the spinners.
Here we see the final trials that happen to a person before God can use him/her to be part of His family. Only when the pure fibres are present is the process finished.
The remaining fibre is then combed in a process called hackling, causing the fibres to become parallel to one another.
Here we see that we all have to be of one mind and body, going in the same direction and living by God’s Law, before we can be made into spiritual beings.
After being spun into thread it is then woven into a variety of fabrics. Wet spinning produces the finest fibres.
The definition of spinning is the twisting of discontinuous parallel fibres into an unbroken uniform thread of uniform thickness, twist and strength. The yarn is classified to three criteria: fineness, strength and wear.
The length of the fibre is variable; some fibres can be up to 40 inches long but 10-15 inches are more common. Just like people, all the fibres are different; but the strongest, most helpful fibres are the longest and add to the strength of the entire fabric.
Fibre fineness is also variable. Width is variable along the length of the fibre and the fibre processing also affects the fineness of the fibres. Processed flax fibres have a high natural lustre or shine; in other words it reflects light. We know we are to be a ‘light’ to the world. Christ is frequently referred to as a bearer of light. He will soon take over Satan’s role as Day Star or Morning Star of this planet.
Flax is one of the strongest fibres. It also increases about 20% in strength when wet. Just as with flax, we are the strongest when we are as close to God as possible. It is the Holy Spirit that ties us together with God and gives us strength and wisdom to get through all things.
Flax is one of the heavier fibres, and it has very good wicking properties. In other words, it soaks up liquid. It was used as wicks in the Tabernacle and in the Temple.
Flax is hollow causing it to absorb moisture readily. It can absorb sound because it is hollow and for this reason it makes a good wall covering. Remember, there was a set of linen curtains that covered the interior or inside of the Tabernacle. There were also linen curtains that separated the courtyard from the camp of Israel.
Linen does not have the electrostatic properties of many fibres, so it does not have a great affinity for attracting lint, hair or other foreign particles as many textiles do. This means it stays clean and pure just as we should do.
Linen is soft and the more it is washed the softer it becomes. Just as with us we should be gentler, softer, more flexible and workable in God’s hands the longer we are in the Church. Hebrews 10:22 tells us to have our conscience washed with pure water.
Linen can be manufactured so that it has great dimensional stability; and it will not shrink. Similarly, we should not be tossed around by every wind of doctrine. We should be grounded on God’s word and never shrink away from upholding the truth.
The fabric becomes softer, whiter and more luminous (shiny) with each washing, BUT linen becomes brittle when dried out completely. Linen can recover its natural flexibility by absorbing moisture. Here too people are like linen. If we are disobedient and do not follow God’s Laws we too will become brittle and break easily or be torn off the body of the Church. Just as when we repent and change our ways we too can again be filled with the Holy Spirit (or water) and become useful in God’s hands.
Linen quality is by its shade of white. Some complain how wrinkled linen becomes and how hard it is to iron. The answer is that the linen must be damp; in other words have moisture in it with a very hot iron. Not with a heavy iron nor with a steam iron, but with a very hot iron. So too, God allows us to be tried by fire to refine or cleanse us to be useful sons and daughters in His temple. We need to have our robes free from spot or wrinkle.
So as we can see, people, like flax, go through a growth process in the Holy Spirit – water. The entire person or plant is used in the process. There are times when there are trials, or refinement processes to get rid of the imperfections or sins of the person or the plant. Once finished, the person or the planet can become part of bigger work as in the family of God. We reflect God’s light but we must maintain our level of obedience to God’s Law to retain God’s Holy Spirit, or water that truly keeps us soft, flexible and useful in His plan.
Comments from Easton’s Bible Dictionary
“(1.) Heb., pishet, pishtah, denotes "flax," of which linen is made (Isa 19:9); wrought flax, i.e., "linen cloth", Lev 13:47, 48, 52, 59; Deu 22:11.
Flax was early cultivated in Egypt (Exd 9:31), and also in Palestine (Jos 2:6; Hsa 2:9). Various articles were made of it: garments (2Sa 6:14), girdles (Jer 13:1), ropes and thread (Ezek. 40:3), napkins (Luk. 24:12; Jhn. 20:7), turbans (Eze 44:18), and lamp-wicks (Isa 42:3).
(2.) Heb. buts, "whiteness;" rendered "fine linen" in 1 Chr. 4:21; 15:27; 2Ch 2:14; 3:14; Est 1:6; 8:15, and "white linen" 2Ch 5:12. It is not certain whether this word means cotton or linen.
(3.) Heb. Bad SHD 906; possibly from 909 rendered "linen" Exd 28:42; 39:28; Lev 6:10; 16:4, 23, 32; 1Sa 2:18; 2Sa 6:14, etc. It is uniformly used of the sacred vestments worn by the priests. The word is from a root signifying "separation".
(4.) Heb. SHD 8336 shesh; rendered "fine linen" Exd 25:4; 26:1, 31, 36, etc. In Pro 31:22 it is rendered in Authorized Version "silk," and in Revised Version "fine linen." The word denotes Egyptian linen of peculiar whiteness and fineness ( byssus). The finest Indian linen, the finest now made, 100 threads of warp and 84 of woof per inch; while the Egyptian had sometimes 140 in the warp and 64 in the woof. This was the usual dress of the Egyptian priest. Pharaoh arrayed Joseph in a dress of linen (Gen 41:42).
(5.) Heb. 'etun. Pro 7:16, "fine linen of Egypt;" in Revised Version, "the yarn of Egypt."
(6.) Heb. sadin. Pro 31:24, "fine linen;" in Revised Version, "linen garments" (Jdg. 14:12,13; Isa 3:23). From this Hebrew word is probably derived the Greek word sindon, rendered "linen" in Mar 14:51, 52; 15:46; Mat 27:59.
The word ‘linen’ is used as an emblem of moral purity (Rev 15:6). In Luke 16:19 it is mentioned as “a mark of luxury.”
From Easton, we see there are different types of linen and as we go through the white garments of the priest or High Priest we will try to clarify which type of linen is being described. Even the meaning of Bad (SHD 906) indicates separation and clearly the priests were separate and set apart by God for a holy purpose. Shesh (SHD 8336) rendered "fine linen”, denotes Egyptian linen of peculiar whiteness and fineness. Again the priests are to reflect God’s light and Law to the entire planet. Here we see even the dress of the priest was to have the pure white reflective quality. SHD 8336 was also the type of linen that curtains in the Tabernacle were made of (Ex. 26:1).
Spiritual implication of the Linen as used in the Priest’s White Garments
Exodus 28:42-43 states: "and you shall make for them linen breeches to cover their bare flesh; they shall reach from the loins even to the thighs. And they shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they enter the tent of meeting or when they approach the altar to minister in the holy place, so that they do not incur guilt and die. It shall be a statute forever to him and to his descendants after him."
Linen breeches were for modesty. Priests’ garments were for glory and beauty (Ex. 28:2,40). Part of this beauty was the priest demonstrating modesty. So too should it be with us. In Ephesians 6:14 we see that our loins are to be gird with the truth. Truth is central to the Faith. We must always remain loyal to God’s truth and keep His Law. Without God’s truth we are spiritually dead.
There are five incidents or times linen breeches are used in Scripture. All five occurrences or times use bad (Heb. SHD 906). Exodus 28:42, 39:28 and Leviticus 6:10 refer to the priests’ linen breeches. The text in Leviticus 16:4 talks of the High Priest’s linen breeches and dress on Atonement. Lastly, Ezekiel 44:18 speaks of the dress for the future priests of Zadok in the Temple system. Though people really do not see the priest’s linen breeches they separate the priests from other people just as the truth of God separates us from our friends and family.
Linen Tunic/Shirt/Chequered Coat
He made the tunics of finely woven linen for Aaron and his sons (Ex. 28:39,40,42; 39:27). These were one-piece garments and it appears they were made on a loom using a double weave so that there were no side seams. It is the same as the garment Messiah wore on the night of his betrayal/crucifixion: "This garment was seamless, woven from one piece from top to bottom" (Jn. 19:23). The Revised Version describes it as, "to weave in chequer work" (Ex. 28:39; NASV, Ex. 28:4). This too would be a type of weave that could be set up on a loom, where the pattern on the fabric looks like squares. For more comments on squares see the paper The Tabernacle in the Wilderness (No. CB42).
Exodus 28:39 tells us the tunic or chequer coat is to be of fine linen, which is Heb. SHD 8336. Sources vary on how they think the white linen tunic looked. Most sources seem to indicate the tunic was a long white robe about ankle length, with long sleeves that came down to the wrists. This beautiful white tunic would have then been seen on the sleeves and the lower edge of the robe even when the High Priest had his other garments on.
Leviticus 16:4 describes the High Priest’s dress on Atonement. Here we see the tunic referred to in the Heb. SHD 906. Therefore, it appears from the meaning of the words that the High Priest wore a different linen robe on Atonement than he did the rest of year. Again SHD 906 is not the fine white shining linen; rather it is linen that means separation. Leviticus 16:4 also does not refer to this linen tunic as a chequer work. This may be a deliberate use of language to convey a different garment with a different purpose.
Exodus 39:29: "The sash was of finely twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet material, the work of the weaver, just as the Lord had commanded Moses."
There were three different types of sashes/girdles worn by the priests in the Temple:
1) The High Priest’s year-round girdle, which was part of the "golden garments" embroidered with blue, purple, and scarlet dyed wools and twisted linen (Ex. 39:29 AV).
2) The girdle worn by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement was one of the four white garments that he wore that day (Lev. 16:4). It too is referred in SHD 906 bad linen.
3) The girdle of the ordinary priests, which some people think was like the High Priest’s golden garments; others think it was part of the white garments. "Righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins and faithfulness the girdle of his reins" (Isa. 11:5).
The priest’s turban is also made of the shining or brilliant white linen (Heb. SHD 8336). The turban covered the priest’s head.
Here we see Aaron and his sons were told to cover their heads. The High Priest’s head was not to be left uncovered. Yet, normally men are to keep their head uncovered and women are the ones to cover their heads. For women the hair of their head acts as a covering and that is why women are not to cut their hair too short. Men were not to shave their head (Lev. 21:5) except at the end of Nazarite vow (Num. 6:18)). Only the High Priest was required to cover his head. We also know the High Priest wore the golden plate engraved “Holy unto the Lord” on his forehead.
Clearly the forehead is where the front part of the thinking brain is located. We are cautioned in Revelation 14:9 not to have the mark of the Beast on our forehead. Also we get a new name written on our forehead (Rev. 3:12), if we are obedient to God and His Laws.
We must continually guard our mind since Satan as a roaring lion seeks to devour/destroy us (1Pet. 5:8).
Remember from our lesson on the amour of God we are to always wear the helmet of salvation on our heads. Actions start in our mind; we must always guard our mind or thoughts.
We are to be priests of God (Ex. 19:6), and we are to receive a crown (Rev. 2:10; 3:11).
Atonement: the time when the High Priest dressed only in White Linen when he went into the Holies of Holies.
On Atonement, the High Priest dressed in white linen garments only when he went into the Holy of Holies. The linen breeches, tunic, sash and turban/mitre were all referred to as (Heb. SHD 906) bad linen in Leviticus 16:4. Aaron preformed his priestly duties and when they were completed he entered the tent of meeting, took off his white robes, bathed and put on his own clothes and went forth and offered the burnt offerings (Lev. 16:23,24).
Atonement is the one and only day once a year that the High Priest would minister in only his white linen garments and then later bathe and minister in his normal dress for the High Priest.
The priest of Zadok, of the future Temple system, wore only white Linen.
Ezekiel 44:16-19 describes the priests only wearing linen garments versus the wool and gold that was on the High Priest in the Old Testament. Their garments were left in the holy chambers once they were done ministering so they did not transmit holiness to the people with their garments.
In the Millennium, Isaiah 61:6 speaks of being called priests of the Lord. Isaiah 66:21 tells us some will be taken to be priests. When Christ returns, the Temple will again be operational and there will be a physical priesthood.
There are numerous references in Scripture to our responsibilities as priests of God. Revelation 5:10 talks of us being a kingdom and priests to our God. Revelation 20:6 refers us to the First Resurrection and being priests of God and Christ and reigning 1,000 years.
1Peter 2:9 says we are a royal priesthood. 1Peter 2:5 states: “you are living stones built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus the Christ”. It is very important we all learn how to offer spiritual sacrifices to the One True God at the correct times and in the correct ways. God requires us to tremble at His word and give Him obedience rather than sacrifice. Israel will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex 19:6). We have an awesome job now and in the future. We must all strive to learn and obey God fully and completely at all times.
Our wedding garments of white linen
We are to keep our garments white, spotless and free of wrinkles by being righteous and obedient.
Revelation 19:7-9 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, these are the true sayings of God.
Let us all try to remember the process of flax being made into shining white linen. Let us make sure we are prepared for the wedding supper with Messiah dressed in our white, spotless linen garment so we too can assume our duties as priests of God.
Revelation 1:6: … and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen
White Linen Garments
The white linen garments of the priests carried much symbolism anciently which is also for us today. This lesson will review the white linen garments of the priesthood; when the High Priest only wore linen garments; and what our white linen garments should be today.
1. The children will be able to list what white garments the ordinary priests wore.
2. The children will be able to have an understanding of the possible symbolism of the linen breeches, white tunic and white sash.
3. The children will be able to identify when and why the High Priest wore white garments.
4. The children will be able to identify what the priest of Zadok will wear as robes when the Temple is re-established by Messiah.
5. The children will be able to identity what our spiritual robes should be now and what they will be in the future.
Revised Standard Bible
New American Standard Version
King James Bible
Exodus 28:39,40, 42; 39:27
Open with prayer
Close with prayer
May be done in 2 parts:
1. The flax /linen aspect
2. The white garments of the priest
Take some string, a rope and a piece of fabric. To assist the children with learning the concept of strength, give each child a piece of various colours of thread. Have them pull on their thread – and what happens? It breaks. Now allow the children to twist their thread with another child’s and demonstrate how the strength goes up with each addition of another thread. Go on to the function and comparison of rope and fabric and discuss how one string cannot really do anything of and by itself. Also the concept of wind on threads and how it blows them all over when separate but they are more stable if changed into rope or fabric.
Play a modified parachute game with a piece of fabric. All people hang onto the fabric tightly; toss soft nerf items into the centre of the fabric. Release some of the tension and allow the soft nerf items to pop up into the air. Assist the children in seeing the correlation to the support of the Church (fabric), made up of many threads is founded on the pillars/apostles/kids standing on God’s Rock, Messiah, being the chief corner stone/ground that the children are standing on.
Try to find a website that shows the process of making linen.
Try to simulate the process of growing linen.
Visit a museum. Sometimes local yarn shops actually have spinning wheels so children can see how the spinning is done.
Could also do an example of what happens if we stain (which is representing sin) a white fabric. If we wash it out right away little if any of the stain remains. If we wait it is much harder to get the stain out. Sometimes we never completely get it out and the stain ruins the garment, just as a root of bitterness or sin can spring up and destroy an individual if the sin is not repented of. Could also do the correlation to some stains, which are easy to remove, to sins that are easy to repent of, and hard to remove stains, to sins which are hard to repent of. Both are tough stains and serious since they can require a lot of work to remove. This kind may actually take repeated attempts at cleansing to make them white again (whether fabric stains represent sins).
Close with prayer.