Christian Churches of God
Ephod, Curious Girdle and Breastpiece of Judgment
(Edition 1.0 20060422-20060422)
The High Priest was to wear certain items that the ordinary priests did not wear. The High Priest was responsible for using these items correctly. This lesson will review the facts, usage and symbolism associated with the ephod, the curious girdle, and breastpiece of judgment.
Christian Churches of God
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(Copyright ã Leslie Hilburn, Malonda Hutson, ed. 2006 Wade Cox)
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Ephod, Curious Girdle and Breastpiece of Judgment
The aim of this lesson is to review the ephod, the curious girdle and breastpiece of judgment, and gain understanding of their symbolic representation.
Children will learn the biblical description of the ephod, the curious girdle and breastpiece of judgment.
Children will learn how the High Priest’s garments pointed toward Christ as our High Priest and ultimately our role as priests under the order of Melchisidek.
Children will be able to list three facts that relate to the ephod, the curious girdle and breastpiece of judgment.
Children will learn who is the High Priest of the Churches of God.
Children will learn who is the ultimate Judge of the planet.
Revised Standard Bible
New American Standard Bible
King James Bible
Contemporary English Version Bible
The Garments of the High Priest (No. CB61)
The Tabernacle: Its Priests and Its Services, by William Brown
The Companion Bible, King James Version (Bullinger)
J.P. Phillips Translation of the New Testament
Exodus 29:9 -11
Open with prayer
Close with prayer
Read Exodus 28 out loud. The following text is from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).
The Priestly Garments
1 Send for your brother Aaron and his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. They are the ones I have chosen from Israel to serve as my priests.
2 Make Aaron some beautiful clothes that are worthy of a high priest.
3 Aaron is to be dedicated as my high priest, and his clothes must be made only by persons who possess skills that I have given them.
4 Here are the items that need to be made: a breastpiece, a priestly vest, a robe, an embroidered shirt, a turban, and a sash. These sacred clothes are to be made for your brother Aaron and his sons who will be my priests.
5 Only gold and fine linen, woven with blue, purple, and red wool, are to be used for making these clothes. The LORD said:
The Vest for the High Priest
6-8 The entire priestly vest must be made of fine linen skilfully woven with blue, purple, and red wool, and decorated with gold. It is to have two shoulder straps to support it and a sash that fastens around the waist.
9-12 Put two onyx stones in gold settings, and then attach one to each of the shoulder straps. On one of these stones engrave the names of Israel's first six sons in the order of their birth. And do the same with his remaining six sons on the other stone. In this way Aaron will always carry the names of the tribes of Israel when he enters the holy place, and I will never forget my people.
13-14 Attach two gold settings to the shoulder straps and fasten them with two braided chains of pure gold. The LORD said:
The Breastpiece for the High Priest
15 From the same costly material make a breastpiece for the high priest to use in learning what I want my people to do.
16 It is to be nine inches square and folded double
17 with four rows of three precious stones: In the first row put a carnelian, a chrysolite, and an emerald;
18 in the second row a turquoise, a sapphire, and a diamond;
19 in the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst;
20 and in the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. Mount the stones in delicate gold settings
21 and engrave on each of them the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
22-25 Attach two gold rings to the upper front corners of the breastpiece and fasten them with two braided gold chains to gold settings on the shoulder straps.
26 Attach two other gold rings to the lower inside corners next to the vest
27 and two more near the bottom of the shoulder straps right above the sash.
28 Then take a blue cord and tie the two lower rings on the breastpiece to those on the vest. This will keep the breastpiece in place. 29 In this way Aaron will have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written on his heart each time he enters the holy place, and I will never forget my people. 30 He must also wear on his breastpiece the two small objects that he uses to receive answers from me. The LORD said:
The Other High-Priestly Clothes
31 Under his vest Aaron must wear a robe of blue wool
32 with an opening in the centre for his head. Be sure to bind the material around the collar to keep it from ravelling.
33-34 Along the hem of the robe weave pomegranates of blue, purple, and red wool with a gold bell between each of them.
35 If Aaron wears these clothes when he enters the holy place as my high priest, the sound of the bells will be heard, and his life will not be in danger.
36 On a narrow strip of pure gold engrave the words: " Dedicated to the LORD."
37 Fasten it to the front of Aaron's turban with a blue cord,
38 so he can wear it on his forehead. This will show that he will take on himself the guilt for any sins the people of Israel commit in offering their gifts to me, and I will forgive them.
39 Make Aaron's robe and turban of fine linen and decorate his sash with fancy needlework.
The Clothes for the Other Priests
40 Since Aaron's sons are priests, they should also look dignified. So make robes, sashes, and special caps for them.
41 Then dress Aaron and his sons in these clothes, pour olive oil on their heads, and ordain them as my priests.
42 Make linen shorts for them that reach from the waist down to the thigh, so they won't expose themselves. 43 Whenever they enter the sacred tent or serve at the altar or enter the holy place, they must wear these shorts, or else they will be guilty and die. This same rule applies to any of their descendants who serve as priests (CEV).
Questions for the children:
Q1. What were the common materials used to make the ephod, curious girdle and breastpiece of judgment?
A. See Exodus 28:5, 6, 8, 9,15; 39:8.
Exodus 28:5 They shall take the gold and blue and the purple and the scarlet material and the fine linen.
We also see that a variety of materials were used from various sources: linen from plants, wool from the sheep, and gold and a variety of precious stones from the earth.
Q2. How were the five materials obtained?
A. Exodus 35:5 shows that all the materials were obtained through freewill offerings of the people. God is the owner of all things (Neh. 9:6). He alone is Creator, and Life-giver and Law-giver. He allows us to use the creation and care for it. Eloah freed the Israelites from the hard life of slavery and bondage under the Egyptian rule. After the death of the first-born, Pharaoh instructed Moses to leave Egypt. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt on the daylight of the 16th day of the First month of Abib. Before leaving, the Egyptians gave the Israelites many beautiful things such as fine material, skins, metals and jewels.
The people freely gave the other needed gold and materials for the construction of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and making of the priestly garments. God clearly loves a cheerful giver (2Cor. 9:7). We see that in ancient Israel the people were so willing to give that they actually had to be told to stop bringing items (Ex. 36:6). They gave of themselves items to build the Temple and to clothe the priesthood, whereas we are now the Temple of God (1Cor. 3:16, 17). We should also give of ourselves freely in monetary offerings to God and in acts of service for the brethren, the Church and the work of God.
Q3. Who was the person(s) in charge of making the garments?
A. The garments were made by Bezaleel.
Q4. What else did Bezaleel assist with?
A. He also worked on the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. (Ex. 38:22).
Q5. There are five colours/materials used in the High Priest’s garments. What does the number five represent?
According to Bullinger (The Companion Bible), Appendix 10, five represents the number of grace. "It is God adding His gifts and blessings to the works of His hands". From Symbolism of Numbers (No. 7) we see five is the leading factor in the Tabernacle measurement. There are also five centralities to God and His Law: Holiness, Righteousness, Goodness, Perfection and Truth. It is by the grace of God that He gave His only begotten Son to be a perfect, acceptable sacrifice for us. It is by the sacrifice of Christ that the fallen Host and man can be restored back to the Eloah, the One True God.
Q6. What did these five colours represent?
A. The same colours for the Tabernacle curtains were used in the High Priest’s garments. In addition, gold wire was woven into the fabric.
Blue: We have learned about the significance of the colour blue representing the Law of God. This concept is further developed in the paper Lesson: Law at our Doorposts (No. CB80).
Red: The colour red represents the blood of Jesus Christ as our Passover sacrifice.
Purple: The colour purple, which combines both blue and red, points us to the Royal Priesthood which combines both the salvation given to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and our love of God shown through our obedience to the Law.
White: As we have learned from the previous lessons in this series on the High Priest’s garments, the colour white represents our clean garments as we prepare ourselves as the Bride of Christ and the perfection of Jesus Christ.
Gold: To these four colours are added gold. In the Tabernacle in the Wilderness we see that the Ark of the Covenant located in the Holy of Holies was also made of gold. God’s presence was in the Ark and it was also the receptacle of the Holy Spirit. As the High Priest symbolizes the living Temple that we are today, the gold represents the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit in us. Just as the gold was interwoven amongst all the other strands of materials, so too the Holy Spirit ties all the members of the Body of Christ together.
Q7. Psalm 45:9 says: daughters of kings are among your ladies of honour; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. (RSV) Who is this?
A. It is Israel as the Bride of Christ. The garments are the robes of baptism, and the gold is the Holy Spirit.
Q8. What did the ephod and curious girdle look like?
A. The ephod is an apron-like garment worn on top of the blue robe. As discussed above, it was made of five colours – blue, scarlet/red, purple, white and gold. These are the same as the four colours in the Tabernacle curtains, plus gold. The front and the back of the ephod were joined together at the shoulders and further bound/attached with what the Bible terms a curious girdle. This was like a sash or belt made from the same material as the ephod. On top of the shoulders, placed in a gold setting, were two onyx stones. The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were engraved on the stones according to the order of their birth. The stones on the top of the shoulders were also used to attach the breastplate, and there were two gold rings on the side of the ephod that attached to the bottom of the breastplate with blue ribbons.
Q9. Where were onyx stones found or used?
(Note: sometimes different names refer to the same stones.)
A. Imported/obtained from the land of Havilah (Gen. 2:11-12).
In the Garden of Eden (Ezek. 28:13).
Used in Solomon’s Temple (1Chr. 29:2).
Found in the foundations of New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:20).
One of the 12 stones in the breastpiece is an onyx; therefore, there are three onyx stones used with the High Priest’s garments. Onyx on the shoulders represents the Government of God (see comments below). Could it be that having one onyx stone in the Plate of Judgment shows that judgment is included in God’s Government? The one onyx stone on the breastpiece could also suggest that the Judgment of God is expanded to include mankind in a physical sense, but also when the elect qualify to be spiritual beings and become one with the loyal Host in the family of God.
Q10. What did the onyx stones look like?
A. The onyx stones are most often described as being black.
Q11. Why were the onyx stones on the shoulders?
A. The shoulders are typically the place where we would carry something heavy. The breastplate that the High Priest wore over the ephod was very heavy and its weight would have been supported on the High Priest’s shoulders. Bullinger notes in Exodus 28:10 that the shoulders are places of strength and all tribes are born/carried alike whereas with the breastpiece the tribes are placed according to God’s choosing.
On top of the shoulders of the ephod are two onyx stones with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel listed in order of their birth. In this sense, the High Priest would bear the names of Israel on his shoulders. Jesus Christ is our High Priest today, and we know from Deuteronomy 32:9 that he has Israel as his inheritance. In this way, we can say that Jesus Christ bears us up on his shoulders.
Also, Isaiah 9:5-7 tells us that the Government of God is on Christ’s shoulders. These two stones show us that Christ’s administration in the Millennium will be through the twelve apostles representing the twelve tribes of Israel.
From the paper Moses and the Gods of Egypt (No. 105) we see that God appointed Moses as an elohim to Pharaoh.
Exodus 7:1 And the Lord said to Moses, "See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet . . . " (RSV).
Thus the appointment was then shown to apply to the world system, where Christ through the elect, and here Moses as one of the elohim, was to assume authority over the nations. The association of Moses as elohim is probably reflected in the transfiguration in Mark 9:4. This government system will be developed at a later date. The leaders of the nations are thus elohim, as Moses and Elijah under Christ, with David as Elohim of Israel from Zechariah 12:8 where the house of David shall be as elohim like the angel of YHVH before them.
From Exodus 7:2-5 God says to Moses (through the Angel of YHVH):
You shall speak all that I command you; and Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel to go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh's heart and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you; then I will lay my hand upon Egypt and bring forth my hosts, my people the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth my hand upon Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them. (RSV)
Now it is of significance to remember the meaning of the word Israel. Israel is a combination of the words El (SHD 410 or God) and sarah (SHD 8280 to have power as a prince or to rule) hence: He will rule as God. This is the significance of the very name of Israel. Spiritual Israel is to rule as elohim."
Since Messiah is a priest dressed in the white robes, "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Ps. 110:4, KJV).
Messiah qualified to be our High Priest as shown in Hebrews 1:8, 9 and Psalms 45:6, and is now our High Priest as stated in Zechariah 6:13: "Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both." (KJV).
Q12. Is it possible that the High Priest’s garments prefigured what we are told in the Scriptures?
A. In the Bible, Abraham (Genesis) and Moses (Exodus) are mentioned as Elohim. Enoch and Elijah were taken by God for another purpose. Two of these four are to be the replacement Cherubs for the positions that the man-headed system (Lucifer/Satan) and the lion-headed system (or Aion) vacated by rebellion. Abraham is the father of many nations. Moses was given the Law to rule the nations. Enoch was perfect in the line of patriarchs under the early judgment before the flood. Elijah represents the line of the priesthood of Shem through Jacob (Israel), which was entrusted with the faith and from whom the Church follows in authority as the priesthood of Melchisedek.
Q13. Is it possible the two onyx stones on the High Priest’s/ Messiah’s shoulders prefigure the new positions of judgment?
A. The onyx stones are set in gold settings and we have learned that the gold in the Tabernacle or priest’s garments is representative of the Holy Spirit. Just as with all of us, the judges of Israel as the Church of God are anchored or attached to the Messiah and Eloah through the Holy Spirit. The names of the tribes also represent the apostles in charge of the twelve tribes at the head of the nations.
In the New Testament, Luke tells us if a lost sheep was found the shepherd would carry it on his shoulders back to the flock.
Luke 15:4-6 "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.' (RSV unless otherwise noted.)
We are told in Galatians to bear one another’s burdens.
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the Law of Christ.
But ultimately it is God that we give our burdens to and allow Him to shoulder our problems.
1Peter 5:6-7 "So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern. (Phillips)
It is interesting to know that the portion of the peace offering that was given to the High Priest for his portion was the right shoulder and the breast.
Q14. What things can we think of that have been tied around our waist, or the waists of the priests and High Priests, and what do they represent?
A. From our lesson on the Armour of God we know that our loins are to be girded with truth (Eph. 6:14). We need to be tied continually to God’s truth so that we can never be led astray/tricked and taken by Satan. Eloah and His Law are truth, and we too need to become truth (Eph. 4:24, NASV).
As we learned earlier in this lesson, the priests and High Priest had a curious girdle/sash tied around their waists.
Q15. Was the girdle a symbol of strength and power?
A. See the Scriptures: Job 12:18,21; 30:11; Isaiah 22:21; 45:5. In Isaiah 11:5, which is referencing to Messiah in the future, it states: Righteousness will be the belt and faithfulness the belt around his waist. (NIV)
Q16. Were the breastpiece, ephod and curious girdle separate pieces? Were they to be united together through the ephod?
A. In Exodus 28:22-28 and 39:15-21 we see that they were separate but joined together so that the breastpiece would not come loose from the ephod.
Exodus 39:21 And they did bind the breastplate by his rings unto the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it might be above the curious girdle of the ephod, and that the breastplate might not be loosed from the ephod; as the LORD commanded Moses.
Q17. What did the breastpiece look like?
The breastpiece of judgment was made of the same materials as the ephod and curious girdle. It was a rectangle which, when folded in half formed two perfect squares that shared the same common border. (This is similar to the concept we saw in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness.) There were four golden rings on each corner of the breastpiece. The top rings had a gold chain (symbolising the Holy Spirit) running through the rings. The golden chains supported the breastpiece of judgment on the shoulders, representing the government of Eloah on Moses, through Elijah and Jesus Christ. On the bottom of the breastpiece were two more rings. A blue ribbon (as the Law of God) ran through each of these rings and tied or secured the breastpiece of judgment to the ephod and curious girdle. On the front of the breastpiece were 12 stones. The stones represented the 12 tribes and were set with four rows of precious stones, three in each row. On each stone was engraved the name of one of the twelve tribes (Ex. 28:15-29, 39:8-21). Currently, many have speculated or guessed about the colour and order of the stones but no one is sure.
Remember, the breastpiece was folded and formed a pouch or pocket. Within the pocket the High Priest carried the Urim and Thummin. Although Christ is our High Priest now, He does not know everything (Rev. 1:1). Only God knows everything (Mat. 24:36). Here we again see spiritual concepts prefigured in the High Priest’s garments. Eloah is the Judge of the planet (Ps. 82:1; Isa. 3:13). Christ always needs to look to the Father for direction just as the High Priest and all of us need to do.
In his note on Exodus 28:30 Bullinger states:
The Heb. Urim and Thummin mean ‘lights’ and ‘perfections’. Probably these are the plurals of majesty, the sing. ‘light’ (being put by Metonymy for what is brought to light, i.e. guilt), and ‘perfection’ (put by Metonymy for moral perfection, i.e., innocence) Thus, these two placed in the ‘bag’, and one drawn out, would give the judicial decision (the name connected with the breastplate, cp. V. 15, above), which would be ‘of the Lord’. Hence, the breastplate itself was known as ‘the breastplate of judgment’ (v. 15), because, by that, Jehovah’s judgment was obtained whenever it was needed.
Bullinger’s other notes on the Urim and Thummin are also in Exodus 28:30:
No command of God to make these. Only told to put them in the breastplate. This bag was a doubled part and the Urim and Thummin were probably two precious stones which were drawn out as a lot to give Yahovah’s judgment. "The lot is cast into the lap (Hebrew bosom); but the whole judgment thereof is of the Lord" (Proverbs16:33).
Psalm 43:3 O send out Thy light and Thy truth: let them lead me, Let them bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles.
Bullinger’s note on this Psalm says:
light….truth. Probably an allusion to the Urim and Thummim, from which the Psalmist [King David] was now absent, in flight from Absolom.
So too today we all seek God’s righteous judgment.
The breastpiece of judgment reminded the priest of his representative character. It was called the memorial (Ex. 28:29).
Other ties to the breastpiece of judgment are seen in the following texts.
Ephesians 6:14 also describes the Armour of God as the breastplate of judgment. It is only through righteous judgment that people can survive and prosper.
Isaiah 59:17 states: For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head . . .
1Thessalonians 5:8 reads: But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.
Bullinger’s notes on Exodus 28:10 state that the heart is the place of love. Here we see the tribes listed separately on the breastpiece over the High Priest’s heart as a continual reminder of the love that Messiah demonstrated for the tribes and peoples that come to God through the tribes.
Q18. Which three things were engraved?
A. The breastpiece of judgment covered the High Priest’s heart (the place of love) (Ex. 28:29). Two onyx stones were engraved with six of the twelve tribes of Israel on each, and then placed on the shoulders (the place of strength) of the ephod (Ex. 28:12).
The High Priest wore a plate of pure gold on his forehead (the place of thinking and reasoning), and upon it was engraved "HOLINESS TO THE LORD" (Ex. 28:36).
Q19. What else do we find in the Scriptures that were engraved?
A. The Ten Commandments, which were engraved by the Angel of the Presence (2Cor. 3:7).
Q20. Where should the Ten Commandments be engraved now?
A. In our hearts (2Cor. 3:3).
We all need to try to remember the symbolism of the High Priest’s garments, as we too will be priests of God (Rev. 1:5-6).
We should always try to keep the Commandments of Eloah engraved/etched in our hearts and try to keep our robes spotless, white and clean as we all strive/try to become like Eloah and His Law: Holy, Righteous, Goodness, Perfect and Truth.
Ephesians 4:20 ff.
20-21 But that isn't what you were taught about Jesus Christ. He is the truth, and you heard about him and learned about him. 22 You were told that your foolish desires will destroy you and that you must give up your old way of life with all its bad habits. 23 Let the Spirit change your way of thinking 24 and make you into a new person. You were created to be like God, and so you must please him and be truly holy. (CEV)
Ephesians 4:22 ff. … that, in reference to your former manner of life you lay aside the old self which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and you be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new self which in the likeness of God had been created in righteousness and holiness of truth. (NASV)
Continue to make the corresponding priestly garments for the "paper dolls" or "cloth puppets".
Allow the child to make the ephod/ curious girdle/ breastpiece of judgment. If this is done, review with the children when they would not use "play Urim and Thummin" to ask questions.
Allow the children to use the five colours and braid/weave bookmarks for the congregation.
Provide the children with a "simple colouring sheet" of the High Priest with fill-in-the-blank lines and arrows drawn to the corresponding piece of the High Priest’s garments to reinforce their learning of the name of the garment and the symbolism associated with it.
Make a matching or concentration game linking the various pieces of the High Priest garments with the matching spiritual symbolism.
Allow the children to "engrave" on the thick foam board to experience how hard it is even to engrave on man-made products, or obtain an engraving tool and allow the older children to see how difficult a task that is also.