Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Take, &c. Priests must be called by God, as Aaron was, Hebrews v. (Worthington)
Ver. 2. And beauty, that all may be filled with awe, and adore the majesty of God. (Calmet) — Our priestly vestments, which are objects of derision to the ignorant, are made so rich and beautiful for the same purpose. They have the sanction of God, by a parity of reason; and the authority of his church. (Haydock)
Ver. 3. Heart. The Hebrews generally attributed to the heart, what we give to the head. — Wisdom. All good, both in the order of grace and of nature, proceeds from God. — Consecrated, as if they imparted a sort of virtue. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Rational and ephod. See chap. xxv. 7. — Tunic, long robe or cloak of blue wool. — Garment, next the body, and woven very close and thick. — Mitre, like a tiara or turban of linen, or rather of byssus, or fine cotton. This was never laid aside in the temple; as, to appear uncovered was then esteemed a mark of insolence. Eneas introduced the Phrygian custom into Italy, of sacrificing with a cap on the head. — Girdle, for his under-garment, besides that which formed a part of the ephod. (Calmet) — By these vestments, we are admonished to exercise the virtues of discretion, &c. (St. Jerome, ep. ad Fab.)
Ver. 6. Ephod, (superhumerale.) That of the other priests was made of linen; and such were worn by Samuel, and by David, when he danced before the ark. (Menochius)
Ver. 7. Together, by the hooks, under the two precious stones. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] iii. 8.)
Ver. 8. Work. Hebrew, “all the work, and the girdle, shall be of the same” materials, and not sewed on afterwards. (Calmet)
Ver. 9. Onyx. Septuagint, emeralds. (Calmet) — Hebrew shoham, which the Protestants render onyx-stone. (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Birth. On the right shoulder were engraven Ruben, Simeon, Juda, Dan, Nephtali, and Gad. On the left, Aser, Issachar, Zabulon, Ephraim, Manasses, and Benjamin. The high priest himself represented the tribe of Levi. (Menochius)
Ver. 12. Remembrance, for both, ver. 29. The sins or burdens of the people, were thus to be borne by the high priest, and he was to make intercession for them. (Tirinus)
Ver. 13. Hooks. Septuagint aspidiscas, “imitating the form or biting of an asp.” (Calmet) — Gold, on the ephod, by which the rational was suspended from the shoulders. (Haydock)
Ver. 14. Linked, &c. The present Hebrew has “at the ends,” migbaloth. But the Vulgate seems to have read more properly k instead of g, as in chap. xxvi. 4. (Calmet)
Ver. 15. The rational of judgment. This part of the high priest’s attire, which he wore at his breast, was called the rational of judgment; partly because it admonished both priest and people of their duty to God; by carrying the names of all their tribes in his presence; and by the Urim and Thummim, that is, doctrine and truth, which were written upon it: and partly because it gave divine answers and oracles, as if it were rational and endowed with judgment.
Ver. 16. Span, or half a cubit, (Ezechiel xliii. 13, 17,) formed like a purse, in which the Rabbins say the Urim and Thummim were placed. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. Stones. It is difficult to ascertain the true names of these stones, interpreters are so much at variance; as they are also respecting the names of the 12 patriarchs, which were engraven upon each. They probably stood according to the order of their birth, ver. 10, 21. Thus Ruben, Simeon, and Levi, would occupy the first places, upon the sardius, topaz, and emerald. See on these stones Pliny, Natural History xxvii. 5; xxxviii. 8.
Ver. 18. The carbuncle, (ruby) sapphire, and jasper, (or diamond) had on them Juda, Dan, and Nephtali.
Ver. 19. Ligurius, agate, and amethyst, (or eumeces; Pliny, Natural History xxxvii. 7.) had Gad, Aser, and Issachar.
Ver. 20. Chrysolite, (beryl or opale,) onyx, (Septuagint, beryl; Chaldean, or emerald; Calmet) beryl, (Hebrew, jasper; Septuagint &c., onyx) were inscribed with the names of Zabulon, Joseph, and Benjamin. In Ezechiel xxviii. 13, the jasper stone comes in the sixth place, as it does in the Vulgate here. (Calmet) — The mystical interpretation of these stones, may be seen in Cornelius A Lapide. St. Epiphanius has written a learned work on the 12 precious stones. (Haydock)
Ver. 28. Another. Hence the ephod, rational, urim, &c., are used to denote the same thing. See 1 Kings xxx. 7. (Calmet)
Ver. 30. Doctrine and truth. Hebrew Urim and Thummim: illuminations and perfections. These words, written on the rational, seem to signify the light of doctrine, and the integrity of life, with which the priests of God ought to approach to him. (Challoner) — Aurim means things brilliant, “declarations,” Septuagint, and thomim, “perfections,” or “truths.” Some imagine, that God required the stones of the rational to be of the utmost brilliancy and perfection; Oleaster and Josephus (Antiquities iii. 8,) say, it was by the appearance of those stones that the high priest was enlightened, when he consulted God. If God approved of what was in agitation, they assumed a surprising brightness, as well as those on the high priest’s shoulders. But this had not happened for 200 years before he began his history. The Urim and Thummim were not in the second temple, 1 Esdras ii. 63. Some think these words were engraven on stones in the rational. Whether God explained his will by articulate sounds, as (Matthew iii. 17,) this is my beloved son, or internally instructed the high priest, when he was consulted, cannot be determined. (Calmet) — St. Chrysostom is of the former opinion. “If any thing was to be known, a voice came from between the cherubim, from the propitiatory, to declare what would happen.” As the Jews lost the propitiatory, when they were led captives to Babylon, it seems they never afterwards obtained this privilege of having an oracle. God sometimes instructed them by his prophets. But, for a long time, none had appeared; that all might attend more earnestly to the voice of the Messias. (Tirinus) — Judgment. He shall be the supreme judge in religious matters, and must strive to pass sentence according to the dictates of my law, with truth. (Haydock) — The chief judge in Egypt wore a golden chain, hanging from the neck on the breast, to which was attached the image of Truth, on a sapphire stone. Olian (Var. Hist. xxxiv. 14,) also observes, that this office was always held by a venerable and honest priest.
Ver. 33. Bells, to denote the harmony of the universe, (Philo) and that all the actions of a priest ought to give edification. (St. Jerome)
Ver. 35. Die, for coming in disrespectfully, without giving notice. See Judith xiv. 8.
Ver. 36. Plate; reaching from ear to ear, two fingers’ breadth, tied behind like a diadem, Wisdom xviii. 24. — Holy, or “sanctity, belongeth to the Lord,” and all who approach to Him, ought to be holy. (Calmet) — Josephus represents the ornaments of the high priest’s head, like the triple crown of the pope. (Antiquities iii. 8.)
Ver. 38. Iniquities. This means, perhaps, that he shall wear these grand vestments and crown only on the solemn day of expiation, when he makes atonement for all the sins of the people, as a figure of Jesus Christ. Josephus tells us, that on other occasions, he wore a less costly attire. (Jewish Wars v. 6. or 15.) (Calmet) — By bearing on his forehead kodesh la Yehovah, “Holiness to the Lord,” he confessed that all mankind were sinners, and stood in need of pardon. (Haydock)
Ver. 40. Linen. In Ezechiel (xliv. 17,) woollen garments are forbidden to be worn by priests. Many of the pagans required their priests to be clothed in white linen. All these prescriptions of God, which seem to us so minute, had a more sublime and mysterious meaning. For in the priestly robe….was the whole world, by the colours denoting the air, light, earth, and water: the two stones on his shoulders, signified the sun and moon, as the 12 did the signs of the zodiac, or the glory of the fathers; and thy majesty was written upon the diadem of his head, Wisdom xviii. 24. Thus the priest was a mediator between God and his people, and was to be solicitous for the welfare of all. (St. Thomas Aquinas, 1, 2, q. 102, a. 5; St. Augustine; St. Jerome; &c.)
Ver. 41. Consecrate. Hebrew and Septuagint, “thou shalt anoint and fill their hands” with oil, and the instruments of their office.
Ver. 42. Linen breeches, descending as far as the knees. (St. Jerome) In chap. xxxix. 29, they seem to have been made of byssus, or cotton. But as linen is prescribed in all other places, perhaps a word has crept in there, by mistake of the transcribers. They were intended to remind the priests of superior modesty, as they were not commonly worn. Homer never mentions them. Virgil only specifies the cloak and tunic of Evander. Augustus wore breeches and stockings in winter. (Suetonius) — But the ancient breeches were not like ours, but resembled rather an apron or girdle, enveloping both thighs, and hanging from the waist. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The holy vestments for Aaron and his sons.
1 Take unto thee also Aaron thy brother with his sons, from among the children of Israel, that they may minister to me in the priest’s office: Aaron, Nadab, and Abiu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
2 And thou shalt make a holy vesture for Aaron, thy brother, for glory and for beauty.
3 And thou shalt speak to all the wise of heart, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s vestments, in which he being consecrated, may minister to me.
4 And these shall be the vestments that they shall make: A rational and an ephod, a tunic and a strait linen garment, a mitre and a girdle. They shall make the holy vestments for thy brother Aaron and his sons, that they may do the office of priesthood unto me.
5 And they shall take gold, and violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine linen.
6 And they shall make the ephod of gold, and violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine twisted linen, embroidered with divers colours.
7 It shall have the two edges joined in the top on both sides, that they may be closed together.
8 The very workmanship also, and all the variety of the work, shall be of gold, and violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine twisted linen.
9 And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and shalt grave on them the names of the children of Israel:
10 Six names on one stone, and the other six on the other, according to the order of their birth.
11 With the work of an engraver, and the graving of a jeweller, thou shalt engrave them with the names of the children of Israel, set in gold and compassed about:
12 And thou shalt put them in both sides of the ephod, a memorial for the children of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord upon both shoulders, for a remembrance.
13 Thou shalt make also hooks of gold.
14 And two little chains of the purest gold, linked one to another, which thou shalt put into the hooks.
15 And thou shalt make the rational of judgment with embroidered work of divers colours, according to the workmanship of the ephod, of gold, violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine twisted linen.
16 It shall be four square and doubled: it shall be the measure of a span both in length and in breadth.
17 And thou shalt set in it four rows of stones: In the first row shall be a sardius stone, and a topaz, and an emerald:
18 In the second a carbuncle, a sapphire, and a jasper:
19 In the third a ligurius, an agate, and an amethyst:
20 In the fourth a chrysolite, an onyx, and a beryl. They shall be set in gold by their rows.
21 And they shall have the names of the children of Israel: with twelve names shall they be engraved, each stone with the name of one according to the twelve tribes.
22 And thou shalt make on the rational chains, linked one to another, of the purest gold:
23 And two rings of gold, which thou shalt put in the two ends at the top of the rational.
24 And the golden chains thou shalt join to the rings, that are in the ends thereof.
25 And the ends of the chains themselves, thou shalt join together with two hooks, on both sides of the ephod, which is towards the rational.
26 Thou shalt make also two rings of gold, which thou shalt put in the top parts of the rational, in the borders that are over-against the ephod, and look towards the back parts thereof.
27 Moreover also other two rings of gold, which are to be set on each side of the ephod beneath, that looketh towards the nether joining, that the rational may be fitted with the ephod,
28 And may be fastened by the rings thereof unto the rings of the ephod with a violet fillet, that the joining artificially wrought may continue, and the rational and the ephod may not be loosed one from the other.
29 And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the rational of judgement upon his breast, when he shall enter into the sanctuary, a memorial before the Lord for ever.
30 And thou shalt put in the rational of judgment, Doctrine and Truth, which shall be on Aaron’s breast, when he shall go in before the Lord: and he shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel on his breast, in the sight of the Lord always.
31 And thou shalt make the tunic of the ephod all of violet,
32 In the midst whereof above shall be a hole for the head, and a border round about it woven, as is wont to be made in the outmost parts of garments, that it may not easily be broken.
33 And beneath at the feet of the same tunic, round about, thou shalt make as it were pomegranates, of violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, with little bells set between:
34 So that there shall be a golden bell and a pomegranate, and again another golden bell and a pomegranate.
35 *And Aaron shall be vested with it in the office of his ministry, that the sound may be heard, when he goeth in and cometh out of the sanctuary, in the sight of the Lord, and that he may not die.
36 Thou shalt make also a plate of the purest gold: wherein thou shalt grave with engraver’s work, Holy to the Lord.
37 And thou shalt tie it with a violet fillet, and it shall be upon the mitre,
38 Hanging over the forehead of the high priest. And Aaron shall bear the iniquities of those things, which the children of Israel have offered and sanctified, in all their gifts and offerings. And the plate shall be always on his forehead, that the Lord may be well pleased with them.
39 And thou shalt gird the tunic with fine linen, and thou shalt make a fine linen mitre, and a girdle of embroidered work.
40 Moreover, for the sons of Aaron thou shalt prepare linen tunics, and girdles and mitres for glory and beauty:
41 And with all these things thou shalt vest Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him. And thou shalt consecrate the hands of them all, and shalt sanctify them, that they may do the office of priesthood unto me.
42 Thou shalt make also linen breeches, to cover the flesh of their nakedness, from the reins to the thighs:
43 And Aaron and his sons shall use them when they shall go into the tabernacle of the testimony, or when they approach the altar to minister in the sanctuary, lest being guilty of iniquity they die. It shall be a law for ever to Aaron, and to his seed after him.
35: Ecclesiasticus xlv. 11.