Contents Calendar Find Reference
Navigating the Bible
Exodus Chapter 28
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

The Priestly Vestments
28:1 [Separate] your brother Aaron and his sons from among the Israelites, [and] bring them close to you so that Aaron, and his sons, Nadav, Avihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, can become priests to Me.
28:2 Make sacred vestments that are both dignified and beautiful for your brother Aaron.
28:3 Speak to everyone who is naturally talented, to whom I have granted a spirit of wisdom, and let them make Aaron's vestments. These [vestments] will then be used to consecrate him and make him a priest to Me.
28:4 These are the vestments that they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a knitted tunic, a turban, and a sash. Make them as sacred vestments for Aaron and his sons so that they will be able to be priests to Me.
28:5 [The skilled workers] shall take the gold, the sky-blue, dark red and crimsons wool, and the linen.

The Ephod
28:6 [These workers] shall make the ephod out of gold [thread], sky-blue, dark red and crimson wool, together with twined linen, in a patterned brocade.
28:7 It shall have two attached shoulder pieces at its two corners, and [these] shall be sewn [to it].
28:8 The ephod's belt which is made in the same manner [as the ephod itself] shall be [woven] together with it out of gold [thread], sky-blue, dark red, and crimson wool, and twined linen.
28:9 Take two sardonyx stones, and engrave on them the names of Israel's sons.
28:10 There shall be six names on one stone, and the remaining six names on the second stone [inscribed] in the order of their birth.
28:11 The names of Israel's sons shall be engraved by a skilled jeweler, [and it shall appear] like the engraving on a signet ring.

[These stones] shall then be placed in gold settings.

28:12 Place the two stones on the two shoulder pieces of the ephod as remembrance stones for Israel's sons.

The Settings
28:13 Make gold settings.
28:14 [Also] make matched cables of pure gold, braided like cords. The braided cables shall then be attached to the settings.

The Breastplate
28:15 Make a decision breastplate. It shall be a patterned brocade like the ephod. Make it out of gold [thread], sky-blue, dark red and crimson wool, and twined linen.
28:16 When folded over, it shall be a span long and a span wide.
28:17 Set it with four rows of mounted stones.

The first of these rows shall contain a carnelian, an emerald and a topaz.

28:18 The second row: carbuncle, sapphire, beryl.
28:19 The third row: jacinth, agate, amethyst.
28:20 The fourth row: chrysolite, onyx, jasper.

These stones shall be placed in gold settings.

28:21 The stones shall contain the names of the twelve sons of Israel, one for each of the twelve [stones]. Each one's name shall be engraved as on a signet ring, to represent the twelve tribes.
28:22 Make matched cables out of pure gold, braided like cords, for the breastplate.
28:23 Make two gold rings for the breastplate, and attach them to the two [upper] corners of the breastplate.
28:24 Attach the two gold braids to the two rings on the two corners of the breastplate.
28:25 Attach the two braids on the two corners to the two settings, and they shall [thus] be attached to the [two] shoulder pieces of the ephod, toward the front.
28:26 Make two gold rings, and attach them to the two [lower] corners of the breastplate, on the edge that is toward the inside of the ephod.
28:27 Make [another] two gold rings, and attach them to the bottoms of the two shoulder pieces, toward the front where they are sewn on, above the ephod's belt.
28:28 Lace the [lower] rings of the breastplate to the [lower] rings of the ephod with a twist of sky-blue wool, so that [the breastplate] shall remain directly above the ephod's belt.
28:29 Aaron will thus carry the names of Israel's sons on the decision breastplate over his heart when he comes into the sanctuary. It shall be a constant remembrance before God.
28:30 Place the Urim and Thumim in the decision breastplate, and they shall be over Aaron's heart when he comes before God. Aaron will then carry the decision-making device for the Israelites before God at all times.

The Robe
28:31 Make the robe that is [worn under] the ephod completely out of sky-blue wool.
28:32 It shall have an opening for the head in the middle, and this opening shall have a woven border all around it, like there is around the head opening of a coat of mail. [The neck] shall thus not be left open.
28:33 On the bottom [of the robe], place pomegranates made of sky-blue, dark red, and crimson wool, all along its lower border. In between [these pomegranates] all around, there shall be gold bells.
28:34 Thus, there shall be a gold bell and a pomegranate, a gold bell and a pomegranate, all around the lower edge of the robe.
28:35 Aaron shall wear [this robe] when he performs the divine service. The sound [of the bells] shall be heard when he enters the sanctuary before God, and when he goes out, so that he not die.

The Other Vestments
28:36 Make a forehead-plate of pure gold, and engrave on it in the same manner as a signet ring, [the words], 'Holy to God.'
28:37 Attach a twist of sky-blue wool to it, so that it can be [worn] next to the turban. It must be [worn] right near the front of the turban.
28:38 [This plate] shall be worn on Aaron's forehead. Aaron shall thus carry the device that expiates [errors] in the sacred offerings that the Israelites consecrate as holy gifts. It shall be on his forehead at all times to make [these offerings] acceptable for [the Israelites] before God.
28:39 Knit the tunic out of linen.

[Also] make the turban out of linen and an embroidered sash.

28:40 For Aaron's sons, make tunics and sashes. Also make them hats that are both dignified and beautiful.
28:41 Place these [vestments] on Aaron and his sons. Then anoint them, and install them, sanctifying them to be priests to Me.
28:42 Also make linen pants to cover their nakedness, reaching from their waists to their thighs.
28:43 [All these vestments] must be worn by Aaron and his sons whenever they enter the Communion Tent or offer sacrifice on the altar, performing the divine service in the sanctuary; otherwise they will have committed a sin and they will die. This shall be a law for [Aaron] and his descendants after him for all time.


Nadav, Avihu...
  See Exodus 6:23.

naturally talented
  Literally, 'wise of heart.'

These vestments...
  See Exodus 29:29, 30.

  See note on Exodus 28:39.

The skilled workers
  (Rashi; Lekach Tov).

  See notes on Exodus 25:4.

  See Exodus 39:1 ff. There are several opinions as to how the ephod was made.

Some say that the ephod was essentially like a half-cape, as wide as the body, reaching from just below the elbows to the heel. It had a belt which was long enough to be tied in front, right over the solar plexus. It also had two shoulder straps ('shoulder pieces') that were sewn onto the belt right over the upper corners of the cape. These straps were long enough to reach slightly over the shoulders. At the ends of these straps on the shoulders, the settings for the sardonyx stones were attached (Rashi on Exodus 28:4,6; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:9; Ralbag; Sforno; Akedath Yitzchak; Midrash HaGadol).

Others agree that it was a long garment, but say that it was more like a skirt, from the waist to the heels, covering the high priest in front and back. It also had a section covering the entire back up to the neck, and the corners of this section are referred to as 'shoulder pieces,' to which the sardonyx stones were attached (Rashbam). Still others also agree that it was long, but maintain that it was much simpler in construction. They see it as a kind of cape made of a single rectangular piece of cloth, draped over the shoulders like a large tallith, and hanging down to the feet in back. At the waist, it had a belt to hold it. It is described as being like the robes used by Greek priests, most probably the mandyas (Rabbenu Meyuchas).

There are, however, a number of authorities who maintain that it was not a long garment at all, but rather like a vest with a belt around its lower edge, tied in front (Chizzkuni on Exodus 28:27). Others see it as a kind of backwards vest, tied in the back, with an opening in front to hold the breastplate (Siddur of Saadia Gaon, p. 271).

Josephus describes the ephod as being a sleeved garment. The main part was a cubit square, with an opening for the breastplate, worn over the front of the body. It had straps, most probably going around the neck, which buttoned on to the sardonyxes on the opposite sides to hold the ephod in place (Antiquities 3:7:5; Wars 5:5:7).

gold thread
  The gold would be beaten into thin sheets and then cut into find threads (Rashi; see Exodus 39:3). One thread of gold was mixed with six threads of each of the other materials, the sky-blue, dark red and crimson wool, and linen. This would produce 4 seven-ply threads, which were then twined together to produce a single 28-ply thread. (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:5, from Yoma 72a). Josephus notes that the ephod itself contained more gold than its belt (Wars 5:5:7).

patterned brocade
  Choshev in Hebrew; see note on Exodus 26:1. Josephus describes the belt as having a striped pattern of gold, sky blue, crimson, white and dark red, and states that the ephod had the same pattern, but with more gold (Wars 5:5:7).

shoulder pieces
  Straps (Rashi), cords (Chizzkuni), the upper corner of the garment (Rabbenu Meyuchas; Rashbam), or sleeves (Josephus).

  (Rashi; see Exodus 26:3). Literally 'attached,' or 'of one piece with it' (see note on Exodus 28:6).

ephod's belt
  (Saadia). Others translate cheshev aphuda-tho as 'interwoven belt' (Rabbenu Meyuchas), 'belt of adornment' (Rashi), or 'band for a belt' (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim). Some say that the belt was worn just below the chest (Yad, Kley Mikdash 9:11), while others maintain that it was tied over the navel (Raavad ad loc.).

woven together with it
  (Rashi). Or, 'of the same material as it.' This latter interpretation seems to be that of Josephus, who maintains that the belt was not part of the ephod, but a separate garment, attached to the breastplate. It was looped around the back, and then around the front again (Antiquities 3:7:5; Wars 5:5:7).

  (Josephus; loc. cit.; the same word is used in Greek cf. Septuagint). Sardonyx is a type of crypto-crystalline quartz, related to agate, with alternating red and white bands. Thus, these stones may have born a strong resemblance to Levi's banner, which was divided into thirds, white, black and red (BeMidmar Rabbah 2:7). These might have been rare sardonyxes which also had these exact divisions of color.

Other sources translate shoham here as beryl (Targum). Beryl is a silicate of beryllium and aluminium, Be3Al2(SiO3)6, that is bluish-green in color. Since the ancients did not classify stones according to chemical composition, it can denote any bluish-green stone. See notes on Exodus 28:18,20.

Shoham was one of the stones of Eden (Genesis 2:12).

  Some say that the stones were square in shape (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:9; Midrash HaGadol). According to some ancient sources, however, they were hemispherical in shape (Philo, Questions and Answers 109). Some later sources say that they were round (Ibn Ezra, short version).

  (Targum). In Hebrew, the root patach means to open, but in ancient Egyptian, petech means to engrave.

in the order of their birth
  Some take this literally (Rashi; Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5; cf. Genesis 29:31-30:24). The names were therefore:

right: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali.
left: Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin.

According to others, the verse is interpreted, 'Six names shall be on the first stone, while on the other stone, there shall be six names in the order of their birth.' According to this, the names are in order of birth only on the second stone, but on the first stone, Judah comes first (Sotah 36a, Rashi ad loc. s.v. KeToldatham):

right: Judah, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Dan, Naphtali.
left: Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin.

Others, however, do not translate ke-tolda-tham here as 'in order of their birth,' but as, 'according to their chronicles.' According to one opinion, they are listed in the same manner as they are at the beginning of the Book of Exodus (Exodus 1:2-5) (Sotah 36b, Rashi ad loc. s.v. BeChumash):

right: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun.
left: Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Joseph.

Others basically agree with this interpretation, but maintain that the names follow the order of their mothers with Leah first and Rachel last (Baaley Tosafoth; cf. BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7; see note on Exodus 25:21). The order is then:

right: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun.
left: Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Joseph, Benjamin.

Other sources agree with this ordering, except that they have the names alternate from one stone to the other, and transpose Dan and Naphtali (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:9; Avraham ben HaRambam; Ralbag; Or HaChaim; Get Pashut 129:127; Teshuvoth Kenesseth Yechezkel 1):

right: Reuben, Levi, Issachar, Naphtali, Gad, Joseph.
left: Simeon, Judah, Zebulun, Dan, Asher, Benjamin.

There is another opinion that the tribes on the sardonyx stones were divided in exactly the same manner as they were at Mount Gerizim and Eval (Deuteronomy 27:13; Rav Kahanah, Sotah 36a):

right: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, Benjamin.
left: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali.

Finally, there are some who omit Levi and Joseph, and substitute Manasseh and Ephraim (Teshuvoth HaGeonim, Harkevy, 4; Otzar HaGaonim, Yoma 70; cf. Rashi, Sotah 36b, s.v. Lo).

right: Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad.
left: Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Manasseh, Ephraim, Benjamin.

There is a tradition that there were 25 letters in each of these stones (Sotah 36a).

  (Rashi; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:9). Mishbetzoth in Hebrew. Others translate the word as 'rosettes' or 'gold mesh settings,' because they were made of knitted or braided gold (Saadia; Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim; Ralbag). Josephus describes these settings as buttons resembling small shields (Wars 5:5:7), and the Septuagint likewise translates mishbetzoth as aspidiskos, 'small shieldlike discs.' Other ancient Greek sources translate it as sphigkteras, 'bands' or 'straps' (Aquilla).

for Israel's sons
  Or, 'for the Israelites.' Some say that these letters on the right sardonyx shone as a sign that a sacrifice was accepted (Josephus, Antiquities 8:8:9).

  These are the ones mentioned in Exodus 28:11 (cf. Rashi; Mizrachi). Some say that these settings had attached rings through which the cables were passed (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:9; Avraham ben HaRambam; Midrash HaGadol; cf. Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5).

  (Ibn Janach); Radak, Sherashim). Migbaloth in Hebrew. Or, 'medium-sized' (Saadia), or 'at the edges' (Rashi) or 'attached' (Septuagint).

  Or 'chains', sharsheroth in Hebrew. Some say that they were attached to the settings like roots (shoresh) of a tree (Rashi on Exodus 28:22) (see figure). According to one opinion, the cables mentioned here were merely decorative (Yehudah HaChasid), but others maintain that they were to hold the breastplate (Rashi; see Exodus 28:22-24).

  (Rashi; Radak, Sherashim, quoting his father). Or, 'twisted like rope' (Rashbam; Saadia; Ibn Janach). Some apparently describe these cables as being made of a bunch of gold threads held together by a gold thread wound around them (Targum; Radak, Sherashim, from 1 Kings 7:17; cf. Menachoth 39a) cf. Deuteronomy 22:12. See note Exodus 28:28.

  (Rashi). Or, 'judgement breastplate' (Targum). See Exodus 39:8-21.

patterned brocade
  Here again, the pattern is not described. However, in one place, this type of work is described as having a lion on one side of the cloth and an eagle on the other (Yerushalmi, Shekalim 8:2). See note on Exodus 28:30.

  This is the distance between the tips of the thumb and pinky in a spread hand, and it is equivalent to 1/2 cubit or 9' (Tosefta, Kelim, Bava Metzia 6:4; Eruvin 21a; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:6 Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5). The breastplate was thus made out of a brocade one cubit by 1/2 cubit, and then folded over.

According to others, a span is the distance between the extended thumb and forefinger, and is half of a 5-handbreadth cubit, or 7 1/2' (Teshuvoth Rashbam 9:10; Sefer Chasidim, Mekitzey Nirdamim edition, 692). Others say that a span is 1/3 cubit or 6' (Kalir, quoted in Tosafoth, Eruvin 21a, s.v. Echad). Finally, some say that a span is equal to a handbreadth, 3' (Philo, Questions and Answers 111; cf. Targum Yerushalmi).

  Here too there is a question as to whether the stones were square or round, see note on Exodus 28:9 (cf. Mishneh LaMelekh, Kley HaMikdash 9:6).

  (Shiltey Gibborim 46; Midrash Talpioth, s.v. Evven). Odem in Hebrew. The carnelian is a variety of flesh-colored (carne) cryptocrystalline quartz, having a color similar to a ruby due to traces of ferrous oxide. Ancient Greek sources translate it as sardion (Septuagint; Josephus, Wars 5:5:7). The sardion, sardine or sard was a deep orange-red variety of carnelian which was found near Sardis, the capital of ancient Lydia.

Most sources agree that it was a red stone (Targum; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). Some sources state that the odem here was a ruby (Bachya; MeAm Lo'ez). However, in ancient nomenclature, the name given to a stone is denoted by its visual appearance rather than chemical composition, and hence, the 'ruby' could be any bright red stone.

According to most authorities, the odem was the stone of Reuben (Targum Yonathan; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7; see note on Exodus 28:21). According to some, however, it was the stone of Judah (Tzioni, BeMidbar). See Ezekiel 28:13).

  (Saadia; Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim; Chizzkuni; MeAm Lo'ez). Pitdah in Hebrew. Most other sources also indicate that it was a green stone (Targum; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). One early source identifies it as prasma, Spanish for prase, a dark green variety of cryptocrystalline quartz (Bachya). It can also denote chrysoprase, an apple-green variety, or plasma, a leek green or emerald green type.

Ancient Greek sources translate pitdah as topaz (see note, this verse, 'topaz'), where the sequence is 'sardion, topaz, emerald' (Septuagint; Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5, Wars 5:5:7). However, it appears that the mainstream tradition had a reading in the Septuagint, 'sardion, emerald, topaz' (cf. Chizzkuni). Hence, the pitdah would be translated as smaragdos, Greek for emerald or malachite (cf. Pliny 37:16). Nonetheless, there are a number of later sources that identify the pitdah with topaz (Shiltey Gibborim 46; cf. Sh'moth Rabbah 38:8). There are, however, some indications that the 'topaz' of the ancients was actually green (Pliny 37:32). The pitdah was the stone of Simeon (Targum Yonathan; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). Others say that it was the stone of Issachar (Tzioni, BeMidbar). See Ezekiel 28:13, Job 28:19.

  (Chizzkuni). Bareketh in Hebrew. Numerous sources indicate that it was a stone that was yellow (Saadia; Ibn Janach) or saffron-colored (Lekach Tov; Targum on Song of Songs 5:14). If it is assumed that the Septuagint transposes this stone with the one above (see note, this verse, 'emerald'), then it would also translate this as topazion, Greek for topaz or similar yellow gemstones (cf. Strabo 16:770; Diodurus Siculus 3:39).

There is, however, a question as to whether or not the topaz mentioned in ancient sources is the same as the present topaz. It may denote citrine, a yellow variety of quartz, or peridot, a yellow-green variety of chrysolite (see note on Exodus 28:20). Some sources appear to indicate that bareketh is actually a gold lustered pyrite (Radak, Sherashim; cf. Targum).

According to current version of the Septuagint and Josephus (Antiquities 3:7:5; Wars 5:5:7), the baraketh here is the emerald. Other sources state that it was a bluish stone (Shiltey Giborim 46; Shemoth Rabbah 38:8 [dyknithin] according to Arukh s.v. yaknatin, which translates it as blue hyacinth).

There are some sources that transpose this with the next stone, and translate it as carbuncle (Bachya; cf. King James translation). Other sources say that it contained red, white and black stripes (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7).

The bareketh was the stone of Levi (Targum Yonathan, etc.). Others state that it was the stone of Zebulun (Tzioni, BeMidmar). See Ezekiel 28:13.

  (Chizzkuni; Shiltey Gibborim 46; Me'Am Lo'ez). Nophekh in Hebrew. Ancient Greek sources translate nophek as anthrax denoting coal (Septuagint; Josephus loc. cit.). This is usually interpreted to mean a mineral that is red, the color of burning coal (Pliny 37:25; Theophrastus, On Stones 18). It is hence rendered as carbuncle (Vulgate), from carbo, Latin for coal. This denotes a particularly brilliant red garnet, but can also denote a ruby or ruby spinel.

Some sources, however, take 'coal' in its literal sense and state that nophekh was a black stone (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim). The Midrash (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7) states that the colors of the stones on this row were 'sky-blue, black, white.' There is evidence (see note, this verse, 'sapphire'), that the first two colors are transposed, and the reading should be 'black, sky-blue, white,' so that this would agree that the nophekh was black. Some say that it is related to pukh meaning stibium, a black powder (Ibn Ezra on Exodus 28:9, from 2 Kings 9:30).

There are sources, however, which indicate that the nophekh was indeed a blue stone (Saadia; Lekach Tov; Targum on Song of Songs 5:14). Those sources which would transpose the Septuagint translation with the previous stone (see note, this verse, 'topaz'), would also render this as emerald (Targum; Bachya; cf. King James).

The nophekh was the stone of Judah (Targum Yonathan, etc.). Others say that it was the stone of Reuben (Tzioni, BeMidbar). See Ezekiel 27:16, 28:13.

  Sapir in Hebrew. In Greek it is also translated as sappheiros (Septuagint). This, however, denotes any blue stone, and some say that the sapphire of the ancients was really the lapis-lazuli (cf. Pliny 37:39). Some sources, however, state that the Biblical sapphire was actually a clear colorless stone, identified either as crystal (Radak, Sherashim) or diamond (ibid.; Ibn Janach; Saadia; see note on Exodus 24:10).

Some sources identify the sapir with the emerald (Lekach Tov; Targum on Song of Songs 5:14), but this appears to be a transposition with the previous word. The same is true of the Midrash (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7), which has it as being a black stone. Some sources would have it as being a red stone (Ibn Ezra here on Exodus 24:10, from Lamentations 4:7). Josephus renders it as jasper, but his is probably a transposition with the next stone in the Septuagint, which in turn is a transposition with the last stone (see note, this verse, 'beryl').

The sapphire was the stone of Issachar (Targum Yerushalmi; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). Other sources, however, state that it was the stone of Dan (Targum Yonathan), whose banner and stone were blue. A third opinion is that it was the stone of Simeon (Tzioni, BeMidbar).

  (Bachya; cf. Chizzkuni; Douai-Rheims translation). Yahalom in Hebrew. This is a bluish-green precious stone, midway between the emerald and aquamarine in color.

The Septuagint has iastis, which, if a transposition is assumed, is rendered by Josephus as iaspis, denoting jasper (cf. Vulgate). However, since jasper is usually identified with yashpeh (Exodus 28:20), it can safely be assumed that the translation of the last stone in this line was transposed with the last stone of the fourth line (see Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5). The correct translation in the Septuagint here would therefore be byrilion, (which in our editions of the Septuagint is the translation for shoham, cf. Josephus, Wars 5:5:7, but in Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5, is the translation of yashpeh). The beryl of the ancients is described as being a yellowish blue-green (cf. Pliny 37:20). It is surmised that the word may denote a type of precious jade.

Some say that the burla mentioned in ancient sources (Bachya) is the pearl (Toledoth Yitzchak; MeAm Lo'ez).

Many sources however, identify the yahalom with the diamond (Ibn Ezra on Exodus 28:9; Radak, Sherashim; Shiltey Gibborim 46). The Midrash also identifies it as a white or clear gem (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). Others say that this is the chalcedony.

The yahalom was the stone of Zebulun (Targum Yerushalmi; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). Others say that it was the stone of Naphtali (Targum Yonathan), which was greyish. A third opinion is that it was Gad's stone (Tzioni). See Ezekiel 28:13.

  Leshem in Hebrew. Greek sources translate this as ligurion (Septuagint; Josephus, Antiquities). This is a bright orange stone like the jacinth, often likened to the carbuncle (Pliny 8:57) or amber (ibid. 37:11). Many other sources have it resembling the topaz in color (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim; Cf. Bachya; MeAm Lo'ez).

Other sources, however, see it as a blue stone (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7; Shemoth Rabbah 38:8). Thus, some sources identify it with turquoise (Shiltey Gibborim) or beryl (Lekach Tov; Targum on Song of Songs 5:14).

While the order in our versions of the Septuagint is 'ligure, agate, amethyst,' in one place Josephus has 'agate, amethyst, ligure' (Wars 5:5:7). Other sources also appear to agree that the leshem is an agate (cf. Saadia). The Targum renders it kankirey which is seen as coming from the Greek kegchri, grains, because it is a stone with a granular pattern (Arukh, s.v. kanker).

The leshem was the stone of Dan (Targum Yerushalmi; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). This stone was given to him because Leshem was an important city in Dan (Joshua 19:47; Shiltey Gibborim 46). Others say that it was the stone of Gad (Targum Yonathan) or Ephraim (Tzioni).

  Sh'vo in Hebrew; achatis in Greek (Septuagint). This is a type of striped or variegated chalcedon (cf. Pliny 37:54). The Midrash also sees this as a grey stone (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7).

As noted above, the order in the Septuagint on this line is 'ligure, agate, amethyst.' Josephus, however, has 'ligure, amethyst, agate' (Antiquities), or 'agate, amethyst, ligure' (Wars). Hence, according to his reading, the sh'vo would be the amethyst (see next note, 'amethyst').

The Targum translates sh'vo as tarkia which some identify as the turquoise (Arukh, s.v. Trika; cf. Bachya; Toledoth Yitzchak; Me'Am Lo'ez). It is hence seen as a sapphire-like blue stone (Lekach Tov; Targum on Song of Songs 5:14). Others see tarkia as related to anthrax, Greek for coal (see note on Exodus 28:18), and hence a black stone (Saadia; Radak, Sherashim). Others see it as a red, carbuncle-like stone, and render it as jacinth (Shiltey Gibborim), an orange-red stone.

The sh'vo was the stone of Naphtali (Targum Yerushalmi, etc.) or, according to some, of Asher (Targum Yonathan) or Manasseh (Tzioni).

  Achlamah in Hebrew; amithysos in Greek (Septuagint). This is a violet or purple stone, that was thought by the ancients to be an antidote for drunkenness (cf. Pliny 37:40). The Midrash also states that it was the color of diluted wine (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). The Greek word comes from a- 'not', and mithysos drunken, and may be related to the Hebrew achlamah, which has the connotation of a dream.

The amethyst has the property of turning yellow when heated. Hence, some sources see it as a (partially?) yellow stone (Saadia; Ibn Janach). It may thus be related to the word chelmon, the yellow of an egg.

The Targum translates this word as 'calf's eye.' This is taken to be a kind of onyx (Shiltey Gibborim) or agate (Josephus, Antiquities). It is also possible that it was an amethyst heated on the edges to give it a yellow border and an eye-like appearance. Some sources translate achlamah as crystal (Bachya; Toledoth Yitzchak; Me'Am Lo'ez).

The achlamah was the stone of Gad (Targum Yerushalmi etc.). According to others, it was the stone of Issachar (Targum Yonathan) or Benjamin (Tzioni).

  Tarshish in Hebrew; chrysolithos in Greek (Septuagint; Josephus, Antiquities; Bachya; Shiltey Gibborim). The chrysolite of antiquity is described as being a yellowish stone, the color of amber (Pliny 37:11,42). Traditional sources identify it with the color of pure olive oil (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7; Bachya; Toledoth Yitzchak). These sources maintain that the tarshish was the stone of Asher, whose blessing was oil (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7; cf. Genesis 49:20).

Other sources, however, maintain that the tarshish is the aquamarine, a brilliant blue-green stone (Targum; Arukh; Saadia; Ibn Janach; Radak; cf. King James). These sources would identify the stone with Zebulun, whose blessing was to live by the sea (Targum Yonathan; Bachya cf. Genesis 49:13). Others maintain that this was the stone of Joseph (Tzioni).

  Shoham in Hebrew; see notes on Exodus 28:9, Genesis 2:12. Onyx in Greek (Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5; Vulgate; Chizzkuni; Bachya; Me'Am Lo'ez). This is a stone having bands of black, white and red or other colors. On Exodus 28:9, the Septuagint translates shoham as sard-onyx as does Josephus.

It is therefore reasonable that the order of this line is 'chrysolite, onyx, beryl,' as given by Josephus in one place (Antiquities 3:7:5; cf. Vulgate). In another place, however, he has the order as, 'onyx, beryl, chrysolite' (Wars 5:5:7). In our versions of the Septuagint, the order is, 'chrysolite, beryl, onyx.'

According to the last two readings, the shoham would be the beryl, and this view is shared by many other sources (Targum; Radak, Sherashim). This is seen, perhaps, as an emerald colored jade (cf. Shiltey Gibborim). The Septuagint on Genesis 2:12 translates it as prase. Others see it as a black stone (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7), or a reflective white stone (Saadia; Ibn Ezra on Exodus 28:9), perhaps a white form of beryl.

The shoham was the stone of Joseph (Targum Yerushalmi; Targum Yonathan). Others say that it was Asher's stone (Tzioni).

  (Saadia; Radak; Ibn Janach; Chizzkuni; Bachya; Me'Am Lo'ez; King James). Yaspeh in Hebrew. The Hebrew is apparently cognate to the English. Although the Greek versions have either onyx, beryl, or chrysolite (see note, this verse, 'chrysolite'), there is probably a transposition between this word and sapir or yahalom (q.v.).

The Targum renders this as panterey, which some sources translate as striped or spotted (Arukh, s.v. panther, apantir). However, the word may be related to the Greek pante, 'all,' and thus means 'all-colored.' This Midrash also says that the yashpeh is of all colors (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). This suggests a type of opal.

The yashpeh was the stone of Benjamin (Targum Yerushalmi; Targum Yonathan). Some say that it was the stone of Naphtali (Tzioni).

  Some say that the stones fit exactly into indentations, 'filling' the settings (Rashi; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:6). Others maintain that the stones were held in the settings with three prongs (Ramban on Exodus 25:7). Other sources indicate that the stones were perforated and woven into the breastplate (Lekach Tov; Rabbi Avraham ben Azriel, Arugath HaBosem, p. 281; cf. Josephus; Antiquities 3:7:5).

The stones shall contain...
  See note on Exodus 28:9. Some say that the names were simply in order of birth (Targum Yonathan; Midrash HaGadol, except that Issachar and Naphtali are transposed). The order is then (actually, it is reversed here, since Hebrew reads from right to left):

Reuben Simeon Levi
Judah Dan Naphtali
Gad Asher Issachar
Zebulun Joseph Benjamin

Others say that Jacob's sons were divided according to their mothers, with Leah's sons first, and Rachel's last (Shemoth Rabbah 38:10; Targum on Song of Songs 5:14;; Bachya; Chizzkuni; Tur). This is favored because leshem then comes out as Dan's stone (Baaley Tosafoth on Exodus 28:10; Rashi on Judges (18:29). The order is then:

Reuben Simeon Levi
Judah Issachar Zebulun
Dan Naphtali Gad
Asher Joseph Benjamin

According to some authorities, the names were ordered downward in columns rather than across in the rows (Minchath Chinukh 99).

The Midrash that discusses the colors of the stones (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7) also has the same order, except that Gad and Naphtali are transposed (cf. Rashash ad loc.). This is the opinion used earlier.

Finally, there is an opinion that the tribes were in the same order as they camped in the desert (Numbers 2; Tzioni, BeMidbar; Otzar HaGeonim, Yoma 70; Targum Yonathan, Numbers 2:3; Zohar 2:230a; Siddur Rav Saadia Gaon, p 271; Abarbanel):

Judah Issachar Zebulun
Reuben Simeon Gad
Ephraim Manasseh Benjamin
Dan Asher Naphtali

If alternate rows are transposed, the order becomes very much like that of the earlier opinions, and Dan's stone remains the leshem (cf. Peliah p. 32a).

Reuben Simeon Gad
Judah Issachar Zebulun
Dan Asher Naphtali
Ephraim Manasseh Benjamin

In order for the breastplate to contain all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the names of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were added, as well as the words shiv'tey Yeshurun, or 'tribes of Jeshurun' (Yoma 73b). Other sources give these last words as Shiv'tey Yah (Yad, K'ley HaMikdash 10:11; cf. Psalms 122:4), or Shiv'tey Yisrael (Yerushalmi, Yoma 1:3).

Some say that 'Abraham Isaac Jacob' were written on the first stone, and the other words on the last (Shemoth Rabbah 38:11; Yad, K'ley HaMikdash 9:7). Others maintain that they were divided among the stones so that there were six letters on each stone (Chizzkuni; Bachya). There were thus a total of 72 letters on the breastplate (Ibid.; Raziel HaMalakh p. 44).

for the breastplate
  (Rashi). According to this, these are the same ones mentioned above (Exodus 28:14). Others translate this verse, 'attach matched the breastplate.' See Exodus 39:15 (see figure). According to this, these were a second set of cables, fixed to the breastplate and then attached to the ephod's shoulder settings. This opinion maintains that there were two cables on each upper corner of the breastplate, one coming down from the ephod, and one going up from the breastplate itself (Midrash HaGadol; Avraham ben HaRambam; cf. Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5).

  (Rashi; Rashbam).

  See Exodus 28:13.

shoulder pieces
  (see figure). Or, 'they shall be attached to the two sleeves of the ephod toward the neck' (see note on Exodus 28:6).


  Where the ephod comes around the body somewhat.

bottoms of the two shoulder pieces
  Or, 'bottoms of the sleeves' (see note on Exodus 28:6). These rings were near the breasts, under the armpits (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:8, 9:11).

above the ephod's belt
  According to those who maintain that the shoulder pieces were straps, they were sewn on the back above the ephod's belt (see note on Exodus 28:6)

  Or 'bind' (Rashi; Rashbam). Rakhas in Hebrew. Or, 'unite' (Onkelos), or 'tighten' (Ibn Janach; Lekach Tov on Exodus 38:28). Or, 'they shall raise the breastplate so that its rings are near the rings of the ephod (Radak, Sherashim). Or, 'fill in the space between the breastplate's rings and the ephod's rings with twisted thread of blue wool' (Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5); cf. Targum Yonathan). See Isaiah 40:4, Psalms 31:21.

  (Rashi on Exodus 28:6; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:11; Meiri, Yoma 72b). Josephus, however, maintains that the entire space between all four rings was interwoven with blue thread (Antiquities 3:7:5, see note, this verse, 'lace').

  This can denote either two strands twisted together, or a thread doubled over. It can also denote a bunch of threads bound together by another thread wound around them. See note on Numbers 15:38. Also see Genesis 38:18, Exodus 28:37.

  See Exodus 26:34.

Urim and Thumim
  Usually translated as 'lightings and perfections,' since the message shone forth and was then perfected by the High Priest. The Urim and Thumim would be consulted like an oracle; the High Priest would meditate on the stones until he reached a level of divine inspiration. He would see the breastplate with inspired vision, and the letters containing the answer would appear to light up or stand out. With his divine inspiration, the High Priest would then be able to combine the letters to spell out the answer (Yoma 73b; Ramban; Bachya on Numbers 28:21; cf. Handbook of Jewish Thought 6:36).

Some say that the word Thumim has the connotation of pairing, since it was the inspiration that allowed the priest to arrange the letters to spell out a message (Bachya on Numbers 28:21). Others say that the message was called Thumim (perfect) because it was irrevocable (Midrash HaGadol; cf. Yoma 73b).

Josephus writes that when the Israelites went to battle, the stones would shine forth with great splendor as a sign of victory (Antiquities 3:8:9).

The Septuagint translates Urim and Thumim as dylosis khai alytheia, where dylosis denotes pointing out, manifestation, or explanation, and alytheia means truth. According to this, the root of Urim may be yarah, to teach.

As far as the nature of the 'Urim and Thumim' that were placed in the breastplate, some say that they consisted of mystical divine names of God (Targum Yonathan; Rashi; Rashbam; Ramban; Zohar 2:234b). Some say that these names were placed inside the fold of the breastplate (Rashi). Others, however, maintain that they were placed on the outside of the breastplate and that the priest would meditate on these names to attain inspiration (Me'or Eynayim 46).

According to others, the Urim and Thumim were the engraved stones themselves (Lekach Tov; Ralbag; Otzar HaGeonim, Berakhoth 6; cf. Josephus, Antiquities 3:8:9), but some emphatically reject this (Radak, Sherashim). Some maintain that the Urim and Thumim were the borders of the tribes (Bekhor Shor; Hadar Zekenim) or astrological signs (Ibn Ezra; cf. Ramban, Ralbag).

Philo (Vide de Muse 2:152) writes that the Urim and Thumim were two agalmatophory representing revelation and truth. The word agalmatophory is taken from agalma, an image or portrait, and phory, an ornament. The two images may have been the lion and eagle woven into the breastplate itself (see note on Exodus 28:15).

  (Targum). Literally, 'to.'

  Meil in Hebrew. Some say that it had sleeves (Raavad, Kley HaMikdash 9:3; Rabbenu Meyuchas; Siddur Rav Saadia Gaon, p. 271; cf. Rashi on Exodus 29:4) while others maintain that it was sleeveless (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:3; Midrash HaGadol; cf. Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:4).

According to many, the meil was a closed robe that was slipped over the head (Rashi; Rashbam; Rabbenu MeYuchas). It was woven as a single garment without seams (Josephus, Wars 5:5:7), and had an opening parted along the chest and back for the head (Antiquities 3:7:4). Others say that it was a simple robe, open down the front (Saadia).

Others, however, maintained that it was open in front like a large sleeveless cape, and only closed at the neck (Ramban; Lekach Tov; see Avraham ben HaRambam).

According to another opinion, the meil was a long rectangular piece of cloth with a hole in the middle for the head, very much like a long tallith katan (Ralbag; Tifereth Yisrael, Kelelay Bigdey Kodesh). According to some, it hung in front and back (ibid.), while others maintain that it hung on both sides (Radbaz on Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:3).

The meil came down to the priest's feet (Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:4; Wars 5:5:7; Philo, De Vida Musa 2:118-121).

worn under
  (Rashi; Midrash HaGadol; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 10:3).

completely out of...
  (Rashi; Radak, Sherashim; Zevachim 88b). Or, 'woven in one piece' (cf. Targum Yonathan; Josephus Wars 5:5:7).

not be left open
  (Rashbam; Chizzkuni). Or, 'so that it not be torn' (Rashi). Or, 'Do not tear it,' implying a negative commandment (Yoma 72a; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:3).

  Hollow spheres in the shape of pomegranates (Rashi; Zevachim 88b). Josephus, however, states that the 'pomegranates' here were pomegranate-colored threads or fringes (Antiquities 3:7:4).

In the Talmud it is debated as to whether there were 72 or 36 such pomegranates (Zevachim 88b). Other sources indicate that there were 70 (Lekach Tov; Zohar 3:203a,b).

In between
  So that the bells and pomegranates alternated all around the bottom of the meil (Rashi; Chizzkuni; cf. Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:4). Others say that the bells were inside the hollow pomegranates (Ramban; Bachya; cf. Ibn Ezra; Tosefoth Yom Tov, Kanim 3:6). Josephus apparently holds that the bells were hung from the 'pomegranates' (Wars 5:5:7), but in a special manner so that the two alternated (Antiquities 3:7:4).

  This was a thin gold plate, 2 fingerbreadths (1 1/2') wide, and extending from ear to ear (Shabbath 63b).

Holy to God
  Or, 'consecrated to God,' Kodesh-le-YHVH in Hebrew. The letters were made so they protruded from the front of the plate, like letters on a coin (Gittin 20a; cf. Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:3, Raavad ad loc.).

  Pethil in Hebrew. See note on Exodus 28:28. Some say that this was a twisted thread attached to holes in both ends of the plate to tie it to the head (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:3; Ramban). Others maintain that there was a third thread going through a hole in the middle of the plate and over the turban, and then tied to the other two threads in the back (Rashi; Raavad, on Yad. loc. cit.).

According to another opinion, the pethil here was a 1 1/2-2 inch band attached to the plate, going around the head (Chullin 138a, according to Rabbenu Chananel, Meiri, Shabbath 57b; Rif 26b; Arukh s.v. Kippah; cf. Genesis 38:18). Some say that this band was (also?) under the plate to protect the head from the hard metal (Rambam on Shabbath 6:1).

Others, however, say that the cap mentioned in the Talmud (Chullin 138a) was a blue cap that went over the turban (Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:6; Wars 5:5:7). See note on Exodus 28:39, 39:28.

  Specifically, ritual uncleanliness (Menachoth 25a; Rashi).

  (cf. Midrash HaGadol). This was a patterned weave that could best be attained by knitting (however, see Yad, Kley HaMikdash 8:19). Some write that it had a pattern of depressions, like settings for precious stones, (Rashi on Exodus 28:4). Others say that it was a diamond-shaped pattern, like an array of small eyes (Saadia; Ibn Janach; cf. Ibn Ezra). According to another opinion, it was a hexagonal pattern, like a honeycomb or the lining of a cow's second stomach (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 8:16).

This kethoneth had arm-length sleeves that were made separately and sewn on (Ibid.). It sat close to the body, and came down to the feet (Ibid. 8:17; Josephus Antiquities 3:7:2). The sleeves were tied at the wrists (Josephus) (see figure).

  (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim). This consisted of a strip of linen 16 cubits (24') long, which was wound around the top of the priest's head (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 8:19).

Josephus notes that after being wound around, it was sewn, and then covered with a piece of fine linen to hide the seams. This was true for both the high priest and the common priests (Antiquities 3:7:3). In the case of the High Priest, however, this linen turban was covered with a layer of sky-blue wool (see note on Exodus 28:37). Over this was a crown consisting of three horizontal golden bands, with a sort of flower or cup on top. The crown was open in the front to allow for the forehead-plate (Antiquities 3:7:6).

According to others, however, the mitznefeth here was a simple conical hat (Rashi on Exodus 29:4).

  Avnet in Hebrew. This is described as being 3 fingerbreadths (2 1/4') wide and 32 cubits (48') long (Yerushalmi, Yoma 7:3; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 8:19). Some say that it went twice around the body (Tosafoth, Arkhin 15b, s.v. Avnet). It was made of linen embroidered with colored wool (Yoma 12b; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 8:1). Although this is normally forbidden (Leviticus 19:19), it was permitted for the priestly garments.

Josephus (Antiquities 3:7:2) describes the sash as being worn over the heart, slightly above the elbows. It was four fingers wide and loosely woven, so that it appeared like the skin of a snake. Its main body was linen, and it was embroidered with a floral design of linen and blue, dark-red and crimson wool. When it was worn, its ends were allowed to hang down to the ankles, except during the service, when the ends were thrown over the left shoulder.

Aaron's sons
  These served as the common priests, as opposed to Aaron himself, who was High Priest. The tunic, sash and hat mentioned here, along with the pants (Exodus 28:42), were the vestments of the common priest.

  These were exactly the same as the tunic of the High Priest (Exodus 28:39; Yoma 12b; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 8:16; Ramban on Exodus 39:27; Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:4). Some, however, question whether or not the common priest's tunic was made with a textured pattern (tashbetz) like that of the High Priest (Ibn Ezra on Exodus 28:39; Mishneh LaMelekh, Kley HaMikdash 8:16).

  Some say that the sashes were exactly the same as that of the High Priest, while others maintain that the common priest's sash was of plain linen (Yoma 12b). Josephus (Antiquities 3:7:2) holds that they were the same.

  Migba'oth in Hebrew. Some say that this is exactly the same as the High Priest's turban (Rashi; cf. Yoma 25a, Tosafoth ad loc. s.v. Notel). Josephus also notes that both are the same, except that the High Priest's is covered with blue and a gold crown (see above). Others say that they are the same in form, but that the common priest's is put on, while the High Priest's is wound on (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 8:1).

According to others, however, the two differed in shape, with the turban of the High Priest being narrow, and the common priest's being wider (Tosafoth, Yoma 12b, s.v. Eleh; Ibn Ezra). Another opinion is that the High Priest's mitznefeth was a turban, while the migba'ath of the common priest was a conical hat (Raavad, Kley HaMikdash 8:1), shaped perhaps like an inverted goblet (cf. Ibn Janach).

According to others, the migba'ath was a cap that went under the turban, both for ordinary priests and the High Priest (Lekach Tov on Exodus 28:37). See Exodus 39:28.

  See Exodus 30:22-30.

  Literally, fill hands.' See Exodus 29:24.

  These were closed pants, reaching from the waist to the knees (Niddah 13b; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 8:18). They had laces around the knees where they could be tied (Ibid.; Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:1). Others, however, maintain that it was tied at the waist (Tifereth Yisrael, Kelelay Bigdey Kodesh). The common priest thus had a total of four vestments, and the High Priest eight (Rashi).

All these...
  (Rashi). Or, 'the pants' (Ramban).

Copyright © 2000 World ORT
Notice: This computer program is protected by copyright law and international treaties. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this program, or any portion of it, may result in severe civil and criminal penalties, and will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible under the law.