XXI. The Priestly Vestments
The Tabernacle of Israel, by George de Charms, 1969
the garments which were worn by Aaron, and after him by the high priest, were eight in number. They comprised the ephod, the epaulets or shoulderpieces, the girdle, the breastplate, the robe, the checkered or lace tunic called a coat, the linen breeches, and the mitre.
The ephod was a sort of cassock made of linen, with stripes of blue, purple, scarlet, and white, and with gold inwoven after the manner of the veil. Each piece was rectangular in shape with a square opening for the neck. They hung down from the shoulders to a point below the waist in front and in back. They were fastened together by the epaulets upon the shoulders. The ephod was the most holy of all the garments, and was used in many passages to represent them all. It was called most holy because it was the ultimate or outmost garment. The word "ephod" is derived from the Hebrew root meaning "to gird or put on," concerning which it is said in A.C. 9824 that it means to enclose all interior things. The gold which was inwoven is said to have been beaten and made into wire threads.1 For the spiritual signification of the ephod see below.2
Exodus 28:1-9, 39:1-5.
2 A.C. 9823, 9824.
The two epaulets or shoulderpieces (described in Exodus 28:9-14 and 39:6-7), were formed of single onyx stones set in gold. Each was engraved with six of the names of the sons of Israel in the order of their birth, the first six names being worn on the right shoulder arid the last six on the left. The shoulderpieces of the ephod were joined to the gold setting in which these stones were placed. Also from each setting there passed a chain of gold wires twisted like a cord, the other end of the chain being fastened to a gold ring in the upper corner of the breastplate. The onyx stones with the names engraved upon them are said to signify the interior memory,3 wherein all the goods and truths of the church, represented by the names of the sons of Israel, were to be preserved to eternity.4 In A.C. 9855 it is said that by this means there was a conservation of the good and truth of the spiritual kingdom. The chains of gold by which the stones were joined to the breastplate represent the coherence of good throughout the whole spiritual kingdom.5
The girdle or belt is described by Josephus as it was worn by the high priest in his day. He says it was four fingers broad, was wound several times around the body, and after being tied, the ends hung down as far as the ankles. When the priest was performing the sacrificial rites, these ends were thrown over the left shoulder that they might not interfere with his movements. This girdle was made of linen, in colors of blue, purple, scarlet, and white. It was embroidered with gold after the manner of the door of the tent but the design is not indicated.6
4 A.C. 9849.
5 A.C. 9852.
6 Exodus 28:39, 39:29.
It is said to represent a "general bond, that all things may look to one end."7
The breastplate8 was made of linen in the sacred colors with gold inwoven, as in the case of the ephod. It was in the form of a rectangle, measuring two spans in length and one in width, and was folded from the top so that it formed a double square. Upon the outer fold were fastened twelve stones set in gold in three horizontal rows of four stones each. In the first row on the right side, reading from the top to the bottom, were a ruby, a topaz, and a carbuncle; in the second row, an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; in the third row, a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst; and in the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. On each of these stones was engraved the name of one of the sons of Israel, and it is indicated in the Word Explained that they were in the order of their birth, so that the first six names inscribed on the stones at the right side of the breastplate would coincide with the names engraved upon the right shoulderpiece, while the last six names on the stones at the left side would coincide with those on the left shoulderpiece. This is at variance with the usual interpretation of the Scripture, but the reasons for it are well presented by Dr. E. E. Iungerich in the Journal of Education, vol. 16, pp. 115-128. The underfold of the breastplate was fastened at its four corners to four rings in the ephod by a blue ribbon. The breastplate represents the letter of the Word from which answers may be received by anyone who reads it in a state of illustration. For this reason it is called the "breastplate of judgment." When the high priest inquired of the Lord, answers to his questions were given by flashes of light from the precious stones set in it. Therefore it was called "Urim and Thummim." These two words are derived from Hebrew roots meaning respectively "lights and perfections." "Urim" represents Divine truth proceeding as light from the sun of heaven; and "Thummim" represents the resulting illustration received by man.9
The two rows of stones which were placed on the right side of the breastplate represent influx, and thence illustration from the celestial kingdom of the heavens, while the two rows on the left side represent a similar influx from the spiritual kingdom.10
The robe was made of linen woven without a seam and dyed cerulean blue.11 The opening at the neck is said to be like "the hole of an habergeon," or a coat of mail. It was heavily bound about to prevent it from tearing. The garment extended to the calf of the leg, and was ornamented around the hem by alternate pomegranates and bells. The pomegranates were made of linen (blue, purple and scarlet) while the bells were of gold. The garment was sleeveless, with long slits in the sides for the arms. This vestment represented Divine truth in an internal form, and was intermediate between the ephod and the under tunic or coat.12 It was said to be the "work of a weaver," by which was represented, truth from a celestial origin.13 The pomegranates around the border represented the most ultimate things of the understanding, called "scientifics."14 The bells of gold represented external things of doctrine and worship; and the fact that these were placed alternately between the pomegranates represented that they must be according to the scientifics of the church.15
Beneath the robe of blue was worn a white linen coat or undergarment, provided with sleeves. It is called in the Writings a "checkered" tunic, and is interpreted by Dr. Iungerich as being of lace or open work through which the flesh might appear.1" This also was seamless and may be compared to the undergarment worn by the Lord at the time of His crucifixion, for which the soldiers cast lots. It is said to represent Divine truth proceeding from the Divine celestial.17
Under the tunic were to be worn the white linen breeches, extending from the loins to the thighs. They are said to represent the external of conjugial love.18
The mitre was a turban made of a long strip of white linen which was wound closely about the head. On top of this and over the forehead, was worn a plate of gold engraved with the words: "HOLINESS TO THE LORD." At either end of this gold plate were narrow slits through which was passed a ribbon of blue. This was bound about the head that the plate of gold might thus be fastened upon the mitre. The mitre is said to represent intelligence and wisdom,19 while the plate of gold represents enlightenment from the love of Divine good.20 The words "HOLINESS TO THE LORD" engraved upon it represent the Divine Human in continual remembrance,21 and the ribbon of blue by which it was bound to the mitre represents the influx of the truth of celestial love.22
All these garments were worn by the high priest in the ordinary execution of his offices outside the veil, but they were divided into two general classes called "garments for glory and for beauty."28 The garments for glory included the linen breeches, the checkered tunic, the mitre, and the girdle; while those for beauty were the outer garments, the robe of blue, the ephod, the epaulets, and the breastplate. These latter were laid aside by the high priest when on the day of atonement he entered within the veil.24
When he entered the holy of holies, the high priest wore garments similar to those worn by the other priests. The only difference was that the mitre worn by the priests was not adorned with a plate of gold, and that it was called a "bonnet." So many details are involved in the representation of the garments of Aaron that we cannot explain them here. The student wishing to explore them more deeply is referred to the Arcana Coelestia where they are considered at length. Dr. Iungerich draws an interesting comparison between the garments of the high priest and the various parts of the tabernacle. It is obvious that they must be closely related. He also points out that in the Arcana Coelestia the undergarments are given the higher signification, and the outer ones the lower, while in the Word Explained the order is reversed. There is, however no contradiction here. Both Moses and Aaron had a double representation. On the one hand they represented the Lord, and on the other they represented the Jewish people. When they represented the Lord the inmost garment would have the highest signification, and the outmost garment would have the lowest; but when they represented the people this order would be reversed. A few words should be added to explain the flashing of lights from the stones of the breastplate, and the part they played in communicating answers from Jehovah. This was a spiritual phenomenon. There was no light in the holy place except that which came from the lampstand. This could not have been reflected by the precious stones because when the high priest was burning incense at the altar before the veil, the lampstand was behind him and the breastplate was in shadow. The flashes of light were perceptions of truth which, in the spiritual world are seen as light. Nor did Aaron understand the meaning of the lights, without at the same time hearing a voice that spoke the Divine message.23 There have been many attempts by scholars to explain the meaning of the "Urim and Thummim" but no purely natural explanation has proved satisfactory. There must have been communication with the spiritual world, as in the visions of the prophets. They also saw lights, and heard voices. Is there not something similar involved in the experience of every one who is given flashes of insight while reading the Word?