There is a term that we need to look at that is found throughout the Tanak and that term is “Before the Tent of Meeting” (Ohel Moed). Many actions and details will relate to this term and it relates to the Holy Place of the Mishkan, and later the Temple. Now, what constitutes being “before the tent of meeting?” One of the concepts that we need to know is the Torah is going to be about “boundaries” and “declarations.” That is an important concept to remember. In addition, there is going to be a great difference between Hebrew thought and Greek/western thought.
For example, the Sabbath is to be set apart from the rest of the week. There is a boundary, and there is a boundary on what you may or may not do on that day. There is a boundary between what food can be eaten and what cannot be eaten. There are boundaries in the Temple as to where one can go and not go. The Torah commands are boundaries. So, let’s get back to the term “before the tent of meeting” and what this means. The tent of meeting is “ohel (tent) moed (meeting/appointment)” in Hebrew. This term will pass from the Mishkan to the future Temples that followed. The inner courtyard is defined as being “before the ohel moed.” However, some say that if you are “behind” the Mishkan or Temple, it still meets the requirement of being before the ohel moed.
In Exo 27.21 it says that the high priest or his sons can trim the Menorah. The High Priest can do it in any service he chooses. If he isn’t going to do it, a kohen (priest) is designated by lot to do it. There will be one exception to this, only the High Priest will officiate at the Yom Kippur service and he is required to do all of it. He will start all of the rituals, but another priest can finish them as the High Priest moves to do another part of the ritual service. This is called a “chukat olam” (everlasting statute) throughout the generations of the sons of Israel. So what is a “chukat?” Let’s look at some definitions that one must memorize in order to understand what is being communicated in the Scriptures. The word “Torah” means instruction, guidance and teaching. “Mitzvot” means commandments, or good works, that are fulfilled by a specific act. “Chukim” (like the above “chukat”) means statutes that can’t be explained, like the clean and unclean animals, or tevilah (immersion), that are hard to explain but you do them anyway. “Mishpatim” means ordinances and decrees. “Edut” means testimonies, witness and evidences (like prophecy). These terms must be understood.
Exo 28.1-2 begins to talk about the garments of the priests, and we have gone over them in our Temple 101 and 201 series, but we are going to discuss them again with more information. Garments with a kedusha will be made for Aaron, for “glory and for beauty.” So, let’s talk about kedusha. It is defined as the designation or the setting apart of something for the service of God. This done by formal and legal restrictions and limitations. The kedusha of time is marked by limitations an man’s activities concerning work and construction.
The position of high priest has a kedusha or sanctification. No individual in the entire Tanak is ever called “holy.” Aaron is never called holy. However, the office of high priest is called holy because it has a kedusha on it, but not the individual fulfilling that office. The garments and the vessels, once they are consecrated to God, has a kedusha. We have many misconceptions about the concept of “kedusha” (holy). We confuse the word holy with righteous. How many times have we heard that a Bible or a building is holy? That is a misuse of the word. We aren’t trying to put the Bible or a building down, but we need to understand what kedusha means. We need to use biblical terminology with correct meanings. Some will point to 2 Kings 4.9, where it says that a woman perceived that Elisha was a “holy man from God” in the KJV translation. But, in Hebrew it reads, “a man from the holy God” (“ish elohim kadosh”). Also, keep in mind, she would be referring to the office of prophet that Elisha was filling, not Elisha himself. The office of prophet had a kedusha on it, like the high priest, the priests, the king, and others had a kedusha, but at different levels.
The garments had a kedusha and when the priest puts on these garments he will be in a state of kedusha (Exo 28.3). That is why he must take the garments off in a consecrated area (Ezek 44.19). They cannot wear these garments outside of the areas with that level of kedusha. In other words, he can’t wear them in the streets, or even in parts of the Temple that have a lower kedusha.
Before these garments are set apart they do not have a kedusha. People have touched the garments of the coming high priest and the kohanim before they have been sanctified. But once they are, nobody but the kohanim can touch them and they are to remain in the proper sanctified areas because of kedusha. There comes a point when there is a boundary and a declaration. Now, let’s look at Exo 28.1-2 again.
These verses tell us that these garments will be made for “glory (kivod) and beauty (tiferet).” The Temple or Mishkan is about many things and there are objectives and accomplishments that happen within the Mishkan and Temple, but there are two primary aspects. We need to see the Temple as a place where people can come to worship God. That is an important aspect of the Mishkan/Temple. However, there is a difference in the Mishkan and the Temple, but the worship was designed by God and given to the people as a “tavnit” or blueprint.
So, while we have the Mishkan and Temple as a place to worship God, it is also a place for God to show man “how” to worship. The high priest is a picture of the “perfect man.” Adam was created in the image of God, so his garments are “L’kivod (for glory) ul tiferet (and beauty)” so that we can see man in this glory and beauty as he was created to be. Exo 28.3 says that his garments were to be made by people with a “ruach chachmah” (spirit of wisdom) from God, who are “chach’may lev” (wise in heart). There are many people who are followers but their hearts aren’t in it. They are double-minded and are unstable in all their ways (James 1.8). What it is referring to here in 28.3 are those whose face is turned towards God totally.
Exo 28.4-39 tells us what garments they are to make for the high priest. There will be eight garments in all (eight = new beginning). When we talk about the Mishkan or Temple, numbers will always be coming up and involved. We want to pay attention to those numbers because the Lord does not include them for no reason. God doesn’t waste words. If he is giving us a number it is for a reason. We may understand what it means or not, but it is still important.
Paul will allude to these garments in Eph 6.10-17. A priest was seen as engaging in spiritual warfare (Num 4.3). The word for service there is “tzava” and it means warfare (see also Psa 93.1; Isa 63.1-2). Each of the following will make one “thread” for the high priest garments. There will be one “strand” of zahav (gold) joined to six strands of techelet (blue) wool, six strands of argamon (purple) wool, six strands of tolat shanni (scarlet) wool, and six strands of shesh (linen) wool. That makes a strand of seven when you add one strand to each one, and with the gold it is the total of 28 strands to make one thread (4 x 7 = 28). In the paroket (veil) it was 24 (4 x 6).
Each color had six threads, plus a gold one. Six is the number of man (Hebrew letter “Vav”) and man was made in the image of God. The gold is added to the six, making it complete, or seven in total, to the garments of the high priest. Man (6) in incomplete without God (gold).
They were to take two onyx stones (shoham) and engraved on them will be the names of the sons of Israel. There will be six on one stone and six on the other, according to their birth order. These stones were on the shoulder. The stones on the breastplate will also be according to the birth order (Reuben to Benjamin). This engraving speaks of the eternal security of the believer, on the shoulder of the Lord. The shoulder speaks of strength and security. Israel is “borne” (Hebrew “nasa”= “to lift up”) on the shoulders of the Messiah (Isa 9.6). These stones are called the “Avnay Zikron” or “Stones of Remembrance.”
In Part 31, we will pick up here with the Breastplate of Judgment (“Choshen Mishpat”).