Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 33

The tzitz is on the forehead of the high priest, so he shall “bear (“nasa” meaning “to lift, forgive”) the iniquity” of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrated in regard to all the holy gifts and it shall always be on his forehead (when he officiates). This is so that they may be accepted before the Lord. In other words, he “lifts their loads” and cares for these things. It was his responsibility to make sure they were ritually acceptable.

In the “The Pentateuch and Haftorahs” by Rabbi Joseph Hertz, on p. 343, it says about Exo 28.38, “Aaron shall bear….The meaning is probably this: What is presented to God must be without blemish, and the mode of presentation must be in agreement with the prescribed rites. Should there, however, be any imperfection in the sacrifice, or any error in the manner of offering, the High Priest assumes responsibility. He is the custodian of the Sanctuary; and, by virtue of his sacred office, exemplified by the gold plate on his forehead, he can secure Divine acceptance of the offerings brought to the altar of God.” They were also to make a tunic (Bitonet) of linen, with a sash (avnet), the work of a weaver (ma’aseh rokem). It was wool and of a bright color.

Exo 28.40-43 tells us about the priestly garments. They made tunics, sashes, headgear and linen breeches. These four articles of clothing was worn by all the priests, even the high priest. Again, from the book “The Tabernacle of Israel” by James Strong (writer of Strong’s Concordance), on p. 97-100, these garments are described, and we quote, “For all priests, however , a peculiar costume of “uniform” was imperatively ordered, while they were officially serving at the Sanctuary, although, of course, on other occasions and elsewhere they wore the ordinary dress of plain citizens. It is described in Exo 28.40-43 and 29.8-9, as consisting substantially of four articles, in which we may easily recognize the most essential of the above Oriental elements of apparel, with one additional note. This appears to be all that the ordinary priests were to wear, while the High Priest was to have the same with certain peculiarities and additions. In the case of common priests it served as a distinction from laical apparel and also from the Levitical, by being of a more ornamental style (A.V. lit. “for glory and for beauty,” the latter word being the same which we have above translated “ornament,” but here enhanced by a stronger term prefixed as an adjective, i.e., “an honorary ornament” or official badge).”

“THE DRAWERS OR TROUSERS…First was a pair of linen drawers worn for the sake of decency (as is expressly stated). These, we understand, were not in the Occidental form of trousers, but the outer covering for a modern Oriental dragoman or other elegant person, consisting merely of a single piece of linen cloth, but thin and of natural color. In the case of ordinary priests, they were about a yard wide and two yards long, doubled transversely into a square bag, stitched together at one side and at the bottom. With the selvedge top open so as to be drawn together by a cord around the waist, and a hole left in each bottom corner for the legs, they could be gathered by a similar cord at the upper part of the calf like a garter. It is loose and cool, and though somewhat clumsy (as the width hangs in folds between the legs, and stretches out in walking), yet not ungraceful, presenting a decent medium between frock skirts and pantaloons. Common people, who otherwise go entirely naked while at work in the open fields, especially in the sultry climate of Egypt, wear, in lieu of this, a simple loin cloth.”

“THE TUNIC…Next came the tunic either of unbleached linen of of wool, according to weather (plain for the ordinary priest), not long, for it was no doubt tucked into the drawers, like a shirt, and with sleeves, although none are alluded to in the Scriptures, and the statements of Josephus and the Rabbins are too late for this period, being evidently the common Oriental undress of the present day as above.”

“THE SASH…At the middle, where theses two articles met, and covering their union, was the sash consisting of a broad band of woolen cloth usually of bright color. In the case of an ordinary priest, to be different it is most likely at least two yards long, wound in the a girdle about the waist, and tied together in front, the ends hanging down like tassels. The high priest’s sash was quite different.”

“THE CAP…Surmounting the figure, and completing the sacerdotal apparel, was the cap (the material again not prescribed), for which a different term is employed respecting ordinary priests from that used in the case of the high priest. In the absence of all distinctive details, we are left to the mere etymological force of the word, aided some what by the customs of ancient and modern Orientals. There fore, we hazard the conjecture that the common priestly head covering was simply a skull cap, which is now worn by Syrian Mohammedans night and day (being frequently changed, of course), as they generally shave the head. The Hebrews, however, appear to have kept their full hair, and to have dispensed any headdress in ordinary avocations. We presume, however, that when greatly exposed out of doors, they wore something corresponding to the Beduin kefiyeh for men, and the veil for women. Both of these are nothing but a square piece of cloth cast over the head and hanging down over the shoulders, the men usually fancy gay colors, and holding theirs on by a cord around the head. If we are correct, the priestly cap was made to fit the head, and of this we shall find some confirmation when we come to consider the high priest headdress.”

There are three types of priestly garments. We have the garments of the High Priest called the Golden Garments. Then we have the garments of the ordinary priest (trousers, tunic, sash and cap), and then we have the white garments of the high priest. The sash alone was made of embroidered with techelet (blue wool), argamon (purple wool), tolat shanni (scarlet wool) and shesh linen.

So, we have a mixture of wool and linen which is prohibited by the Torah. We will talk about that later. The High Priest had four garments of the ordinary priest, plus four golden garments (blue tunic, ephod, breastplate and the headpiece of gold). The turban was the same as an ordinary priest, with the difference of the the high priest turban was more “coiled” than that of the ordinary priest according to Strong. Maimonides says they were the same in the Mishneh Torah (Repetition of the Torah) which he wrote expounding on the Torah.

The sash of the High Priest when he goes into the Holy of Holies is not wool and linen, but only linen. He also had two other tunics for Yom Kippur, one was worn in the morning and the other in the evening. When the leggings and sashes of the priests became soiled, they were used as wicks for the Menorah and the four lights at Sukkot. New ones were used from that point.

When the garments of the High Priest were soiled, they were buried. The white garment of the high priest on Yom Kippur were not worn again. They were buried where he took them off (Lev 16.23). He could not “benefit” from them. This called “meilah” which means “deriving benefit from something consecrated to the Temple.” The worn out or soiled leggings of ordinary priests were used as wicks for the lights at Sukkot, and the sashes were used as wicks for the Menorah. They could make an unbelievable amount of garments for the priests.

There will be 96 lockers in the Temple to place the priestly clothes. Four lockers for each course (Mishmar) with the name of the course on the lockers. These four lockers were for the four sets of garments they were to wear. In Tamid 1.1 of the Mishnah it says, “The priests kept watch at three places in the Temple: at the Chamber of Avtinas, at the Chamber of the Flame, and at the Chamber of the Hearth. The Chamber of Avtinas and the Chamber of the Flame were on the upper story and there the young men (from the priests) kept watch. The Chamber of the Hearth was vaulted; it was a large chamber and around it ran a raised stone pavement; and there the eldest of the father;s house used to sleep with the keys to the Temple Court in their hand. The young priests had each his mattress on the ground. They did not sleep in the sacred garments but stripped them off, folded them up and put them under their heads and dressed themselves in their own clothes. If one of them suffered a pollution he would go out and go along the passage that leads below the Temple building, where lamps were burning here and there, until he reached the Chamber of Immersion. There was a fire there and a privy, and this was its seemly use: if he found it locked he knew that someone was there; if open he knew that no one was there. He went down and immersed himself, came up and dried himself, and warmed himself before the fire. He returned and lay down beside his brethren the priests until the gates were opened, when he went out and left the Temple.” The priests would take their priestly garments off, place them under other clothing, and then use them as pillows when they slept.

In Part 34 we will pick up here.

Posted in All Teachings, Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Feasts of the Lord, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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