We are going to discuss the priestly garments and get some insight into what they symbolize. You can go to several websites to see what these garments looked like. The first one is The Temple Institute and the other is Jerusalem Temple Study. Both of these sites have pictures that will let you see what these garments looked like. Another source where you can read about these things is the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides. Go to the section called Klei Ha Mikdash, Chapter 8.
There were four garments of a priest. They were the leggings, the tunic, the sash and the turban. These were of linen, except the sash was wool and linen. The word for “linen” is the Hebrew word “Sheish” and it also is the word for “six.” This is because it is made with 6-ply threads. Why is this important in the garments of the high priests and priests? Because six is the number of man. The Hebrew letter “six” is called a “vav” and it looks like a stick figure of a man. Man was also created on the sixth day of creation. The garments of kohanim are “joined” by these six threads. The name “Levi”, which is where the priests descend from, means “to join” or “twist.” You can see this concept in the name “Lev’yi’tan” or “Leviathan” which means the “twisted serpent” (Isa 27.1).
The job of the priests was to “join” man to God. The word translated “sacrifice” is the word “korban” but it does not mean “sacrifice” but to “draw near.” Why is it important to have a 6-ply thread in the garment of the kohanim? It is because man is being joined to God in a holy garment.
The high priest had the four garments of the priest, but had four more called the Golden Vestments. They were the ephod (Exo 28.30), the breastplate (Exo 28.30), a blue robe (Exo 28.35) and the crown with the name of the Lord on it (over his forehead-Exo 28.38)). He had linen two tunics, one for the morning and one for the afternoon service on Yom Kippur. He can only wear this garment one time in his life, so these are not used again. If he does this for 40 years, there will have to be 80 garments made for him and this is very expensive. When he is wearing this garment into the Holy of Holies (Kodesh Ha Kodeshim) he is representing Israel and he is “face to face” with the Lord. When he is in the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim, he is at the highest level of kedushah. This garment has to be taken off and never used again because it cannot go backward in kedushah.
In the tractate of the Mishnah called “Yoma” it says that the high priest was sequestered for one week prior to Yom Kippur. He is drilled on every aspect of the service he is about to perform and he needs to know everything in detail. He will do all the services that day, including the Tamid and Ketoret services, so he had to get it right. There is a myth that is still being taught about the high priest and Yom Kippur, and we have heard this on television on numerous occasions. This myth is about a rope that is tied around the waist of the high priest when he goes into the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim. If people don’t hear the tinkling bells at the bottom of the blue tunic (Exo 28.31-35), then they think something has happened to him. They then can drag him out of the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim by the rope. First of all, no high priest ever died in the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim. Second of all, the high priest never wore the high priestly garments into the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim. He wore his priestly linen garments. Third, nobody was near him to hear the tinkling bells, even if he wore them in there. Fourth, the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim was separated from the Kodesh by two curtains, with a corridor between them. It would have been very hard to pull him out of there. Fifth, if he wore a rope, an unauthorized garment, he would have been killed by the Lord anyway for misrepresenting the tavnit and the kedushah that the Lord has set.
The garments of the priests never left the Temple because of this kedushah. These garments needed to be for “honor and for beauty” (Exo 28.2). They needed to fit or his service was invalid. They needed to be attractive, and not torn. The priestly garments could be re-used if not damaged, otherwise they were replaced. As a result, new garments were constantly being made. The garments of the high priest are “left” in the place he takes them off (Lev 16.23). The garments of the priests, like the leggings and the sash, are used for wicks for the great lights at Sukkot called the “Light of the World.” These garments were called “swaddling clothes.” This alludes to the fact that Yeshua was born at Sukkot, and the “light of the world” was wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2.12). The tunics were used to make wicks for the Menorah, which had to stay lit at all times. Fresh oil and wicks had to be replaced in the morning and the afternoon in order to keep them lit.
The Temple Institute has made the garments for the high priest and the priests, and you can touch them now. However, once they are consecrated to God for use in the Temple, only the priests can touch them (Ezek 44.19). The price for these garments came out of the communal fund given to the Temple treasury.
In the Temple, there were 96 “lockers” or “niches” to place your clothes in. There were four watches every day. The name of each watch was on these lockers. The priestly clothes were put on, and the common clothes were taken off. All the leggings are in one locker, sashes in another, turbans in another and the tunics in another. There is a picture of these “lockers” at the Temple Institute site. The high priest would have the Golden Vestments in his chamber at night when he left the Temple. This is because of the kedushah on them. The high priestly garments and the garments of the priests were never worn outside of the Temple. There have been many movies that show this happening, but that is because of a lack of information.
It is permitted to derive benefit from the priestly garments, but this does not mean you can sell them. However, when they are not serving with their mishmar (course) on the day of their service (not selected by lot), they will stand in the azarah of the priests with their garments, except for the sash, at the duchan. When putting on the garments, they rose to a higher level of kedusah. It was seen as a privilege, they were a “different” or “new man” which was to his benefit. The inner courts were seen as a return to Eden. The garments represent man before the fall, and the glorified man in the Olam Haba. Now, the sash is “shaatnetz” and what is that? It is a mixture of wool and linen. The Temple is the throne of God (Jer 17.12-13). The Garden of Eden was seen as the inner courtyard and “east” of his throne (Gen 2.8). In the Garden of Eden, there were less restrictions. In the Temple, when a priest put on the garments, it showed purity and man before the fall. When a priest is actually serving before the Lord, he can mix wool and linen because he has a higher level of kedusah and it was allowed by God. The garments of the high priest and the ordinary priest contained wool. When he isn’t serving, he cannot mix wool and linen, and that is why he doesn’t wear the linen sash when not serving or picked by lot in the day of his service, but he can wear the other garments in the Azarah. This is according to the commandment in Deut 22.11.
The materials used to create the garments of the priests are according to the following. Gold that is beaten into sheets, and then cut into threads. Sheish is the twisted linen with a six-ply weave. Techelet wool is a certain shade of blue from a sea creature called “haalazon” that comes around every 70 years in the Mediterranean Sea. Argamon wool is purple and this come from the techelet when it is exposed to light. The last is called Tola Shanni, which is scarlet wool. This comes from a worm that attaches itself to a tree and when it dies after giving birth to its young, residue is collected to make this color. This color is used on Yom Kippur, and a scarlet cloth turned white in a miracle after the Azazel goat was killed, for instance.
Let’s talk about the wood used in the Temple very briefly. We had mentioned that priests with a defect could inspect wood in the Temple, and were not exempt from any type of priestly service. But, they could not serve in the Azarah with the kornanot and the altar, etc. The wood for the Temple was donated (Neh 10.34) at fixed times annually by family. The posterity of David, the tribe of Judah, brought wood on Tammuz 20. That means that Yeshua’s family did this. There is a list in the John Gill Commentary on Neh 10.34 about this. This was “holy day” for those bringing the wood and the families were honored. Wood was very important because the fires on the altar had to keep burning (Lev 6.9).
What kind of wood was used and not used (see Tamid 2.3 in the Mishnah)? You could not use olive wood, grapevines or pine because it sends up sparks and black smoke. This is going to be a problem for the upcoming Temple because Israel’s tree’s were stripped by the Romans. The ones being planted now are conifers and they can’t be used. A system like before will need to be set-up.
Permitted tree’s include the fig, walnut and all kinds of oleaster trees. Oleaster is also called a “wild olive” but it is not really an olive tree. However, it can be grafted into a cultivated olive tree. You can’t eat the fruit of the oleaster tree, and it is only good for burning. Paul will use this imagery in Rom 11.16-21 in what is called his “Olive Tree Theology.” What is being communicated is that in order to keep the fires of the altar burning and the Temple functioning correctly, you need the “wild olive” tree.