The Breastplate

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
"And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it; of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen, shalt thou make it. " Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof. " And thou shalt set in it set- tings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be a Sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row. " And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. "And the third row a Ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. " And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their in- closings. "And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes. " And thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen work of pure gold. " And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate. " And thou shalt put the two wreathen chains of gold in the two rings which are on the ends of the breastplate. " And the other two ends of the two wreathen chains thou shalt fasten in the two ouches, and put them on the shoulder- pieces of the ephod before it. "And thou shalt make two rings of gold, and thou shalt put them upon the two ends of the breastplate in the border thereof, which is in the side of the ephod inward. "And two other rings of gold thou shalt make, and shalt put them on the two• sides of the ephod underneath, toward the forepart thereof, over against the other coupling thereof, above the curious girdle of the ephod. " And they shall bind the breastplate by the rings thereof unto the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it may be above the curious girdle of the ephod, and that the breastplate be not loosed from the ephod. " And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually." -Ex. 28:15-2915And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it; of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen, shalt thou make it. 16Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof. 17And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row. 18And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. 19And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. 20And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings. 21And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes. 22And thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen work of pure gold. 23And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate. 24And thou shalt put the two wreathen chains of gold in the two rings which are on the ends of the breastplate. 25And the other two ends of the two wreathen chains thou shalt fasten in the two ouches, and put them on the shoulderpieces of the ephod before it. 26And thou shalt make two rings of gold, and thou shalt put them upon the two ends of the breastplate in the border thereof, which is in the side of the ephod inward. 27And two other rings of gold thou shalt make, and shalt put them on the two sides of the ephod underneath, toward the forepart thereof, over against the other coupling thereof, above the curious girdle of the ephod. 28And they shall bind the breastplate by the rings thereof unto the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it may be above the curious girdle of the ephod, and that the breastplate be not loosed from the ephod. 29And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually. (Exodus 28:15‑29)
"And he made the breastplate of cunning work, like the work of the ephod; of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen. " It was foursquare; they made the breastplate double: a span was the length thereof, and a span the breadth thereof, being doubled. " And they set in it four rows of stones: the first row was a Sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this was the first row. "And the second row, an Emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. " And the third row, a Ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. "And the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper: they were enclosed in ouches-of gold in their in closings. " And the stones were according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, every one with his name, according to the twelve tribes. " And they made upon the breastplate chains at the ends, of wreathen work of pure gold. " And they made two ouches of gold, and two gold rings; and put the two rings in the two ends of the breastplate. " And they put the two wreathen chains of gold in the two rings on the ends of the breastplate. " And the two ends of the two wreathen chains they fastened in the two ouches, and put them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, before it. " And they made two rings of gold, and put them on the two ends of the breastplate, upon the border of it, which was on the side of the ephod inward. " And they made two other golden rings, and put them on the two sides of the ephod underneath, toward the forepart of it, over against the other coupling thereof, above the curious girdle of the ephod. "And they did bind the breast-plate by his rings unto the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it might be above the curious girdle of the ephod, and that the breastplate might not be loosed from the ephod: as the Lord commanded Moses."-Ex. 39:8-218And he made the breastplate of cunning work, like the work of the ephod; of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen. 9It was foursquare; they made the breastplate double: a span was the length thereof, and a span the breadth thereof, being doubled. 10And they set in it four rows of stones: the first row was a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this was the first row. 11And the second row, an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. 12And the third row, a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. 13And the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper: they were inclosed in ouches of gold in their inclosings. 14And the stones were according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, every one with his name, according to the twelve tribes. 15And they made upon the breastplate chains at the ends, of wreathen work of pure gold. 16And they made two ouches of gold, and two gold rings; and put the two rings in the two ends of the breastplate. 17And they put the two wreathen chains of gold in the two rings on the ends of the breastplate. 18And the two ends of the two wreathen chains they fastened in the two ouches, and put them on the shoulderpieces of the ephod, before it. 19And they made two rings of gold, and put them on the two ends of the breastplate, upon the border of it, which was on the side of the ephod inward. 20And they made two other golden rings, and put them on the two sides of the ephod underneath, toward the forepart of it, over against the other coupling thereof, above the curious girdle of the ephod. 21And they did bind the breastplate by his rings unto the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it might be above the curious girdle of the ephod, and that the breastplate might not be loosed from the ephod; as the Lord commanded Moses. (Exodus 39:8‑21).
THE word translated " breastplate" is supposed by Gesenius to mean " ornament." It is solely used to express this part of the high priest's dress, and occurs nowhere else in Scripture. The Septuagint translates it by the Greek word logeion, or oracle. It was made of the same materials as the ephod; was doubled, so as to form a kind of bag, and had four rows of precious stones set in it, three in each row; each stone engraved with the name of one of the children of Israel.
Into this breastplate, so doubled, were put " the Urim and the Thummim." Two rings of gold were placed inwards, at the bottom of the breastplate: and two golden rings were attached to the ephod, just above the curious belt: so that the breastplate was bound to the ephod by a lace of blue, coupling these rings. Two wreathen chains of gold were fastened to the ouches, in which the onyx-stones were set; and were also fastened, at their other ends, to two rings at the top of the breastplate. Thus, the ephod, onyx-stones, and breastplate, were all linked together in one.
It may here be observed, that the translation " at the ends," (28:14, 22, and 39: 15,) should, according to Gesenius, be rendered " twisted work," like the twisting of a rope: and the passage will read thus: " Two chains of pure gold, twisted wreathen work shalt thou make them."
Let us now seek the interpretation of this portion of the high priest's dress. The ephod, with its shoulder-stones and breastplate, formed peculiarly the prophetic dress of the high priest. By means of it, he learned the counsel of God, and was able thus to declare what course the people should take, or what events were about to happen. Properly speaking, this should have been done before the ark and mercy-seat. Thus we find Saul, accompanied by Ahiah the Lord's priest in Shiloh wearing an ephod, commands the ark to be brought, that he may ascertain the meaning of the tumult among the Philistines. But, instead of waiting to receive any response from God, he binds Israel with a curse and enters into the battle. (1 Sam. 14:3,183And Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, I-chabod's brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord's priest in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone. (1 Samuel 14:3)
18And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel. (1 Samuel 14:18)
.) Abiathar, the only surviving priest of the line of Eli, fled to David with the ephod in his hand, having escaped the slaughter at Nob. David ascertained by this means, the purpose of the men of Keilah to deliver him up to Saul. (1 Sam. 23:66And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with an ephod in his hand. (1 Samuel 23:6).) Again, in the affair at Ziklag, David consulted the Lord through Abiathar and the ephod; and obtained a favorable answer. (1 Sam. 30:7, 87And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech's son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. 8And David inquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all. (1 Samuel 30:7‑8).) On a subsequent occasion, we read of David inquiring of the Lord, and obtaining answers, (2 Sam. 2:11And it came to pass after this, that David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the Lord said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron. (2 Samuel 2:1):) and although in this instance, the priest and ephod are not mentioned, yet judging from the previous instances, it is probable that the same mode of inquiry was adopted. In these cases, the ark was not with David; but only the priest and ephod.
Israel stood doubly represented by the high priest in the presence of God. On the brilliant stones that rested on his shoulders, their names were engraved according to their birth.
On the onyx on the left shoulder
On the onyx on the right shoulder
Gad
Reuben
Asher
Simeon
Issachar
Levi
Zebulun
Judah
Joseph
Dan
Benjamin
Naphtali
The stones on the breastplate however, were arranged in four rows of three; and the names were engraven on them, according to the tribes.
The first row
Carbuncle
Topaz
Sardius
Zebulun
Issachar
Judah
The second row
Diamond
Sapphire
Emerald
Gad
Simeon
Reuben
The third row
Amethyst
Agate
Ligure
Benjamin
Manasseh
Ephraim
The fourth row
Jasper
Onyx
Beryl
Naphtali
Asher
Dan
As the Hebrew language is written from right to left, the stones, with their inscribed names, would probably be arranged as here set forth. This is the order of the tribes, as they were arranged in their camp, and in the march.
Does not this twofold arrangement of Israel, according to birth, and according to tribes, point out to us the two aspects in which we stand as believers before God, presented in our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus? If looked at in the onyx-stones, there was no difference between one of the children of Israel and another. They were alike children of the same father, and each was presented in the same glory and beauty. No order of precedence was adopted: no conduct evinced by any, altered the arrangement. Reuben might prove unstable as water: and yet he was first in one of the stones. Benjamin and Joseph might be especial favorites: yet they were last. In point of fact, each of the two stones gave forth its glowing brilliancy equally to each of the six names inscribed thereon.
Thus it is with all the Israel of God. If viewed with reference to their birth of God, there can be no difference. One is as precious and glorious as another. The infinite cost of the blood of Christ has been paid alike for each and all. Each has indissoluble union with the risen Lord, in life and glory. Each has been loved with an everlasting love, and chosen from everlasting in Him. And the Lord, as the great High Priest, bears up each alike in the perfection of His own glory before God. The shepherd, when he had found the lost sheep, laid it on his shoulders, rejoicing, and bore it thus in safety to his home. The Great Shepherd of the sheep will not cease to bear on His shoulders the weakest of the flock, until He at last places it in the mansion of rest and joy, which He is gone to prepare. When the resurrection-morning comes every one of the redeemed will be like Christ, and will be manifested then in the same beauty and glory, in which now he is representatively upheld, on the shoulder of the great High Priest before God.
God has predestinated those whom He foreknew to be conformed to the image of His Son: and as seen in Christ-the First-born among many brethren-they are even now, not only justified, but glorified. A whole family, whether in heaven or on earth, yet named of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, children and therefore heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.
But the children of Israel were represented in an entirely different order, and after a different manner, on the breastplate of the high priest. Each there had his own peculiar precious stone, and his own peculiar place. Judah was the head of the first row: and Dan took the lead in the last. The gorgeous color of the ruby shone out from one: the soft refreshing green of the emerald was visible in another: the brilliant light of the diamond flashed out from a third: and the heavenly azure of the sapphire was displayed in a fourth. Thus, each had his own peculiar glory and beauty: each differed from, without rivaling the other: and each filled his appointed place in the order of God. There was unity, combined with diversity. God is able to create variety, without that variety involving inferiority And so it is with the individuals that compose the Church of God. Each reflects Christ: and yet Christ is seen in each, with a peculiar beauty and glory, into which another does not intrude. Each has his place also in the body: a responsibility to exhibit Christ in that very place, which belongs to himself and not to another; for which he alone is fitted, and without which the symmetry of the body would not be complete, and its beauty would be defective. Moreover, the individual glory of the saint above will probably have a dose connection with the place which he has occupied in the body below; a connection, which would inevitably be broken, were it not for the unwearied love and faithfulness of the great High Priest.
With respect to the precious stones but little is known. There have been many labored attempts made by learned men, to discover the real names of these gems; but with the exception of four or five, most biblical critics acknowledge the subject to be involved in obscurity.