The Golden Plate

Exodus 28:36‑38; Exodus 39:30,35  •  20 min. read  •  grade level: 8
"And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the miter; upon the forefront of the miter it shall be. And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord."-Exod, 28:36-38
"And they made the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote upon it a writing, like to the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And they tied unto it a lace of blue, to fasten it on high upon the miter; as the Lord commanded Moses."-Ex. 39:30, 3530And they made the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote upon it a writing, like to the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. (Exodus 39:30)
35The ark of the testimony, and the staves thereof, and the mercy seat, (Exodus 39:35)
This golden plate is described before the miter, (see chap. xxviii. 39) the object of the miter being, to enable the high priest to wear this plate of gold before the Lord.
May not this word have been chosen to direct our thoughts to the contrast between the beautiful, though fading flower of the field, to which man in his glory is likened, and the imperishable glory of the flower of gold, borne on the forehead of the high priest, with its holy inscription? Deeply engraved on this golden plate, like the engravings of a signet, was the writing, HOLINESS TO JEHOVAH. One short expressive sentence, indelibly fixed upon the forehead of the high priest, without which he could not appear in the presence of the Lord, on behalf of Israel.
What a volume of truth does this little sentence contain! How expressive of Him, who alone has title to bear it, the true Priest! A life of holy separation to God, ending in the Nazarite separation of the cross, made manifest the fitness of God's blessed Son, to be the priest forever. God has exalted Him, because of His deep and holy self-humiliation, in first emptying Himself, taking upon Himself the form of a servant, and in being made in the likeness of men; next, in humbling Himself, and becoming obedient unto death; and lastly, to such a death, even the death of the cross:-a wondrous threefold humiliation. Throughout this lowly course, Holiness to Jehovah was the ruling purpose of His mind.
All the house of Israel are impudent (margin, stiff of forehead.) and hard-hearted."-Isa. 48:4,4Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass; (Isaiah 48:4) " I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck as an iron sinew, and thy brow brass." Stern resolution, also, in a good cause, is expressed by the forehead.-Ezek. 3:88Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. (Ezekiel 3:8). 9, " I have made thy forehead strong against their foreheads As an adament, harder than flint, have I made thy forehead."-Isa. 1. 7, " The Lord Jehovah will help me: therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed."
The worst species of leprosy, as described in Lev 13:42, 44,42And if there be in the bald head, or bald forehead, a white reddish sore; it is a leprosy sprung up in his bald head, or his bald forehead. (Leviticus 13:42)
44He is a leprous man, he is unclean: the priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean; his plague is in his head. (Leviticus 13:44)
was when that fearful plague made its appearance in the forehead. " He is a leprous man; he is unclean; the priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean; the plague is in his head." The self-will of our evil hearts exhibits itself in two ways; in the indulgence of the lusts of the flesh; and in the insubjection of the mind and reason to the word of God. Leprosy of the forehead is of the latter character, of which we perceive abundant traces at the present day. Men seem to think that their minds, as well as their lips, are their own: " Who is Lord over us? " Psa. 12:44Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us? (Psalm 12:4). And thus, speculations of every kind are indulged at the expense of the word of God, though under the pretense of maintaining, defending, or explaining it. And the children of God themselves give heed to these things, and read, admire, and praise them. Death is openly declared to have existed prior to the fall of man. This world is said to be a creation out of pre-existent creations: and men have even gone so far as to write about a pre-adamite man The deluge also, is openly declared to have been so slight and partial, that no traces of it remain. The marvel is, that God's saints should for a moment, allow their minds to indulge in these unhallowed triflings with His truth.
But the Word of God is powerless against these speculations. What with the oppositions of science falsely so called, on the one hand, and superstitious indulgence of human traditions and fancies on the other; truth is well nigh fallen in the street. " Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey," (margin: is accounted mad.) Isa. 59:14,1514And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. 15Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. (Isaiah 59:14‑15). Yes, the time is come, when those who will cleave to the Bible, and nothing else, must be content to take the place of fools in the estimation of men around them; or to be accounted mad, as the prophet says; and to wait for the coming of the Lord, when the secrets of all hearts will be revealed, when " the wisdom of this world, and of the princes of this world, will come to naught." " Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" " The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day."
One remarkable case of leprosy in the forehead, is recorded in 2 Chron. 26. Uzziah, king of Judah, sought the Lord and prospered, as long as he was under the instruction of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God. He was a man also of simple tastes, loving husbandry; of much power and skill in invention; and a philanthropist. He fortified Jerusalem; built towers in the desert; digged many wells. Moreover, he had a powerful army, and his name spread abroad: for he was marvelously helped till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction. He showed his self-will in transgressing against the word of God: for he went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. He thus arrogated to himself the place of priesthood, though God had not called him. The high priest, Azariah, with a company of priests of the Lord, valiant men, withstood the king, and said: " It appertaineth not to thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests, the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary, for thou hast trespassed: neither shall it be for thine honor from the Lord God. Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, from beside the incense-altar. And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him; and behold, he was leprous in his forehead; and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself basted in go out, because the Lord had smitten him. And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, a leper for he was cut off from the house of the Lord."
This history of God's sudden judgment upon the king stands out remarkably in the midst of the history of the kings of Judah; a solemn warning against all self-willed perversions of the truth of God. Idolatries had been practiced; and yet those kings who sanctioned or led the way in such evil courses, had not been smitten. But here was a man who had more light and truth, and whom God had greatly prospered. The very mercies and blessings he had received from the Lord, raised his pride; and his heart was lifted up to his destruction, so that he committed a fearful religious error; something of the same character as that which had been manifested before in Korah.
God had appointed an ordered priesthood of His own selection: and what right had any one, however exalted, to interfere with that order, or to usurp its holy offices?
God has also His own order of priesthood at this time, of which the Lord Jesus, the great High Priest, is the head. The priesthood is a family loved of Christ; washed from their sins by Him in His own blood; anointed with the Holy Spirit; and separated off to God from the world, in the power of eternal life, in resurrection; a risen company, quickened together with Christ, raised up together with Him; including all true believers. How the leprosy of arrogant self-will and pride, shows itself in those who usurp the place of nearness to God as His priests, when they have not been washed from their sins, and have not the gift of the Holy Ghost bestowed upon them! Surely this is a leprosy of the very worst character; a leprosy of the forehead; a grievous sin in the sight of God, because it is a consecration of the very filthiness of human self-will; an attempt to make pride and assumption a holy thing; a pretense of the flesh, as if God could be deceived.
We are naturally prone to weigh and measure sins by certain conventional standards. Immoral practices of the flesh are openly stigmatized: natural conscience can appreciate their evil. On the ether hand, self-indulgence of the mind is little, if at all, condemned. Men account those comparatively blameless who take upon themselves the conducting of all kinds of religious observances towards God, although they be, in His sight, still dead in trespasses and sins.
" Satan is transformed into an angel of light;" and no marvel therefore, that his devices take the form of religious devotedness, or of approving the Scriptures, all the time that he is insidiously attempting to undermine them.
May we be preserved from in any way countenancing such leprosy of the forehead: and having such great and precious promises as are given to us by God in His Word, may we " cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2 Cor. 7:11Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1))
The inscription, HOLINESS TO JEHOVAH, upon the golden plate, affords us a beautiful type of the truth legibly written on the forehead of our great High Priest, in contrast with the constant spots of leprous defilement which God sees in our holy things. The Lord Jesus, a little while before His death, in His last prayer amidst His disciples, said: " For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." Holiness to the Lord expresses that great truth which the Cross manifested. There the Lord Jesus sanctified Himself to God, a sacrifice wholly presented to Jehovah And again, in resurrection, " holiness to the Lord" is declared in the High Priest. It is written, (Heb. 7) " Such an high priest became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." A wonderful way of speaking of the High Priest, with reference to ourselves. It is not here said that we needed such an high priest; but that such an one became us. What must be the height of glory and holiness into which we shall be raised, since such is the High Priest whom God has chosen to be our representative and head I
This sentence was indelibly engraved, " like the engravings of a signet " or a seal, on the plate of gold. It is also called " a writing." It was the stamp of Jehovah's name upon the forehead of the high priest, claiming him as His own; as one peculiarly separated off' in holiness to Himself. In like manner we read in Rev. 7:2-4,2And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, 3Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. 4And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. (Revelation 7:2‑4) of an angel sealing the servants of God in their foreheads with the seal of the living God; and in chap. xiv. I, we read of a company standing with the Lamb on Mount Sion, " having His Father's name written in their foreheads." Here again this remarkable type is used. God selects, out of a multitude given over to destruction, a company for Himself. Also in Rev. 22:4,4And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. (Revelation 22:4) where the servants of God are described in the heavenly city, it is said, " they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads." What a contrast this, to the fearful judgment upon those who have not the seal of God in their foreheads, but who bear the mark of the beast instead. Rev. 13:16,16And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: (Revelation 13:16) and 20: 4.
The days are approaching when men will be manifestly ranged on one side or the other. Their very countenances will proclaim whether they belong to God and the Lamb, or to Satan and Antichrist. No half-measures will be allowed; but men will be compelled definitely to make their choice, and to be numbered either for God unto eternal life, or for the man of sin unto eternal perdition.
Although the Aaronic priesthood did not combine in its order, king and priest together, yet there seems to be in the garments, prophetic indications of a time when such would be the case. Thus we have the word robe given to one portion of the dress; and the miter, with its golden plate bound round it by a lace of blue, formed a very near approach to the attire of royalty in some of the eastern monarchs. The miter is translated diadem. Ezek. 21:2626Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. (Ezekiel 21:26). In the latin translation by Montanus, it is called cidaris, which was the royal bonnet worn by the kings of Persia, encircled by a blue ribband called the diadem.1 This ribband may be observed round the head of George 3. on some of our coins. In Rev. 12:3,3And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. (Revelation 12:3) the Dragon is represented as having seven diadems upon his seven heads; and in chap. 13:1, the beast has ten diadems upon his ten horns. Here evidently these diadems are emblems of royalties. And in chap. 19:12, the Lord is represented as coming forth, having many diadems, He being King of kings.
The other Greek word used for crown (Stephanos) properly refers to the crown that was bestowed upon a conqueror as a reward of victory, or which was given to the successful competitor in the ancient contests for strength or swiftness. In this sense it is commonly used in the New Testament. Thus we have the crowns of " life," " righteousness," and " glory."
This golden plate has the word crown attached to it: " the plate of the holy crown." Ex. 39:30,30And they made the plate of the holy crown of pure gold, and wrote upon it a writing, like to the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. (Exodus 39:30) Lev. 8:9,9And he put the mitre upon his head; also upon the mitre, even upon his forefront, did he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as the Lord commanded Moses. (Leviticus 8:9) and in Ex. 29:6,6And thou shalt put the mitre upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the mitre. (Exodus 29:6) it is designated as " the holy crown," including the golden plate and the blue lace. The Hebrew word for crown, here employed, is nezer, found also 2 Sam. 1. to, (Saul's royal crown,) 2 Kings. 11: 12, and 2 Chron. 23:2,2And they went about in Judah, and gathered the Levites out of all the cities of Judah, and the chief of the fathers of Israel, and they came to Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 23:2) (the royal crown placed upon the head of Jehoash when he was proclaimed king.) Psa. 89:39,39Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant: thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground. (Psalm 89:39) and 132:18, where also the crown royal is manifestly intended. It is a remarkable word, because throughout Num. 6, it is translated Nazariteship, Consecration, and Separation, and is thus beautifully applicable to the golden plate upon the forehead of the high priest, whose true royalty consisted in being separated off in holiness to Jehovah.
The Lord Jesus, because He preserved throughout His life, and when made sin, and in death, His holy Nazariteship to God, has been raised the High Priest and King forever, after the order of Melchizedek. The same Psalm, 110., which speaks of Him as David's Lord, who is to rule in kingly power hereafter in the midst of His enemies, smiting through kings in the day of His wrath, and wounding the head over many countries, (the willful king, the Antichrist.).-the same Psalm also declares Him the Priest, made so by God's oath.
Surely " holiness to the Lord " is true royal dignity and glory. Where that truth is inscribed upon the forehead, there will be no servile subjection to sin or Satan. There will not be the yielding to self, or the indulging of a will contrary to that of the Lord. Neither will there be any cringing to man, but complete unswerving devotedness of heart and mind to Him whose name is " holy," the unchangeable I AM, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Would that we might follow more closely the ways of our great High Priest, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord!
The holy crown was fastened " on high" upon the miter, (Ex. 39:3131And they tied unto it a lace of blue, to fasten it on high upon the mitre; as the Lord commanded Moses. (Exodus 39:31)) and was always to be on Aaron's forehead, (Ex. 28:3838And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord. (Exodus 28:38)) that he might " bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel should hallow in all their holy gifts, that they might be accepted before the Lord." The eye of Jehovah was to fall first upon this holy plate, with its deep inscription; therefore it was to be borne on high. The high priest, also, must never be without it: but, as continually as the lamb was presented on the altar for a burnt-offering; and as the show-bread stood perpetually in the presence of God; and the seven-branched candlestick shed forth its constant light in the sanctuary; and lastly, as the incense constantly ascended in a fragrant cloud from the golden altar; so the living high priest always presented himself to Jehovah, in holy devoted separateness, as the representative of the people. He was to bear the iniquity of their holy things; that is especially of the holy gifts, which the children of Israel might give to the Lord.
In his representative character, Aaron clothed with " garments for glory and beauty," was to bear the names of the children of Israel before the Lord upon his two shoulders for a memorial. He was also to bear their names in the breastplate upon his breast, for a memorial before the Lord.
He was to bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord.
And he was to bear the iniquity of their holy things.
Thus the shoulders of his strength, the heart of his affections, and the forehead of his mind and counsel, were all employed on behalf of the people, for whom he ministered before the Lord.
We may, by means of this type, be enabled to distinguish between the sacrifice bearing sin in the way of wrath, and the priest bearing the iniquity of an already saved people. When the question of judgment upon sin was involved, nothing could expiate but the shedding of blood; for, without shedding of blood there is no remission. But, after sinners are perfectly saved as regards deliverance from wrath, and have forgiveness of sins, they stand before God in an entirely new relation. They are children, saints, priests, kings, and worshippers. In their very best services however, sin still cleaves to that which they do. Even the gifts they sanctify to God are tainted with their own iniquity. It is on this account that they need a High Priest, to stand in His presence, presenting to the Lord the very contrast of what they are; holy, where they are unholy; righteous, though they be sinful; pure, though they be defiled;- a High Priest, who is also the propitiation; and whose intercession of perpetual fragrance sustains them in continual acceptance, and carries on their salvation to the very end. It is with reference to this truth that we read, "This One (the Lord Jesus,) because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost, (to the very end,) that come unto God by Him; seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." Heb. 7:24,2524But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:24‑25). And again: " If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins." 1 John 2 I, 2. And in Rom. 5:9,10,9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:9‑10) " Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life:" (or rather, in His life.) Justification is stated to have been accomplished by His blood; now accomplished. But there is another salvation also intimated, to which the words " much more " are attached. Having been already justified by His blood, much more then shall we be saved from wrath through Him. This evidently has reference to the Lord Jesus as the High Priest, saving to the end those that come unto God by Him. Again, we have another " much more " in the following verse. Whilst enemies, having been reconciled to God by the death of His Son; much more, we shall be saved in His life. For, the Lord Jesus is not only our living representative before God, and ever living to make intercession; but we, as reconciled persons, have a salvation in union with Him. He is our life: and there is an indissoluble life-existence between the believer and Christ.
Aaron could only present " Holiness to Jehovah " engraved upon the holy crown, on his forehead. Christ is Holiness to Jehovah. Aaron stood only on behalf of Israel, before the Lord. Christ not only stands on behalf of His people, but they are united to Him in His life. We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
What a remarkable connection: " Iniquity of holy things!" Could we ever have conceived that two such words could be united? Yet so it is. Our very best gifts to God are defiled by the iniquity of the giver Our purest worship is mingled with infirmity and sin. Our most devoted acts are tainted with self-pleasing, pride, and complacency. What a merciful provision has been made for us in this living Christ; who even now appears in the presence of God for us, and through whom we can draw near with boldness, and present gifts and sacrifices acceptable to the Father.
1. The diadem originally means the blue and white band worn by the Asiatic monarchs round the tiara. Subsequently, the diadem was a broad white band, fastened round the head, and tied in a bow behind, adopted by other nations as an ensign of sovereignty. Thus, in works of art, the diadem indicates a regal station, like the crown of modern times." (Rich's Companion.)