The Linen Breeches

 •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 8
"And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: "And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute forever unto him and his seed after him."-Ex. 28:42,4342And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: 43And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him. (Exodus 28:42‑43)
A REMARKABLE exception here occurs „ a difficulty is also presented, respecting the materials of which this article of priestly dress was made. In Ex. 28:4242And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: (Exodus 28:42), the word linen is used; but in the Hebrew "bad " is employed to express this, and not " shehrh." This last is the word used in all other instances, and denotes the only material of the kind said to be brought by the people; the word is usually translated fine linen. This is not all: for in Ex. 39:2828And a mitre of fine linen, and goodly bonnets of fine linen, and linen breeches of fine twined linen, (Exodus 39:28), both words occur, which may be translated " and the breeches the linen (bad); fine linen twined (Jhehrh-mash)". It may be, two sorts of linen were woven together.
In the other places whey a these vestments are mentioned they are only called breeches of linen" (bad.) Lev. 6:10;16. 4. The garments for glory and beauty apparently close at Ex. 28:4040And for Aaron's sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty. (Exodus 28:40), and they seem to be the only garments needed for the consecration of the priests: see 5:41, and Lev. 8:7,9,137And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded him with the curious girdle of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith. (Leviticus 8:7)
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)
13And Moses brought Aaron's sons, and put coats upon them, and girded them with girdles, and put bonnets upon them; as the Lord commanded Moses. (Leviticus 8:13)
. But when officiating in certain service, Aaron and his sons had to put on the linen breeches. " When they came in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they came near unto the altar to minister in the holy place, (5:43.) That is, when they came into the covered building, or when they ministered at the incense altar, which is the altar in the holy place. It is probable therefore, that in all ordinary ministrations at the altar of burnt-offering, they were not worn. The two ceremonies recorded Lev. 6:1010And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. (Leviticus 6:10) and 16:4, being exceptions and peculiar.
The first result of the entrance of sin was to discover to man his own nakedness. The feeling of shame, a guilty feeling crept over his soul and his attention was immediately directed to some mode of quieting his conscience in this respect, that he might appear unabashed in the presence of his fellow. No thought of his fall as regarded God, or of his inability to stand in His presence, occurred to him. And so it is to this day. The great object which men propose to themselves is to quiet their own consciences, and to stand well with their neighbors. To this end they invent a religion. As soon as we have to do with God, the conscience is convicted, and the guilt and shame which before were quieted, spring up within, and nothing can still the restless uneasiness of the heart. We become aware that all things are naked and opened to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. The soul in vain attempts concealment. The still small voice of God sounds within, and drags the culprit out to stand before Him.
It is here that a righteousness not our own becomes unspeakably precious to the soul. A covering that both blots out all sin, and forever clothes the sinner with spotless purity; which conceals from the searching eye of God all iniquity, and in so doing completely justifies the sinner before Him. Psa. 32 r, 2.
The sinner not only needs, for the sake of his peace, to know that his innumerable transgressions are forgiven, but also, that the sin and iniquity of his evil heart, his evil nature, his corrupt self, is gone forever from the sight and remembrance of God. The nakedness of the flesh must be obliterated, otherwise there can be no confidence of access to God's presence-there can be no true-hearted service rendered to Him.
These last mentioned garments of the priests directly shadow this truth. They were " to cover the flesh of their nakedness," and to reach " from the loins to the thighs." The whole strength of nature was thus to be concealed; that strength of evil which would be manifested in the walk of the sinner, and which would oppose God with all its energy, as in the case of Jacob with whom the angel wrestled.
This part of the dress was especially required when the priests entered the more immediate presence of God. They would know more of their own iniquity in proportion as they drew near unto Him. And He provided that covering in order that they might not bear their iniquity and die. There seems to be here a beautiful allusion to the truth, so often expressed in the Word of God, viz., that the righteousness of God by faith is justification through the blood. If sin be covered from the eye of Jehovah, He sees perfect righteousness. If the priest could hide his nakedness, " the nakedness of the flesh" from God, he would no longer bear his own iniquity and die. And how can this be accomplished? Isa. 53 reveals the way. God's righteous servant justifies many through faith in Him, by having borne their iniquities.
This is one of those eternal statutes, an irreversible decree of the Lord which cannot be evaded. Whoever draws nigh to God, must previously have had his guilt and ruin buried out of sight.
In connection with this type, another precept of the Lord may be noticed. " An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon." Ex. 20:24-2624An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. 25And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. 26Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon. (Exodus 20:24‑26).
We have here three directions respecting altars which might be erected in certain cases.
If God were to record His name in some peculiar place, an altar might be erected there for burnt-offerings and peace-offerings; but it must be of earth. This commandment necessitated that the name of Jehovah must first be known and trusted, before sacrifice could be presented to Him. He must have displayed His own power and mercy, so as to record His name, and then the Israelite was at liberty to perpetuate his remembrance of that name, by offerings of sheep and oxen upon an altar of earth.
The altar was not to be the object. In idolatrous worship, the shape and costly materials of which the altar is composed especially engross the thoughts of the worshipper, and it becomes the attractive object. But the name of Jehovah was that which the Israelite had to remember. And earth ready on the spot was to be used for building up a sacrificial place.
Are we not here taught, to lay no stress upon the imposing ceremonials, with which men seek to please the eye and gratify the imagination in religious observances? " Worship in spirit and in truth" is what God requires; and the very absence of pomp and fleshly dignity, will conduce to lowliness of heart and self-abasement, and will at least help towards reality in drawing nigh to God. The altar of earth was a lowly thing, and stood out in contrast with the high places, selected by the heathen nations of Canaan, for their places of worship. Calvary was a place of no esteem. The Cross had no attractiveness for the eye, and He who hung on it had " no beauty that we should desire Him."
If the Israelite made an altar of stone he was not to build it of hewn stone. The rough unhewn stones around him were to be taken; and no shapeliness to please the natural eye was to be attempted. " To lift up a tool" upon it would pollute it. Here again the same truth is recorded with additions. The Cross of shame, and woe, and curse has in modern days been turned into an ornamental device. It is stamped in gold; emblazoned in colors; and worn as an ornament of female dress. Truly it is polluted by being thus handled by human fancy!
We have two kinds of religion running in powerful streams around us; a Cross without a Christ; and, a Christ without a Cross.
In the first case the mere emblem is cherished and portrayed in every variety of form; whilst the living Christ, who died, is not trusted. The emblems of His flesh and blood it may be, reverenced: His flesh and blood in reality not eaten and drunk. Outward adornments of holy things carefully and elaborately wrought. Vestments, and buildings, and altars, studied with deep interest, formed after patterns recovered out of by-gone days of darkness and idolatry; whilst the true priests washed in the precious blood of the Lamb are almost unknown. The building of " living stones" in union with " the living stone," is disregarded; and the tree of curse, and He who hung on it, are in reality despised.
In the latter, a Christ without a Cross, a wide-spread taint of Socinianism pervades vast numbers of the religious publications of the day. Christ is presented as an example to the unbeliever, instead of being exalted as a Savior through the blood of His Cross. Mankind is supposed to have been raised in the scale of existence by the Son of God having become man. A kind of regeneration of the human race is preached through " the Word having been made flesh," and the sinner is directed to cultivate his own better thoughts and feelings, and to aim at a kind of mystical abstraction of soul, instead of being pointed to the Son of Man lifted up upon the tree. What is all this but trampling under foot the blood of Christ?
" Steps" were not to be made to God's altar. It was to stand on the level ground, upon the dust of the earth, so that any one might approach it immediately, without having to advance higher and higher to reach it. Beautiful type this, of the universal aspect of the Cross of Christ, presented by God to the whole needy world. No priest stands between the sinner and God to intercede for him, or to help him in his approach, for he needs none. In his ungodliness, his sins, his uncleanness, degraded, lost, undone, a prey of Satan, and steeped in iniquity, he may at once accept the gift of God's love, His blessed Son. Neither has he to advance step by step in reformation or improvement, before he may venture to draw near to the sacrifice God has provided. Every attempt Godward, every step higher, is only a further discovery of the nakedness of the flesh. Every outward amendment, as a plea for the mercy of God is a fresh exposure of the uncleanness and evil of the heart. It is a slander on the death of Christ; it impugns the love and mercy of God. He has fully calculated the sinner's corruption and sin, and He has provided according to that divine calculation, a sufficiency in the blood of the Lamb to meet every necessity; to blot out all iniquity, and to give everlasting righteousness.
If we would see our nakedness in all its evil, God had laid it bare in the death of His Son; and that same death clothes us forever, and fits us for His glory. A sinner is either far off from God in the distance of utter condemnation; or, he is made nigh by the blood of Christ. There are no steps of approach or improvement. There can be no interval between death and life: between lost and found.
This concludes the priestly garments for glory and beauty. There were other garments which will be hereafter noticed, mentioned in Leviticus.
When all the work of the tabernacle was finished it was brought to Moses.
" Thus was all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation finished: and the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did they.
"And they brought the tabernacle unto Moses, the tent, and all his furniture, his taches, his boards, his bars, and his pillars, and his sockets, " And the covering of rams' skins dyed red, and the covering of badgers' skins, and the vail of the covering, " The ark of the testimony, and the staves thereof, and the mercy seat, "The table, and all the vessels thereof, and the shewbread, "The pure candlestick, with the lamps thereof, even with the lamps to be set in order, and all the vessels thereof, and the oil for light, " And the golden altar, and the anointing oil, and the sweet incense, and the hanging for the tabernacle door, " The brazen altar, and his gate of brass, his staves, and all his vessels, the laver and his foot, " The hangings of the court, his pillars, and his sockets, and the hanging for the court gate, his cords, and his pins, and all the vessels of the service of the tabernacle, for the tent of the congregation, " The cloths of service to do service in the holy place, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and his sons' garments, to minister in the priest's office.
"According to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work.
"And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the Lord had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them."-Ex. 39:32-4332Thus was all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation finished: and the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did they. 33And they brought the tabernacle unto Moses, the tent, and all his furniture, his taches, his boards, his bars, and his pillars, and his sockets, 34And the covering of rams' skins dyed red, and the covering of badgers' skins, and the vail of the covering, 35The ark of the testimony, and the staves thereof, and the mercy seat, 36The table, and all the vessels thereof, and the showbread, 37The pure candlestick, with the lamps thereof, even with the lamps to be set in order, and all the vessels thereof, and the oil for light, 38And the golden altar, and the anointing oil, and the sweet incense, and the hanging for the tabernacle door, 39The brazen altar, and his grate of brass, his staves, and all his vessels, the laver and his foot, 40The hangings of the court, his pillars, and his sockets, and the hanging for the court gate, his cords, and his pins, and all the vessels of the service of the tabernacle, for the tent of the congregation, 41The cloths of service to do service in the holy place, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and his sons' garments, to minister in the priest's office. 42According to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work. 43And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the Lord had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them. (Exodus 39:32‑43)
THE enumeration of the things thus made, is divided out into seven portions, as may be perceived on looking down the verses: connecting those together which begin with the word " and." For instance, verses 33 and 34 are the first portions, viz, the tabernacle and vail.
Verse 35, the second, the ark and mercy seat.
Verse 36, the third, the table of shewbread and its vessels.
Verses 37 and 38, the fourth, including the candlestick, the golden altar of incense, the anointing oil, and the tabernacle door.
Verse 39, the fifth, the brazen altar and the laver. Verse 40, the sixth, the court of the tabernacle.
Verse 41, the seventh, the cloths of service, and the priests' garments.
There is in this enumeration a classing together of certain things which are more intimately connected, and which it is interesting to contemplate. The vail is classed with the tabernacle itself: because it divided the building into two distinct parts or rooms, and it is called the vail of the covering because it covered or hid the ark and mercy-seat, and holy of holies. (Allusion has been before made to this in the exposition of the vail.)
The candlestick, golden altar, anointing oil, and sweet incense, are classed together, because there was a close connection between them. Incense was burned upon the altar when the lamps were dressed and lighted. One constituent also of the anointing oil, was the same kind of oil as that for the light. Light, fragrance of Christ's work, and the graces of the Holy Spirit, are closely connected together. The hanging of the tabernacle door was also classed with these, because, by means of that door, the way of access was provided to these vessels of priestly service. The brazen altar and laver are connected, for no ministry could take place at the former, unless the priests had washed their hands and feet at the latter. It is to be observed also, that all the vessels of service were presented to Moses, ready for use. The mercy-seat was brought with the ark and staves. The shewbread was presented with the table. Oil for light with the candlestick, and sweet incense with the golden altar.
This betokens an understanding of the objects for which these various holy vessels were made. We should do well to imitate this by seeking to know more of the various blessed occupations of our High Priest in the presence of God for us.
This is the only chapter in the Bible where it is recorded of a people, that they finished and did all that the Lord commanded. This is thrice repeated.
" The children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so did they."
" According to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work."
What a high commendation is this! Where shall we find a people who have followed this example? Can it be said of the Church of God-according to all that the Lord has commanded, so have they done. Have we attended as minutely to His directions, as this people followed accurately the commandments of the Lord given to them by Moses. His word to us, is, " If ye love me keep my commandments." Alas! we seem to think we may dispense with this little precept, or vary that appointment as we think fit. We hear of " nonessentials," and " things that are immaterial." Sometimes even the question is asked, " what does it signify?"
Could the Lord have placed this thrice repeated commendation of the children of Israel, at the close of this book of Exodus, if they had felt at liberty to omit some little ‘.‘ border " of a holy vessel-Eme " pin " or " cord;" or if they had thought the golden altar too plain, and had added ornaments to it: or the dress of the priests too common, and had embroidered it with more costly materials? If God's directions were enough for them, and they kept within His commandments, adding nothing to them, and omitting none of them; ought we not to consider that His words in the New Testament are sufficient for our instruction and guidance, in all matters of Gospel truth, worship, and service? Would it not be well for us to confine ourselves within the limits of His holy word, and also to hold all the truths it contains?
We have moreover an infallible interpreter ever present with us, and dwelling in us; the Spirit of truth, the Holy Ghost; so that we are without excuse if we abide by human traditions, instead of cleaving to the word of God; or if we willingly remain in ignorance of what that word declares.
The blessing of Moses rested on the people, when he saw how they had carried out to the letter the will of God. The blessing of a greater than Moses will abundantly rest on us, if we diligently give ourselves, first to ascertain the mind of God as revealed in His word; and next, seek to the utmost of our power by the help of the Holy Spirit, to carry out the mind and will of God. As we do His will we shall still know more of His teaching. Our path will become more and more the path of the righteous, of the obedient ones, shining more and more unto the perfect day. And we shall find our prayers more fully answered, and our hearts more full of joy. And our fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, and with one another will be more complete and uninterrupted. " If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you." John 15:77If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7). " If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." 14:23.