Tabernacle Studies

Edited by Eugene Higgins

Aaron, the High Priest

(Ex 28:1-39 Lev 8:7-9)

At the beginning of this study, I suggested that the tabernacle had a two-fold message:

1) It shows us God’s desire to approach mankind.

2) It shows us that a way is possible, and can be provided, for sinful man to approach a holy God.

These two truths seem to be connected in Exodus 27 where we have, in verse 20, the maintenance of the light and, in verse 21, the ministration of the priesthood.

The vessels mentioned from Exodus 20:1 – 27:20 all have to do with God’s coming out to man in grace. Starting with the ark and the mercy seat (God’s throne) in chapter 25 and continuing with the table of shewbread, the lampstand, the tabernacle curtains, coverings, boards, the brazen altar and the court in ch 27 – all these testify to the fact that God has “displayed” Himself and they typify the means by which He has done this. God has come forth in manifestation and in illumination – as it says, “to cause the lamp to burn always.”

In chapters 28-31, we have typified the means whereby man may approach God. This truth commences with the priesthood in chapter 28 and continues through the altar of incense, the laver, the sweet incense, and the Sabbath in chapter 31 – teaching us that when man finds God, he finds rest.

The tabernacle would have been useless without its vessels, and the tabernacle with its vessels would have been of no service but for the living family of priests constantly engaged in ministry therein. In 28:1 we read, “Take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto Me in the priest’s office.” Notice the singular personal pronoun “he,” showing the oneness of the priestly office and underlining the fact that Aaron, as the High Priest, was the representative of the complete service.

Why did the Children of Israel require a priesthood? Were they not a redeemed people – God’s special treasure taken out from among the nations? Were they not protected by the sprinkled blood? Were they not separated unto Jehovah who was pleased to dwell in their midst? Yes, all this is true – God in His grace had established their special and peculiar relationship with Himself, but now they needed a priesthood to maintain that relationship so that they could fully enjoy all the privileges that went with it.

The next step in the selection and appointment of Aaron and his sons to priesthood is the making of special vestments of holy garments as outlined in Exodus 28:2-4. The garments of glory and beauty were to be made so that Aaron could minister in the priest’s office. Thus, he was fitted, by reason of his garments, for this high and holy office. The garments dignified his person, covering him with a glory and beauty which in himself he did not possess. These garments are seven in number.

A) General specifications

(Ex 28:4-5)

1. The Breastplate 

It was made of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, with twelve precious stones and the names of the tribes engraved on the stones. The Urim and the Thummim were contained in the breastplate.

2. The Ephod 

This was the outer garment made of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen, in two pieces – front and back – and joined at the two shoulders with two onyx stones in their golden settings, bearing the names of the Children of Israel.

3. The Robes 

These were all of blue, one piece woven without seam, made like a habergeon (a short sleeveless coat of mail) with two holes for the arms and one for the head. The skirt was trimmed with pomegranates and embroidered in blue, purple, and scarlet. Also, golden bells were placed on the hem. This garment was worn under the ephod.

4. The Embroidered Coat 

The inner garment of fine linen was worn in conjunction with linen breeches which reached from loins to thighs (Ex 28:39, 42). The word “woven” in 39:27 may suggest a “damask” appearance.

5. The Girdle 

This is not the “curious girdle” of the Ephod, which was really a belt. This garment, which was made of fine twined linen and blue, purple, and scarlet needlework, was worn wrapped around the body at the loins.

6. The Mitre

This was a head covering made of fine linen.

7. The Golden Plate

This was fastened to the mitre with a lace of blue and engraved with the words “Holiness to the Lord.”

B) Typical significance

(Heb 7:23-28)

Aaron’s name means “very high.” He stood supreme, as the high priest, very high above his own house, as well as exalted above the people. He was thus a type of the Lord Jesus, whom God has exalted to His own right hand, to be our Great High Priest in the heavens (Heb 4:14).

Aaron is a type of the Lord Jesus by contrast in the following ways:

Aaron – Of the tribe of Levi
Christ – Of the tribe of Judah

Aaron – After the law of a carnal command
Christ – After the power of an endless life

Aaron – On earth 
 – In Heaven

Aaron – Taken from among men 
 – Taken out from among the dead

Aaron – Made without an oath
– Made with an oath

Aaron – Priesthood passed from father to son 
 – Never transferred

Aaron – Required a sacrifice for himself
Christ – Offered Himself as a sacrifice for others

Aaron – Ceased to be a priest at death 
– After He died He became a priest

Aaron – Offered gifts and sacrifices 
 – Offers the spiritual sacrifices of His people

Notice that in Leviticus 8:7-9, when Aaron is being consecrated to the office of High Priest, the order of the garments is reversed because he is actually being dressed; therefore, the description commences with the inner garments.