This week’s parasha is entitled Tetzaveh, which means, “you shall command.” It covers Exodus 27:20-30:10. This week’s parasha deals mainly with the vestments, or garments required for the priests and their consecration ceremony.
The priests who served at the Tabernacle, and later at the Temple, were required to be descendants of Aaron, and the high priest was required to be selected from this line.
Chapter 28 lists the garments worn by the priests. All priests, including the high priest, wore a tunic, a sash and linen breeches. The rest of the clothing for the priests included a cap as a head covering. Additionally, the high priest wore the following: An ephod, an embroidered garment like a type of apron with shoulder-straps, made of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet. The high priest was also to wear a robe of blue, with alternating gold bells and pomegranates around the hem of the robe. He also wore a breastplate, with twelve beautiful stones, each a different stone. These were arranged in 4 rows of 3 stones per row.
The ephod was attached at the shoulders with two onyx stones, each engraved with 6 of the names of the tribes of Israel. Shoulders represent work. The high priest was to do the work of the Lord in ministering to the tribes represented on his shoulders. He was, symbolically, to carry the people in front of the Lord. He was to be their spiritual leader.
The breastplate of the high priest contained 12 stones, representing each of the tribes of Israel. The high priest was not just to labor in ministering to the Israelis, but they were to be close to his breast. He was to have a special heart for his people; he was to love them. He was to serve them in front of the Lord. The high priest is an example of the servant leader.
The high priest also wore turban with a gold engraving of, “Holy to the Lord.” The forehead, representing the mind, meant that Holy to the Lord should always be first, and foremost, on the mind of the high priest.
Lastly, no mention is made regarding shoes for either the high priest or the other priests. As many scholars suggest, it looks like the priests were to serve barefoot when they were in the Tabernacle itself, in a spirit of humbling themselves as servants before the Lord.
In Chapter 28, we also read about two very special items that the high priest carried in his breastplate. These were the Urim and Thummim, two special devices used for discerning the will of God. We don’t know exactly what these devices were made of; many scholars speculate that they were polished stones, or possibly diamonds, but they translate as “Lightings and Perfections.” These were used in some way, either the way they were displayed or cast, to determine the will of God. Another interpretation is that through carrying these stones next to his heart, the high priest was representing God’s will before the people. These special items were specifically given by the Lord, to be used only by the high priest.
Chapter 29 discusses the consecration of the priests. Aaron and his sons were first to wash and then dress. After that, at the tent of meeting of the Lord, a bull was to be brought, and after Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon bull, laying their sins upon the bull, it was to be sacrificed as a sin offering. Next, a ram was to be sacrificed and offered as a burnt offering, meaning that the animal was to be consumed by fire and none of it was to be eaten. After this, another ram was sacrificed, but from this, the blood of that ram was to be applied to the right earlobe, the right thumb and right large toe of Aaron and his sons. Some of the blood from this ram was to be sprinkled on Aaron and his sons’ garments so that these garments would also be consecrated.
The blood on the earlobe meant that Aaron and his sons were to listen and understand the word and direction of the Lord. The blood on the right thumb signified that their hands were to be about the work of the Lord. And the blood on the right toe indicated that their feet needed to pursue the path given by the lord.
Unleavened bread was also to be offered and this was waved before the Lord as a wave offering and then offered up in smoke on the altar as a soothing aroma to the Lord. Unleavened bread signified lack of sin, for leaven is usually used as a symbol for sin in the Old Testament.
This ceremony was to be repeated every day for 7 days for the ordination of the descendants of Aaron as priests to serve before the Lord.
Towards the end of this chapter, we are told that before the daily sacrifices can begin, a lamb was to be sacrificed and offered on the altar in the morning and another lamb at twilight. These two thank offerings to the Lord were the book ends of all the other sacrifices that occurred during the day. No sacrifice could take place after the offering of the lamb at twilight and no sacrifice could occur before the offering of the lamb in the morning.
Some closing comments:
- Those in ministry today would do well to think of themselves in terms of some of the description for the high priest in Chapter 28: Bearing the congregation on his shoulders before the Lord, leading them in worship, in the Word and in life, but also keeping them close to his heart, in love, as a servant-leader of the Lord. You see, even if the high priest was dressed in all his priestly glory, it was not the clothes that made the man, but the spirit with which he served God and his people.
- Through today’s parasha, we again see the theme of mediator between the people and God. The priests were responsible for serving at the Tabernacle. Only they could approach the Lord in this holy place and only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle on only one day of the year with the appropriate offerings. Anyone else who approached would surely die. Those today in rabbinical Judaism, who still miss this need for a mediator between man and God, just as Messiah Yeshua is our Great Mediator today, would do well to study the role of the priests as presented in the Torah.
- And finally, these chapters should remind us of our Great High Priest, Messiah Yeshua, who even now, sits at the right hand of God making supplications and intercessions for us.