Sunday, June 3, 2012

High Priest Garments - The Breastplate of Judgement

Verses of Exodus 28:15-22 describe yet another part of the Priestly Garments - the so-called Breastplate of Judgement. Let's take a look:

15 ‏וְעָשִׂ֜יתָ חֹ֤שֶׁן מִשְׁפָּט֙ מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה חֹשֵׁ֔ב כְּמַעֲשֵׂ֥ה אֵפֹ֖ד תַּעֲשֶׂ֑נּוּ זָ֠הָב תְּכֵ֨לֶת וְאַרְגָּמָ֜ן וְתוֹלַ֧עַת שָׁנִ֛י וְשֵׁ֥שׁ מָשְׁזָ֖ר תַּעֲשֶׂ֥ה אֹתֽוֹ׃

‎16 ‏רָב֥וּעַ יִֽהְיֶ֖ה כָּפ֑וּל זֶ֥רֶת אָרְכּ֖וֹ וְזֶ֥רֶת רָחְבּֽוֹ׃
17 ‏וּמִלֵּאתָ֥ בוֹ֙ מִלֻּ֣אַת אֶ֔בֶן אַרְבָּעָ֖ה טוּרִ֣ים אָ֑בֶן ט֗וּר אֹ֤דֶם פִּטְדָה֙ וּבָרֶ֔קֶת הַטּ֖וּר הָאֶחָֽד׃

‎18 ‏וְהַטּ֖וּר הַשֵּׁנִ֑י נֹ֥פֶךְ סַפִּ֖יר וְיָהֲלֹֽם׃

‎19 ‏וְהַטּ֖וּר הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֑י לֶ֥שֶׁם שְׁב֖וֹ וְאַחְלָֽמָה׃

‎20 ‏וְהַטּוּר֙ הָרְבִיעִ֔י תַּרְשִׁ֥ישׁ וְשֹׁ֖הַם וְיָשְׁפֵ֑ה מְשֻׁבָּצִ֥ים זָהָ֛ב יִהְי֖וּ בְּמִלּוּאֹתָֽם׃

‎21 ‏וְ֠הָאֲבָנִים תִּֽהְיֶ֜יןָ עַל־שְׁמֹ֧ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל שְׁתֵּ֥ים עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה עַל־שְׁמֹתָ֑ם פִּתּוּחֵ֤י חוֹתָם֙ אִ֣ישׁ עַל־שְׁמ֔וֹ תִּֽהְיֶ֕יןָ לִשְׁנֵ֥י עָשָׂ֖ר שָֽׁבֶט׃

‎22 ‏וְעָשִׂ֧יתָ עַל־הַחֹ֛שֶׁן שַֽׁרְשֹׁ֥ת גַּבְלֻ֖ת מַעֲשֵׂ֣ה עֲבֹ֑ת זָהָ֖ב טָהֽוֹר׃ 
15 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.
16 Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof.
17 And 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.
18 And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond.
19 And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst.
20 And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings.
21 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.
22 And thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen work of pure gold.

As Exodus 28:15 states, the Breastplate of Judgement was similar to Ephod (Vestment) and was basically a piece of fabric made out of golden wires, blue, purple, scarlet and fine twined linen. Like so:

As the next verse of Exodus 28:16 states, this piece of fabric were to be a "span" in lengths and a "span" in width, meaning that the Breastplate was a square, but only once it was doubled (or folded in half). This means that the actual size of the Breastplate was 1 span x 2 spans - a rectangle, but once it was folded in half along the length the resulting size of the Breastplate would be 1 span x 1 span - a square. Like so: 

One thing I'm not sure about yet is how much was the "span" (זרת). Traditional sources indicate that it was about the size of the spread hand (spread of the fingers), which is by my calculations is about 20cm or 8 inches or 0.45 cubits. At this point I will go with these dimensions as I'm not sure. 

Next, in Exodus 28:17-20 it states that the Breastplate was decorated with 12 stones, set in 4 rows, 3 stones per each row. This information also helps to identify the shape of the stones - rectangular, as in order to fit 4x3 set of stones onto the square base the stones have to be of somewhat rectangular shape. Please also note that the colors of the stones shown on the images below is arbitrary as there is no research available to definitively say what stones were used on the Breastplate. Only a talented geologist who also studies the Pentateuch can solve this problem. So for now I will go with the traditional translation of the stones and with an arbitrary colors that this translation assumes.

Exodus 28:20 provides us with yet another piece of information, namely that each of twelve stones was to be set in a golden filling. This was done not only to help decorate the stones and the Breastplate but also to help secure the stones to the Breastplate. Like so:

Exodus 28:21 says that each of 12 stones were to bear a name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. The names that were to be engraved on these stones were exactly the same as on the two "onyx" stones of the Ephod (and as I have discussed in this post). 

The table below shows the names of the tribes with the respective stones and normalized translation from Hebrew of each tribe and of each stone, along with the traditional translations. Of'course this is just an arbitrary alignment, as there is also no research available to definitively match the stones with the tribes names. At this point I'm simply assuming that the order of the stones listed in the verses of the description exactly matches the calculated order of the names of the tribes. I also assume that the stones were to be counted and positioned from right to left from top to bottom. Like so:





And here is the rendering of the above table:

As Exodus 28:22 states, the edges of the Breastplate were to be embroidered with gold, sort of like a border. This helped to solidify and secure the fabric of the Breastplate so it did not come apart. Like so: 

And here is a comparative rendering of the Breastplate if you were to unfold it, with the golden borders surrounding the Breastplate along its perimeter and at the fold. Like so:

This concludes the description of the Breastplate. In my next post I will discuss the mounting of the Breastplate upon the Ephod (Vestment).

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