Scripture Portion of Week 20: Tetzaveh

Exodus 27:20-30:10

The previous reading portion described the tabernacle and some of the furniture. One piece was the menorah, the 7 branched lampstand (25:31-38). In this portion, God instructed the priests to light the menorah daily as “a statute forever” (27:21). The menorah would later play a significant role in remembering Yehovah and become the symbol for Israel as a nation. Light and lampstand are symbols of Torah (law, teaching, instruction) and gospel (good news) throughout Scripture (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:23; Isaiah 42:6; 51:4; Matthew 5:13-19; John 8:12; 9:5). The lampstand also appears in prophetic literature in the heavenly temple (Revelation 2:1) and as a symbol of being God’s people, a symbol that can be removed from God’s people for lack of repentance (Revelation 2:5).


Pottery piece of the Byzantine era depicting the menorah (324 to 640 CE), Temple Mount Sifting Project

God instructed Moses to find talented people that can produce the ornaments and clothing of the Aaronic priests, the sons of his brother Aaron. This talent came from God filling them with “a spirit of skill” (28:3). This spirit from God is the same spirit that created the heaven and earth (Genesis 1:2), convicted the world of sin (Genesis 6:3), gives life to all things (Genesis 7:22; Acts 17:28), and gave to Joseph the wisdom that he needed to give Pharaoh counsel (Genesis 41:38).

One ornament was the breastpiece of judgment (28:4, 15) also called an ephod, having various parts. Two parts were called the Urim and the Thummim. Placed in this breastpiece were 12 stones with the names of the 12 sons of Israel to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. Similarly, another ornament was the pair of golden shoulder pieces with “stones of remembrance” (28:12) set in them on which are written the names of the 12 tribes. If a conflict or question of law arose, and it was not clear from the Torah, the priest adorned himself with the breast piece and represented the people before Yehovah in order to receive an answer – a judgment from God (Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 17:8-11; 1 Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65).

Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment over his heart when he enters the holy place, for a memorial before Yehovah continually. You shall put in the breastpiece of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before Yehovah; and Aaron shall carry the judgment of the sons of Israel over his heart before Yehovah continually.

Exodus 28:29-30

Just as God’s name, Yehovah, is a name to be remembered (translated memorial), so also God remembered the names of his people Israel when the priest represented them. As the menorah has significant meaning in prophetic literature, so does the breastpiece of the priest. As the stones of the breastpiece had the names of Israel engraved on them, so will new stones have the names of God’s people; God will give his people stones with their names symbolizing God’s acceptance and their new life (Isaiah 56:5; Revelation 2:17).

The History of the Costume by Braun and Schneider

Another ornament that the priest wore was the golden crown inscribed with “Holy to Yehovah” (28:36-38). At the consecration – the purification ceremony appointing an Aaronic priest to represent the nation – the priest had this crown placed on his had and was anointed with the holy anointing oil (29:6-7). Anoint (Hebrew מָשַׁח mashach) is the origin of the word Messiah, which means anointed one. It can refer to priests, kings, or the future savior of Israel who will possess the power and spirit of God. In prophetic literature, the phrase “Holy to Yehovah” will be written on various items in the new Jerusalem during the Messiah’s kingdom, such as cooking pots, bells, and items used in the Temple (Zechariah 14:20-21).

High Priest’s Crown by the Temple Institute

As another part of the consecration of the priests, they are sprinkled with the blood of the animal sacrifice that is mixed with the anointing oil (29:21). This can be understood to be a form of atonement for them, just as the horns of the golden altar of incense are smeared with blood in order to atone it on the annual Atonement Day (30:6-10). The altar of incense was cleansed on Atonement Day as “it is most holy to Yehovah” (30:10). In prophetic literature, the incense burned at the altar in heaven represents the prayers of God’s people (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4).

High priest offering incense, from Treasures of the Bible by Henry Davenport Northrop (1894)

As a result of carefully following God’s instructions in reproducing what God had revealed to him, Moses and the family of Aaron were able to meet with God in the Tabernacle.

I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory.

I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me.

I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God.

They shall know that I am Yehovah their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am Yehovah their God.

Exodus 29:43-46

About Jonathan Lankford

Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Jonathan has provided education and training services to organizations and individuals in Vietnam since 2007.
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