Written by: Apostle Terrence L. Elliott
Conference Call # 530-881-1000
Access Code: 794754#
The High Priests of the Bible date back to the Old Testament. The word “Priest” comes from the Hebraic word “Kohen” or “Kohanim.” They performed daily duties of sacrificial offering and prayers of blessings. Many believe that Aaron (brother of Moses) was the 1st High Priest due to Exodus 28, but this is incorrect. Apparently, priest-ship was already in existence since GOD did not identify to Moses the creation of the priestly order with Aaron but to make Aaron something (a priest) that was already in existence. To further support that, one can even reference the fact that Moses’ father-in-law Jethro was identified as a priest of Midian in Exodus 3:1 before Moses was even called to be a prophet for the LORD. As one begins to do historical research regarding the priest-ship of Jethro, it would lead to a study of the ancient Vulcans. In Sci-fi, Star Trek even derived the concept of the Vulcans as well as their salute and phrases of blessings from the identity of the ancient priests as found in Numbers 6:24-26. This however was just one confirmation that priest-ship pre-dated Aaron. By scripture however, the earliest High Priest identified was one by the name of Melchizedek as stated in Genesis 14:18, Psalms 110, and Hebrews 7.
High Priest Melchizedek/Malchizadok (Genesis 14/Hebrews 6-7)
One must first begin to understand the significant orders of the priest by scripture in order to understand the significance of the name Melchizedek/Malchizadok. First significant fact is that scripture mentions 2 orders of priest:
Abiathar (1 Sam. 23:6-9; 30:7; 2 Sam 8:17; 15:24-29, 35; 20:25, 1 kings 4:4; 1 Chronicles 15:11): great grand-father of the prophet Jeremiah and associate high priest to a Zadok. A term in association with the priests that keep the outer courts of the tabernacle or temple.
Zadok (2 Sam. 8:17; 15:24-29; 35-36; 17:15; 18:19): term used in association with Most High Priest who entered Holy of Holies.
The second significant fact is that Melchi/Malchi is a variation of the following names in Hebrew: Melche, Melich, Malachi, Malchi, Michael, Micha. The significance is the fact that the names mean, “Like God,” King,” “Kingly” or “Royal.” When you put the name together, Melchi-Zedek or correctly pronounced Malchi-Zadok, you are saying, “God-like Priest,” “King-Priest,” “Kingly-Priest,” “Royal Priest” or “Royal Priesthood.” So, that states that Melchizedek/Malchizadok is nothing more than one who operates under the identity of being a kingly or godly-priest in the earth realm. As Revelation 1:6 declares, one who is a part of GOD’s Royal Priesthood. Note however that we are called kingly priest vs. priestly kings due to the fact that first and foremost, we have the responsibility to operate as a priest and go into an intimate relationship (behind-the-veil like a Most High Priest) with GOD. GOD then speaks to us directly and we in turn speak as HIS Priest but it comes out with kingly authority. We as HIS people are not called to be priestly (priest-like) kings because the intimacy of our priest-ship would not manifest the way it needs to when we operate as a king. There is significance to the order of walking in these roles due to the fact that without walking and embracing the role of the priest, we cannot legally walk and embrace the role of a king.
Unfortunately, the descendants or family background of Melchizedek is unknown, but he was known as “The” High Priest of the Most High GOD. There is the possibility that the identity of Melchizedek is possibly the "2nd" son of Noah whose name was Shem. He is actually the bloodline that the Messiah would come from. The reason for this theory is due to the fact that scripture states that Melchizedek was the king of Salem in Genesis 14:18 and Hebrews 7:1-2. History foretells that Shem was actually recorded to be the first king of Salem who ruled in righteousness. In continuing to teach anything regarding the High Priest, as believer’s we must understand that we have a connection with this identity as well. As declared in Revelation 1:6, we care called to be “kings and priests.” 1 Peter 2:8-10 also calls the believer a “royal priesthood,” and through this identity we have obtained mercy.
The High Priest was known to wear certain robes that had a symbolic connection to the Holiness of God. The pieces to their garments were as follows:
The Linen Tunic
The Robe of the Ephod
The Ephod and Waistband
The Breastpiece (Breastplate) of Decision
The 12 Precious Stones
Urim and Thummim
The Turban and the Headband
The Sacred Diedem
The Trousers (Breeches)
Exodus 25-29 gives a complete description of how God commanded Moses to make a temple, ark, and priestly garments. Let us take this time to look at the garments in detail.
Keep in mind the material and workmanship were the very best of their kind- fine linen, pure gold, precious stones and costly ointment. Exodus 28 and Leviticus 8 gives us the description as to how it would be put on through the description given regarding Aaron and his sons.
The Linen Tunic:
The tunic was a loose-fitting garment, sleeved or sleeveless, extending to the knees or below. In ancient times, both men and women wore it. The fine linen it was made from could not be purchased or manufactured (not even today). The linen was white and was also symbolic of the other articles mentioned in Lev. 2:4 (fine flour of the shewbread and fine flour of the grain). This was symbolic of perfect righteousness and holiness. The tunic is used expressly for the purpose of covering. Attached to the tunic was a sash or girdle. It is an embroidered belt that was a symbol of service, for the girded loins denoting readiness for action. It is not the same as the woven waistband of Exodus 28:8 because it was attached to the undergarment and was not seen until the Day of Atonement.
The Robe of Ephod:
The ephod is the first vestment that belongs expressly to the High Priest. In Ex. 28:31-35, this is the first time that “robe” appears in the scriptures and it stands in contrast to the tunic. The robe is worn as a symbol of office and authority (Job 29:14 and Ezek. 26:16). The robe is also symbolic of dignity and royalty. Royalty is actually the underlying truth of the garment. Look at Melchizedek, who was a king of righteousness and of peace. The color of this robe was blue due to the fact that blue is symbolic of the Holy Spirit and also of Grace. Christ is grace so; the robe is symbolic of the putting on of Christ through the Holy Spirit. The robe only has an opening at the bottom and a small opening at the top. The Holy Spirit comes down to man like it did to Christ in the form of a dove. In like manner, the robe descends upon us symbolically of the Holy Spirit. Many items of the tent were of the color blue- the tent frame curtains, in the shielding curtain (veil); the curtain to the entrance to the courtyard, every piece of furniture, and the cord fastened to the headpiece of the priest. The hem of the garment had gold bells and pomegranates made of blue, purple and scarlet yarn that went all the way around. . The pomegranates would cause the bells to ring as the priest moved. This was symbolic of the fact that the Holy Spirit should be heard at all times everywhere you go. One interesting point is that the High Priest did not wear this garment into the Most Holy Place at the time of Atonement because it was a day of humiliation and he wore only plain white garments.
The Ephod and Waistband
There is not much information on this piece of garment accept that it had a front and back piece connected at the shoulders by 2 onyx shoulder stones and secured by a woven waist band. They were all united and inseparable. The ephod was made of gold, purple, blue and scarlet yarn. The gold that was used was real gold, which was beaten into small strands and woven in. The gold stiffened the ephod and made it beautiful (Ex. 28:40). Blue was another color used, which symbolized divinity. When put with gold, they symbolized deity and divinity. Scarlet is another color that however contrasts with blue. Thus, using the color purple will allow them to blend together. Refrase that, when you put blue and scarlet together you will come to the color purple. The colors even go further. As God (blue), Jesus can satisfy the claims of God; as man (scarlet), Jesus can meet the needs of man, and as mediator (purple), Jesus is able to bring God and man together (1 Tim. 2:5).
The Breastpiece (Breastplate) of Decision
The breastpiece is symbolic of all the other portions of the garment- Christ’s diety, divinity, humanity, mediatorship and righteousness. In some versions of the Bible, it is called the breastpiece of judgment, which means ornament of decision. Its sole purpose was to be a repository (location of where things may be placed for preservation) for the Urim and Thummim by which God was to give His judgment or His decision in the event of doubt. The 12 stones which represented the 12 tribes of Israel were placed in it as well as the Urim and Thummim which were located over the High Priest’s heart whenever he entered the presence of the Lord (Ex. 28:30). The breastpiece was doubled to form a pouch into which the Urim and Thummim were deposited or stored. Its shape was square. A square is considered a geometric figure that has equal measurement and speaks of solidity, balance and equality. The square is a span long and a span wide, which means it is 9 inches square. The breast is considered a symbol of affection and love thus, it is symbolic of Christ’s love toward the believer. There were 4 rings on the 4 corners of the breastpiece that secured it to the garment. The 2 upper rings had 2 braided chains of gold attaching it to the shoulder stones while the lower 2 had 2 blue cords fastening it to 2 rings on the ephod. The cords still symbolized the same thing again- gold of diety and blue of grace. The 12 stones placed in the breastpiece bore the name and represented the 12 tribes of Israel. Even though the High Priest bore the name of the 12 tribes before the Lord, we should consider ourselves of the tribe of Israel born from above because Christ bears our name on his heart before the Lord. God is a God of order so, the gems are set in order. The order of the stones placed in 4 rows of 3 are this: ruby (Judah), topaz Issachar), beryl (Zebulun); turquoise (Reuben), sapphire (Simeon), emerald (Gad); jacinth (Ephraim), agate (Manasseh), amethyst (Benjamin); chrysolite (Dan), onyx (Asher), and jasper (Naphtali). The identification of these stones is tentative since they are seldomly mentioned in the Bible. Many of the versions of the Bible have a disagreement in the names of the stones for they will appear as the following: sardius, topaz, carbuncle; emerald, sapphire, diamond; ligure, agate, amethyst; beryl, onyx, and jasper. Here is an interesting point: the names on the shoulder stones were thus: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan and Naphtali on one; on the other Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin. Notice on the breastplate the names of Levi and Joseph do not appear, but are found on the shoulder stones; on the breastpiece are the names Ephraim and Manasseh, but they are absent from the shoulder stones. You ask why? Well, Ex. 28:10 says that the names on the stones are according to their birth while Ex. 28:21 says the stones are the names of the 12 sons of Israel. Even though there are 12 names on the shoulder stones made of onyx, God is no respecter of person and still sees us all as the same. Even though the breastplate has 12 different stones, God acknowledges the fact that we all are different in belief through churches but overall is still in harmony.
The 12 Precious Stones
The 12 stones have been previously discussed with the significance of the breastpiece, but there are a few other scripture references for the stones and their function:
The Birth: Genesis 29:31-30:24
The Patriarchal Blessing: Genesis 49
The Mosaic Blessing: Deuteronomy 30
The Stones of the Breastpiece: Exodus 28:17-21
An interesting point is the fact that each name had a meaning, which was repersonified through Christ. Foe example:
Reuben means “See, a son.”
Simeon means “Hearing.”
Levi means “Joined.”
Judah means “The Praise of Jehovah.”
God has sent forth Jesus, saying, See My Son, hear Him, be joined to Him, and your life will be one of Praise!
The Ruby. The name sardius is Latin for stone from Sardis. The Hebrew name is odem, which means red. It is the symbol for Judah.
The Topaz. The Hebrew word is pitpah. The Greek word is zeteo meaning “to seek.” It is also symbolic of Issachar, which means “reward.”
The Beryl. The Hebrew name is bareqeth meaning glittering, lightning or flashing. It is symbolic of Zebulun. Some versions call it carbuncle.
The Turquoise. The Hebrew name is nophek, which means glistening. Some versions of the bible say emerald due to the fact that they are both green in color like the depths of the sea. This stone is symbolic of Reuben who was considered as turbulent as the waters.
The Sapphire. The Hebrew name is sappiyr, which is derived from a verb meaning to scratch or polish. It is the 2nd hardest stone in the world. It is symbolic of Simeon, who was considered one of the hardest against the Shechmemites.
The Diamond. The Hebrew name is adamant, which means impenetrable hardness. It is a stone that breaks or scratches all others. This stone is symbolic of Gad. God even referred to Ezekiel by this stone at one time (Ezek. 3:9).
The Jacinth. The Hebrew name is leshem and the Greek name is ligurion, which means precious stone. Its color was yellow and it is also called ligure.
The Agate. The Hebrew name is as it is spelled agate. It is harder than steel and, being rustless, is often used in scientific instruments. It is symbolic of Manasseh. The stone was originally found in Achates in Sicily, which is where the name is derived from.
The Amethyst. The true name is amethystine quartz. It is crystal colored purple by manganese and iron. The English dictionary states bluish-violet quartz that prevents intoxication. It is symbolic of Benjamin. It is a great and hard stone symbolic of his tribe with their strong, warlike character.
The Chrysolite. The Hebrew name is tarshiysh. Some translations say beryl. Another name for chrysolite is olivine, which refers to its color. It is symbolic of Dan and is referred to as the color of the wheels seen by Ezekiel (Ezek. 10:9). The hands of the Bridegroom are set with it in Song of Solomon 5:14.
The Onyx. The Hebrew name is shoham, which means to shine with the luster of fire and a flashing forth of splendor. It is symbolic of Asher, whose character flashed forth with splendor.
The Jasper. The Hebrew name is yashpeh. It is a transparent stone symbolic of Naphtali. The throne in Revelation was made of jasper and one of the walls of the Holy City was made of jasper also in chapter 21.
f. The Urim and Thummim
The Urim and Thummim are a type of hidden manna that God has put before us. Urim means light and Thummim means perfection. Through this, we know Christ is the light of the world and he is also perfect. It is suggested that the Urim and Thummim were 2 stones, one black and one white, deposited in the breastplate; the black stone being the negative and the white stone being the positive. Believe it or not, black and white stones were common to people in those days and therefore, they would fully understand what they meant. There is a scripture clue to the stones being a type of spiritual manna in Revelation 2:17. These stones were even used in most states in order to pronounce legal verdicts.
The Turban and Headband
The scriptures say very little about the turban and give no description of its shape. There is a significance between the headdress of the high priest and the priest. The high priest wore a turban, while his sons wore headbands, which were in the form of a tall hat. The headdress was made of fine linen, as was the tunic, so that the head was crowned with the symbol of holiness and righteousness. This was true of Christ also in the sense that he was holiness. Keep in mind that the head denotes authority, since it controls the whole of the body. The head actually becomes the emblem of wisdom. Think on this: Christ as the head of the church controls the church. The headdress of wisdom belonged to both the priest and high priest. The word “headband” means to elevate or lift up. Only the priest wore the headband and not the high priest. The reason for wearing the headdress was because of being in the presence of the Holy God. This signifies subjection. Christ was always subject to the Father (John 6:38, Luke 2:49, 22:42).
The Sacred Diadem
The Hebrew word for diadem is tsits, which means plate. Others translate it to mean flowers or blossom like the walls of Solomon’s Temple. Exodus 28:36 says make a “plate” of pure gold, which is suppose to symbolize man at his best, since gold is considered the best of all jewels. It had an inscription on it that read: HOLY TO THE LORD. It sat on the forehead, which is the seat of the will and of the intellect. We as people even read each other by the forehead. We always tell people we can read them like a book. The prophets did. Jeremiah 3:3 says, you have the brazen look of a harlot. Ezekiel 3:7 states that Israel is hardened and obstinate, which means a hard forehead and stiff heart.
Men were required to wear short linen trousers under everything. Another term for these pants is breeches (Ex. 28:42, Lev. 16:4). This garment was to be worn when coming into the Tent of meeting or when approaching the alter to minister in the Holy Place. Everything had to follow the prescribed methods of God or a person would result in death. The trousers declared holiness of the flesh. The trousers also symbolize accepting Christ, putting on the salvation he has given to us and lifting him up.