Verses 1–5

We have here,

I. The priests nominated: Aaron and his sons, Exod. 28:1. Hitherto every master of a family was priest to his own family, and offered, as he saw cause, upon altars of earth; but now that the families of Israel began to be incorporated into a nation, and a tabernacle of the congregation was to be erected, as a visible centre of their unity, it was requisite there should be a public priesthood instituted. Moses, who had hitherto officiated, and is therefore reckoned among the priests of the Lord (Ps. 99:6), had enough to do as their prophet to consult the oracle for them, and as their prince to judge among them; nor was he desirous to engross all the honours to himself, or to entail that of the priesthood, which alone was hereditary, upon his own family, but was very well pleased to see his brother Aaron invested in this office, and his sons after him, while (how great soever he was) his sons after him would be but common Levites. It is an instance of the humility of that great man, and an evidence of his sincere regard for the glory of God, that he had so little regard to the preferment of his own family. Aaron, who had humbly served as a prophet to his younger brother Moses, and did not decline the office (Exod. 7:1), is now advanced to be a priest, a high priest to God; for he will exalt those that abase themselves. Nor could any man have taken this honour to himself, but he that was called of God to it, Heb. 5:4. God had said of Israel in general that they should be to him a kingdom of priests, Exod. 19:6. But because it was requisite that those who ministered at the altar should give themselves wholly to the service, and because that which is every body’s work will soon come to be nobody’s work, God here chose from among them one to be a family of priests, the father and his four sons; and from Aaron’s loins descended all the priests of the Jewish church, of whom we read so often, both in the Old Testament and in the New. A blessed thing it is when real holiness goes, as the ceremonial holiness did, by succession in a family.

II. The priests’ garments appointed, for glory and beauty, Exod. 28:2. Some of the richest materials were to be provided (Exod. 28:5), and the best artists employed in the making of them, whose skill God, by a special gift for this purpose, would improve to a very high degree, Exod. 28:3. Note, Eminence, even in common arts, is a gift of God, it comes from him, and, as there is occasion, it ought to be used for him. He that teaches the husbandman discretion teaches the tradesman also; both therefore ought to honour God with their gain. Human learning ought particularly to be consecrated to the service of the priesthood, and employed for the adorning of those that minister about holy things. The garments appointed were, 1. Four, which both the high priest and the inferior priests wore, namely, the linen breeches, the linen coat, the linen girdle which fastened it to them, and the bonnet or turban; that which the high priest wore is called a mitre. 2. Four more, which were peculiar to the high priest, namely, the ephod, with the curious girdle of it, the breast-plate of judgment, the long robe with the bells and pomegranates at the bottom of it, and the golden plate on his forehead. These glorious garments were appointed, (1.) That the priests themselves might be reminded of the dignity of their office, and might behave themselves with due decorum. (2.) That the people might thereby be possessed with a holy reverence of that God whose ministers appeared in such grandeur. (3.) That the priests might be types of Christ, who should offer himself without spot to God, and of all Christians, who have the beauty of holiness put upon them, in which they are consecrated to God. Our adorning, now under the gospel, both that of ministers and Christians, is not to be of gold, and pearl, and costly array, but the garments of salvation, and the robe of righteousness, Isa. 61:10; Ps. 132:9, 16. As the filthy garments wherewith Joshua the high priest was clothed signified the iniquity which cleaved to his priesthood, from which care was taken that it should be purged (Zech. 3:3, 4), so those holy garments signified the perfect purity that there is in the priesthood of Christ; he is holy, harmless, and undefiled.