High Priest Breastplate

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This Breastplate was worn by a High Priest who represented Joshua, or Jeshua, who was the son of Josedech, and the High Priest of the Jews when they returned from Babylonian exile.   He was seated in the East, and clothed in the apparel of the ancient High Priest of the Jews.  He wore a robe of blue, purple, scarlet, and white linen, and was decorated with a breastplate and miter.  On the front of the miter was inscribed the words, Holiness to the Lord.  The stones in this breastplate represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  The High Priest was at the head not only of ecclesiastical but of civil affairs, presiding in the Sanhedrim and judging the people.  He superintended the Temple, directing the mode of worship, and preserving the building from profanation.   He was inducted into his office by anointment and sacrifices, and was invested with a peculiar dress.  This dress, as the Rabbis describe it, consisted of eight parts, namely, the breastplate, the ephod, with its curious girdle, the broidered coat, the robe of the ephod, the miter, and the girdle.  The vestments of a High Priest of a Royal Arch Chapter are intended to represent -- though the representation is imperfect -- the gorgeous apparel of the Jewish Pontiff.  To these the Masonic ritualists have ascribed a symbolic signification.  The miter teaches the High Priest the dignity of his office; the breastplate, his responsibility to the laws and ordinances of the Institution, and that the honor and interest of the Chapter should always be near his heart; and the robe, the different graces and virtues which are symbolized by the various colors of which it is composed.   The Breastplate pictured above was sold by the fraternal supply houses from the 1870's until the 1920's but they are not correct with Biblical scripture... the Breastplate of Judgment was not made of brass or gold.  God gave specific instructions to Moses on how it should be made.  In Exodus 28:15  "You shall make the breastplate of judgment.  Artistically woven according to the workmanship of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen you shall make it."

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This picture shows how the Breastplate was worn by the High Priest, but the actual dress of the High Priest looks nothing like the above picture which came from Odd Fellows catalog #5 printed in the 1910s.  For the High Priest of Israel to look authentic, it should be that of a man wearing a white or blue turban with a gold crown, a white tunic with a blue robe over it.  The ephod should be over that and the colors should be of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread interwoven. On each shoulder, fastening the front and back parts of the ephod, should be a black onyx stone with a gold setting around it.  The sash should be either white or patterned the same as the ephod.  The hem of the blue robe should have round balls of either blue, scarlet, or purple all the way around, with a golden bell in between each ball.  The tiny bells sewn into the robe rang and foretold of the High Priests presence so worshipers would bow their heads and not look upon the garments and raiment's of this Most Holy of Men.

Which stones were on the breastplate?

Upon the breastplate were set four rows of precious stones, three in each row, and upon them were engraved the names of the twelve tribes, and as the great Jewish historian Josephus adds, "in the order of their birth", but we are not told which stone to which tribe. So which stones were used? This is a 2,000 year old question. Although the Hebrew names of the 12 stones are not in question, their translation is, and despite numerous attempts, the various translators cannot, to date, agree to a single translation. G. W. Kunz in "The Curious Lore of Precious Stones" says "In the Midrash Bemidbar, the Rabbinical commentary on numbers, the tribes are given in their order, with the stones appropriate to each and the color of the tribal standard pitched in the desert camp, this color corresponding in each case with that of the tribal stone."

In the Midrash Rabba it states the colors of the stones:

1. Odem- red (Reuvain).

2. Pitida - green (Shimeon).

3. Barekes - one third white, one third black and one third red (Levi).

4. Nofech - sky blue (Yehudah).

5. Sapir - bluish black (Yisaschar).

6. Yahalom - white (Zevulun).

7. Leshem - same color as Sapir (Dan).

8. Shevo - a mixture of black and white (Naftali).

9. Achlama - wine red (Gad).

10. Tarshish - same color as Yahalom (Asher).

11. Shoham - black (Yosef).

12. Yashfeh - was a multicolored stone (Binyamin).

The stones were in the following order:

3 2 1

6 5 4

9 8 7

12 11 10


In the Bible we learn that:

"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.

And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper; they shall be set in gold in their enclosings.

And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings on a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes....

And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgement upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually."

The Urim and Thummim:

The breastplate was actually made of two pieces, which formed a sort of purse, or bag, in which also was kept the two sacred stones, named the Urim (representing light and excellence) and the Thummim (representing perfection and completion). These stones were some divinely appointed instruments by which the High Priest inquired of God about matters concerning the welfare of the Children of Israel. The Bible makes several references to these miraculous stones, but not anything physical, like the shape or size.

They were probably two jewels. When someone had to make an important decision, the request was made known to the high priest. He would stand before the lampstand near the altar, holding the Urim in one hand and the Thummin in the other. As the light from the candle reflected from the Urim and the Thummin onto the stones of the Breastplate, this flash of light provided up to 24 combinations (2 x 12). Since there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, the flashes of light could produce strings of letters. It was said that God breathed through the wind, which in turn causes the veil to move, permitting a breeze to flicker the flames in the Lampstand to momentarily alter the angle of direction of the light onto the Urim and Thummin, and thence to the Breastplate. Thus God was able to communicate directly, but not audibly, to the high priest and answer the enquiry.





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