BIBLE STUDY SERIES #173, 174 and 175

12 March, 1995


By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

In this present series of Bible Studies, we are following the Great Plan of the Almighty God for the re-constitution of His fallen Creation into an increasingly more perfect accord with His own most perfect will. We have been tracing the unfolding of this plan down through the history of God's people as revealed to us in the Genesis and Exodus accounts in Scripture.

The story had begun in the earliest chapters of Genesis with the account of the Fall of Adam and Eve, and conscious of that context, we began our more detailed present series of studies with the Call of the aged Abram, out from Ur of the Chaldees, from among his own people, in order to produce a race of descendants which, in the years and centuries ahead, would become a mighty nation, a company or commonwealth of nations, and eventually the full expression of the Kingdom of God upon the earth.

We have followed the course of events through Abraham's son, Isaac, and his son, Jacob (re-named Israel) and later Israel's children, the tribes of Israel. They had entered Egypt under Joseph's protection, and later escaped the bondage which arose with that "new king over Egypt which knew not Joseph", (Exodus 1:8).

Through His mighty signs and wonders by the hand of His chosen leader, Moses, God had been responsible for bringing about Israel's escape and it is by God's appointment that these Israelites have now gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive His offer of a code of Laws, of a suitable manner of cleansing by sacrifice, and consequent patterns of worship. God is, in fact, constituting the people as His National "wife" here, at Mount Sinai.

In the Book of Exodus we were learning of these, and of the design of The Tabernacle, the focal point of national worship in the midst of the encampments in the Wilderness of Sinai, and the clothing of those Aaronic Priests who were to officiate therein. Last week we mentioned the Stones which were to be mounted on the High Priest's Breastplate, each bearing the name of an individual Tribe of Israel. Always, these tribal symbols were to be displayed before The LORD when the High Priest came into the Holy of Holies, once a year, to present, in symbol, the whole of the people before their God.

Week by week, we are reading and studying the Scriptures in their orderly progression through consecutive passages, and it is my practice to illuminate the details where appropriate, by making reference to various commentaries and other works where these may be useful in casting further light upon the record as conveyed in Holy Writ.

We now pick up our account, continuing at Exodus 28:13.

13. And thou shalt make ouches of gold;
14. And two chains of pure gold at the ends; of wreathen work shalt thou make them, and fasten the wreathen chains to the ouches.
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.

I explained as we were ending our last week's study that the stones which are here listed in Holy Writ and which were to be set in the Breastplate of Israel's High Priest are matched, stone for stone, by those which appear in the circle of St. Edward's Crown. That Crown, used in the most holy act of crowning the British Sovereigns, bears stones which were chosen to match these stones as they are named in Scripture. I want to take a more detailed look at these stones, and at their placement.

As mentioned by Pastor Maureen Gaglardi, in her Volume II of "The Path of the Just", the choice of names in Biblical days was not done casually. Every name might express the characteristics of the person so named, and this would be especially expected in the case of each of the names of the tribal patriarchs, whose names were to become the names applied to their descendants among the Tribes in Israel. There is also available, in the Scripture which we are presently studying, the further information which may be gleaned by a careful examination of the names of each of the Princes designated as leader of the Tribe at that time by God's own words.

The order of the tribes as they appeared on the Breastplate would be that which The Almighty designated when later ordering their pattern of encampment and their order of procession as they moved from camp to camp through the wilderness of Sinai. That listing is found in Numbers 2.

Although we shall not be looking in detail at that Scripture for a little while, we will need to scan it briefly in order to ascertain the placement of the stones. That record in Numbers 2 lists the tribes in the following positions within the camp as they formed a protective square about the central Tabernacle. We read that on the east side of the encampment were to be three tribes led by the Tribe of Judah. Next in order, and associated with Judah to complete that Eastern flank of the camp were to be Issachar and Zebulun. As Judah, then Issachar then Zebulun are thus listed, these three formed the eastern side of the square encampment about the Tabernacle. Their names, then, would be upon the top row of stones. As Hebrew is written from right to left, this meant that the chief of this group of three would appear in the upper right hand corner, with Issachar in the middle, and Zebulun to the left, in the upper left hand corner of the Breastplate.

There then follows a listing for the south side of the square encampment, led by the Tribe of Reuben, with Simeon and Gad forming the remainder of that side. Thus the second row, from right to left would be made up of Reuben, Simeon and Gad. As the western side of the camp was to be formed of the Tribes of Ephraim, accompanied by Manasseh and Benjamin, the third row of Breastplate stones would read, from right to left, Ephraim, Manasseh, and then Benjamin. On the north side of the camp were to be the Tribes of Dan, leading the remaining two tribes, Asher and Naphtali. If someone wonders what happened to the Tribe of Levi in this arrangement, we must point out that the Levitical Tribe were to surround the actual Tabernacle, in the centre of the entire square encampment.

It will be noted by the careful Bible student that the list of the order of march, and of encampment does not directly follow the order of seniority by chronological age, for God's purposes are often carried forward in a younger son, rather than the elder. We have cited a number of examples of this in Scripture, in former studies. Jacob was younger (by a few brief seconds) than Esau, Judah (and Joseph also) than Reuben, and Moses than Aaron. David the King was the youngest among his brothers also. When we then come to match the actual stones named in the Scriptural record to these tribes, we shall see that there is quite a varied assortment of colours and qualities of stones, just as there are of people in this encampment.

The four stones which appeared on the right were those of the four chief tribes, and as we glance down the row to review the names, we will see that at the top is Judah, and beneath, in order, Reuben, Ephraim and Dan. As we shall be discovering later, there is a very important military reason for this arrangement of the tribal encampment, incidentally, for the closer blood relations stood shoulder to shoulder with one another against an adversary in this disposition.

Let us match the actual names of stones as they are given by the A.V. in its translation of the original Hebrew passage to the names of the tribes. I ought to mention that, in fact, there is good reason to suggest that a few at least, may have to be re-considered as we try to understand which actual gemstone was intended by the original Hebrew word. The New Bible Commentary speaks of "The breastplate" mentioned at verse 15, and says "It is in some cases uncertain what kind of stones the Hebrew words for these twelve jewels signify. Sufficient to say that they were all precious."

The descriptions of each of these stones, we may leave for our next study. The list began with a Sardius, which would thus stand for Judah, then Topaz for Issachar and Carbuncle for Zebulun. In the second row were named an Emerald, Sapphire and Diamond, which would then stand for Reuben, Simeon and Gad. In the third row were listed Ligure, Agate and Amethyst which would be set to represent Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin, while the fourth row, consisting of Beryl, Onyx and Jasper according to the translators, would stand for the Tribes of Dan, Asher and Naphtali.

With that we shall have to postpone our further examination of the precise details to the next study.

19 March, 1995


By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

God has a great Plan for the reforming of His Creation into a more perfect accord with His loving design for His Own purposes. We have, in the present series of Bible Studies, been attempting to follow this design, this Great Plan, through a careful reading and examination of His most Holy Word, as revealed through the Scriptural record.

We began this series in the book of Genesis, with the Call of Abram, out from among his people, which The Almighty God did in order to form a whole new people, a new nation, indeed, the physical expression of the Kingdom of God upon the earth. On our more recent programmes we have traced the children of Israel, descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, first into Egypt to escape a famine, and later, out of that land when they had fallen under bondage to the Pharaoh of a later day, through the great days of that mighty experience known for all time as "The Exodus." Later, we had followed the Israelites as they assembled under the command of Almighty God and the direction of His chosen servant, Moses, at Mount Sinai to receive the Law, and to make an irrevocable Covenant with Yahweh (Jehovah), their Almighty God. This had been done, with appropriate agreement much as a bride accepting an offer of marriage from her husband.

The theme is found clearly in later Scripture, and it appears in prophecies relating to Christ's Second Advent, so it is vitally important for today's descendants of the same tribal "wife" of Sinai to understand what is scheduled to happen in regard to their own national progress in the future. As we have explained on former occasions, there is a National Message contained in the Bible, and we of the British-Israel-World Federation understand that the modern-day expression of this Israel theme is carried forward nationally and racially in the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples today, who are found in Israel's tribal descendants, forming the British and North-West European kindred peoples and their descendants scattered throughout the world at the present time.

These peoples have retained, in general, the Purple and Gold, and the Red, White and Blue colours of The Tabernacle, and other marks of identity, although many of them find it hard to believe that they themselves are indeed true Israelites, as a racial reality which fulfills the scriptural prophecies. The Church has so often preached a gospel message which diverts attention to personal concerns that it has allowed the national aspect to become lost, so that in our generation only the Jewish tradition is connected in the minds of most Christians with the name "Israel." It seems to have utterly escaped them that they, themselves are actual literal descendants of Israel, although not of the Jewish faith!

We have been studying the Book of Exodus, and in it we had followed God's interaction with these Israelites through His servant, Moses. Recently, we had been granted a description of the national focus of worship, The Tabernacle, and we were examining the description of the garments and insignia to be worn by the High Priest. The stones of the High Priest's Breastplate had been listed on the last study, and we had briefly listed each with the tribal designation for which it was to stand. I said at that time that today we ought to look more carefully at the actual description of these stones before passing on to consider their settings as part of the regalia.

We will briefly review the passage in Exodus 28:17-21, which states:

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.

Keil and Delitzsch have a passage in their Commentary which I might profitably mention at this point. They say of these stones the following: "The stones, so far as their names can be determined with the help of the ancient versions, ... and other sources ... were the following." They proceed to designate, from their studies, the first or upper row (which the A.V. lists as sardius, topaz and carbuncle) as containing, odem... (Gk. sardios), i.e. our cornelian, of a blood-red colour; pitdah, (Gk. topazion) the golden topaz; bareketh, lit. the flashing, smaragdos, the emerald, of a brilliant green. In the second row, (which appears in the A.V. as emerald, sapphire and diamond) they place nophek, anthraz, carbunculus, the ruby or carbuncle, a fire-coloured stone; sappir, the sapphire, of a sky-blue colour, and jahalom, which is according to some the diamond, and according to yet others the onyx, a kind of chalcedony, of the same colour as the nail upon the human finger through which the flesh is visible.

Passing to the third row, (which in the A.V. appears as ligure agate and amethyst) they list these as leshem (Gk. ligurion), given as "a kind of hyacinth, a transparent stone chiefly of an orange colour, but running sometimes into a reddish brown, at other times into a brownish or pale red, and sometimes into an approach to a pistachio green"; shevo, (Gk. axates), "a composite stone formed of quartz, chalcedony, cornelian, flint, jasper, etc. and therefore glittering with different colours"; and achlamah, amethustos, "amethyst, a stone for the most part of a violet colour." In the fourth row, designated in the A.V. as beryl, onyx and jasper) they list tarshish, (Gk. xrusolithos) "chrysolite, a brilliant stone of a golden colour, not like what is now called a chrysolite, which is of a pale green with double refraction"; shoham, beryl, and lastly, "jaspeh, no doubt jasper, an opaque stone, for the most part of a dull red, often with cloudy and flame-like shadings, but sometimes yellow, red, brown, or some other colour."

From all these descriptive phrases, one may at once discern that the total effect on viewing the flashing glitter of the High Priest' Breastplate would be one of a quite impressive assortment of colour and brilliance, and doubtless of great beauty. Interest would be heightened as each tribal name would be seen, engraved on the designated stones. Thus, (as supportive references will show in a few moments), were the children of Israel presented annually before the Mercy Seat of The Most High God, in the Holy of Holies, within the Tabernacle. Let us now proceed to understand how all these gems were to be mounted in their settings. We read from Exodus 28:22:

22. And thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen work of pure gold.
23. And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate.
24. And thou shalt put the two wreathen chains of gold in the two rings which are on the ends of the breastplate.

The New Bible Commentary also speaks of "The breastplate" mentioned at verse 15, saying "A square piece of cloth of the same material as the ephod (15), folded back at the bottom to give a double thickness about 9 in. square (16). It is in some cases uncertain what kind of stones the Hebrew words for these twelve jewels signify. Sufficient to say that they were all precious."

25. And the other two ends of the two wreathen chains thou shalt fasten in the two ouches, and put them on the shoulderpieces of the ephod before it.
26. And thou shalt make two rings of gold, and thou shalt put them upon the two ends of the breastplate in the border thereof, which is in the side of the ephod inward.
27. And two other rings of gold thou shalt make, and shalt put them on the two sides of the ephod underneath, toward the forepart thereof, over against the other coupling thereof, above the curious girdle of the ephod.
28. And they shall bind the breastplate by the rings thereof unto the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it may be above the curious girdle of the ephod, and that the breastplate be not loosed from the ephod.
29. And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually.

Speaking of the words "Of these stones", The New Bible Commentary states: "By a twofold emblem Aaron brought the whole people before the Lord, by the stones on the shoulders of the ephod (12) and by the breastplate (21)." "In verse 12..." it advises " with RV 'for' instead of (')unto the children of Israel(')." The reason, it goes on to explain thus: "The memorial was on their behalf. Aaron continually appeared before God as representing in his own person all the Lord's people. His presence in the tabernacle wearing the ephod was a continual act of intercession for them; cf. Heb. vii.25."

Perhaps I ought to quote the portion in which that verse appears, starting at verse 22. Speaking of Jesus, the writer of that passage in Hebrews states: "By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they (the Old Testament priests) truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."

Concerning the "Chains" of verse 22, The New Bible Commentary notes that these are "the same as in verse 14, and served to bind the upper part of the breastplate to the shoulders of the ephod, while the lower and inner or back part was held by golden rings bound by a lace of blue to similar rings on the body of the ephod just above the girdle (26-28)."

As our time has about expired for today, let me leave with you this vision of a Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the heavenly reality, presenting us at the Throne of God, that we may be accepted before Him. Keep in mind that the prophecy and promise of that reality is secure. Remember the words found in I John 3:2, written for the benefit of those who are found as Christians at Christ's Second Advent. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." Truly, that Israelitish prospect is one to sustain us through the present stress and trials of life!

26 March, 1995


By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

On former Bible Studies in this series we have watched the gradual unfolding of the Great Plan of The Almighty God for the restitution of His Creation to a more perfect accord with His mighty purposes. We began several years ago with the Call of Abram, and saw in the Genesis and Exodus accounts how, through Isaac, Jacob (Israel) and Israel's children, a people were brought into existence to serve God's purposes.

These people were drawn into Egypt during famine conditions, and under the care of Joseph. Later, they were brought out by the supernatural interposition of Almighty God, and thus escaped Pharaoh's oppression through The Exodus. More recently, we watched as these people, a surging multitude with flocks, herds and wealth supplied by the plagued Egyptians, escaped to the wilderness through the opening of the Red Sea. It was, we are told, a people that included Israel's children and a mixed multitude. They have arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai under the leadership of God's servant, Moses, and we learned how they had there made an agreement with Yahweh (Jehovah) to become a nation obeying His Laws and, in effect becoming His national wife.

The Law was given, and the description of a national focus of worship, the Tabernacle, and its furnishings, was introduced, and now the description of the manner by which the priesthood is to be garbed, and the manner of their service, is being inserted.

Presently, we are learning the details of the priestly robes, and their symbolism to the Christian world of subsequent centuries. We had studied the gems of the High Priest's Breastplate, each representing, like a signet, one of the tribes of Israel. Today, we pick up a further description found in Exodus 28, but before we move along, I want to mention a reference which those who are interested might like to obtain. It is a book written by E. Raymond Capt, and it is entitled "The Gem Stones In The Breastplate." In this small book, Mr. Capt outlines generally the same ground which we have recently been covering from other commentaries and references. It is a useful book, however as Raymond Capt has a background in geology as well as being an archaeologist. He basically agrees with what we have covered in the past studies, and I shall be using something of what he has to say on our next study.

We have now come to the subject of Urim and Thummim, and so we had better read the pertinent Scripture portion, found in Exodus 28:30.

30. And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.

Of the Urim and Thummim, The New Bible Commentary has these observations: "The Urim and the Thummim (30). Lit. 'lights and perfections'. We might say 'Illumination and Truth'. The High Priest who wore this breastplate of judgment (29) containing the Urim and Thummim was endowed with power to pronounce the judgments of decisions of God upon all matters brought to him. Some think the words refer to the breastplate itself, but more probably they were stones set in the breastplate. See Dt. xxxiii.8; I Sa. xxviii.6n.; Ezr. ii.63."

I should quote each of those references. Deuteronomy 33:8, one of the final tribal blessings by Moses states: "And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah..." I Samuel 28:6 is a reference to Saul's failure, with the Philistines about to attack, to obtain some assurance and direction of The LORD by this and other means. The reference in Ezra 2:63 pertains to the problem of deciding the legitimacy of some who had returned from Babylon to hold a priestly office, and it indicated the necessity to first obtain God's direction regarding the matter by Urim and Thummim.

The Companion Bible notes: "Urim and Thummim. No command of God to make these. Only told to put (nathan, to give) them in the breastplate, i.e. into the bag of the breastplate (cp. v.26 and 16, also ch. 39.9 and 19). This bag was a doubled part, and the Urim and Thummim were probably two precious stones which were drawn out as a lot, to give Jehovah's judgment. 'The lot is cast into the lap (Heb. bosom); but the whole judgment thereof is of the LORD' (Prov. 16.33). Bosom here is put for the clothing or covering over it... . The Heb. Urim and Thummim mean 'lights' and 'perfections'. Probably these are the plurals of majesty, the sing. 'light' (being put by Metonymy for what is brought to light, i.e. guilt), and 'perfection' (put by Metonymy for moral perfection, i.e. innocence)... ."

I should insert that the dictionary explains the term, "metonymy", to be the creation of emphasis by putting of the name of one thing for another which is related to it. Continuing:

"...Thus, these two placed in the 'bag', and one drawn out, would give the judicial decision (the name connected with the breastplate, cp. v 15, above), which would be 'of the LORD'. Hence, the breastplate itself was known as 'the breastplate of judgment' (v. 15), because, by that, Jehovah's judgment was obtained whenever it was needed. Hence, when the land was divided 'by lot' (Num.26.55, &c), Eleazar, the high priest, must be present... . No judgment could be given unless the high priest was present with the breastplate, with its bag, with the lots of Urim and Thummim, which gave Jehovah's decision, 'guilty' or 'innocent', 'yes' or 'no'... ."

The New Bible Dictionary, under the item "Urim And Thummim" explains: "The Urim and Thummim were kept in the high priest's breastplate (Ex.xxviii.30; Lv.viii.8), a pouch fastened to the ephod, and sometimes, with it, simply referred to as 'the ephod'. By the Urim and Thummim the priest could declare God's will to both leader (Nu. xxvii.21) and people (Dt. xxxiii.8,10). Nu. xxvii.21 also significantly places Urim and Thummim in the history of Israel. It has often been noted that Urim and Thummim are not mentioned between the early monarchy and post-exilic times. The existence of prophecy seems to make the Urim and Thummim superfluous. Moses, legislating in Nu. xxvii,21 for the period immediately following his own death, commits the national leader to the guidance of Urim and Thummim; and when the age of prophecy is clearly past the national leaders desire a revival of this form of direction (Ezr.ii.63; Ne. vii.65). We must now consider two passages which speak of the oracular use of the ephod. When Abiathar fled to David he brought with him an ephod (I Sa. xxiii.6). This must have been the high-priestly ephod with the breastplate of Urim and Thummim attached, for the customary priestly (linen) ephod (I Sa. xxii.18) would not need this special mention. When David requires guidance (I Sa. xxiii. 9-12) he asks direct questions, eliciting a simple affirmative or negative. This suggests that the Urim and Thummim was a form of casting lots, whether tossed from the pouch ... or ceremonially drawn out by the priest. I Sa. xiv presents similarities: cf. verses 3 and 41 with xxiii.6 and 9; note the identical title of God, verse 41, xxiii.10, indicating a customary formula. The Hebrew text of verse 41 presents oddities, and, if reconstructed with the help of LXX, could read, 'if this guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, give Urim, and if it is in thy people Israel, give Thummim', a distinctly similar use of the sacred lot. However, man could not compel God to speak, for (I Sa, xxviii.6) 'The Lord answered him Urim.' How did the method operate? Ex. xxviii.30, implying objects placed in the pouch, rules out the ancient explanation that, in reply to a question, a supernatural light played in the gems of the breastplate and thus gave answer (Jos., Ant. viii.9). It has been, however, plausibly suggested that the Urim and Thummim were two flat objects; one side of each was called Urim, from 'arar, to 'curse', and when both displayed this side the answer was negative; the other side was Thummim, from tamam, 'to be perfect', and a complete Thummim meant 'yes'; one Urim and one Thummim meant 'no reply'. This must remain a hypothesis, but it has the merit of meeting such evidence as we possess. The translation of Urim as 'lights', from 'or', 'light', makes less effective contrast with Thummim."

Pastor Maureen Gaglardi, in her "The Path of the Just", Volume II, discusses in detail a number of Biblical references which mention use of one or both of Urim and Thummim or at least indicate their use. She includes mention of the various times and places, and the circumstances in which such usage occurred, to the intent that clarification of the nature of the objects might be gained. She starts by pointing to the Urim and Thummim as "Fascinating, elusive, charged with purpose and power, the least understood of the entire wilderness scene... ." In general she addresses the same Biblical references and covers approximately the same ground to which I have drawn attention in the foregoing accounts. However her examination ranges to considerations which might take us beyond the time allowed for this particular talk so I shall just summarise by stating that her approach is Biblical and spiritually satisfying, and worthy of examination by any who may feel drawn to look further into these matters.

As our time has gone for today, let me leave with you a thought that Pastor Gaglardi has written, namely, that one purpose of the Urim and Thummim was, "a means by which Aaron could bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart continually" and this, as a symbolic pre-view, relates to the work of Jesus Christ for His people. May we hold the knowledge thankfully that when we are His, He has particular concern for our condition. We shall continue with this topic on our next programme.