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Antiquities of the Jews, Vol 1, The

CHAPTER 7. Concerning The Garments Of The Priests, And Of The High Priest.

1. There were peculiar garments appointed for the priests, and for all the rest, which they call Cohanoeoe [-priestly] garments, as also for the high priests, which they call Cahanoeoe Rabbae, and denote the high priest's garments. Such was therefore the habit of the rest. But when the priest approaches the sacrifices, he purifies himself with the purification which the law prescribes; and, in the first place, he puts on that which is called Machanase, which means somewhat that is fast tied. It is a girdle, composed of fine twined linen, and is put about the privy parts, the feet being to be inserted into them in the nature of breeches, but above half of it is cut off, and it ends at the thighs, and is there tied fast.

2. Over this he wore a linen vestment, made of fine flax doubled: it is called Chethone, and denotes linen, for we call linen by the name of Chethone. This vestment reaches down to the feet, and sits close to the body; and has sleeves that are tied fast to the arms: it is girded to the breast a little above the elbows, by a girdle often going round, four fingers broad, but so loosely woven, that you would think it were the skin of a serpent. It is embroidered with flowers of scarlet, and purple, and blue, and fine twined linen, but the warp was nothing but fine linen. The beginning of its circumvolution is at the breast; and when it has gone often round, it is there tied, and hangs loosely there down to the ankles: I mean this, all the time the priest is not about any laborious service, for in this position it appears in the most agreeable manner to the spectators; but when he is obliged to assist at the offering sacrifices, and to do the appointed service, that he may not be hindered in his operations by its motion, he throws it to the left, and bears it on his shoulder. Moses indeed calls this belt Albaneth; but we have learned from the Babylonians to call it Emia, for so it is by them called. This vestment has no loose or hollow parts any where in it, but only a narrow aperture about the neck; and it is tied with certain strings hanging down from the edge over the breast and back, and is fastened above each shoulder: it is called Massabazanes.

3. Upon his head he wears a cap, not brought to a conic form nor encircling the whole head, but still covering more than the half of it, which is called Masnaemphthes; and its make is such that it seems to be a crown, being made of thick swathes, but the contexture is of linen; and it is doubled round many times, and sewed together; besides which, a piece of fine linen covers the whole cap from the upper part, and reaches down to the forehead, and hides the seams of the swathes, which would otherwise appear indecently: this adheres closely upon the solid part of the head, and is thereto so firmly fixed, that it may not fall off during the sacred service about the sacrifices. So we have now shown you what is the habit of the generality of the priests.

4. The high priest is indeed adorned with the same garments that we have described, without abating one; only over these he puts on a vestment of a blue color. This also is a long robe, reaching to his feet, [in our language it is called Meeir,] and is tied round with a girdle, embroidered with the same colors and flowers as the former, with a mixture of gold interwoven. To the bottom of which garment are hung fringes, in color like pomegranates, with golden bells 13 by a curious and beautiful contrivance; so that between two bells hangs a pomegranate, and between two pomegranates a bell. Now this vesture was not composed of two pieces, nor was it sewed together upon the shoulders and the sides, but it was one long vestment so woven as to have an aperture for the neck; not an oblique one, but parted all along the breast and the back. A border also was sewed to it, lest the aperture should look too indecently: it was also parted where the hands were to come out.

5. Besides these, the high priest put on a third garment, which was called the Ephod, which resembles the Epomis of the Greeks. Its make was after this manner: it was woven to the depth of a cubit, of several colors, with gold intermixed, and embroidered, but it left the middle of the breast uncovered: it was made with sleeves also; nor did it appear to be at all differently made from a short coat. But in the void place of this garment there was inserted a piece of the bigness of a span, embroidered with gold, and the other colors of the ephod, and was called Essen, [the breastplate,] which in the Greek language signifies the Oracle. This piece exactly filled up the void space in the ephod. It was united to it by golden rings at every corner, the like rings being annexed to the ephod, and a blue riband was made use of to tie them together by those rings; and that the space between the rings might not appear empty, they contrived to fill it up with stitches of blue ribands. There were also two sardonyxes upon the ephod, at the shoulders, to fasten it in the nature of buttons, having each end running to the sardonyxes of gold, that they might be buttoned by them. On these were engraven the names of the sons of Jacob, in our own country letters, and in our own tongue, six on each of the stones, on either side; and the elder sons' names were on the right shoulder. Twelve stones also there were upon the breast-plate, extraordinary in largeness and beauty; and they were an ornament not to be purchased by men, because of their immense value. These stones, however, stood in three rows, by four in a row, and were inserted into the breastplate itself, and they were set in ouches of gold, that were themselves inserted in the breastplate, and were so made that they might not fall out low the first three stones were a sardonyx, a topaz, and an emerald. The second row contained a carbuncle, a jasper, and a sapphire. The first of the third row was a ligure, then an amethyst, and the third an agate, being the ninth of the whole number. The first of the fourth row was a chrysolite, the next was an onyx, and then a beryl, which was the last of all. Now the names of all those sons of Jacob were engraven in these stones, whom we esteem the heads of our tribes, each stone having the honor of a name, in the order according to which they were born. And whereas the rings were too weak of themselves to bear the weight of the stones, they made two other rings of a larger size, at the edge of that part of the breastplate which reached to the neck, and inserted into the very texture of the breastplate, to receive chains finely wrought, which connected them with golden bands to the tops of the shoulders, whose extremity turned backwards, and went into the ring, on the prominent back part of the ephod; and this was for the security of the breastplate, that it might not fall out of its place. There was also a girdle sewed to the breastplate, which was of the forementioned colors, with gold intermixed, which, when it had gone once round, was tied again upon the seam, and hung down. There were also golden loops that admitted its fringes at each extremity of the girdle, and included them entirely.

6. The high priest's mitre was the same that we described before, and was wrought like that of all the other priests; above which there was another, with swathes of blue embroidered, and round it was a golden crown polished, of three rows, one above another; out of which arose a cup of gold, which resembled the herb which we call Saccharus; but those Greeks that are skillful in botany call it Hyoscyamus. Now, lest any one that has seen this herb, but has not been taught its name, and is unacquainted with its nature, or, having known its name, knows not the herb when he sees it, I shall give such as these are a description of it. This herb is oftentimes in tallness above three spans, but its root is like that of a turnip [for he that should compare it thereto would not be mistaken]; but its leaves are like the leaves of mint. Out of its branches it sends out a calyx, cleaving to the branch; and a coat encompasses it, which it naturally puts off when it is changing, in order to produce its fruit. This calyx is of the bigness of the bone of the little finger, but in the compass of its aperture is like a cup. This I will further describe, for the use of those that are unacquainted with it. Suppose a sphere be divided into two parts, round at the bottom, but having another segment that grows up to a circumference from that bottom; suppose it become narrower by degrees, and that the cavity of that part grow decently smaller, and then gradually grow wider again at the brim, such as we see in the navel of a pomegranate, with its notches. And indeed such a coat grows over this plant as renders it a hemisphere, and that, as one may say, turned accurately in a lathe, and having its notches extant above it, which, as I said, grow like a pomegranate, only that they are sharp, and end in nothing but prickles. Now the fruit is preserved by this coat of the calyx, which fruit is like the seed of the herb Sideritis: it sends out a flower that may seem to resemble that of poppy. Of this was a crown made, as far from the hinder part of the head to each of the temples; but this Ephielis, for so this calyx may be called, did not cover the forehead, but it was covered with a golden plate, 14 which had inscribed upon it the name of God in sacred characters. And such were the ornaments of the high priest.

7. Now here one may wonder at the ill-will which men bear to us, and which they profess to bear on account of our despising that Deity which they pretend to honor; for if any one do but consider the fabric of the tabernacle, and take a view of the garments of the high priest, and of those vessels which we make use of in our sacred ministration, he will find that our legislator was a divine man, and that we are unjustly reproached by others; for if any one do without prejudice, and with judgment, look upon these things, he will find they were every one made in way of imitation and representation of the universe. When Moses distinguished the tabernacle into three parts, 15 and allowed two of them to the priests, as a place accessible and common, he denoted the land and the sea, these being of general access to all; but he set apart the third division for God, because heaven is inaccessible to men. And when he ordered twelve loaves to be set on the table, he denoted the year, as distinguished into so many months. By branching out the candlestick into seventy parts, he secretly intimated the Decani, or seventy divisions of the planets; and as to the seven lamps upon the candlesticks, they referred to the course of the planets, of which that is the number. The veils, too, which were composed of four things, they declared the four elements; for the fine linen was proper to signify the earth, because the flax grows out of the earth; the purple signified the sea, because that color is dyed by the blood of a sea shell-fish; the blue is fit to signify the air; and the scarlet will naturally be an indication of fire. Now the vestment of the high priest being made of linen, signified the earth; the blue denoted the sky, being like lightning in its pomegranates, and in the noise of the bells resembling thunder. And for the ephod, it showed that God had made the universe of four elements; and as for the gold interwoven, I suppose it related to the splendor by which all things are enlightened. He also appointed the breastplate to be placed in the middle of the ephod, to resemble the earth, for that has the very middle place of the world. And the girdle which encompassed the high priest round, signified the ocean, for that goes round about and includes the universe. Each of the sardonyxes declares to us the sun and the moon; those, I mean, that were in the nature of buttons on the high priest's shoulders. And for the twelve stones, whether we understand by them the months, or whether we understand the like number of the signs of that circle which the Greeks call the Zodiac, we shall not be mistaken in their meaning. And for the mitre, which was of a blue color, it seems to me to mean heaven; for how otherwise could the name of God be inscribed upon it? That it was also illustrated with a crown, and that of gold also, is because of that splendor with which God is pleased. Let this explication 16 suffice at present, since the course of my narration will often, and on many occasions, afford me the opportunity of enlarging upon the virtue of our legislator.

CHAPTER 8. Of The Priesthood Of Aaron.

1. When what has been described was brought to a conclusion, gifts not being yet presented, God appeared to Moses, and enjoined him to bestow the high priesthood upon Aaron his brother, as upon him that best of them all deserved to obtain that honor, on account of his virtue. And when he had gathered the multitude together, he gave them an account of Aaron's virtue, and of his good-will to them, and of the dangers he had undergone for their sakes. Upon which, when they had given testimony to him in all respects, and showed their readiness to receive him, Moses said to them, "O you Israelites, this work is already brought to a conclusion, in a manner most acceptable to God, and according to our abilities. And now since you see that he is received into this tabernacle, we shall first of all stand in need of one that may officiate for us, and may minister to the sacrifices, and to the prayers that are to be put up for us. And indeed had the inquiry after such a person been left to me, I should have thought myself worthy of this honor, both because all men are naturally fond of themselves, and because I am conscious to myself that I have taken a great deal of pains for your deliverance; but now God himself has determined that Aaron is worthy of this honor, and has chosen him for his priest, as knowing him to be the most righteous person among you. So that he is to put on the vestments which are consecrated to God; he is to have the care of the altars, and to make provision for the sacrifices; and he it is that must put up prayers for you to God, who will readily hear them, not only because he is himself solicitous for your nation, but also because he will receive them as offered by one that he hath himself chosen to this office." The Hebrews were pleased with what was said, and they gave their approbation to him whom God had ordained; for Aaron was of them all the most deserving of this honor, on account of his own stock and gift of prophecy, and his brother's virtue. He had at that time four sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.

2. Now Moses commanded them to make use of all the utensils which were more than were necessary to the structure of the tabernacle, for covering the tabernacle itself, the candlestick, and altar of incense, and the other vessels, that they might not be at all hurt when they journeyed, either by the rain, or by the rising of the dust. And when he had gathered the multitude together again, he ordained that they should offer half a shekel for every man, as an oblation to God; which shekel is a piece among the Hebrews, and is equal to four Athenian drachmae. 18 Whereupon they readily obeyed what Moses had commanded; and the number of the offerers was six hundred and five thousand five hundred and fifty. Now this money that was brought by the men that were free, was given by such as were about twenty years old, but under fifty; and what was collected was spent in the uses of the tabernacle.

3. Moses now purified the tabernacle and the priests; which purification was performed after the following manner:—He commanded them to take five hundred shekels of choice myrrh, an equal quantity of cassia, and half the foregoing weight of cinnamon and calamus [this last is a sort of sweet spice]; to beat them small, and wet them with an bin of oil of olives [an hin is our own country measure, and contains two Athenian choas, or congiuses]; then mix them together, and boil them, and prepare them after the art of the apothecary, and make them into a very sweet ointment; and afterward to take it to anoint and to purify the priests themselves, and all the tabernacle, as also the sacrifices. There were also many, and those of various kinds, of sweet spices, that belonged to the tabernacle, and such as were of very great price, and were brought to the golden altar of incense; the nature of which I do not now describe, lest it should be troublesome to my readers; but incense 19 was to be offered twice a-day, both before sun-rising and at sun-setting. They were also to keep oil already purified for the lamps; three of which were to give light all day long, 20 upon the sacred candlestick, before God, and the rest were to be lighted at the evening.

4. Now all was finished. Besaleel and Aholiab appeared to be the most skillful of the workmen; for they invented finer works than what others had done before them, and were of great abilities to gain notions of what they were formerly ignorant of; and of these, Besaleel was judged to be the best. Now the whole time they were about this work was the interval of seven months; and after this it was that was ended the first year since their departure out of Egypt. But at the beginning of the second year, on the month Xanthicus, as the Macedonians call it, but on the month Nisan, as the Hebrews call it, on the new moon, they consecrated the tabernacle, and all its vessels, which I have already described.

5. Now God showed himself pleased with the work of the Hebrews, and did not permit their labors to be in vain; nor did he disdain to make use of what they had made, but he came and sojourned with them, and pitched his tabernacle in the holy house. And in the following manner did he come to it:—The sky was clear, but there was a mist over the tabernacle only, encompassing it, but not with such a very deep and thick cloud as is seen in the winter season, nor yet in so thin a one as men might be able to discern any thing through it, but from it there dropped a sweet dew, and such a one as showed the presence of God to those that desired and believed it.

6. Now when Moses had bestowed such honorary presents on the workmen, as it was fit they should receive, who had wrought so well, he offered sacrifices in the open court of the tabernacle, as God commanded him; a bull, a ram, and a kid of the goats, for a sin-offering. Now I shall speak of what we do in our sacred offices in my discourse about sacrifices; and therein shall inform men in what cases Moses bid us offer a whole burnt-offering, and in what cases the law permits us to partake of them as of food. And when Moses had sprinkled Aaron's vestments, himself, and his sons, with the blood of the beasts that were slain, and had purified them with spring waters and ointment, they became God's priests. After this manner did he consecrate them and their garments for seven days together. The same he did to the tabernacle, and the vessels thereto belonging, both with oil first incensed, as I said, and with the blood of bulls and of rams, slain day by day one, according to its kind. But on the eighth day he appointed a feast for the people, and commanded them to offer sacrifice according to their ability. Accordingly they contended one with another, and were ambitious to exceed each other in the sacrifices which they brought, and so fulfilled Moses's injunctions. But as the sacrifices lay upon the altar, a sudden fire was kindled from among them of its own accord, and appeared to the sight like fire from a flash of lightning, and consumed whatsoever was upon the altar.

7. Hereupon an affliction befell Aaron, considered as a man and a father, but was undergone by him with true fortitude; for he had indeed a firmness of soul in such accidents, and he thought this calamity came upon him according to God's will: for whereas he had four sons, as I said before, the two elder of them, Nadab and Abihu, did not bring those sacrifices which Moses bade them bring, but which they used to offer formerly, and were burnt to death. Now when the fire rushed upon them, and began to burn them, nobody could quench it. Accordingly they died in this manner. And Moses bid their father and their brethren to take up their bodies, to carry them out of the camp, and to bury them magnificently. Now the multitude lamented them, and were deeply affected at this their death, which so unexpectedly befell them. But Moses entreated their brethren and their father not to be troubled for them, and to prefer the honor of God before their grief about them; for Aaron had already put on his sacred garments.

8. But Moses refused all that honor which he saw the multitude ready to bestow upon him, and attended to nothing else but the service of God. He went no more up to Mount Sinai; but he went into the tabernacle, and brought back answers from God for what he prayed for. His habit was also that of a private man, and in all other circumstances he behaved himself like one of the common people, and was desirous to appear without distinguishing himself from the multitude, but would have it known that he did nothing else but take care of them. He also set down in writing the form of their government, and those laws by obedience whereto they would lead their lives so as to please God, and so as to have no quarrels one among another. However, the laws he ordained were such as God suggested to him; so I shall now discourse concerning that form of government, and those laws.

9. I will now treat of what I before omitted, the garment of the high priest: for he [Moses] left no room for the evil practices of [false] prophets; but if some of that sort should attempt to abuse the Divine authority, he left it to God to be present at his sacrifices when he pleased, and when he pleased to be absent. 21 And he was willing this should be known, not to the Hebrews only, but to those foreigners also who were there. For as to those stones, 22 which we told you before, the high priest bare on his shoulders, which were sardonyxes, [and I think it needless to describe their nature, they being known to every body,] the one of them shined out when God was present at their sacrifices; I mean that which was in the nature of a button on his right shoulder, bright rays darting out thence, and being seen even by those that were most remote; which splendor yet was not before natural to the stone. This has appeared a wonderful thing to such as have not so far indulged themselves in philosophy, as to despise Divine revelation. Yet will I mention what is still more wonderful than this: for God declared beforehand, by those twelve stones which the high priest bare on his breast, and which were inserted into his breastplate, when they should be victorious in battle; for so great a splendor shone forth from them before the army began to march, that all the people were sensible of God's being present for their assistance. Whence it came to pass that those Greeks, who had a veneration for our laws, because they could not possibly contradict this, called that breastplate the Oracle. Now this breastplate, and this sardonyx, left off shining two hundred years before I composed this book, God having been displeased at the transgressions of his laws. Of which things we shall further discourse on a fitter opportunity; but I will now go on with my proposed narration.

10. The tabernacle being now consecrated, and a regular order being settled for the priests, the multitude judged that God now dwelt among them, and betook themselves to sacrifices and praises to God as being now delivered from all expectation of evils and as entertaining a hopeful prospect of better times hereafter. They offered also gifts to God some as common to the whole nation, and others as peculiar to themselves, and these tribe by tribe; for the heads of the tribes combined together, two by two, and brought a waggon and a yoke of oxen. These amounted to six, and they carried the tabernacle when they journeyed. Besides which, each head of a tribe brought a bowl, and a charger, and a spoon, of ten darics, full of incense. Now the charger and the bowl were of silver, and together they weighed two hundred shekels, but the bowl cost no more than seventy shekels; and these were full of fine flour mingled with oil, such as they used on the altar about the sacrifices. They brought also a young bullock, and a ram, with a lamb of a year old, for a whole burnt-offering, as also a goat for the forgiveness of sins. Every one of the heads of the tribes brought also other sacrifices, called peace-offerings, for every day two bulls, and five rams, with lambs of a year old, and kids of the goats. These heads of tribes were twelve days in sacrificing, one sacrificing every day. Now Moses went no longer up to Mount Sinai, but went into the tabernacle, and learned of God what they were to do, and what laws should be made; which laws were preferable to what have been devised by human understanding, and proved to be firmly observed for all time to come, as being believed to be the gift of God, insomuch that the Hebrews did not transgress any of those laws, either as tempted in times of peace by luxury, or in times of war by distress of affairs. But I say no more here concerning them, because I have resolved to compose another work concerning our laws.


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