Garments of Glory and Beauty, 2
May 20, 2020

"Bring near" Aaron, Yahweh tells Moses (Exodus 28:1). The verb is the hiphil of qarab, the root of qorban, one of the general Hebrew terms for "sacrifice" or "offering" (cf. Leviticus 1:1-3). Aaron is separated from the sons of Israel like an animal separated from the herd, separated to ascend into the presence of Yahweh on behalf of Israel. To be a priest is, among many other things, to be a living sacrifice.

Aaron isn't separated alone. He's the high priest, separated from the separated ones, but he is brought forward along with his sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar (Exodus 28:1). Four sons to form the four corners of the priesthood; four sons to represent the four points of the compass and the four groups of three tribes that gather around the tabernacle, gathered around Aaron as Israel is gathered around Yahweh. Together, Aaron + sons = five, the number of military organization. To be a priest is, among other things, to be set apart to lead the holy war of sacrificial liturgy.

The verb form of "priest" (kahan) is used three times in the openings verses of Exodus 28 (vv. 1, 3, 4; cf. inclusio in 28:41). Aaron and sons are set apart "to priest" to Yahweh. Those three uses are the pillars of a chiastic structure:

A. Bring near Aaron your brother and his sons to priest, 28:1

B. Make holy garments for Aaron, 28:2

C. Wise of heart, those who spirit of wisdom, make garments to priest, 28:3

B'. The specific holy garments, 28:4a

A'. For Aaron your brother and sons to priest, 28:4b

Twice Yahweh describes Aaron's garments as "holy." As such, they belong to Yahweh, but are bestowed on Aaron. Aaron wears Yahweh's clothes, as he eats Yahweh's food, serves at Yahweh's table, maintains Yahweh's house. Clothed in Yahweh's garments, Aaron becomes a human image of Yahweh's glory and beauty.

"Holy" (qadash) is used not only adjectivally but verbally. Aarons garments "consecrate" him to priest (28:3). Of course, the consecration involves other actions - washing, anointing, a series of sacrifices, a liminal week in the tabernacle (Leviticus 8--9). But Exodus 28 uses shorthand: Investing Aaron with the holy garments makes him holy, again, an image of the Holy God of Israel.

We may draw out baptismal inferences. In baptism, we are clothed with the Anointed Priest-King (Galatians 3:26-29). He is the Holy One of God, and because we are invested with Him we become holy ones, saints. As an investiture, baptism consecrates. As investiture, baptism glorifies and beautifies.

The center of the opening section of Exodus 28 is Yahweh's instruction to Moses to speak to the wise of heart. Yahweh first commands Moses to make the garments (v. 2), then says Moses speaks to others to make them (v. 3). Moses' role in the making is purely verbal. Authorized by a word from Yahweh, Moses' speech authorizes others to make the garments. It's a small hint of one of the overarching themes of this section of Exodus: Moses is a co-creator who carries out Yahweh's word in order to form the microcosmic tabernacle and who himself speaks things into being by ordering skilled craftsmen to make things.

Aaron is consecrated, glorified, and beautified by the ordination. Presiding at the ordination, Moses is the consecrator, glorifier, beautifier. If Aaron is a new Adam in a new Eden, Moses is a human Yahweh, forming a new man from the clay of his brother.

Unlike Yahweh, of course, Moses' speech doesn't create directly. His creative speech achieves its effect through the mediation of others, the "wise (chakam) in heart" who have received the "Spirit of wisdom" (ruach chokmah). The Spirit is the Spirit, the Spirit who hovered over the first creation (Genesis 1:2), the Spirit of wisdom (Isaiah 11:2).

Yahweh's word, mediated through Moses, empowers Spirit-filled craftsmen to create garments. Word and Spirit together re-create Aaron to priest.

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