Golden Plate
June 24, 2020

Exodus 28 is organized outside-in, first describing the visible, exterior portions of the high priest's robes and then the hidden or partially hidden underclothes. There's also a movement upward, from torso to head. The passage is crowned with a description of Aaron's golden crown.

The crown is called a tziytz. Outside Exodus (28:36; 39:20) and Leviticus (8:9), the word refers to flowers. The temple’s cedar walls are carved with gourds and open tzitztziym (1 Kings 6:18, 29), as are the oil-wood doors of the Most Holy Place (1 Kings 6:35). Human life is as beautiful and fragile as a tziytz (Job 14:2; Psalm 103:15); the loveliness of flesh is the like the tziytz of the field (Isaiah 40:6-8). Aaron, in short, wears a golden blossom on his forehead.

Like the pomegranates at the hem of his robe, the flower crown is a reminder that Aaron lives and works in a garden. He's a human flower, clothed with glory like the grass, planted in God's garden. It's not the last time Aaron is identified by flowers. When Korah disputes his status as priest, Yahweh makes his rod bud with almonds. Yahweh makes Aaron fruitful in his presence, as a "watcher tree." Might we speculate that the golden blossom is an almond blossom?

The crown is made of "pure gold," like the furnishings of the Most Holy Place, and, like the onyx stones on his shoulders and the gems on his breast, the crown is engraved. The stones are engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel, but on his head the priest wears the name of Yahweh, in the seven-letter seal, qodesh laYHWH, "Holy to Yahweh." It's likely that this is the seven-eyed stone referred to in Zechariah 4:10: The letters are the "eyes," which "range to and fro." With the flower on his forehead, Aaron is a "seer."

It's engraved like a seal (28:36), like a signet ring, as are the onyx and gemstones. But the use of "seal" in this context suggests that Aaron himself is the sealed one. Wearing the name of Yahweh on his head, he's sealed with Yahweh's mark of ownership. He is holy because he belongs to the Holy One.

The blossom is kept in place at the front of Aaron's "turban" by a blue cord (28:37). As a result, the crown covers Aaron's forehead (28:38). The curse on Adam included the "sweat of his brow." Aaron, the new Adam, has a golden covering over the place where the sign of the curse appears. Instead of a sign of the curse, Aaron comes into Yahweh's garden-tabernacle reflecting Yahweh's own name.

That placement might also illuminate Yahweh's promise to Ezekiel 3:7-9. Because Israel has hardened its heart and head against Yahweh, making its forehead like stone, Yahweh promises to turn Ezekiel's head to flint so he can shatter the hearts and heads of the people. Ezekiel is a priest, and the Lord makes him hard-headed as a priest should be.

The crown not only designates Aaron as a holy one, but as a sin-bearer (Exodus 28:38). Not Jesus only, but all priests are sin-bearers. The sins of Israel accumulate on the High Priest, so he can place them on the scapegoat on the Day of Coverings.

Specifically, he bears Israel's sin with regard to holy things. That appears to refer to Israel's violations of holiness, their acts of sacrilege. These sins particularly accumulate on Aaron and his successors, and he bears them away. So long as he wears the golden crown, he is both sin-bearer and the one who is accepted before Yahweh (28:38), the one who ensures that Israel is accepted before Yahweh.

To download Theopolis Lectures, please enter your email.