Priestly Garments

Exodus 27:20-28:43

Following closely on the heels of last week’s portion, Tetzaveh opens with a command to prepare pure olive oil for the eternal lamp which the priests must light in the Tabernacle. From there, the Torah goes on to describe the clothing which must be made for the priests.


God tells Moses that his brother Aaron and his four sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, must be consecrated as priests. To do so, Moses must make for them special priestly garments. Aaron is to serve as High Priest, and will wear eight special garments, while his sons will minister under him and wear four garments.


All priests will wear tunics, sashes, headdresses and breeches. On top of that, the High Priest will also wear a breastplate, an ephod (a special garment to attach the breastplate), a robe and a head-plate. These garments are described in great detail in the text.


The Torah says these special garments are to be worn “for splendour and for beauty”, or in Hebrew, for kavod and for tiferet. The Israel Bible asks, what is the difference between these two? Rabbi Meir Leibush Weisner, also known as the Malbim, defines kavod as the honor one receives for the gifts they are born with, while tiferet is the glory they receive for the results of their own efforts and hard work. The priestly garments signify both the God-given splendour of the priest’s position and the beauty of the energies they invest in the service.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

The Book of Exodus focusses on the Children of Israel becoming a nation and receiving God’s Torah. Clothing is generally seen as materialistic, and not necessarily a spiritual tool. Why do you think so much attention is given to the clothing of the priests?

Comments ( 18 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

Post a Reply

Comments must adhere to our guidelines or they may be removed.

  • Yacov Ben Chaim

    In keeping with the prominence of “Holiness to the Lord” the special breastplate is to be a constant reminder that the high priest and the priesthood in general are “ set apart”.

    The clothing of the priesthood is a constant reminder to Israelites anytime that they see a priest of their responsibilities to serve as a “ light unto the nations”, and more importantly, “ to walk humbly with their G!d.

    So in the wider sense the special clothing is a reminder — “know before whom you stand”.

  • I AM

    Nor Exodus 27 stops at verse 21 so did you make just this up 😂

  • joy

    The Priests are to "represent " Adonai to the people and therefore must show themselves to be set apart in actions and in appearance. When you were to look upon the Priests they were to see Adonai's glory and splendor and to see how special they (Israel) were to HIM. Upon the shoulders and the breastplate Adonai has the names of the sons of Israel to always remind the Priests that they represent the people to Adonai and to always have sons of Israel's names always before Adonai. How very special!!!

  • Kali

    If Jehovah specifically instructs humans, in this case the Priestly family of Moses and Aaron the garments to be worn in His Tabernacle, I would believe that His empowerment, reverence & authorisation would exist in those garments when they're worn. They would be taboo in my opinion.

  • Pauline Graham

    As the nations that would be around Israel Yehovah made very specific laws of sacrifices also the garments. The High priest represented Yehovah speaking to the men and people he was a bridge between them both hence these garments were special and not to be come common. The lower priests the servants had more simple garments denoting there rank and roles.

  • Herman Arentsen

    1.Clothes can make you known as a member of priestly family. They recognize you.
    2.Clothes can protect you against other people. They will have a better understanding of your behavior, because certain things you do /don’t do in order to be to be fit for service ( eg.not touching dead)
    3.Clothes will protect you against yourself. You can forget things you should do / not do but your priestly garment will remind you of your status.(eg. the little bells of the garment of the Kohen Gadol constantly reminding him that there is only one step between life and death.)
    4.Clothes are the fulfillment of a mitzwe. Your prayershawl with tzitzit are prescribed in Torah.and helps you to concentrate on your words. This can also be seen spiritually: only fulfilling the Mizwot can bring you in the Peresence of the Holy One.So be aware how to approach HaShem (B"H)!

  • Angela B

    Thank you all for those comments. Aliza, I agree with you that one well dressed commands respect from others.. It follows therefore that the priests commanded respect through such clothing, and besides, it was important that they were respected as people looked to them as ministers of the holy and powerful Elohim. I have also been told that certain colours command respect, like the colours the priests and the High Priest wore. And also, like Stephanie said, each piece has spiritual significance, and so were the colours.

  • Donna

    After doing my Israel Bible Study earlier this morning, I just Surprisingly and Interestingly Found this in Isaiah 4:2-3 that the King James Version translates as (with my comments in CAPS & parens:) “In that day shall the branch of the Lord be BEAUTIFUL and GLORIOUS, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped(=Pleyta!!!) of Israel. 3 And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called HOLY, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:”
    The “beautiful and glorious” description Jumped Out at me, along with the Kadosh/Holy description that Resonated with the description of the Clothing/Priestly Garments here in Exodus.
    AND, then it goes on in v5 “And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of MOUNT Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the GLORY shall be a defence=HUPPAH!!!. 6 And there shall be a tabernacle(=Succah) for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a place of refuge(=of falsehood), and for a covert from storm and from rain.”
    And, that reminded me our Study, but also of an Amazing article by Rabbi Tuly about the Pleyta on Mt. Zion that references Obadiah 17 “But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance(=PLEYTA!!!), and there shall be HOLINESS; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.”
    This AWESOME and OH SO RELEVANT TO TODAY article is at this link:
    Wow… Just reveling and marveling in HaShem and His AMAZING WORD AND PLAN!!! That we get to be a part of as we study the Torah coming forth from Zion According to Isaiah 2, Micah 4 and all over!!!
    Isaiah 2 King James Version (KJV) The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
    2 And it shall come to pass IN THE LAST DAYS, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all NATIONS shall flow unto it.
    3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the MOUNTAIN of the Lord, to the HOUSE OF THE GOD OF JACOB; and he will TEACH us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of ZION shall go forth the law(=TORAH!!!,) and the WORD of the Lord from Jerusalem.
    I See His HOLY Fire and Smoke Rising – His Pleyta, His Covering, His Huppah, on His Holy Mountain, FLOWING to the Nations – and it is Beautiful and Glorious to behold!!! And, life Saving and Life Giving!!! Thank you, TODAH RABA House of Jacob!!! And, specifically Judah!!! And, Aliza and Rabbi Tuly, individually :)!!! We owe you a great debt of Gratitude!!!

  • I think clothing in general carries a number of purposes (besides for protecting us from the elements). We use clothing to send messages to others-who we are, what group we belong to, culture, etc. As well, our clothing creates certain expectations-we expect someone in a police officer’s uniform to be helpful, etc. This, in turn, affects our behaviour. When we know people expect us to behave in a particular way, we are more likely to live up to those expectations. Priests needed clothing to tell others ‘I’m a Priest’. This would garner the respect that they deserved. At the same time, since people would know they were priests based on their clothing, they would be more likely to live up to those expectations and behave with a high level of morality and spirituality. Lastly, as was mentioned here, the priests were working in God’s Temple. Certain work environments demand more respectful dress codes (high corporate offices….), and there is no place that demanded more honor, glory and respect be brought to it than the Tabernacle/Temple.

  • Kenneth Osterman

    The Tabernacle was the meeting place of Israel with God through the Priests. Only the Levites had regular proximity to the general area surrounding the tabernacle and within the Tabernacle areas (Court, Holy and Most Holy) the areas were increasingly special. Brass, Silver, Gold, sacrifice, holiness, most holy, more and more restrictive access. The priests were to be without physical defect and it seems most proper that their attire reflect their very special relationship and very special function that they were to execute in the presence of God. One other aspect is the attitude of heart of these priests – it was to be of utmost humility.
    These garments reflect the beauty and splendor of him whom they served.
    These garments covered all minor blemishes and unsightly areas, but one thing they could not cover was an impure heart and this is one of the reasons the high priest had to sacrifice for himself as well as the nation.

  • Stephanie

    I think each piece has various layers of spiritual significance, mainly more of my sense – not claiming to know those layers 😉 But for one, the coat, kutonet, first appears when God makes coats ‘katenot’ for Adom and Chava to clothe them. After that instance, the next time the word is used for Yosef’s coat, after that it’s used only for the priestly garments and a few times in relation to royal garments.
    Also it always strikes me that the word used for weaving the priestly garments, ‘raqam’ is also used in Psalm 139:15 My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, ‘woven’ in the lowest parts of the earth.

    • Magda

      I find this reference to the other places where the Hebrew word for coat (here: Kutonet) was used very meaningful – each of these coats made a difference to/ set the wearer(s) apart; Adam and Chava – before and after; Yosef from his brothers. Priests obviously very different from other Israelites in responsibility and functioning.

    • Marjorie Bradley

      Thank you. Stephanie. Highlighting that beautiful verse in Psalm 139. God bless

  • Diana Brown

    While Moses was a prophet and deliverer to the Children of Israel, the priests were to minister unto the Lord and intercede for the people keeping sin from entering His Tabernacle. A special call indeed, peculiar in fact for the world may march to the beat of the drum, but the priest listens for the Shofar and prepares to answer the call.

  • Rita

    I think I agree with David, the garments set the priesthood apart for a special function among Israel.

  • David

    The RELATED RESOURCES – TEMPLE INSTITUTE expands exrensively on this topic.

  • David

    The Tabernacle is God’s abode among his chosen people. His Priestly class are chosen to make offerings to God on behalf of the people. When they go before God they must be special not only internally (spiritually) but externally as well. Garments will mark that uniqueness and uniformity.

Skip to toolbar