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Samuel Kuo
August 17, 2020
This entry is part 17 of 24 in the series 156 Pictures of Christ in the Old Testament
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Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

Fact About Christ from page 15: Christ is our High Priest exemplified by Aaron

He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest 

– Hebrews 2:17

We have such a High Priest

– Hebrews 8:1

Our last picture of Christ in Exodus is Aaron, an exemplar of the Levitical high priesthood. Although Jesus is a high priest after the order of Melchizedek, not after the Levitical priesthood, we can nevertheless see a different picture of His high priesthood through the description of the Levitical high priest and his garments. You can read Exodus 28 for the full description of these garments. 

You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. Then you shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the coat and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastpiece, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod. And you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban. You shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him….

Then you shall take part of the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons’ garments with him. He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.

– Exodus 29:4-7, 21

Aaron and his sons undergo a ceremony of consecration before they could start their service as priests. In this ceremony, there is a distinction made between Aaron and his sons. Aaron receives the anointing oil alone while his sons have blood from the offerings sprinkled on them before they are anointed.

This is our major sign that Aaron should be considered a type of Christ and his sons a type of the church. Because He was sinless, Jesus needed no blood for the Holy Spirit to descend upon Him. We as the church, however, first need His blood to be shed on the cross before we can receive the Holy Spirit. 

These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.

– Exodus 28:4-5

Now back to the garments of the high priest! There is much that can be seen from each piece and the materials they are made of, but this article will only focus on two details from among them: the onyx stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod and the twelve stones on the breastplate of judgment. 

You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth. As a jeweler engraves signets, so shall you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall enclose them in settings of gold filigree. And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for remembrance.

– Exodus 28:9-12

You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, in skilled work. In the style of the ephod you shall make it—of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen shall you make it. It shall be square and doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth. You shall set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle shall be the first row; and the second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold filigree. There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel. They shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes. 

– Exodus 28:15-21

And they shall bind the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, so that it may lie on the skillfully woven band of the ephod, so that the breastpiece shall not come loose from the ephod. So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord. And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.

– Exodus 28:28-30

These two parts of the high priestly garments are similar. The shoulder pieces bear two onyx stones with the names of the tribes engraved on them, six on each. They are set on the shoulders for remembrance. The shoulders in Hebrew are especially associated with strength or bearing a burden.

The breastplate has twelve different precious stones, each with a name engraved on it. This breastplate is also called the breastplate of judgment, and the high priest wears it over his heart. Thus, whenever Aaron is wearing his priestly garments before God, the names of the tribes are right there with him, on his shoulders and by his heart. 

So what does this picture say about Christ? 

He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest 

– Hebrews 2:17

We have such a High Priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 

– Hebrews 8:1-2

He always lives to make intercession for them

– Hebrews 7:25

Hebrews draws the parallel: just as Aaron was high priest over the earthly tabernacle, Jesus is high priest over the heavenly tabernacle. Like Aaron, He is merciful and faithful. Unlike Aaron, who died and passed on his priesthood to his son, Jesus always lives to make intercession for us. As Jesus ministers unto the Father on your behalf, you can have the assurance that your name is right there, on His shoulders and on His heart. He is always there, interceding for you. 

When you feel weak, small, or forgotten, remember that your name is engraved in the onyx stones upon His shoulders. He is interceding for you with strength, the same strength that upholds the universe by the word of His power. 

When you feel condemned, shameful, or unworthy, remember that your name is also held on His breastplate, always near to His heart. His judgments are full of compassion, only seeing a precious stone, shining and gleaming in His light. This is our high priest. 

What does this mean for me as a Christian? 

On one hand, we can have surety and confidence, knowing that Jesus is always bearing our names before God on His heart and on His shoulders.

On the other hand, we too can have people on our hearts and on our shoulders. Our remembrance of their situations can be with strength. Our judgments with compassion. We can live before the Lord for their sake. We can’t do it with everyone, like Jesus can, but whether they are friends who have not yet received the gospel, or brothers or sisters in Christ, we can have some whom we bear before the Lord. Why do I need to read the Bible today? For his sake. Why should I go to the prayer meeting, even though I’m tired after work? For her sake. Who is engraved on your shoulders and on your heart?

Have any inspirations or questions about the content of the article? Or do you just want to say hello and introduce yourself? We’d love to hear from all our readers! Leave a comment or send an email to with the title of this post in the subject line. If you are burning to engage with us, but don’t know what to say, here are some questions that could be a help: 

  1. Living before the Lord for others’ sake is much more than doing things for people. How can you help your life before the Lord grow now, that you could be there for others later?
  2. Paul said to the Thessalonians, “For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” Is there a time when someone else’s stand helped you to go on?
  3. What is a practical way bearing someone on your shoulders and on your heart could be expressed? 
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