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Type of garment mentioned in the Old Testament, which differed according to its use

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Ephod (Heb. APUD or APDO Gr. Epomis, ephod, ephoud, Lat. superhumerale) is a kind of garment mentioned in the O. T., which differed according to its use by the high-priest, by other persons present at religious services, or as the object of idolatrous worship.

Ephod of the High-Priest.—Supplementing the data contained in the Bible with those gleaned from Josephus and the Egyptian monuments, we may distinguish in the ephod three parts: a kind of waistcoat or bodice, two shoulder-pieces, and a girdle. The first of these pieces constituted the main part of the ephod; it is described by some writers as resembling the form of the chasuble, by others as being an oblong piece of cloth bound round the body under the arms and reaching as far as the waist. Its material was fine-twisted linen, embroidered with violet, purple, and scarlet twice-dyed threads, and interwoven with gold (Ex., xxviii, 6; xxxix, 2). The ephod proper must not be confounded with the “tunick of the ephod” (Ex., 31-35), nor with the “rational of judgment” (Ex., xxviii, 15-20). The tunick was worn under the ephod; it was a sleeveless frock, made “all of violet”, and was put on by being drawn over the head, something in the manner of a cassock. Its skirt was adorned with a border of pomegranates “of violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, with little bells set between”, whose sound was to be heard while the high-priest was ministering. The “rational of judgment” was a breastplate fastened on the front of the ephod which it resembled in material and workmanship. It was a span in length and width, and was ornamented with four rows of precious stones on which were inscribed the names of the twelve tribes. It held also the Urim and Thummim (doctrine and truth) by means of which the high-priest consulted the Lord. The second part of the ephod consisted of a pair of shoulder-pieces, or suspenders, fastened to the bodices in front and behind, and passing over the shoulders. Each of these straps was adorned with an onyx stone engraved with the names of six of the tribes of Israel, so that the high-priest while ministering wore the names of all the tribes, six upon each shoulder (Ex., xxviii, 9-12; xxv, 7; xxxv, 9; xxxix, 16-19). The third part of the ephod was the cincture, of the same material as the main part of the ephod and woven in one piece with it, by which it was girt around the waist (Lev., viii, 7). Some writers maintain that the correct Hebrew reading of Ex., xxviii, 8, speaks of this band of the ephod; the contention agrees with the Syriac and Chaldee versions and with the rendering of Josephus (cf. Ex., xxviii, 27 sq.; 5; xxxix, 20 sq.). It must not be imagined that the ephod was the ordinary garb of the high-priest; he wore it while performing the duties of his ministry (Ex., xxviii, 4; Lev., viii, 7; I K., ii, 28) and when consulting the Lord. Thus David learned through Abiathar‘s ephod the disposition of the people of Ceila (I K., xxiii, 11 sq.) and the best plan of campaign against the Amalecites (I K., xxx, 7 sqq.). In I K., xiv, 18, it appears that Saul wished the priest Achias to consult the Lord by means of the Ark; but the Septuagint reading of this passage, its context (I K., xiv, 3), and the text of Josephus (Ant. Jud., VI, vi, 3) plainly show that in I K., xiv, 18, we must read “take the ephod” instead of “bring the ark”.

The Common Ephod.—An ephod was worn by Samuel when serving in the time of Heli (I K., ii, 18), by the eighty-five priests slain by Doeg in the sanctuary of Nobe (I K., xxii, 18), and by David dancing before the Ark (II K., vi, 14). This garment is called the linen ephod; its general form may be supposed to have resembled the ephod of the high-priest, but its material was not the celebrated fine white linen, nor does it appear to have been adorned with the variegated colors of the high-priest’s ephod. The Septuagint translators seem to have intended to emphasize the difference between the ephod of the high-priest and that worn by David, for they call this latter the idolatrous ephod.

The Idolatrous Ephod.—According to Judges, viii, 26 sq., Gedeon made an ephod out of part of the spoils taken from the Madianites, their golden earlets, jewels, purple raiment, and golden chains. All Israel paid idolatrous worship to this ephod, so that it became a ruin to Gedeon and all his house. Some writers, following the Syriac and Arabic versions, have explained this ephod as denoting a gold casing of an oracular image. But there is no other instance of such a figurative meaning of ephod; besides, the Hebrew verb used to express the placing of the ephod on the part of Gedeon denotes in Judges, vi, 37, the spreading of the fleece of wool. The opinion that Gedeon‘s ephod was a costly garment like that of the high-priest, is, therefore, preferable.


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