We’re out of the tabernacle now, and instead talking about what the priests wear. Actually, it’s only talking about what Aaron and his sons will wear. This portion of Exodus very much operates as immediate instructions for while they’re roaming in the desert, with Moses and his family still alive. Presumably things get more permanent in Leviticus?
If the main function of the tabernacle was to set boundaries of holiness that keep the profane out, then the purpose of the ephod, or priestly garment, seems to be bringing everyone back in. Aaron wears a garment and a breastplate with jewels inscribed with the names of all the twelve tribes of Israel, and it’s repeatedly referenced how he represents all of them as a reminder to God (v 12, 29), that the Urim and Thummim are “the judgment of the Israelites” (v 30 – is that their personal judgment decisions, or the judgment of them?). The gem on his turban, meanwhile, absorbs any guilt that the Israelites might accrue in making sacrifices (v 38) – I assume this refers to mistakes made in the process? Vedic sacrifices in India had a similar concept of removing any culpability from ritual errors.
The point is that, as priest, he’s representing all of Israel. Not everyone can stand in the presence of God and not die (v 35), so the one who can has to represent everywhere. I think Hebrews has something to say about this later… when I get to it in, what, a decade? I really need to get a better pace on this…
The Japanese: igen “dignity,” soeru “to garnish” (v 2), koushijima “checked pattern, plaid” (v 4), horitsukeru “to carve” (v 10), saikunin “craftsman,” fuchidoru “to add a border or fringe” (v 11), mashikaku “square (equilateral quadrilateral)” (v 16), zakuroishi “garnet” (v 18), menou “agate” (v 19), rangyoku “aquamarine,” hekigyoku “jasper” (v 20), sessuru “to touch, to come in contact with” (v 26), eri “collar” (v 32), suso “hem” (v 33), zakuro “pomegranate” (v 34), maneku “to invite” (v 35), hitaiate “browplate” (v 36), shoujiru “to be generated,” hitai “forehead” (v 38), tsukasu “to make (someone) take a position” (v 41).
Two translation differences. The first is pretty mundane. The NRSV notes that the names of some of the stones are uncertain, so they vary between Japanese and English:
Some of those aren’t even close to the same color.
The second is more interesting. The NRSV just says “die” in verses 35 and 43. In the NCT it says “invite death.” The latter gives me the image of walking in a thunderstorm with an umbrella. It’s not that God will smite you, just that if you walk into his presence with the wrong preparation, you’re going to get zapped as a course of nature. Indeed, God comes across as very much like a powerful force of nature – THE Force of Nature, if you would, big, awe-inspiring, and sort of terrifying.