top of page

The Blue Hue of the High Priest’s Robe part 1, Exodus 28:31 by Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Jan 4

Terry pictured as the High Priest, © The Tabernacle Man, 2006.

Introduction to Thee-Part Series

This four-part series on the mysterious blue robe (Me’il) of the High Priest, will be my attempt at studying the plain sense of the word while being open to the symbolic without losing the historical context of the setting.

 

In Jewish tradition and interpretation of the Torah, symbolism often plays a crucial role in conveying deeper meanings than the plain sense of the verses studied. There was a more than the surface level understanding that connected the physical world with the spiritual domain. (1) I am interested in your comments. Please consider commenting at the end of the blog.


Exodus 28:31-35 (JPS 1917)

And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue.  And it shall have a hole for the head in the midst thereof; it shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole of it, as it were the hole of a coat of mail that it be not rent.  And upon the skirts of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the skirts thereof; and bells of gold between them round about: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the skirts of the robe round about.  And it shall be upon Aaron to minister; and the sound thereof shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the LORD, and when he cometh out, that he die not.


God’s Favorite Color

I am starting to think God’s favorite color is blue. Verse thirty-one states the Me’il or robe of the High Priest woven of all blue wool. The color blue holds a deeper significance. Exodus 28 is not the only place where the color blue is required in scripture. The blue is connected with the divine, The Holy One of Israel. Why the emphasis on blue? What is the purpose of this color in the Lord’s color scheme?

 

This rare blue was seen throughout the tabernacle when weaving the inner covering of the tabernacle adorned with cherubim, the veils, and the garments of the High Priest (Exodus 25:4). The ten commandments were blue (Exodus 24:10) and the commanded blue cord within the Tzitzit or “fringe” of all four-cornered garments.

 

The Connection to God

For the Israelites, the blue robe symbolized the heavenly realm of the God of Israel. The celestial hue served as a constant reminder of the divine and the sacred duties Aaron bore as the High Priest. Tekhelet is similar in color to the sea, and the sea is similar to the sky, and the sky is similar to the Throne of Glory. As Aaron stepped into the Tabernacle he was cloaked in glory!


“And they saw the God of Israel, and there was under His feet the like of a paved work of sapphire stone, and the like of the very heaven for clearness” (Exodus 24:10), indicating that the sky is like a sapphire brickwork. And it is written: ‘The likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone’ (Ezekiel 1:26).” Menachot 43b:13


The Connection to Royalty

There is evidence from the ancient world, that only Kings and those of high social status and wealth could afford, and wear robes dyed in the prized blue hue.

 

“And Mordecai went forth from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a robe of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan shouted and was glad.” Ester 8:15 JPS 1917

 

The Connection to the Ten Commandments

In Jewish tradition, blue stone was the material for the Ten Commandments. The source is Exodus 24:10 and Ezekiel 1:26. The stone was sapphire or Lapis Lazuli.

“Paleo Hebrew 10 Commandments” photo by Terry Harman © 2022

The Connection to the Tzitzit

In addition, the book of Numbers states that one thread of “blue” wool was on the fringe of the corners of their garments (Numbers 15:38). The blue of the Tzitzit was rare and derived from a sea creature known as the chilazon. 

“This ḥilazon, which is the source of the sky-blue dye used in ritual fringes, has the following characteristics: Its body resembles the sea, its form resembles that of a fish, it emerges once in seventy years, and with its blood one dyes wool sky-blue for ritual fringes. It is scarce, and therefore it is expensive.” Menachot 44b:2

 

 “The identity of the chilazon was lost for many centuries. Without a tradition as to the correct species, and without a sample of ancient techeilet, it might not be possible to identify the chilazon with certainty.” (2)

The Tzitzit or Fringe of the Tallit by Aaron Harman, © 2005

The Connection with the People

This blue dye was a precious commodity, emphasizing the rarity and sacredness of the garment. As Aaron covered himself in the blue robe (Me’il) he knew to approach his responsibilities with a sense of reverence and awareness of the sacred. Blue was the color of the heavenly, the hue of royalty.

The High Priest did not step into this garment and pull it from the ground until it rested upon his shoulders. Neither did the High Priest start by putting his arms through the sleeves and securing it to his chest. This robe was from above and would be donned from above.

 

The Me’il was not haphazardly yanked over his head and pulled down to his shoulders. This robe representing the mantle of heaven was carefully maneuvered over his head and past his ears to ensure it would not be ripped. If the robe “rent,” the High Priest violated the commandment (v. 32), and his position would be nullified.

 

This was not an ordinary garment. The High Priest could not come dressed in common garments. The blue robe represented his calling, his unique role to serve the people of the Lord. An appointment and ordination from God. This was a God-given position not an assignment from the people.

 

Conclusion

The blue robe represented the high-ranking position of Aaron among all of the other priests. His garments reminded the people of the sacredness of his position as a mediator between the people and the Lord. But on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur he would remove the garments of his position and clothe himself in the white linen robes of an ordinary priest (Leviticus 16).

 

When he entered into the presence of The Almighty on this most sacred day, he entered the holy of holies without title, position, or merit. His golden garments and position remained on the other side of the veil. Yes, in the eyes of God the High Priest had to humble himself as a servant like all the ordinary priests. He was to embody humility and holiness as he approached a Holy God on behalf of the nation.

 

If you are a Rabbi, minister, pastor, or priest, you do not have an easy “row to plow.” At one time in your life, you said what Isaiah the prophet said, “Lord send me” (Isaiah 6:8). You may have questioned your life and qualifications. As you don your stole, vestments, robes, or simple suit, you are giving yourself as a korban (offering) for those who may not always understand or appreciate what it is you do.

 

The fact of the matter is most people do not have a clue what it takes for you to split your time between your family and them. They do not understand the hours of preparation it requires to prepare sermons and Bible studies. Very few congregants comprehend that many holidays are also religious days of observance and while they can take the day off to be with their families, you must show up to serve regardless of how many show up for the services you have poured your heart into to ensure it is meaningful for everyone.

 

Seldom do they consider the times you sat down with your family for a meal or a gathering with loved ones, only to receive a call about an emergency. It may not be enough for me to say, “Thank you for all you do for the Kingdom.” But the Lord knows your heart and he knows your struggles and he knows the people you do your best to serve. The Lord knows there are times when some of us act like goats rather than sheep and do not give you the respect a shepherd deserves. I leave you with this blessing from Numbers 6:24-26.


The LORD bless thee, and keep thee;

The LORD make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee;

The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.


References

One Jewish method to uncover the symbolic or deeper understanding of the Bible is “PaRDeS.” Pardes is the Hebrew word meaning “orchard.” This interpretive approach seeks to explore the hidden layers of meaning not recognized with a casual reading of the scriptures. Pardes is the metaphorical term used to refer to the four levels of Torah interpretation: pshat (the plain or literal meaning of the text), remez (allusions), derush (the sermonic material derived from the words of the verses), and sod (the deep mystical secrets). One of the beneficial sources for more information on this approach to understanding scripture with the PARDES Institute of Jewish Studies in Israel.

 


422 views4 comments

4 Comments

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
JP
JP
Jan 13
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Each time I put tzitzit on I am reminded of the responsibility of walking within His instructions, I am also reminded that I am walking as a representative.

Like
Replying to

Yes it is a visual reminder of who we represent. Terry

Like

Guest
Dec 23, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Is there a commercial dye that is similar to the biblical blue?

Like
Replying to

I do not know of a commercial dye. Only thing I can suggest is you take a blue Tzitzit to a dye shop to see how close they can match.

Like
bottom of page