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The Mysterious Pomengrantes of the High Priest’s Robe, part 4, Exodus 28:31-35, by Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Feb 8

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.


Review of the Design of the Blue Robe

In the first three blogs of our journey to discover the significance of the blue robe (Me’il) of the High Priest, we were introduced to the practical reasons and spiritual symbolism associated with the design of the Me’il. In previous blogs, we dispelled the myth that the High Priest wore the golden garments into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. A simple reading of Leviticus 16 reveals he wore the four white linen garments into the Holy of Holies once a year. No bells and no rope.


Blue - The Heavenly Hue

The Talmud indicates the Me’il of the High Priest atoned for “evil speech.” The wool robe was entirely blue-dyed wool. The color blue is associated with the heavenly realm and was a reminder for the people and the High Priest was cloaked or “totally immersed” (1) with a sacred responsibility.


Head Opening - Bite Your Tongue

If any part of the blue robe became soiled or ripped the High Priest would become disqualified and would not be able to fulfill his priestly duties. Therefore, the “mouth” or the opening for the head of the High Priest was doubled over to prevent ripping. This doubling over was a reminder for the High Priest to guard his tongue from evil speech.


Golden Bells - Gossip Kills

The golden bells alternated between the multicolored woolen pomegranates. For practical purposes, the tingling of the bells alerted the listener that the High Priest was actively involved in his sacred duties, especially while he was in the Holy Place.


On a spiritual level, the bells reminded the High Priest he is the mediator between God and man. It would be easy to recall all the negative the children of Israel have done. It would be tempting to even gossip before the Lord to remind him of wrongdoing. He must remind himself that he not only represents the people living honorable lives he also represents the noisy clambering people who complain and frequently do wrong (Sanhedrin 37a).

“The Bells and Pomegranates of the Meil” photo by Terry Harman, © 2000

Pomegranates – Symbol of Abundance, Fertility and Blessing

What about the pomegranates fashioned with blue, purple, and scarlet wool? What was the practical purpose and the symbolism behind this mysterious design? Practically speaking pomegranates are a distinctive element not found on any other clothing within the Israelite nation. The design of the High Priest’s garments set apart the office of the High Priest (Exodus 28:5), “for splendour and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2 JPS 1917). There is disagreement within the Jewish tradition regarding the number of bells and pomegranates. The number ranges from 36, 70, or 72. (2) The Bible does not give us the details on the number of bells and pomegranates.


Pomegranates – Fruit of the Promised Land

The blue, purple, and scarlet pomegranates bring awareness to the spiritual life of the High Priest and the people. The pomegranate is one of the fruits the spies brought back from their scouting of the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:23). Therefore, pomegranates are a symbol of the promised land. It is also a symbol of the abundance that awaited in the “land flowing with milk and honey.” Pomegranates are also a symbol of royalty and King Solomon adorned the top of the two pillars of the First Temple (1 Kings 7:18-20).


“Other places in the Bible refer to pomegranates as fruitfulness, blessing, and prosperity (Numbers 13:23; Deuteronomy 8:8). The presence of pomegranate trees was symbolic of a nation’s financial and material wealth (Joel 1:2; Haggai 2:19). The grumbling Israelites mentioned the lack of pomegranates as a sign that God had deserted them: “Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? . . . It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates” (Numbers 20:4-5). (3)

Pomegranates – Other Interpretations

I have listened to sermons that associate the blue, purple, and scarlet colors of the pomegranates on the robe with the three types of people – the priests, the Levites, and the common Israelite. The Bible does not mention this association. In addition, Jewish tradition teaches the seeds of the pomegranate are a reminder of the 613 mitzvot or commandments in the Torah. However, there is no consistency in the number of seeds within a pomegranate. Yes, I had to cut open two pomegranates to evaluate the theory of 613 seeds. But there is a direction connection of the three colors with the colors of the ephod, breastplate, and the veils of the Tabernacle.


As Aaron went about his sacred duties, the pomegranates would sway back and forth between the golden bells that adorned the hem of the blue robe. Every aspect of the design of his clothing was a visual reminder to the people and the High Priest. Be holy as God is holy.


Be careful what you say. Your words can heal or bring pain to others. You represent the Lord of the heavens (blue). You are a royal priesthood (purple). You represent the people as they bring their korban, their sacrifices (scarlet) seeking atonement as they draw nigh to God.


Produce fruit in your walk with God. Let your words match your walk. Be mindful that your spiritual reputation does not become soiled. Remind yourself that regardless of how tough, bruised, or damaged the exterior of people look, they too are full of seeds like the pomegranate waiting to burst forth. (4) Keep in mind as you serve others, regardless of your office, you too need atonement and forgiveness.


“As anyone who’s ever cut open a pomegranate knows, this luscious fruit is filled with hundreds of tiny seeds. For millennia, Jews have used pomegranate’s copious numbers of seeds as a metaphor for the many commandments of the Torah. The Talmudic rabbi Resh Lakish was one of the first to make this connection. Noting that Jews perform mitzvot, he said “Even the empty people among you are as full of mitzvot as the pomegranate is full of seeds” (Sanhedrin 37a).”

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Leviticus chapter 19:9-18

Deuteronomy chapter 6:1-26

Mat 22:37  And יהושע said to him, “ ‘You shall love יהוה your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your mind.’ Deu 6:5.

Mat 22:38  “This is the first and great command.

Mat 22:39  “And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Lev 19:18.


Thank you. Terry

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