“Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel in order of their birth, six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other. Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal, then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces (or clasps) of the Ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord.” (Exod 28:9-12)
“Onyx is a special variety of silica in which the semitransparent-to-opaque layers are alternately white and dark humus (portraying “humility”) brown or black. It is similar to agate quartz, but the layers are arranged in straight or parallel bands.”
“In regards to the epaulet stones, the firstborn name occupied the position nearest the neck of the high priest on the right shoulder, then alternating from shoulder to shoulder and working outward the names were placed in birth sequence; hence the second born was placed nearest the high priest’s neck on the left shoulder, and so on.
These two stones were of the same material as the eighth stone in the breastplate, the chief difference being in the manner in which they were cut (parallel rather than cross-grained). When cut parallel to the black and white bands, with the black as the upper, predominating surface, the same type of onyx stone would serve as an epaulet or shoulder ornament of birth rank, much in the fashion of the broad, flat cloth shoulder pads worn by naval and military officers to show rank and status of service.
In the cutting process, when six tribal names were incised into each black shoulder stone, the light layer underneath would be exposed. The names, therefore, would appear as white lettering against a dark background, greatly enhancing clarity and legibility.
The black background of the shoulder pieces points out that the class thus honored (the Church in glory) would, in their dealings with others, ever be kept humble and in constant remembrance of their former common origin in contrast to their new white names of honor… they were dug from the dark, miry pit of the sin-cursed planet earth (Psa 40:2; Isa 51:1). Such a remembrance will be of utmost benefit to mankind here on earth in dire need of a merciful priesthood.”
It will be noted that in some renderings of the High Priest garments the two shoulder stones are illustrated as being round and in others rectangular, the scriptures are silent on the matter, however it would seem more practical for the stones to have been cut in a rectangular pattern as this would better facilitate the listing and engraving of the names.
Not shown in this picture is the “golden ring” which was attached to the underside of the shoulder piece (or clasp). This ring located underneath on the front part of the Ephod, right about at the seam was what secured the breastplate at its top to the Ephod, by means of a “blue cord” or “lacer” attached from one end to the other. (See Exod 28:27, 28)
Continued with next post.
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