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Jewish High Priest wearing the sacred vestments. The ephod is depicted here in yellow.

An ephod (pronounced either \ē´fod\ or \ef´od\) was a type of object in ancient Israelite culture, and was closely connected with oracular practices. In the Books of Samuel, David is described as wearing one when dancing in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant,[1] and one is described as standing in the sanctuary at Nob, with a sword behind it;[2] in the book of Exodus and in Leviticus one is described as being created for the Kohen Gadol (Jewish High Priest) to wear as part of his official vestments;[3] in the Book of Judges, Gideon and Micah each cast one from a metal, and Gideon's was worshipped.[4][5]

Within the Bible, in the contexts where it is worn, the Ephod is usually described as being linen, but did not constitute complete clothing of any kind, as the Books of Samuel describe Michal as taunting David for indecently exposing himself by wearing one.[6] Specifically, David is described as girding himself with an Ephod, but since girding is a term used in Biblical Hebrew only to describe binding something around the loins, and since when Samuel is described as girding himself with an ephod, his tunic is mentioned separately, it would appear to have been something like a loincloth, girdle, or swordbelt.[7] There appears to have been a strong religious and ceremonial implication to wearing an ephod, since the eighty-five priests at Nob are specifically identified as being the type of people who wore an ephod;[8] though the Masoretic text here describes them as being linen ephods,[9] the word linen is not present in the Septuagint version of the passage, nor is it present when the Septuagint describes David and Samuel as girding themselves with an ephod. Therefore, some textual scholars regard its presence in the Masoretic text as a later editorial gloss.[10]

A passage in the Book of Exodus describes the Ephod as an elaborate garment worn by the high priest, and upon which the Hoshen (breastplate), containing Urim and Thummim, rested. According to this description, the Ephod was woven out of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet threads, was made of fine linen, and was embroidered "with skillful work" in gold thread;[11] the Talmud argues that each of the textures was combined in six threads with a seventh of gold leaf, making twenty-eight threads to the texture in total.[12] The Biblical description continues without describing the shape or length of the ephod, except by stating that it was held together by a girdle, and had two shoulder straps which were fastened to the front of the ephod by golden rings, to which the breastplate was attached by golden chains;[13] from this description it appears to have been something like a minimalist apron or a skirt with braces,[14] though Rashi argued that it was like a woman's riding girdle.[15] The biblical description also adds that there were two engraved gems over the shoulder straps (like epaulettes), made from shoham (thought by scholars to mean Malachite,[16] by Jewish tradition to mean Heliodor,[17] and in the King James Version is translated as Onyx), and with the names of the twelve tribes written upon them; the classical rabbinical sources differ as to the order in which the tribes were named on the jewels.[18] Textual scholars attribute the description of the Ephod in Exodus to the priestly source and to a date later than the other mentions of Ephod;[19] biblical scholars believe that the Ephod may have evolved over time into this highly ceremonial form from more primitive beginnings (the simple linen form described in the Books of Samuel), much like the manner in which the highly liturgical maniple evolved from an ordinary handkerchief.[20]

Besides use as a garment, an Ephod was also used for oracular purposes, in conjunction with Urim and Thummim;[21] the books of Samuel imply that whenever Saul or David wished to question Yahweh via oracular methods, they asked a priest for the Ephod.[22] Since the oracular process is considered by scholars to have been one of cleromancy, with the Urim and Thummim being the objects which were drawn as lots, the Ephod is considered by scholars to have been some form of container for the Urim and Thummim;[23][24] to harmonise this with the descriptions of the Ephod as a garment, it is necessary to conclude that the Ephod must have originally been some sort of pocket, which the priests girded to themselves.[25][26] However, the biblical text states the Urim and Thummim were placed in the breastplate, not the ephod (Leviticus 8:8).

The object at Nob, which must have been somewhat freestanding since another object is kept behind it, and the objects made by Gideon and by Micah, from molten gold, logically cannot have just been garments.[27][28] The object made by Gideon is plainly described as having been worshipped, and therefore the idol of some deity (possibly of Yahweh), while the object made by Micah is closely associated with a Teraphim, and the Ephod and Teraphim are described interchangeably with the Hebrew terms pesel and massekah, meaning graven image, and molten image, respectively.[29][30] Even the ephods used for oracular purposes were not necessarily just pieces of cloth, as they are not described as being worn, but carried (though some translations render 1 Samuel 2:28 as wear an ephod rather than carry an ephod[31]); the Hebrew term used in these passages for carry is nasa, which specifically implies that the Ephod was carried either in the hand or on the shoulder.[32] The conclusion thus is that Ephod, in these cases, referred to a portable idol, which the lots were cast in front of;[33][34] some scholars have suggested that the connection between the idol and the garment is that the idol was originally clothed in a linen garment, and the term Ephod gradually came to describe the idol as a whole.[35]

According to the Talmud, the wearing of the ephod atoned for the sin of idolatry on the part of the Children of Israel.[36]


  1. ^ 2 Samuel 6:14
  2. ^ 1 Samuel 21:9
  3. ^ Exodus 28:4+, 29:5, 39:2+; Leviticus 8:7
  4. ^ Judges 8:26-27
  5. ^ Judges 17:5
  6. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  7. ^ ibid
  8. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
  9. ^ 1 Samuel 22:18
  10. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
  11. ^ Exodus 28:6-14
  12. ^ Yoma 71b
  13. ^ Exodus 28:6-14
  14. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  15. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
  16. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, Gems
  17. ^ ibid.
  18. ^ Sotah 36a
  19. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible
  20. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  21. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, Ephod
  22. ^ ibid
  23. ^ ibid
  24. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
  25. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  26. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
  27. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  28. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
  29. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  30. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
  31. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible
  32. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
  33. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
  34. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
  35. ^ ibid
  36. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Zevachim 88:B

See also

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

EPHOD, a Hebrew word (ephod) of uncertain meaning, retained by the translators of the Old Testament. In the post-exilic priestly writings (5th century B.C. and later) the ephod forms part of the gorgeous ceremonial dress of the high-priest (see Ex. xxix. 5 sq. and especially Ecclus. xlv. 7-13). It was a very richly decorated object of coloured threads interwoven with gold, worn outside the luxurious mantle or robe; it was kept in place by a girdle, and by shoulder-pieces (?), to which were attached brooches of onyx (fastened to the robe) and golden rings from which hung the "breastplate" (or rather pouch) containing the sacred lots, Urim and Thummim. The somewhat involved description in Ex. xxviii. 6 sqq., xxxix. 2; sqq. (see V. Ryssel's ed. of Dillmann's commentary on Ex.-Lev.) leaves it uncertain whether it covered the back, encircling the body like a kind of waistcoat, or only the front; at all events it was not a garment in the ordinary sense, and its association with the sacred lots indicates that the ephod was used for divination (cf. Num. xxvii. 21), and had become the distinguishing feature of the leading priestly line (cf. I Sam. ii. 28). 1 But from other passages it seems that the ephod had been a familiar object whose use was by no means so restricted. Like the teraphim it was part of the common stock of Hebrew cult; it is borne (rather than worn) by persons acting in a priestly character (Samuel at Shiloh, priests of Nob, David), it is part of the worship of individuals (Gideon at Ophrah), and is found in a private shrine with a lay attendant (Micah; Judg. xvii. 5; see, however, vv. Io-13). 2 Nevertheless, while the propheticral teaching came to regard the ephod as contrary to the true worship of Yahweh, the priestly doctrine of the post-exilic age (when worship was withdrawn from the community at large to the recognized priesthood of Jerusalem) has retained it along with other remains of earlier usage, legalizing it, as it were, by confining it exclusively to the Aaronites.

An intricate historical problem is involved at the outset in the famous ephod, which the priest Abiathar brought in his hand when he fled to David after the massacre of the priests of Nob. It is evidently regarded as the one which had been in Nob (I Sam. xxi. 9), and the presence of the priests at Nob is no less clearly regarded as the sequel of the fall of Shiloh. The ostensible intention is to narrate the transference of the sacred objects to David (cf. 2 Sam. i. to), and henceforth he regularly inquires of Yahweh in his movements (I Sam. xxiii. 9-12, xxx. 7 sq.; cf. xxiii. 2, 4; 2 Sam. ii. I, V. 19-23). It is possible that the writer (or writers) desired to trace the earlier history of the ephod through the line of Eli and Abiathar to the time when the Zadokite priests gained the supremacy (see Levites); but elsewhere Abiathar is said to have borne the ark (1 Kings ii. 26; cf. 2 Sam. vii. 6), and this fluctuation is noteworthy by reason of the present confusion in the text of I Sam. xiv. 3, 18 (see commentaries).

On one view, the ark in Kirjath-jearim was in non-Israelite hands (I Sam. vii. sq.); on the other, Saul's position as king necessitates the presumption that his sway extended over Judah and Israel, including those cities which otherwise appear to have been in the hands of aliens (I Sam. xiv. 47 sq.; cf. xvii. 54, &c.). There are some fundamental divergencies in the representations of the traditions of both David and Saul (qq.v.), and there is indirect and 1 Cf. the phrase "ephod of prophecy" (Testament of Levi, viii. 2). The priestly apparatus of the post-exilic age retains several traces of old mythological symbolism and earlier cult, the meaning of which had not altogether been forgotten. With the dress one may perhaps compare the apparel of the gods Marduk and Adad, for which see A. Jeremias, Das Alte Test. im Lichte des Alien Orients, 2nd ed., figs. 33, 46, and pp. 162, 449.

z The ordinary interpretation "linen ephod" (i Sam. ii. 18, xxii. 18; 2 Sam. vi. 14) is questioned by T. C. Foote in his useful monograph, Journ. Bibl. Lit. xxi., 1902, pp. 3, 47. This writer also aptly compares the infant Samuel with the child who drew the lots at the temple of Fortuna at Praeneste (Cicero, De divin. ii. 41, 86), and with the modern practice of employing innocent instruments of chance in lotteries (op. cit. pp. 22, 27).

independent evidence which makes 1 Kings ii. 26 not entirely isolated. Here it must suffice to remark that the ark, too, was also an object for ascertaining the divine will (especially Judg. xx. 26-28; cf. 18,23), and it is far from certain that the later records of the ark (which was too heavy to be borne by one), like those of the ephod, are valid for earlier times.

For the form of the earlier ephod the classic passage is 2 Sam. vi. 14, where David girt in (or with) a linen ephod dances before the ark at its entry into Jerusalem and incurs the unqualified contempt of his wife Michal, the daughter of Saul. Relying upon the known custom of performing certain observances in a practically, or even entirely, nude condition, it seems plausible to infer that the ephod was a scanty wrapping, perhaps a loincloth, and this view has found weighty support. On the other hand, the idea of contempt at the exposure of the person, to whatever extent, may not have been so prominent, especially if the custom were not unfamiliar, and it is possible that the sequel refers more particularly to grosser practices attending outbursts of religious enthusiasm.' The favourite view that the ephod was also an image rests partly upon 1 Sam. xxi. 9, where Goliath's sword is wrapped in a cloth in the sanctuary of Nob behind the ephod. But it is equally natural to suppose that it hung on a nail in the wall, and apart from the omission of the significant words in the original Septuagint, the possibility that the text read "ark" cannot be wholly ignored (see above; also G. F. Moore, Ency. Bib. col. 1307, n. 2). Again, in the story of Micah's shrine and the removal of the sacred objects and the Levite priest by the Danites, parallel narratives have been used: the graven and molten images of Judg. xvii. 2-4 corresponding to the ephod and teraphim of ver. 5. Throughout there is confusion in the use of these terms, and the finale refers only to the graven image of Dan (xviii. 30 sq., see I Kings xii. 28 sq.). But the combination of ephod and teraphim (as in Hos. iii. 4) is noteworthy, since the fact that the latter were images (1 Sam. xix. 13; Gen. xxxi. 34) could be urged against the view that the former were of a similar character. Finally, according to Judg. viii. 27, Gideon made an ephod of gold, about 70 lb in weight, and "put" it in Ophrah. It is regarded as a departure from the worship of Yahweh, although the writer of ver. 33 (cf. also ver. 23) hardly shared this feeling; it was probably something once harmlessly associated with the cult of Yahweh (cf. Calf, Golden), and the term "ephod" may be due to a later hand under the influence of the prophetical teaching referred to above. The present passage is the only one which appears to prove that the ephod was an image, and several writers, including Lotz (Realencyk. f. Prot. Theol. vol. v., s.v.), T. C. Foote (pp. 13-18) and A. Maecklenburg (Zeit. f. wissens. Theol., 1906, pp. 433 sqq.) find this interpretation unnecessary.

Archaeological evidence for objects of divination (see, e.g., the interesting details in Ohnefalsch-Richter, Kypros, the Bible and Homer, i. 447 sq.), and parallels from the Oriental area, can be readily cited in support of any of the explanations of the ephod which have been offered, but naturally cannot prove the form which it actually took in Palestine. Since images were clothed, it could be supposed that the diviner put on the god's apparel (cf. Ency. Bib. col. 1141); but they were also plated, and in either case the transference from a covering to the object covered is intelligible. If the ephod was a loin-cloth, its use as a receptacle and the known evolution of the article find useful analogies (Foote, p. 43 sq., and Ency. Bib. col. 1734 [1]). Finally, if there is no decisive evidence for the view that it was an image (Judg. viii. 27), or that as a wrapping it formed the sole covering of the officiating agent (2 Sam. vi.), all that can safely be said is that 1 It is not stated that the linen ephod was David's sole covering, and it is difficult to account for the text in the parallel passage 1 Chron. xv. 27 (where he is clothed with a robe); "girt," too, is ambiguous, since the verb is even used of a sword. On the question of nudity (cf. 1 Sam. xix. 24) see Robertson Smith, Rel. Sem. 2 pp. 161, 450 sq.; Ency. Bib. s.vv. "girdle," "sackcloth"; and M. Jastrow, Journ. Am. Or. Soc. xx. 144, xxi. 23. The significant terms "uncover," "play" (2 Sam. vi. 20 sq.), have other meanings intelligible to those acquainted with the excesses practised in Oriental cults.

it was certainly used in divination and presumably did not differ radically from the ephod of the post-exilic age.

See further, in addition to the monographs already cited, the articles in Hastings's Diet. Bible (by S. R. Driver), Ency. Bib. (by G. F. Moore), and Jew. Encyc. (L. Ginsburg), and E. Sellin, in Oriental. Studien: Theodor Noldeke (ed. Bezold, 1906), pp. 6 99 sqq. (S. A. C.)

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

something girt, a sacred vestment worn originally by the high priest (Ex 28:4), afterwards by the ordinary priest (1Sam 22:18), and characteristic of his office (1Sam 2:18, 28; 14:3). It was worn by Samuel, and also by David (2 Sam 6:14). It was made of fine linen, and consisted of two pieces, which hung from the neck, and covered both the back and front, above the tunic and outer garment (Ex 28:31). That of the high priest was embroidered with divers colours. The two pieces were joined together over the shoulders (hence in Latin called superhumerale) by clasps or buckles of gold or precious stones, and fastened round the waist by a "curious girdle of gold, blue, purple, and fine twined linen" (28:6-12).

The breastplate, with the Urim and Thummim, was attached to the ephod.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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