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The Ephod



Is a vest worn over a blue robe that ancient Hebrew priests would put on during religious services in the tabernacle or temple (Exodus 28:31). Urim and Thummim, the two lots or dice that the priests would cast to determine the will of God, were attached to the ephod. Sometimes the word “ephod” also meant the complete dress of the high priest (1 Samuel 2:28; 23:6, 9; 30:7 KJV) or similar garments worn by less-important priests.


Made of dyed material and fine linen, the ephod was embroidered in blue, purple, scarlet, and gold. Two shoulder straps were attached at the top, and each had an onyx stone inscribed with the names of Israel’s 12 tribes. The breastplate, which also had the tribal names written upon it, was bound to the ephod by cords and chains (Exodus 28:22-29 KJV).

Jewish writers give us several different ideas of how the ephod may have looked:

  • 1. like an apron, covering the body from the chest to the heels; or
  • 2. a covering for the body from the waist down, with the upper body being covered by the breastplate; or
  • 3. a jacket with sleeves with the middle of the breast uncovered so the breastplate could be inserted easily.

Before the Babylonian exile, God would sometimes reveal his plans through the ephod. Abiathar the priest brought the ephod into David’s camp to consult the Lord (1 Samuel 23:6-9; 30:7 KJV).

It is uncertain whether the priest wore the ephod during these times, or held it, using Urim and Thummim to seek counsel from the Lord.

During the period of the judges, the ephod was often misused, as by Gideon (Judges 8:27 KJV), Micah (17:5), and Jonathan, grandson of Moses (18:30; compare 18:14, 17, 20). People worshipped either the ephod itself or an idol on which the garment was placed, seeking God’s will in a way that God condemned. Household idols were also sometimes used in this ungodly practice (17:5; Hosea 3:4).

Besides the high priest, other priests wore an ephod for certain religious services (1 Samuel 22:18), and even Samuel (2:18) and David (2 Samuel 6:14) wore one. By the time of the Babylonian exile, and perhaps as early as Solomon’s time, the ephod was no longer used to find God’s will (Ezra 2:63 KJV; Nehemiah 7:65 KJV).

As Moses had promised, there was no need for the ephod once God’s people had the prophets (Deuteronomy 18:15-22 KJV). However, the high priest continued to wear the ephod until the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Like the Jews with the Scriptures, believers today do not need supernatural phenomena to tell us God’s will because his will is revealed to us in the Bible.

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