Exodus 28:11–12 (HCSB)
11 Engrave the two stones with the names of Israel’s sons as a gem cutter engraves a seal. Mount them, surrounded with gold filigree settings. 12 Fasten both stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the Israelites. Aaron will carry their names on his two shoulders before the Lord as a reminder.
The focus now turns to the creation of the garments for the priests. Aaron, Moses’ brother, along with his sons, is chosen by God to serve as His priest. We see that God commands the use of similar material that was used for the tabernacle, for the creation of Aaron’s garments.
The first piece described is an ephod. The ephod was an outer garment that apparently was help up by the shoulders and a waistband. Again we see the command of the same materials to be used. What is interesting is the section that describes the two onyx stones that are to be fastened to the shoulders. The stones are to be engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel, or the sons of Israel: six on one stone, six on the other, from eldest to youngest. They are then mounted in gold fittings, and fastened to the ephod at the shoulders. This means that when the high priest comes before God, so do the names of the twelve tribes. So the priest becomes a sort of ambassador for the rest of the tribes, the rest of the Israelites, a representative before God.
And note that the stones are on the shoulders. They are not on the waistband, or the back, or some other place. Could it be that the placement upon the shoulders means not just that the tribes are represented before God, but that the high priest bears some of the burden of “carrying” the tribes?
Ultimately though, this seems to be a foreshadowing of Jesus, who did in fact bear us upon His shoulders to bring us to salvation. And Jesus is our representative before God the Father. But when Jesus comes before God the Father, He does not only have the names of the twelve tribes anymore, He bears the names of all that He has adopted into his family via a saving relationship. Jesus is now our ultimate High Priest.
Lord, thank You for being our High Priest, for representing us before God the Father. I pray we our names would remain, and that we be adopted into Your family. Amen.