Breastplate In-Depth Look     page 1    by CDA_10

Exo 28:1  And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab naw-dawb' and Abihu ab-ee-hoo', Eleazar el-aw-zawr' and Ithamar eeth-aw-mawr' , Aaron's sons.

Exo 28:2 And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty.

Moses was told by God the garments of the priests should be both, dignified and beautiful even as precious as the garments of royalty.    The priests' attire was very important to God for most all the forty-three verses of Exodus, chapter 28 consist of a detailed description of the garments.

Exo 28:3  And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office.

Exo 28:4  And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office.

There were three sets of vestments, the golden garments of the High Priest, the white garments of the High Priest worn on Yom Kippur, and the clothes of the ordinary priests. 

The breastplate as a breast piece, the ephod is a priestly vest, a robe, a broidered coat is an embroidered shirt, a mitre is a turban, and a girdle is like a sash.    The colors also being given in verse 5 and would look much like this photo.                

Another version,   According to Josephus the High Priest garments may have looked more like this 2ed photo, being a bit different than a regular priest.   Called the Golden Vestments or Golden Garments.

Exo 28:5 And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen.

Exo 28:6 And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work.

The gold was interlaced right in with the linen as described in Exo 39:3  And they did beat the gold into thin plates, and cut it into wires, to work it in the blue, and in the purple, and in the scarlet, and in the fine linen, with cunning work.     This making it strong and sheen of the gold that was blended in every part of the ephod.     Also, from this fact it may be the settings of the breast-plate were not solid pieces of gold, but were made of woven wire wreathed round the stones, in a sort of filigree pattern.

Exo 28:7 It shall have the two shoulderpieces thereof joined at the two edges thereof; and so it shall be joined together.

Exo 28:8 And the curious girdle of the ephod, which is upon it, shall be of the same, according to the work thereof; even of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen.

Rev 1:13  And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

This Priest to be as close to being Christ like as a human could be.

According to some Jewish sources both ends of the girdle draped to the ground, but when the priest was officiating they were thrown over the left shoulder.    The sash or girdle was several yards long and wound many times round the mid body.    There is an interesting tradition that the old priest’s garments were unraveled and made into wicks for the lamps of the tabernacle and temple.     Only garments of the ordinary priests, but when the High Priest’s garments became unusable through wear and tear, it was not destroyed, but hidden away so no other man could ever wear it.

Exo 28:9  And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the children of Israel:

Exo 28:10  Six of their names on one stone, and the other six names of the rest on the other stone, according to their birth.

Most agree it would be according to their birth; the order of it; so that upon the first stone were engraved the names of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, and Naphtali; and on the second stone the names of Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin

In this photo you can see one of these two Onyx stones.

Exo 28:11 With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, shalt thou engrave the two stones with the names of the children of Israel: thou shalt make them to be set in ouches of gold.

These two stones are called "remembrance stones," the meaning of this expression: when the High Priest entered into the holy place the Holy One saw all the tribes of Israel inscribed before Him and He was moved to have mercy on His people.    Directly under the sardonyx stones, another two square gold settings were fixed on the High Priest's shoulders and golden chains extended from these settings to the golden hooks in the rings of the breastplate, in order to fix the breastplate to the ephod.   

Exo 28:12 And thou shalt put the two stones upon the shoulders of the ephod for stones of memorial unto the children of Israel: and Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD upon his two shoulders for a memorial.

According to Josephus, the engraved onyx stones on the shoulders were designed so that the names of the six eldest sons were engraved on the stone on the right shoulder, and those of the six youngest sons on the stone on the left shoulder.

Being a type of Christ, who presents all his people to his divine Father, makes intercession for them, and bears all their burdens, the care and government of them being upon his shoulders, Isa 9:6.

Exo 28:13 And thou shalt make ouches of gold;

Exo 28:14 And two chains of pure gold at the ends; of wreathen work shalt thou make them, and fasten the wreathen chains to the ouches.

Exo 28:15 And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it; of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen, shalt thou make it.

This garment is called choshen mishpat, ( kho'-shen mish-pawt') in Hebrew, which means the “breastplate of judgment” or “decision.”    It is square-shaped and worn over the heart.    It was called this because of the unique role it played in helping to render decisions. The breastplate is patterned brocade, same as the ephod and the threads of its fabric are same colors and twisted linen.   The garment itself is set with four rows of small square stones, in settings of knitted or braided gold.    Each row contained three stones, totaling twelve stones, one stone representing each of the twelve tribes of Israel and the name of the corresponding tribe was engraved on each stone.

The breastplate of judgment was, like the inner curtains of the Tabernacle, of "cunning work," which means that it was the work of a skilled weaver.   The material with which it was woven consisted of threads of gold and blue, purple and scarlet linen threads.   The number of the threads and the order of the colors were, according to the "Targums" one of gold, six of blue, six of purple, and six of scarlet.

The blue colors used in the vestments were from a  cerulean mussel found in the sea.   See side study:   Blue and Purple

The root for water in Hebrew, mayim, is the same as the root for heaven, shamayim, so we are reminded that it is God who created the earth and everything in it.   Also, the blue in the vestments looks like the blue in the sky; a connection is established between the High Priest and the heavenly throne of God.

Exo 28:16 Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof.

Meaning it was a square, which is the measure, as in the form of the New Jerusalem, the church of Christ, as in Rev 21:16 and may denote perfection.     The breastplate was also a pouch about 22-cm square.

Exo 28:17 And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row.

Exo 28:18 And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond.

Exo 28:19 And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst.

Exo 28:20 And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings.

The names of the stones is all but impossible, there are over 30 varying opinions as to the final identification of the 12 stones from scholars and commentators from the entire historical spectrum.   There have been many labored attempts made by learned men to discover the real names of the gems, but, except for four or five, most Biblical students acknowledge the subject to be involved in obscurity.    Some of the most reliable opinions would be those of the Aramaic translations of the Bible.    And the eye-witness testimony, the information provided by Flavius Josephus is of interest and importance, since he himself was a priest who served in the Holy Temple.   You can read and download his writings at the following web site.   Zip file to download at the bottom of the page.   BOOK 3, CH. 7 speaks of the Priest garments.

NOTE: Midrash is any of a group of Jewish commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures compiled between A.D. 400 and 1200 and based on exegesis, parable, and haggadic legend.   [Hebrew midrāš, commentary, explanation, Midrash, from dāraš, to seek, study.]

For informational purposes.   And some of the info in this study is drawn from these commentaries, so let the Holy Spirit guide you when reading. 

Exegesis - Critical explanation or analysis, especially of a text.   [Greek exēgēsis, from exēgeisthai, to interpret : ex-, ex- + hēgeisthai, to lead.]

We may know the color of each stone, although absent from the Biblical passages, this is recorded by the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 2:7), where it states that each tribe’s stone on the breastplate matched the background color of its flag.    The tribes of Israel camped and journeyed according to their ensigns during the years of their desert travels.  See Here: Bamidbar Rabbah 2:7

1.       Ruby - Reuben - Red

2.       Jade - Shimon - Green

3.       Agate - Levi - Red, White, and Black Striped

4.       Carbuncle - Judah - Bluish-Green

5.       Lapis-Lazuli - Issachar - Blue

6.       Quartz Crystal - Zebulun - Clear

7.       Turquoise - Dan - Blue

8.       Amethyst - Naftali - Purple

9.       Agate - Gad - Grey

10.  Aquamarine - Asher - Blue-Green

11.  Onyx - Joseph - Black

12.  Opal - Benjamin - A Stone Possessing All the Colors

Also see Tribal Attributes Chart:   T.A.C.


This is one of the resultant order: in her first round of births, Leah gave birth to four sons, Gen. 29:31-35: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.   Since, Levi is not listed here, the group of four is completed with Leah's next son, Issachar.   The matriarch Rachel bore two sons, Joseph and Benjamin, and they are listed next; Joseph, whose offspring were split into two tribes, is represented here by Ephraim, whom Jacob preferred as Joseph's choice son.    After them, the Bible completes the list with the two other tribes from the matriarchs - Zebulun, remaining from Leah's children, and Manasseh, from Rachel's offspring.    When Moses took the Israelites out of Egypt, each tribe was gathered under its own banner.    A lion was depicted on the banner of Judah.    A serpent, named Nechushtan, was depicted on the banner of the tribe of Dan.   Later, a bronze image of Nechushtan was placed in Solomon's temple -- and stayed there until much later, when King Hezekiah melted the bronze from which the idol was made.   

Witness to the Stars, Bullinger shows how these ensigns line up with the 12 ancient Zodiac signs. Note: Not today’s skewed interruptions of the zodiac. 




Dan-The Scorpion (Scorpio)



Asher (Sagittarius)



Naphtali (Capricorn)








Ephraim-The Bull (Taurus)

Levi (Libra)

Judah-The Lion (Leo)

Manasseh-The Bull (Taurus)

The Scales

Issachar (Cancer)

Benjamin (Gemini)


Zebulun (Virgo)








Reuben-The Man (Aquarius)



Simeon (Pisces)



Gad (Aries)


Bullinger quote “There can be no doubt, as the learned Authoress of Mazzaroth conclusively proves, that these signs were afterwards identified with the twelve sons of Jacob.    Joseph sees the sun and moon and eleven stars bowing down to him, he himself being the twelfth (Gen 37:9). The blessing of Jacob (Gen 49) and the blessing of Moses (Deut 33) both bear witness to the existence of these signs in their day.    And it is more than probable that each of the Twelve Tribes bore one of them on its standard.”

·        Moses built an altar there and called it "The LORD Is My Banner." - Exodus 17:15

·        Each tribe of Israel will have a designated camping area with its own family banner.       Numbers 1:52

·        "Each tribe will be assigned its own area in the camp, and the various groups will camp beneath their family banners. The Tabernacle will be located at the center of these tribal compounds. Numbers 2:2 

Num 2:2 Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father's house: far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch.


Each standard, banner will have an sign, a colored cloth attached to it, this one's color unlike this one's; the color of each one should be like the shade of his stone affixed in the breastplate, and through this each one will recognize his banner.   We need to understand, what do the colors of the breastplate have to do with the banners; would they not be able to recognize their banner without the color on it?    The banner of each tribe was colored with the color that was on the breastplate stones.   

Exo 28:21 And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes.

One Jewish writing indicates that the stones must be set into their golden settings while yet “in their fullness”.    But, in order to carve or to scratch out from the surface, some of the stone itself would inevitably be missing.   They told of a most unique method to carve the names into the stones of the breastplate.   They say it was done naturally, by one of God’s creations; a worm called the shamir that existed could cut stones merely with its glance.   The words are 1st written on the stones in ink, and then the stones are exposed to the shamir.    The letters are cut into the stones automatically, of their own accord…like a fig which ripens and splits open in summer.    The stone splits open but yet no part of it is missing.    According to them this creature was brought into existence during the original six days of creation, but ceased to exist following the destruction of the First Temple.    They also say that Moses himself used the shamir for the stones of the original ephod and breastplate while yet in the desert, for the Tabernacle.

One ancient writing says the names of the tribes should be engraved upon them in the order of their birth.

Reuben Simeon Levi

Judah Dan Naftali

Gad Asher Issachar

Zebulun Joseph Benjamin

Another ancient writing places the order of the tribes according to the Matriarchs; the six sons of Leah, two sons of Bilhah, two sons of Zilpah and two sons of Rachel.


Reuben Simeon Levi

Judah Issachar Zebulun

Dan Naftali Gad

Asher Joseph Benjamin

The order which meets the eye is actually reversed—since Hebrew reads from right to left.




In this watercolor dictation of the breast stones we can see the way the writing on the stones may have looked.







Here is another sample of what the breastplate may have looked like.






Exo 28:22  And thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen work of pure gold.

Exo 28:23  And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate.

Exo 28:24  And thou shalt put the two wreathen chains of gold in the two rings which are on the ends of the breastplate.

Exo 28:25  And the other two ends of the two wreathen chains thou shalt fasten in the two ouches, and put them on the shoulderpieces of the ephod before it.

Exo 28:26  And thou shalt make two rings of gold, and thou shalt put them upon the two ends of the breastplate in the border thereof, which is in the side of the ephod inward.

Exo 28:27  And two other rings of gold thou shalt make, and shalt put them on the two sides of the ephod underneath, toward the forepart thereof, over against the other coupling thereof, above the curious girdle of the ephod.

Exo 28:28  And they shall bind the breastplate by the rings thereof unto the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, that it may be above the curious girdle of the ephod, and that the breastplate be not loosed from the ephod.





Another Artist dictation of the Breastplate stones