Day 39

Making the Priestly Garments

Exodus 39:1-43, Psalm 110:1-4, Hebrews 5:1-10

BY Guest Writer

Scripture Reading: Exodus 39:1-43, Psalm 110:1-4, Hebrews 5:1-10

I believe with all my heart that these detailed descriptions of the construction of the tabernacle in Exodus are as much the inspired Word of God as my favorite psalm. But for a free-spirited, color-outside-the-lines kind of girl like me, the sheer number of details recorded in these chapters gives me flashbacks to my freshman accounting class.  

Why did the Lord instruct Moses to build altars and tables, lampstands and basins, tunics and turbans with such extreme attention to detail? Why were these details recorded so meticulously? All these centuries later, what do they have to teach us about the character of God and our relationship with Him?

Let’s zero in for a moment on Exodus 39, where we find the description of the priestly garments. This was more than a garment. With gold and stones, bells and crowns, this was an ensemble made to take our breath away. But why? Aaron’s robes weren’t designed to turn heads at Fashion Week. They wouldn’t be sold to the highest bidder. So why was such detailed extravagance needed?

Peel away the layers, and we find the answer in a single thread. The scarlet thread mentioned over and over in Exodus 39 is the same thread that is stitched throughout all of God’s Word. It is the thread God used to sew together garments of grace for Adam and Eve after the fall (Genesis 3:21). It is the thread that signaled salvation from Rahab’s window (Joshua 2:18). And most significantly, we see it at the cross, as trails of blood stream down our Savior’s face as evidence of His atonement for our sins.

Aaron’s priestly garments were woven with red thread, a picture of the gospel illustrated by the thread of salvation woven throughout all of God’s Word. The weight of the robe covered with stones was symbolic of the burden of sin; as Aaron slipped it on, I imagine its heaviness reminded him of the weight of his own sin and of ours. The crown on the priest’s head was a shadow of the crown of salvation purchased for us at Christ’s cross.

The garment maker couldn’t have known it, but he was preaching the gospel. Stitch by meticulous stitch, he was proclaiming salvation was near. Through the lens of the cross we see these extravagant robes showcase an extravagant gospel.

It’s possible the craftsmen tasked with the minutiae of the tabernacle felt overwhelmed and even belabored by the tedium of so many details. Obedience can often feel like that. As we shepherd our own children, or serve in other often thankless ways, or pull out our Bibles listening for God’s voice again and again, there are times when we all wonder, Why does all of this matter?

The answer rarely seems to come in the moment, but in hindsight we see that routine obedience to the Lord always reveals the gospel thread. He is using our seemingly small acts of surrender to transform these filthy rags into robes of righteousness. As we trust and obey, we can look back and sigh with gratitude, saying, “as the LORD had commanded, so [we have] done it” (Exodus 39:43).


Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

Post Comments (61)

61 thoughts on "Making the Priestly Garments"

  1. Ash K says:

    I LOVED all of the symbolism you pointed out, I was in awe. “Routine obedience” yes please!
    Thank you!!

  2. Kristi L says:

    Throughout Exodus 39, I kept noticing the phrase “as the Lord commanded Moses.” The Israelites obeyed God continuously during the process of building the tabernacle, down to even the smallest detail.

    Their continuous obedience struck me because I realized that God desires this kind of obedience from me too. I am His dwelling place and He is transforming me day by day into something beautiful, holy, and sacred, like the tabernacle. But this is not a passive experience. My obedience is required throughout the process, even in the small things.

    So often I resort to doing things my way instead of listening for God’s voice, but God has been reminding me that His ways are higher than mine. The work the Israelites had to do to build the tabernacle was extremely tedious and required a lot of sacrifice – of their time, their energy, their possessions… I wonder if some days they were tempted to quit. But these last few chapters of Exodus have shown me that doing things God’s way brings about a beautiful result in the end. The blessing cannot come without the obedience (Exodus 39:43).

    1. Jo Gistand says:


    2. Jennifer says:

      Amen!! Thank you for sharing – this really spoke to me today! xx

  3. Gina says:

    These reflections have become necessary reading for me as I, like others have mentioned, am burdened my the minutia of details given. The connections to salvation are not always obvious and so this additional reading is necessarily helpful. The ephod in itself has stirred up so much for me. The scarlet yarn interwoven with blue (water, of which gushed forth from the side of Jesus. Baptism, renewal, cleansing, rebirth), purple (royalty), gold (the finest of all metals, highly esteemed, valuable, often the root of sin) illustrates our own journey toward slavation. The blood shed throughout all of history for monetary gain and the reminder of the inevitable cleansing that follows. All of it leads us back to the one true King, that has been present among us all along.

  4. Dorothy says:

    While I was reading the scriptures today I wonder about some of the jewels I had never had heard of. So instead of skimming over them and moving on I looked them up. All of them were beautiful gems. I did notice also one thing, all of the gems are of the same color scheme as the Holy garments – blue, purple, and scarlet some even were a gold tone – it made me realize how oriented to details God really is and how the little things do matter to Him.

  5. Rhonda says:

    Reading this passage made me think of my wedding not so long ago! We did everything ourselves for our beautiful outdoor garden reception. It didn’t start out beautiful though because the yard and garden were overgrown. I remember the tedious hard work me and my husband to be did everyday trying to cut out the weeds and tidy up the area. As it took shape we got more and more excited, to make every detail just perfect to the food table, (every dish, the exact position I wanted it!) to the wishing well, to the entrance, to the lights and chandeliers hung….so many details!!! (We were worn out when it finally came to wedding and had both lost weight!) But we wanted everyone to see how special we wanted it all to be, and notice the small things to the whole feeling of the party. Makes me thing of how they must have felt putting it all together, tedious, yet the anticipation of how it would all glorify their GOD!!! I love getting a whole new perspective on Exodus…thanks for this study SRT!!

    1. Dorothy says:

      This is giving me a new perspective on Exodus also. I believe I mentioned a couple of days ago I am doing a devotional by Beth Moore and she is talking about David. She had talked about the ark and verses in 2 Samuel where they were moving it. I now can visualize how heavy and beautiful it is.

  6. Kym says:

    I especially love the line about God transforming our filthy rags into robes of righteousness!! That literally brought chills to my arms and a tear to my eyes.

    1. Dorothy says:

      I fully agree with you.

  7. Chris says:

    Every day I saw Wow to these lessons— but the scarlet thread! Wow!! Ditto everything everyone has said—- thank you SRT staff— thank you to each of you that post your thoughts. God is good! As we attend the funeral of a faithful servant today— these words are especially meaningful.

  8. Cindy says:

    As a quilter, I find these details fascinating and get caught up in the imaginary of what items looked like. For those interested here is a video I found that helped me visualize the garments. I was rather amused by the use of a sewing machine in the video, but even that makes me remember that all of these things were made only by hands, with talent given by God.

    1. Emma says:

      Thank you for the link, Cindy! I’ve really been enjoying putting the details together and imagining what each of these splendid objects looked like, so it was great to see the garments and listen to the passage being read at the same time!

    2. Bessie says:

      Thank you for posting this link. I really enjoyed the visual description of the garments. It is hard for me to imagine how they would look from reading it. It strikes me how humble really the tabernacle is compared to the extravagant cathedrals of today, but God is there and that makes it the most spectacular cathedral of all!

    3. Sarabeth says:

      Thank you for the link.

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