12 – Dress Of High Priest

The high priests in the new  Temple did not have the real Urim and Thummim which helped them to make right decisions from God.  They did make a breast plate with twelve stones that was worn in order to complete the eight sacred vestments that were laid out for the first Tabernacle.  This was double the number that was worn by an ordinary priest.  The dress was in the order that follows:  

  • the linen breeches

  • the coat

  • the girdle

  • the bonnet

     Every priest wore the above 4 garments.  Added to these were four more that the high priest wore.  They were called ‘golden vestments’ because they had much gold on them and sewed into them.  

  • the robe of the ephod  

  • the ephod    

  • the mitre

  • the ziz

     If either a common priest or the high priest officiated without wearing the full number of his vestments, his service would be invalid.  Also nothing could be worn between the priest’s body and the vestments.  The material of which the four vestments of the common priests were made was linen, or byssus. This was a shining cotton-stuff of Egypt.  

     Some more particulars about his dress were that it must be woven in one piece, like the robe of the Savior.  Also the girdle was like a long sash and was only put on by the priest during the actual ministration and then pulled off right afterwards.  It was probably seen as the most distinctive of the vestments because of this fact.  

     The robe of the ephod was also called the Meil, and was woven of dark blue color, descended to the knees, and was adorned at the hem by alternate blossoms of the pomegranate in blue, purple, and scarlet, and had 72 bells attached to its hem according to the tradition of the Tabernacle.  

     The ephod was the breast-plate and was made out of the four colors of the sanctuary: white, blue, purple, and scarlet.  It was also sewed with threads of gold.  This also represented the four distinct articles in the dress of the high priest, and it may have been that the colors along with the 12 stones could have also represented the ‘city four-square’ whose ‘foundations’ are twelve precious stones’ that is talked about in Revelation.  

     The mitre of the high priest differed from the head-gear of the ordinary priest (the bonnet).  It was shaped like the inverted calyx of a flower, in size and probably also somewhat in shape.  It sat very high on his head and three blue lace ribbons were fastened to it symbolizing royalty.  

     The ziz was called the ‘golden plate’ on which ‘Holiness to Jehovah’ was graven.  It was only two fingers wide and reached from temple to temple on the forehead.  According to Josephus, the historian, the original ziz of Aaron still existed at this time and was carried with the other spoils to Rome from Jerusalem.  

    It was between the ziz and the mitre that the high priest is thought to have worn his phylacteries, but nobody knows for sure.  According to the distinct ceremony of the Talmud, neither priest, Levites, nor the ‘stationary men’ wore phylacteries during their actual service in the Temple.  This has been debated and it is not known if this was a widespread custom at the time.  A phylactery was a very small box that one wore either on his forehead or arm that he wrote Bible verses on parchment paper and rolled them up very tiny and put them into the small box.  That way it was said that they were carrying the Word with them at all times.  

     The last thing that would need to be added to the list would be that when the priests’ garments were soiled, they were not washed, but were used as wicks for the lamps in the Temple;  those of the high-priest were ‘hid away’.  The high-priest wore ‘a fresh suit of linen vestments’ each time on the Day of Atonement.  

The Fourteen Officers

     The priesthood ministering in the Temple were arranged into ‘ordinary’ priests and various officials.  Of the latter there were, besides the high-priest, the Sagan, or suffragan priest;  two Katholikin, or chief treasurers and overseers; seven Ammarcalin, who were subordinate to the Katholikin, and had chief charge of all the gates; and three Gizbarin, or under-treasurers.  

     These fourteen officers, who ranked in the order mentioned above, formed the standing ‘council of the Temple’ which regulated everything connected with the affairs and services of the sanctuary.  Its members were also called ‘the elders of the priests’, or ‘the counselors’.  This judicatory did not usually busy itself with criminal questions, but apparently took a leading part in the condemnation of Jesus.  Joseph of Arimathea belonged to their number, so we can see that the whole body of them were not in one accord as to the action they took concerning him.  

     It is difficult to specify the exact duties of each of these classes of officials.  The ‘Sagan’ would have officiated for the high priest if he could not perform his duties, would generally be his assistant, and take oversight over all the other priests.  In essence he would be the second in command.  The two ‘Katholikin’ were  next in line in power, and were the assistants of the Sagan.  It seems that their chief duties were to keep up with the finances and treasures of the Temple.  The ‘Ammarcalin’ were assistants of the Katholikin.  They seemed to be in charge of the gates, the holy vessels, and the holy vestments.  The ‘Gizbarin’ seem to be the lowest in rank and appear to have had charge of all dedicated and consecrated  things of the Temple tribute, redemption money, etc.  They seemed to have the power to decide all questions connected with these matters, also.  

     The next in rank to the fourteen officials were the ‘heads of each course’ that were on duty for the week, and then the ‘heads of families’ of every course.  After them followed fifteen overseers who were called ‘the overseer concerning the times’.  They summoned priests and people to their respective duties, got people to open and shut the doors (under the direction of the Ammercalin), were overseers of the guards, singers, those who blew the trumpets, clanged the cymbals, the lots which were drawn every morning.  

     All these lower ‘heads’ were in charge of the everyday things that kept the Temple going smoothly.  Below is a list of what they did:

  • cared for the turtledoves and pigeons meant for sacrifice

  • dispensed the various meat offerings suited for different sacrifices

  • oversaw drink offerings for different purposes

  • overseer of the sick, or Temple Physician

  • overseer of the water for sacrifice, who had charge of the water supply and charge of draining the dirty water already used

  • overseer for making the shewbread

  • preparing the incense

  • making the veils and providing the priestly garments

  • overseer of the seals

     All of these officers had subordinates whom they chose and employed, either for a day or permanently, to get the job done.  It was their duty to see to all the arrangements connected with their respective departments.  There were also instructors that trained people to carry out the various tasks, examiners of sacrifices, and a great variety of artificers (skilled workmen).  As you can see from the above list, there must have been sufficient employment in the Temple for a very large number of people.  It was like having a huge business to run.

Sources of Support for the Priests

     According to the Talmud, there were 24 sources from which the priest derived their support.  Of these, 10 were only available while in the Temple itself, four in Jerusalem, and the remaining 10 throughout the Holy Land.  Those which might only be used in the Temple itself were:

  • the priest’s part of the sin offering

  • his part of the trespass offering for a known trespass

  • public peace offerings

  • the leper’s log of oil

  • the two Pentecostal loaves

  • the shewbread

  • what was left of meat offerings

  • the omer at the Passover

     The 4 which might be used only in Jerusalem were:

  • the firstlings of beasts

  • the Biccurim, or natural product of the soil, such as corn, fruits, etc.

  • the portion from the thank offering and from the Nazarite’s goat

  • the skins of the holy sacrifices

     Of the 10 which might be used throughout the land, four could be given at will to any priest:

  • the tithe of the tithe

  • the heave-offering of the dough

  • the first of the fleece

  • the priest’s due of meat

     It was thought that the others should be given to the priests of the special course on duty for the week.

  • the redemption money for a first born son

  • that for an ass

  • the sanctified field of possession

     There were many different ways to give their support, but they must be given to the right person and done according to the rules and regulations.  To an unlettered priest it was only lawful to give the following from among the various dues:

  • things ‘devoted’

  • the first born of cattle

  • the redemption of a son

  • that of an ass

  • the priest’s due

  • the first of the wool

  • the oil of burning

  • the ten things which were to be used in the Temple itself

  • the Biccurim (natural product of the soil)

     On the other hand, the high priest had the right to take what portion of the offerings he chose, and one half of the shewbread every Sabbath also belonged to him.  

     Thus the system was very elaborate and complex that regulated the admission, the services, and the privileges of the officiating priesthood.  Yet it has all vanished, not leaving behind it in the synagogue even a single trace of its complicated and perfect arrangements.  The old things passed away because they were just a shadow of the good things to come when God sent his son Jesus to pay for the redemption of man’s sins. 

    This is a reminder picture of the costume of the high priest that was taken from the last text.

Costume of High Priest - The Temple

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God has radically changed my life, and I want to share the awesome things I am learning with you. I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life.


About Cathy Deaton


My name is Cathy Deaton, Owner of Fan the Flame Ministries. God has radically changed my life, and He has shown me that I am to share the awesome things I am learning with the Millennial Generation (1981 – 1996). I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life. You truly can make a difference for God in an uncertain world.