What is a…

The term “breastplate” is used to refer to the following two things in the Bible.

  1. Solider’s breastplate

    This is a piece of armor that protected the breast (chest). (See ARMOR)

    This word is used figuratively in Ephesians 6:14 and Isaiah 59:17, referring to putting on “the breastplate of righteousness.”

  2. Breastplate of the high priest

    High priest illustration. The History of Costume by Braun & Schneider (circa 1861-1880). Public domain.
    A 19th century artist’s conception of the ritual holy garments of the high priest

    This ornament covering the breast of the high priest is first mentioned in Exodus 25:7. It was made of embroidered cloth, set with four rows of precious stones, three in each row. On each stone was engraved the name of one of the twelve tribes. Its design was given to Moses by God himself.

    You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, the work of a skillful designer; like the work of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen you shall make it.

    It shall be square, having been folded double, a span in length and a span in width.

    You shall mount on it four rows of stones; the first row shall be a row of ruby, topaz, and emerald;
    and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire, and a diamond;
    and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst;
    and the fourth row a beryl and an onyx and a jasper;
    they shall be set in gold settings.

    The stones shall be according to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, according to their names; they shall be like the engravings of a signet, each according to his name for the twelve tribes.

    You shall make on the breastpiece chains of a twisted work of cords in pure gold. You shall make on the breastpiece two rings of gold, and you shall put the two rings on the two ends of the breastpiece. You shall put the two cords of gold on the two rings at the ends of the breastpiece. You shall put the two ends of the two cords on the two filigree settings, and you shall put them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod at the front of it.

    You shall make two rings of gold and shall place them on the two ends of the breastpiece, on the edge of it, which is toward the inner side of the ephod. You shall make two rings of gold and put them on the bottom of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, on the front of it close to the place where it is joined, above the skillfully woven band of the ephod.

    They shall bind the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a blue cord, so that it will be on the skillfully woven band of the ephod, and that the breastpiece will not come loose from the ephod.

    Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment over his heart when he comes into the holy place, for a remembrance before Yahweh continually. —Exodus 28:15-29 LSB

    Exodus 39:8-21 describes the final result as delivered by the skilled designer.

    It was about 10 inches square [25.4 centimeters] in size. The two upper corners were fastened to the ephod by blue ribbons. It was not to be “loosed from the ephod” (Exodus 28:28). The lower corners were fastened to the girdle of the priest.

    As it reminded the priest of his representative character, it was called the memorial (Exodus 28:29).

    It was also called the Breastplate of Judgment (Exodus 28:15). With the breastplate were the Thummim and Urim.

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Article Version: April 27, 2022