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As I read the Old Testament, I find the term “ephod.” What is an ephod?

TitleAs I read the Old Testament, I find the term “ephod.” What is an ephod?
Publication TypeMagazine Article
Year of Publication1973
AuthorsCowan, Richard O.
Issue Number12
Date PublishedDecember 1973
KeywordsClothing; Ephod; High Priest; Temple Worship

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As I read the Old Testament, I find the term “ephod.” What is an ephod?

Richard O. Cowan

Professor of Church History and Doctrine
Brigham Young University

The ephod was an article of sacred clothing worn by the high priests of the Levitical Priesthood. The Lord directed that they were not to wear ordinary clothing during their service, but they were to have “holy garments” made by those whom the Lord had “filled with the spirit of wisdom.” (Ex. 28:2–3.) These sacred garments were to be passed from father to son along with the high priestly office itself. (Ex. 29:29.)

The ephod, worn over a blue robe, was made of blue, purple, and scarlet material, with designs of gold thread skillfully woven into the fabric. This garment was fastened at each shoulder and had an intricately woven band with which it could be fastened around the waist. In gold settings on each shoulder were onyx stones engraved with the names of the 12 sons of Israel as a “memorial” as the priest served before the Lord. (See Ex. 28:6–14 and Ex. 39:2–7). Fastened to the ephod was a breastplate into which the Urim and Thummim could be placed. (Ex. 28:15–30.)

The exact function of the ephod is not known. As President Joseph Fielding Smith observed, information concerning these ancient ordinances “was never recorded in any detail, because such ordinances are sacred and not for the world.” (Improvement Era, November 1955, p. 794.)

There are later references to a linen ephod; the boy Samuel, for example, wore such a garment when he served the Lord.