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Written by Mike Montgomery   

I have heard preached many times in my life in the Old Baptists and have said it myself from the pulpit, that when the High Priest entered into the most holy place on the Day of Atonement, he wore a robe on which was interlaced on the hem thereof a bell and a pomegranate. I have recently begun to doubt that this was the case. Here is the basis for my thinking.

Exodus 28:4-5 describes the garments that the High Priest was to wear.

"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. And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen."

Exodus 28:31-35 describes the robe.

"And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue. And there shall be an hole in the top of it, in the midst thereof: it shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole of it, as it were the hole of an habergeon, that it be not rent. And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about:  A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about. And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the LORD, and when he cometh out, that he die not."

No other garment that the High Priest wears has the bell and pomegranate on it; not even the coat (described in verses 39 and in 40) had a bell and a pomegranate on it.

The High Priest was to wear the robe when he went into the holy place (v. 35). The phrase "holy place" is sometimes used to describe the sanctuary and sometimes the holy of holies in which the ark of the covenant was placed. Exodus 26:33-34 makes a clear distinction between the holy place and the most holy place. When the phrase "holy place" is used, it most likely is referring to the sanctuary in which was placed the table of shew bread, the golden candlesticks, the altar of incense and such. However, in a few cases the phrase "the holy place" refers actually to the most holy place and in these cases, it is the context that causes us to know that this is the case.

One such instance is found in Lev 16 where the phrase "holy place" is used to describe the holy of holies. Nowhere in Lev 16 is the phrase "most holy place" or even "holy of holies" found, yet we know from the context that this is what is being described.

Notice especially in Lev 16:4 that on the Day of Atonement that the High Priest is commanded to "put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on."

Nowhere in Lev 16 is the robe with the bells and pomegranates mentioned in this chapter. Indeed, please notice Lev 16:23-24 in which after Aaron has finished his sacerdotal work, he is commanded to "put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there." After he does that, he is furthermore commanded to "wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth."

It seems to me that on this special day that the High Priest did not wear his beautiful robe with the bell and pomegranate until he was finished with the work of atonement. while he was ministering within the holy place, he wore just the coat, the linen breeches, and the linen mitre.

I confess now that I do not believe he wore that robe until he had finished the work of atonement. The robe was worn during his daily duties as priest. The sound of the bells was to declare to God more than to Man that he was busy doing his work, but when the day of atonement was come, he was to take off the robe, humble himself before the Sovereign Ruler of Heaven and Earth and perform those tasks that would atone for the sins of the people.

When he had finished his work to the satisfaction of God, he was to remove those clothes he wore while performing those tasks, and leave them in the sanctuary. He was to then wash himself and put on the garments that the people were accustomed to seeing him wear, which would of necessity include the robe with the bells and pomegranates.

That Day and especially that room in which the august presence of the thrice holy God was keenly felt, was not the time nor place for the sound of bells. Besides, the people, who were not permitted to step foot inside the tabernacle while the High Priest was performing these tasks, most likely could not have heard those bells even if they were ringing. The reappearance of the High Priest was the thing they craved to see. His reappearance was, in type, a resurrection and a proof positive that the Lord had accepted the sacrifice that he had just offered. From that point on, the bells would bring a sense of comfort to the people because their High Priest was now proven to be a successful one.

Mike Montgomery

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.