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Priestly Vestments

Braun, Johannes. Bigde kohanim …Vestitus sacerdotum herbaeorum.

Amsterdam: Janssonio-Waefbergios, Danielem Elseviriun, viduam J. à Someren, et Henr. & Theod. Boom, 1680

Braun, Johannes, 1628-1708.

The books of Exodus and Leviticus describe the bigdei kodesh (“holy garments”) required for the high priests ministering in the Tabernacle.

Vestitus, Braun’s work on these garments, their production and ritual, was of such high-quality scholarship that it earned him a Hebrew and theology professorship at the University of Groningen, and became a standard work on the subject.

Minor variations in ritual vestments varied according to the pre an post-exilic period.

The four undergarments are of fine twined linen and consist of:

  • a coat, descending to the ankles with sleeves reaching to the palms
  • a girdle, bound around the coat, made exclusively of fine twined linen
  • a headdress or turban
  • breeches worn "to cover the flesh of their nakedness; from the hips to the thighs" (Ex. 28:42; 39:28; Ezek. 44:18)

The four outer garments:

  • the ephod, made of gold and a mixture of wool and linens and the most distinguished of the priestly garments.
  • the breastplate, measuring a span by a span, attached to the ephod -- either a square tablet or a pouch in which are set 12 precious stones with the engraved names of the tribes of Israel. On the breastplate are placed the Urim and the Thummim, devices that enabled priestly divination and access to oracles.
  • the robe worn underneath the ephod  made of blue woolen threads only, all of blue.
  • the plate or crown that hangs on a blue thread in front of the miter made of pure gold, and engraved with passages from Exodus.

In 1697-98 a second edition of Vestitus appeared, followed by a similarly illustrated work on Hebrew antiquities (Selecta sacra, 1700). All of Braun’s works show a close acquaintance with the Scriptures, an accurate knowledge of Jewish rites and customs, and great familiarity with rabbinical learning. He was also familiar with Spinoza's works, and Descartes’ influence on him is quite evident.

Priestly Vestments