Difficulties in Envisioning the Ephod
Shemot 281 discusses the making of the Ephod, including the materials to be used, the various sections of the garment, the stones to be placed on top and how it was to be attached to the Breastplate. Despite the length of the description, however, much is left unknown. How long was the Ephod? Was it a top or bottom garment, or perhaps simply a belt? Did it cover the front, back or both? Even aspects which are explicitly discussed contain ambiguous or unknown terms, making it difficult for the reader to reconstruct what the garment looked like:
- "הָאֵפֹד" – What does the word Ephod mean? Does this term refer to a specific part of the garment, separate from the "כְתֵפֹת" and "חֵשֶׁב" mentioned later?
- "שְׁתֵּי כְתֵפֹת" – What are "כְתֵפֹת"? The root "כתף" means shoulder or side, but is the verse referring to shoulder straps, shoulder pads, or some other garb that reaches to or over the shoulder?
- "חֹבְרֹת יִהְיֶה לּוֹ אֶל שְׁנֵי קְצוֹתָיו" vs. "וְחֻבָּר" – Where were the "כְתֵפֹת"? Does the doubling in the verse imply that they were joined not only to the Ephod but to something else?
- "חֵשֶׁב אֲפֻדָּתוֹ" – Vayikra 8:7's statement, "וַיַּחְגֹּר אֹתוֹ בְּחֵשֶׁב הָאֵפֹד" suggests that the "חֵשֶׁב" was some sort of belt, but reveals nothing regarding how this belt functioned or looked. How might the related term, "מַעֲשֵׂה חֹשֵׁב",2 referring to skilled work (from the root "חשב", meaning to think), shed light on its appearance?
Several other verses, despite not speaking about the Epod's appearance directly, might nonetheless provide clues as to what it looked like and how it was worn:
- "וְיִרְכְּסוּ אֶת הַחֹשֶׁן... לִהְיוֹת עַל חֵשֶׁב הָאֵפוֹד" – Shemot 28:283 directs that the Breastplate be placed "עַל חֵשֶׁב הָאֵפוֹד". Does this imply that the Breastplate rested directly on the "חֵשֶׁב" (and thus, that the "חֵשֶׁב", too, must have been on chest level) or that it was on top of it (and, hence, the "חֵשֶׁב" could have been at hip level)? What does the following phrase, "וְלֹא יִזַּח הַחֹשֶׁן מֵעַל הָאֵפוֹד" suggest?
- "מְעִיל הָאֵפֹד" (Shemot 28:31) – The robe is referred to as "מְעִיל הָאֵפֹד". What might this imply about the relationship between the two garments?
- "וַיִּתֵּן עָלָיו אֶת הָאֵפֹד וַיַּחְגֹּר אֹתוֹ בְּחֵשֶׁב הָאֵפֹד וַיֶּאְפֹּד לוֹ בּוֹ" (Vayikra 8:7) – What is the relationship between the three verbs (וַיִּתֵּן, וַיַּחְגֹּר, וַיֶּאְפֹּד) of this verse? What can they teach about the nature of the garment? Shemuel I 14:34 employs yet a fourth term, "נֹשֵׂא אֵפוֹד", while Shemuel II 6:14 speaks of David being "חָגוּר אֵפוֹד בָּד". Was the entire Ephod belt-like, or just the "חֵשֶׁב"? What would it mean for the Ephod to be "carried"?