Ephod | Free Online Biblical Library

If you like our 14,000 Articles library, you'll love our Courses tailor-made for all stages of church life:

Courses cover a wide range of Bible, Theology and Ministry.


EPHOD (ēf'ŏd, Heb. ’ēphōdh). 1. A sacred vestment originally worn by the high priest and made of “gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen—the work of a skilled craftsman” (Exod.28.6-Exod.28.14; Exod.39.2-Exod.39.7). It was held together front and back by two shoulder pieces at the top and a girdle band around the waist. On each shoulderpiece was an onyx stone engraved with six names of the tribes of Israel. Attached to the ephod by chains of pure gold was a breastplate containing twelve precious stones. The blue robe of the ephod was worn underneath, having a hole for the head and extending to the feet, with a hem alternating with gold bells and pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet (Exod.28.31-Exod.28.35; Exod.39.22-Exod.39.26).

Later, persons other than the high priest wore ephods. Samuel wore a linen ephod while ministering before the Lord (1Sam.2.18), which was characteristic of the ordinary priests (1Sam.2.28; 1Sam.14.3; 1Sam.22.18). David wore a linen ephod while he danced before the Lord after bringing the ark to Jerusalem (2Sam.6.14). Abiathar carried off from Nob an ephod that represented to David the divine presence, for of it he inquired the will of the Lord (1Sam.23.6, 1Sam.23.9; 1Sam.30.7-1Sam.30.8).

The ephod was misused as an object of idolatrous worship by Gideon (Judg.8.27) and associated with images by Micah (Judg.17.5; Judg.18.14).

2. Father of Hanniel who was the prince of the children of Manasseh (Num.34.23).——AMR

Less elaborate ephods were worn by the rest of the priesthood, esp. when officiating before the altar (1 Sam 2:28; 14:3); these are simply described as ephods of linen (bad), and prob. lacked any extensive ornamentation. Even a young acolyte like Samuel (1 Sam 2:18) wore such an ephod. A special veneration was accorded the high priestly type of ephod to such an extent that in the time of the Judges Gideon (Judg 8:27) had a replica fashioned from the gold and precious stones stripped from the Midianite warriors slain by his troops in the war. Micah the Ephraimite is said to have made an ephod for use in the worship of his silver idol, along with his teraphim (or images of the household gods), according to Judges 17:1-5. The high priestly ephod in the Tabernacle was apparently mounted on a model of some sort or otherwise displayed in a prominent position in the sanctuary. Probably because of the Urim and Thummim attached to it the ephod was considered of great value, esp. at crises when important decisions had to be made. When David needed to know in advance whether the people of Keilah whom he had befriended would hand him over to King Saul, he had Abiathar consult God by means of the ephod (1 Sam 23:9-12). Presumably this was done by means of the Urim and Thummim, just as in the earlier instance when Saul by that means found out that Jonathan was the one who had transgressed his ban on eating food before victory (14:18, reading “ephod” with LXX, rather than the “ark,” which must have been kept at Kirjath-jearim at this time). The Urim and Thummim were drawn as “yes” or “no” answers (v. 41), eliminating the wrong choice between two alternatives.

It would appear that even in the northern kingdom ephods were made for cultic purposes in the temples of Israel (Hos 3:4). Whether these were made of woven cloth set with gold and gems, or whether they were like Gideon’s of old (Judg 8:26, 27) is not clear from the evidence. No mention is made of an ephod after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 b.c. There is no evidence that a new ephod was made for the high priest after the Restoration from Babylon, although it may safely be assumed that this was done in conformity with the Mosaic Law.


J. Morgenstern, The Ark, the Ephod and the Tent of Meeting (1945); M. F. Unger, Archaeology and the OT (1954), 212; R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (1961), 349-352; H. M. Buck, People of the Lord (1966), 93, 94; F. Josephus, Antiquities iii, 7.3.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(’ephowdh (28 times), ’ephodh (20 times), ’ephodh; Septuagint epomis, ephoth, ephod, ephoud, stole exallos, stole bussine):

(1) A sacred vestment originally designed for the high priest (Ex 28:4 ff; 39:2 ff), and made "of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen," held together by two shoulder-pieces and a skillfully woven band which served as a girdle for the ephod. On the shoulderpieces were two onyx stones on which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. It is not known whether the ephod extended below the hips or only to the waist. Attached to the ephod by chains of pure gold was a breastplate containing twelve precious stones in four rows. Underneath the ephod was the blue robe of the ephod extending to the feet of the priest. The robe of the ephod was thus a garment comprising, in addition to the long robe proper, the ephod with its shoulderpieces and the breastplate of judgment.

(2) From the historical books we learn that ephods were worn by persons other than the high priest. Thus, the boy Samuel was girded with a linen ephod while assisting the aged high priest (1Sa 2:18); the priests at Nob, 85 in number, are described as men wearing a linen ephod (1Sa 22:18); and David was girded with a linen ephod when he danced in the procession that brought the ark into Jerusalem (2Sa 6:14). The ephod was considered appropriate for the king on this solemn and happy occasion; but it would be reading into the narrative more than it contains to infer that lay worshippers were regularly clothed with the ephod; nor are we to suppose that priests other than the high priest were accustomed to wear ephods as rich and elaborate as that of the high priest. Abiathar, who became high priest after the assassination of his father by Doeg, probably brought to the camp of David the ephod worn by the high priest in his ministrations at Nob (1Sa 23:6), and through this ephod David sought in certain crises to learn Yahweh’s will (1Sa 23:9; 30:7). Some have argued that the ephod, which Abiathar brought in his hand, was an image rather than a priestly garment, but there seems no sufficient reason for regarding it as other than a vestment for the high priest. The ephod behind which the sword of Goliath was kept wrapped in a cloth may well have been a garment suspended from the wall or itself wrapped in a protecting cloth (1Sa 21:9).

(3) The ephod mentioned in Jud 17:5; 18:14 f; Ho 3:4 is associated with teraphim and other idolatrous images. We may frankly confess that we do not know the shape, size and use of the ephod in these cases, though even here also the ephod may well have been a priestly garment. The same remark holds good of the ephod made by Gideon, and which became an object of idolatrous worship in Israel (Jud 8:27). It has been argued that a vestment would not cost seventeen hundred shekels of gold. Possibly Gideon set up an apparatus of worship containing other articles just as the mother of Micah began with the promise to make a graven image and a molten image, and afterward added an ephod and teraphim (Jud 17:1-5). Moreover, if gems and brilliants were put on Gidcon’s ephod, who can say that it did not cost seventeen hundred shekels? LITERATURE.

Braun, De vestitu sacerdotum (1698), 462 ff; Ugolini, Thesaurus antiquitatum sacrarum (1744-69), XII, 785 f; Ancessi, Annales de philos. chretienne, 1872; Konig, Rel. Hist. of Israel, 107 ff; Van Hoonackcr, Le sacerdoce levitique (1899), 370 ff; Foote, The Ephod, in "Johns Hopkins University Circulars," 1900.


Father of Hanniel, prince of Manasseh (Nu 34:23).