||[These workers] shall make the ephod out of gold [thread], sky-blue, dark red and crimson wool, together with twined linen, in a patterned brocade.
Ve'asu et-ha'efod zahav techelet ve'argaman tola'at shani veshesh moshezar ma'aseh choshev.
||It shall have two attached shoulder pieces at its two corners, and [these] shall be sewn [to it].
Shtey chtefot choverot yihyeh-lo el-shney ketsotav vechubar.
||The ephod's belt which is made in the same manner [as the ephod itself] shall be [woven] together with it out of gold [thread], sky-blue, dark red, and crimson wool, and twined linen.
Vecheshev afudato asher alav kema'asehu mimenu yihyeh zahav techelet ve'argaman vetola'at shani veshesh moshezar.
||Take two sardonyx stones, and engrave on them the names of Israel's sons.
Velakachta et-shtey avney-shoham ufitachta aleyhem shmot beney Yisra'el.
See Exodus 39:1 ff. There are several opinions as to how the ephod was made.
Some say that the ephod was essentially like a half-cape, as wide as the body, reaching from just below the elbows to the heel. It had a belt which was long enough to be tied in front, right over the solar plexus. It also had two shoulder straps ('shoulder pieces') that were sewn onto the belt right over the upper corners of the cape. These straps were long enough to reach slightly over the shoulders. At the ends of these straps on the shoulders, the settings for the sardonyx stones were attached (Rashi on Exodus 28:4,6; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:9; Ralbag; Sforno; Akedath Yitzchak; Midrash HaGadol).
Others agree that it was a long garment, but say that it was more like a skirt, from the waist to the heels, covering the high priest in front and back. It also had a section covering the entire back up to the neck, and the corners of this section are referred to as 'shoulder pieces,' to which the sardonyx stones were attached (Rashbam). Still others also agree that it was long, but maintain that it was much simpler in construction. They see it as a kind of cape made of a single rectangular piece of cloth, draped over the shoulders like a large tallith, and hanging down to the feet in back. At the waist, it had a belt to hold it. It is described as being like the robes used by Greek priests, most probably the mandyas (Rabbenu Meyuchas).
There are, however, a number of authorities who maintain that it was not a long garment at all, but rather like a vest with a belt around its lower edge, tied in front (Chizzkuni on Exodus 28:27). Others see it as a kind of backwards vest, tied in the back, with an opening in front to hold the breastplate (Siddur of Saadia Gaon, p. 271).
Josephus describes the ephod as being a sleeved garment. The main part was a cubit square, with an opening for the breastplate, worn over the front of the body. It had straps, most probably going around the neck, which buttoned on to the sardonyxes on the opposite sides to hold the ephod in place (Antiquities 3:7:5; Wars 5:5:7).
The gold would be beaten into thin sheets and then cut into find threads (Rashi; see Exodus 39:3). One thread of gold was mixed with six threads of each of the other materials, the sky-blue, dark red and crimson wool, and linen. This would produce 4 seven-ply threads, which were then twined together to produce a single 28-ply thread. (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:5, from Yoma 72a). Josephus notes that the ephod itself contained more gold than its belt (Wars 5:5:7).
Choshev in Hebrew; see note on Exodus 26:1. Josephus describes the belt as having a striped pattern of gold, sky blue, crimson, white and dark red, and states that the ephod had the same pattern, but with more gold (Wars 5:5:7).
Straps (Rashi), cords (Chizzkuni), the upper corner of the garment (Rabbenu Meyuchas; Rashbam), or sleeves (Josephus).
(Rashi; see Exodus 26:3). Literally 'attached,' or 'of one piece with it' (see note on Exodus 28:6).
(Saadia). Others translate cheshev aphuda-tho as 'interwoven belt' (Rabbenu Meyuchas), 'belt of adornment' (Rashi), or 'band for a belt' (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim). Some say that the belt was worn just below the chest (Yad, Kley Mikdash 9:11), while others maintain that it was tied over the navel (Raavad ad loc.).
|woven together with it|
(Rashi). Or, 'of the same material as it.' This latter interpretation seems to be that of Josephus, who maintains that the belt was not part of the ephod, but a separate garment, attached to the breastplate. It was looped around the back, and then around the front again (Antiquities 3:7:5; Wars 5:5:7).
(Josephus; loc. cit.; the same word is used in Greek cf. Septuagint). Sardonyx is a type of crypto-crystalline quartz, related to agate, with alternating red and white bands. Thus, these stones may have born a strong resemblance to Levi's banner, which was divided into thirds, white, black and red (BeMidmar Rabbah 2:7). These might have been rare sardonyxes which also had these exact divisions of color.
Other sources translate shoham here as beryl (Targum). Beryl is a silicate of beryllium and aluminium, Be3Al2(SiO3)6, that is bluish-green in color. Since the ancients did not classify stones according to chemical composition, it can denote any bluish-green stone. See notes on Exodus 28:18,20.
Shoham was one of the stones of Eden (Genesis 2:12).
Some say that the stones were square in shape (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:9; Midrash HaGadol). According to some ancient sources, however, they were hemispherical in shape (Philo, Questions and Answers 109). Some later sources say that they were round (Ibn Ezra, short version).
(Targum). In Hebrew, the root patach means to open, but in ancient Egyptian, petech means to engrave.