EPHOD (Heb. אֵפוֹד). The term ephod occurs several times in the Bible, where it appears to describe different cultic objects. In Exodus 28 the ephod is a garment made of expensive materials. In i Samuel 2:18; 22:18; ii Samuel 6:14 the ephod is made of linen (Heb. bad). In Judges 17:5; 18:14–20 the ephod is mentioned along with a sculpted image (Heb pesel) of the kind outlawed by the Decalogue. In Judges 8:24–27 Gideon makes an ephod out of captured Midianite metals, which he sets up (wayaşşeg) in Oprah, which Israel "whored after," i.e., worshipped. Another biblical form of the word ephod is ʾafuddah (Heb. אֲפֻדָּה: Ex. 28:8; 39:5; Isa. 30:22), to which the verb ʾafad (Ex. 29:5; Lev. 8:7), with the meaning "gird" or "adorn," is related. In its broader sense in what appear to be early texts, ephod includes the entire mantic instrument (e.g., i Sam. 2:28; 23:6, 9; 30:7; cf. i Sam. 21:10). It is possible that the robe worn by the priest (see below) from which the golden bells were suspended may also be included in the term ephod. (The bells were necessary to alert Yahweh that the priest, and not some intruder, was entering the sanctuary so that the priest would not be killed for entering the holy place (Ex. 28:31–35).) Biblical religion prohibited many forms of soothsaying and divination by means of auguries, but did permit, side by side with prophecy, the priestly ephod (see *Divination). Both prophecy and the ephod were seen as a means of seeking the counsel of God and of obtaining a revelation of His will. The technical term for consulting the ephod and the Urim and Thummim is "to come before the Lord" (Ex. 28:30; cf. Num. 27:21), that is, either in the Tabernacle or before the ark (Judg. 20:27; cf. Judg. 20:18, 23, 27; i Sam. 14:18, 41 et al.). Some biblical references indicate that in ancient Israel use was made of an ephod, together with *teraphim (Hos. 3:4) and a graven image, for approaching God (Judg. 17:4–5; 18:14, 17, 20; Isa. 30:22; cf. Judg. 8:27). The Pentateuch contains no clear description of the shape of the ephod, nor does the Hebrew root of the word furnish any additional clues. The Hebrew word seems related to the Akkadian epattu, plural epadātu, which signifies a costly garment in the Cappadocian tablets, and to Ugaritic ʾipd (ktu 4. 707:13; 4. 780:1, 3, 4, 7); plural 'iptt (ktu 4. 707:11); dual 'ipdm (ktu 1. 136:10) with the same meaning. The ephod has an apparent analogue in Greek ependytēs (overgarment). A similar word is found in Aquila's translation of ephod. According to H. Thiersch (see bibliography), the ependytēs originated in Syria, spreading from there through Asia Minor and Greece. But while correct about the Oriental origin of the ependytēs and its physical resemblance to the ephod, Tiersch seems to have erred about the cultic use of the Greek garment. It seems instead to have served as a luxury item for Orientalizing Greeks. (See Muller in Bibliography.) The pentateuchal ephod was engraved with the names of the Twelve Tribes, apparently to signify the totality of the nation (Ex. 28:9–12). It is not stated how the ephod was made in the days of the Judges (*Gideon: Judg. 8:27; *Micah: Judg. 17:5), nor the ephod at Shiloh (e.g., i Sam. 2:18; and Nob: ibid. 22:18), and that used in connection with Saul's campaign against the Philistines (ibid. 14:3). The Pentateuch contains a description of the ephod of Aaron (Ex. 28). The most common occurrences refer to an upper garment, the ornamented vestment which the high priest wore over the blue robe ("the robe of the ephod"). To this he bound the *breastplate together with the principal vehicle for enquiring of God, the *Urim and Thummim. All of these attestations are confined to Exodus 25, 28, 35, 39 and Leviticus 8 in settings that describe Aaron as a priest, with him and his sons wearing breeches (Ex. 28:42), an invention of the Persian period, and must be dated to post-exilic times. According to this description, the ephod was an embroidered work "of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen, worked into designs." To its two ends were attached two straps which fastened over the shoulders, and on each of the shoulder straps was set a shoham stone (identification uncertain), engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel. The breastpiece (Heb. ḥoshen חׁשֶׁן) was bound to the ephod at the top by rings and chains and at the bottom by a cord of blue, while in the middle it was encircled by "the decorated band" which was also made "in the style of the ephod" and of the same combination of gold thread and four yarns. The ephod seems to have been a square, sleeveless garment, falling from just below the armpits to the heels ("like a sort of horsewoman's surcoat," according to Rashi (to Ex. 28:6)). According to this view, it enveloped the entire body. According to the commentary of R. Samuel ben Meir (to Ex. 28:7), however, the ephod enclosed the body from the waist downward, the upper part of the body being covered by the breastpiece. Josephus (Ant., 3:162; Wars, 5:231–236) states that the ephod had sleeves and resembled a type of waistcoat ("the epomis" of the Greeks – used by the lxx in translating "ephod" of the Pentateuch); it was variegated and had "the middle of the breast uncovered" for the insertion of the breastplate. The high priest used the ephod along with the breastplate and the Urim and Thummim as a means of divination. Lesser priests, as well as others engaged in sacred ministrations, Samuel (i Sam. 2:18), and once even David (ii Sam. 6:14) wore a simple ephod of linen, apparently during sacred service or at special celebrations (i Sam. 22:18).
According to the Talmud, each thread of the ephod consisted of six blue strands, six of purple, six of scarlet, and six of fine twisted linen, with a thread of gold in each twist of six strands, making a total of 28 strands (Yoma 71b, 72a). The names of the tribes were engraved on the onyx stones with the shamir (Sot. 48b; Git. 68a). The ephod was one of the eight vestments worn by the high priest (Yoma 7:5; Maim., Yad, Kelei ha-Mikdash, ch. 8–10) and, together with the onyx stones, was used in the Second Temple. The ephod was believed to atone for the sin of idolatry (Zev. 88b). Gideon was said to have made an ephod because the name of his tribe, Manasseh, was not included on the stones of the ephod (Yal., Judg. 64).
Foote, in: jbl, 21 (1902), 1–47; Sellin, in: Orientalische Studien … Th. Noeldeke, 2 (1906), 699–717; idem, in: jpos, 14 (1934), 185–94; 17 (1937), 236–51; idem, in: zaw, 55 (1937), 296–8; Elhorst, in: jbl, 30 (1910), 254–76; W.R. Arnold, Ephod and the Ark (1917); Budde, in: zaw, 39 (1921), 1–47; J. Gabriel, Untersuchungen ueber das alttestamentliche Priestertum (1933), 44–70; H. Thiersch, Ependytes und Ephod (1936); J. Lewy, in: jaos, 57 (1937), 436; de Vaux, Anc Isr, 349–51; idem, in: rb, 47 (1938), 108–11 (Fr.); H.G. May, in: ajsll, 56 (1939), 44ff.; W.F. Albright, in: basor, 83 (1941), 39ff.; idem, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968), 171, 174–7, 179; J. Morgenstern, The Ark, the Ephod and the "Tent of Meeting" (1945); M. Haran, in: Tarbiz, 24 (1954/55), 380–91; idem, in: Sefer N.H. Tur-Sinai (1960), 36ff.; idem, in: Scripta Hierosolymitana, 8 (1961), 279–84 (Eng.); Elliger, in: vt, 8 (1958), 19–35 (Ger.); Kaufmann Y., Toledot, 1 (1960), 486–502. add. bibliography: V. Muller, in: aja, 42 (1938), 314–15; J. Durham, Exodus (Word; 1987), 385–86; C. Meyers, in: abd ii, 550; M. Miller, in: Hesperia, 58 (1989), 313–29; N. Sarna, jps Torah Commentary Exodus (1991), 178–79; C. van Dam, The Urim and Thummim … (1997); J. Tropper, Ugaritische Grammatik (2000), 183, 286.
[Yehoshua M. Grintz /
S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]