Questions From Readers
● What is the ephod frequently spoken of in connection with the priests of Israel, and in what way was it used in making inquiry of Jehovah, as related at 1 Samuel 23:9-12?
The record at 1 Samuel 23:9-12 reads: “And David got to know that Saul was fabricating mischief against him. Hence he said to Abiathar the priest: ‘Do bring the ephod near.’ And David went on to say: ‘O Jehovah the God of Israel, your servant has definitely heard that Saul is seeking to come to Keilah to lay the city in ruin on my account. Will the landowners of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down just as your servant has heard? O Jehovah the God of Israel, tell your servant, please.’ To this Jehovah said: ‘He will come down.’ And David went on to say: ‘Will the landowners of Keilah surrender me and my men into Saul’s hand?’ In turn Jehovah said: ‘They will do the surrendering.’”
The ephod was a special upper garment worn by the high priest, on the front of which was mounted the breastpiece of judgment adorned with twelve precious stones and containing the Urim and Thummim, or sacred lots. (Ex. 28:6-30) From the fact that the answer in each case in the account here quoted repeats the words of the question we gather that Jehovah’s indication to the inquirer was in the form of a Yes or a No. Precisely how the lots showed this we do not know. We do note, however, that Jehovah’s direction was given only through his duly anointed high priest, and only in matters of national importance.
The ephod mentioned in connection with the Urim and Thummim, however, is not to be confused with the linen ephod worn by all the priests and on occasion by others, such as young Samuel when ministering at the tabernacle and King David when bringing the ark of the covenant from the house of Obed-edom to Mount Zion. (1 Sam. 22:18; 2:18; 2 Sam. 6:14) It is quite likely that the ephod worn by Abiathar, in the case referred to in 1 Samuel 23:9-12, was the ephod, the one that had been worn by Ahimelech his father and the high priest.