(ee' fahd) A priestly garment connected with seeking a word from God and used in a wrong way as an idol. The exact meaning and derivation of the term “ephod” are not clear.
In early Old Testament history, there are references to the ephod as a rather simple, linen garment, possibly a short skirt, apron, or loin cloth. It is identified as a priestly garment (1 Samuel 14:3;
1 Samuel 22:18). It was worn by Samuel (1 Samuel 2:18) and by David when he danced before God on the occasion of the transfer of the ark of the covenant to David's capital city of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:14). From its earliest forms and uses, it appears that the ephod was associated with the presence of God or those who had a special relationship with God. It is portrayed as a source of divine guidance, as when David wanted to know if he should trust the people of Keilah (1 Samuel 23:9-12) or when he wanted to know if he should pursue the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:7-8).
There are references to a special ephod associated with the high priest. It appears to have been an apron-like garment worn over the priest's robe and under his breastplate. It is described in detail in
Exodus 28-35. Woven of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet materials, it was very elaborate and ornate. On top of each of the shoulders the ephod was fastened by two onyx clasps on which were engraved the names of six of the twelve tribes. Twelve gem stones on the breastplate contained the names of the twelve tribes. Some scholars believe that this breastplate also contained a pouch where the sacred lots, Urim and Thummim, were kept (Exodus 28:30). The ephod was fastened around the waist by a beautiful and intricately woven girdle. The robe worn with the ephod was equally elaborate. It was blue in color, with a fringe at the bottom comprised of golden bells and blue, purple, and scarlet pomegranates (Exodus 28:31-34). Apparently, the ephod of the high priest was not only worn by the high priest, but also prominently displayed in the tabernacle. It may have been placed upon a divine image and used as an object of worship at some times in Israel's history. This usage, plus the importance of the ephod, may have led to idolatrous use in worship during the time of the judges (Judges 8:27;
The importance of the ephod in Hebrew worship is seen in the fact that, even after the division of the nation into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, there is mention of the ephod in worship in the Northern Kingdom (Hosea 3:4). See Priests; Tabernacle; Ark of the Covenant; Teraphim.
Daniel B. McGee