Our scripture today comes from Exodus 28:33-34:
And upon its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around.
Exodus 28:33-34 NKJV
And our study, even though titled “Bells and Pomegranates” might just as easily be called:
Sound Doctrine & Fruitful Life
Charles Spurgeon, in his “Lectures to My Students” (worth buying on Amazon if you like paper books, or Google Play Books if you are not old fashioned like me) — anyways, old Charlie Spurgeon, who was a Baptist preacher back in the 1800s in London (who is today called by many the “Prince of Preachers”) — old Charlie had this to say of our scripture that we are looking at today:
“The priest was to have in his robes bells and pomegranates; the one a figure of sound doctrine, and the other of a fruitful life.” – Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students
Now if you wanted to save time and just trust anything at all that I or Charles Spurgeon shared as being “unquestionably the gospel truth”, you could blindly agree (against my recommendations), and just skip ahead. But I know that you may rightly wonder if that’s just some fanciful thing that some old Baptist preacher came up with — out of left field — with no Biblical basis — that was just some esoteric opinion — that he “read into” the scripture — to make for “smart sermon clickbait”.
And I hope that we are good students of the Word who will test every spirit, against our canonical set of writings as Christians — namely the infallible and inerrant Word of God, the Holy Bible.
So first, let’s lay the groundwork for what we are talking about.
Wikipedia would tell us that:
“A bell is a directly struck idiophone percussion instrument. Most bells have the shape of a hollow cup that when struck vibrates in a single strong strike tone, with its sides forming an efficient resonator. The strike may be made by an internal “clapper” or “uvula”, an external hammer, or—in small bells—by a small loose sphere enclosed within the body of the bell (jingle bell).
Bells are usually cast from bell metal (a type of bronze) for its resonant properties, but can also be made from other hard materials; this depends on the function. Some small bells such as ornamental bells or cow bells can be made from cast or pressed metal, glass or ceramic, but large bells such as church, clock and tower bells are normally cast from bell metal.”
And Easton’s Bible Dictionary says:
“The bells first mentioned in Scripture are the small golden bells attached to the hem of the high priest’s ephod ( Exodus 28:33 Exodus 28:34 Exodus 28:35 ). The “bells of the horses” mentioned by ( Zechariah 14:20 ) were attached to the bridles or belts round the necks of horses trained for war, so as to accustom them to noise and tumult.”
Ok, so what are…
Nelson’s Compact Bible Dictionary tells us that:
A “pomegranate is a round, sweet fruit about inches across with a hard rind. It is green when young and turns red when ripe. There are numerous edible seeds within the pomegranate… The hem of Aaron’s robe was decorated with images of pomegranates (Ex. 28:33-34, 39:24-26), it was listed among the pleasant fruit of Egypt (Num. 20:5). Solomon decorated the temple with the likeness of the pomegranate (1 King 7:18, 20). A spiced wine was made from the juice (Song 8:2).”
Let’s read some quick background on our scripture in…
Bible Commentaries on Exodus 28:33-34
“around the hem of the ephod was these, were these little golden bells and then a pomegranate… all around the hem. The purpose was that when he went into the Holy of Holies, no one could go in there except the high priest, but coming into the presence of God was really a hazardous job. When the whole thing first got started they realized what a hazardous occupation they’d gotten into as priests.
The very first day that they started their ministry as priests, two of them got wiped out. Nadab and Abihu both got wiped out the very first day. Because when they got the whole thing set up, and they got the altar all set, and the wood on the altar, fire came down from heaven, and the wood just spontaneously started to burn. Aaron’s two sons got so excited they grabbed their little incense burners, and they took… the incense burners, but it took strange fire, and they went in to offer it before God and the fire came from the altar and consumed the two sons of Aaron. It was a dangerous, hazardous job. You’re coming into the presence of God, and you better make sure that everything is right; if it isn’t, you’ve had it.
Now even the high priest in coming in
before God, coming into the presence of
God, everything had to be just right, if it
wasn’t the high priest would get wiped out. How would they know? The bells would quit ringing. So that was the purpose of the little bells. They would tie a rope on his foot, and if the bells would quit ringing they’d take and drag him out. Occupational hazard.
So that was the purpose of the little golden bells around the hem… that when he was ministering before God, in the actual going into this area of coming into that area where God’s presence was to meet the people, things had to be right, or it could mean the life of the high priest. So the golden bells so that they would know in case he died.” Chuck Smith, C2000 Series on Exodus
“Bells of gold between them all
around: On its hem, between the
ornate pomegranates of blue and
purple, were bells, so the priest
could be heard while ministering
before God – if he were to die, the
bells would stop ringing and he
could be pulled out of the Most Holy
Place. The sound ofthe bells would
remind the priest of the solemn
nature of his work, and remind him
so that he may not die.” – David Guzik
“The tinkling bells were
presumably so that the people
outside could trace the
movements of the priest within,
who was of course invisible to
them. By this they would know
that his offering had been
accepted, and that he had not
been struck dead.” (Cole)
“The pomegranates (symbols of
fruitfulness) were either hanging
as ‘bobbles’ between the bells, or
else embroidered on the fabric.”
“The alternating bell and
pomegranate on the skirts ofthe
priest’s robe were typical of his
obligation to testimony and fruit
“Round the skirts of the robe were hung golden bells, and the representations of pomegranates made of yarn of divers colours. The pomegranates added to the beauty of the robe, and the sound of the bells gave notice to the people in the outer court when he went into the holy place to burn incense, that they might then apply themselves to their devotions at the same time (Lu. 1:10), in token of their concurrence with him in his offering, and their hopes of the ascent of their prayers to God in virtue of the incense he offered.
Aaron must come near to minister in the garments that were appointed him, that he die not. It is at his peril if he attend otherwise than according to the institution.
This intimates that we must serve the Lord with fear and holy trembling, as those that know we deserve to die, and are in danger of making some fatal mistake. Some make the bells of the holy robe to typify the sound of the gospel of Christ in the world, giving
notice of his entrance within the veil for us.
Blessed are those that hear this joyful sound (Ps. 89:15). The adding of the pomegranates, which are a fragrant fruit, denotes the sweet savour of the gospel, as well as the joyful sound of it, for it is a savour of life unto life.
The church is called an orchard of
pomegranates.” – Matthew Henry, Commentary
Charles Spurgeon continues to expound upon these reflections upon Sound Doctrine and Fruitful in his “Lectures to My Students”: