Lesson 53: Exodus 28–29; 31
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“Lesson 53: Exodus 28–29; 31,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 53,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 53

Exodus 28–29; 31


While Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days, the Lord revealed how Aaron and the priests were to be consecrated, clothed, and anointed to serve in the tabernacle. The Lord promised that His presence would be with the Israelites if they kept His laws and ordinances. He also reiterated the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy and gave Moses two stone tables containing the law.

Suggestions for Teaching

Exodus 28:1–43

The Lord explains the clothing that Aaron and the priests are to wear for their service

Ask students if they ever wear clothing that has some type of symbol on it (such as brand or sports team logos). Invite them to examine the exterior of their clothing, looking for symbols. Ask a few students to show the class any symbols they discovered and explain their meanings if they know them.

Remind students that the Lord often uses symbols to teach or remind us of gospel truths. Items of clothing are sometimes used as symbols for this purpose.

Explain that sacred religious clothing has been used symbolically since the Lord made “coats of skins” for Adam and Eve before they were cast out of the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:21). When Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days, the Lord revealed to him details concerning the tabernacle as well as the sacred clothing that was to be worn by the priests who would serve in the tabernacle.

Invite a student to read Exodus 28:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a blessing the Lord said would come from Aaron wearing special clothing. (It may be helpful to explain that the word consecrate means to dedicate for a holy purpose, such as the service of God.)

  • According to verse 3, what was the purpose of Aaron’s garments? (To consecrate him.)

Moses Calls Aaron to the Ministry

Display the picture Moses Gives Aaron the Priesthood (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 15; see also Ask a student to read Exodus 28:4 aloud. You may want to suggest that students locate and mark the part of the verse that mentions the different articles of clothing. Ask a few students to see if they can identify the various articles of clothing in the picture. (You may need to point out that the ephod is an apron, depicted by the blue portion of Aaron’s clothing in the picture, and the mitre is the cap in Aaron’s hands.)

Explain that the rest of Exodus 28 describes the details of this clothing and some of the symbolism associated with it. To show an example, point to the breastplate in the picture.

  • How many precious stones do you see?

  • What do you think the twelve stones represented?

Invite a student to read Exodus 28:21, 29 aloud. Ask the class to look for what the twelve stones represented. Invite students to report what they find. (The twelve stones represented the twelve tribes of Israel.)

Explain that we also wear special symbolic clothing for temple ordinances today. Such clothing, including the garments we receive in the temple, is sacred and should be treated and spoken of with reverence.

Exodus 29:1–21

Aaron and the priests are to be washed, anointed, and clothed in holy garments

Bring a dirty spoon or other utensil to class. Show it to the students, and ask who would like to use it to eat their next meal.

  • What ought to be done to this utensil before it is used?

  • How does the utensil relate to the priests who were to help the Lord in His work? (Help students understand that the processes of becoming physically clean and ceremonially clean were different. While God wanted the priests to be physically clean, their spiritual cleanliness was more important. You might consider inviting students to read the entry “Clean and unclean” in the Bible Dictionary or Guide to the Scriptures [].)

Explain that the Lord described how priests were to be purified, consecrated, and set apart in a special ceremony before they began their service in the tabernacle. Invite students, as they study the Lord’s instructions in Exodus 29, to look for principles concerning how they can be clean and live more fully set apart from sin.

If possible, provide a copy of the following handout to each student. Invite students to read the scripture reference in the first column and, in the space provided, write a brief description of the Lord’s instructions. Then have them write the number of the Lord’s instruction in the second column, next to what they think the symbolic meaning may be. An example has been done for them.

The Lord’s Instruction

Symbolic Meaning

  1. Exodus 29:4 Aaron and his sons are washed with water.

  2. Exodus 29:5–6

  3. Exodus 29:7

  4. Exodus 29:15–16

Symbolic of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ

1 Symbolic of being cleansed

Symbolic of the Holy Ghost (this substance was used as fuel to provide light)

Symbolic of being set apart from the world and prepared for sacred responsibilities

After a few minutes, invite students to compare their answers. Then discuss the answers as a class. (The order of answers in the symbolic meaning column is 4, 1, 3, 2.)

Explain that after the ram was sacrificed, the next part of the cleansing ceremony symbolized that the priests could apply or access the cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Invite a student to read Exodus 29:20–21.

  • What did the Lord instruct the priests to do with the ram’s blood after they sacrificed the ram?

To help students understand the symbolism of putting the ram’s blood on the right ear, thumb, and toe as described in verses 20–21, write the words hearing, acting, and walking on the board. Ask students which part of the body mentioned in verses 20–21 may be associated with each of the words on the board (hearing = ear, acting = thumb, walking = toe).

  • What might the placement of a symbol of Jesus Christ on a priest’s ear, thumb, and toe show the Lord the priest was willing to do? (The priest would listen to and follow Him.)

  • According to verse 21, what effect would this ceremony have on the priests? (They would be “hallowed,” or made holy.)

  • What do you think we can learn from this symbolic ceremony? (Students may identify a variety of principles, including something similar to the following: If we will apply the atoning blood of Jesus Christ by listening to the word of the Lord, acting upon it, and walking in His paths, we will be sanctified. Write this principle on the board.)

Invite students to ponder how they can show the Lord that they are dedicated and consecrated to following Him.

Exodus 29:22–46

The Lord reveals sacrificial rites to prepare and sanctify Israel for His presence

Summarize Exodus 29:22–42 by explaining that these verses further describe some of the sacrifices and procedures that consecrated and sanctified the tabernacle, the priests, and the children of Israel.

Remind students about the Lord’s instructions to build a tabernacle and its furnishings, which they learned about in their study of Exodus 25–27; 30. Point out that now students have learned that priests were to be set apart to perform their duties in the temple. Invite a student to read Exodus 29:43–46 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said He would do if the Israelites faithfully followed His instructions in building the tabernacle and performing the ordinances therein.

  • According to verses 43–46, what blessings were promised to the Israelites? (God would meet with the children of Israel in the tabernacle, He would sanctify the tabernacle and the priests, He would dwell among the Israelites, He would be their God, and they would know that He is the Lord their God.)

  • What can we learn about the purpose of temples and ordinances from these chapters and verses? (Students may identify a variety of doctrines and principles, including the following truth: The temple and its ordinances prepare us to be in God’s presence.)

  • How can the preparation of Aaron and his sons to work in the tabernacle relate to our own preparation to participate in temple ordinances?

Exodus 31:1–11

The Lord inspires artisans to create the tabernacle and its furnishings and the priests’ clothing

Summarize Exodus 31:1–11 by explaining that the Lord had prepared certain individuals to be able to construct the tabernacle and its furnishings and make the priests’ clothing. The Lord told Moses that he had filled these people with the Spirit of God so that they would be able to perform these tasks.

Exodus 31:12–18

The Lord teaches about the Sabbath and gives Moses the stone tables

Explain that the Lord often uses signs or symbols to remind His children of what they have promised Him and what He has promised them. Invite a student to read Exodus 31:13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a sign God uses to remind us of our relationship to Him and His promise to sanctify us.

  • According to verse 13, what is the sign that God is the Lord “that doth sanctify [us]”?

  • How does keeping the Sabbath day holy help us stay clean and set apart from worldliness? (If time permits, consider having students review the scriptures listed in the Topical Guide under “Sabbath.”)

Invite a student to read Exodus 31:14–17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for an indicator of how strongly the Lord feels about keeping the Sabbath holy. Ask them to report what they find.

Invite students to refer to their copies of the handout “Moses’s and Israel’s Experiences with Jehovah at Mount Sinai” (see lesson 48). (A completed version of the handout is located in the appendix of this manual.) Explain that before the Lord concluded His revelation to Moses at Mount Sinai, He gave him an additional reminder of His law and covenant with Israel. Ask a student to read Exodus 31:18 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and look for what the Lord gave to Moses.

  • What did God give to Moses? (Two tables of stone containing His law.)

On line 8 of the handout, invite students to write God writes His law on stone tables.

You may want to conclude by sharing your testimony of the truths taught in this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Exodus 29:22–46. The temple and its ordinances prepare us to be in God’s presence

President Ezra Taft Benson taught about how the priesthood and the temple prepare us to enter into the presence of God:

“The Prophet Joseph Smith said that Adam blessed his posterity because ‘he wanted to bring them into the presence of God’ [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 105].

“Here is an illuminating passage from Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants which tells us how Adam was able to bring himself and his righteous posterity into God’s presence:

“‘The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made.

“‘This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage in [order] … that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth.’ (D&C 107:40–42; italics added.)

“How did Adam bring his descendants into the presence of the Lord?

“The answer: Adam and his descendants entered into the priesthood order of God. Today we would say they went to the House of the Lord and received their blessings” (“What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” Ensign, Aug. 1985, 9).

Exodus 28:36. “Holiness to the Lord”

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the meaning of the words “holiness to the Lord”:

“Inscribed on each temple are the words ‘holiness to the Lord’ [see Exodus 28:36; 39:30; Psalm 93:5]. That statement designates both the temple and its purposes as holy. Those who enter the temple are also to bear the attribute of holiness [see Exodus 19:5–6]. As temples are prepared for the people, the people need to prepare themselves for the temple” (“Prepare for the Blessings of the Temple,” Ensign, Oct. 2010, 41).

Exodus 29:1–21. What does it mean to be set apart?

President Spencer W. Kimball explained what it means to be set apart:

“The setting apart may be taken literally; it is a setting apart from sin, apart from the carnal; apart from everything which is crude, low, vicious, cheap, or vulgar; set apart from the world to a higher plane of thought and activity” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 478).