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Golden Bells in the Bible: Let Freedom Ring!

Now what about those golden bells that adorned the hem of the high priest’s garment? What was their unique contribution to the Tabernacle and Temple ritual? The first thing we observe about the bells is their golden composition, a universal symbol of divinity. The bells were present to bring honor and glory to God. Next, we observe the placement of the bells around the hem of the high priest’s garment, alternating between the pomegranates and numbering as many as seventy two, according to some sources.

Imagine the continuous ringing as the high priest went about his daily tasks. Bells are meant to be attention-getters. Some Bible scholars claim the bells announced the presence of the high priest as he ministered before the Shekinah on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), signaling to the people that he was still alive on that fateful day. Many argue that the cessation of the tinkling bells indicated the high priest’s death, which would warrant pulling his corpse from the presence of God by a rope that was secured around his waist. There are, of course, contradictions to this claim, but let’s assume for now that this is how it was done.

The continuous tinkling of the bells would have resonated with unspeakable joy to the people on the outside, as they anxiously awaited the high priest’s reappearance from the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle or Temple. The joyful sound of the golden bells indicated life, liberty, and redemption to the high priest, his family, and the entire nation of Israel! The bells were like angelic messengers – heralds of good news, proclaiming the advent of the Holy One, who would bring complete deliverance from sin and death in the fullness of time.

The sacrificial blood of an innocent animal had been poured over the Mercy Seat by the high priest as a humble offering for the sins of God’s chosen people. And yes, once again, their propitiation had been received by the Almighty in heaven, as evidenced by the gentle chiming of the golden bells that tolled a message of redemption and renewed hope. Deliverance from Egypt was an awesome blessing for the Israelites, but deliverance from sin was a far greater miracle. It still is today.

The golden bells are always mentioned with pomegranates in Scripture, implying that one compliments the other (Ex 28:31-35). Perhaps the message of the two motifs on the hem of the high priest’s garment reminds us that fruitfulness and joy are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other. Go ahead, ring those golden bells! They are instruments of praise and worship and a reminder of divine redemption. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord as you celebrate your freedom in Him (Ps 100: 1-2).

*For additional information on the pomegranates and golden bells on the high priest’s garments, see my workbook and 12-part DVD series: “The Gospel according to Moses,” A Study of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, coming soon from BibleInteract.

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