Exodus 28:33-35 NKJV

33 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: 34 a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around. 35 And it shall be upon Aaron when he ministers, and its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place before the Lord and when he comes out, that he may not die.

Here we are told the reason for the bell: "its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place before the Lord and when he comes out, that he may not die."

Exodus 39:24-26 NKJV

24 They made on the hem of the robe pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, and of fine woven linen. 25 And they made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates on the hem of the robe all around between the pomegranates: 26 a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate, all around the hem of the robe to minister in, as the Lord had commanded Moses.

What was the purpose of putting pomegranates on the priestly garments?

Do the colors mean anything to its purpose?

Related question: What's the significance of pomegranates?

  • 1
    Pomegranates are chock a block full of seeds. It is a symbol of fruitfulness.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 6 at 14:55
  • 1
    The practical purpose of the pomegranats might have been to keep the bells from clashing against each other and making too much noise or damaging the gold orbs. The symbolic meaning has been speculated as alternating the gifts of the Spirit with the fruit of the Spirit as hinted at by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."
    – Dieter
    Mar 7 at 0:38
  • @Dieter That is an interesting idea.
    – Jason_
    Mar 7 at 0:40

2 Answers 2


The verse in Ex 28:33 is just one of several on the same subject:

  • Ex 28:35 - Aaron must wear the robe whenever he ministers, and its sound will be heard when he enters or exits the sanctuary before the LORD, so that he will not die.
  • Lev 16:2 - And the LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron not to enter freely into the Most Holy Place behind the veil in front of the mercy seat on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.
  • Lev 16:13 - He is to put the incense on the fire before the LORD, and the cloud of incense will cover the mercy seat above the Testimony, so that he will not die.

There is a Jewish tradition about this explained by Got Questions, in https://www.gotquestions.org/high-priest-rope.html from which I now quote:

... God warns the high priest to follow the protocol, on penalty of death (verses 2 and 13). It’s possible that, because of the seriousness of entering the Holy of Holies, the Jews formulated the idea of tying a rope around the high priest’s foot.

According to tradition, during the last couple of centuries of the temple’s existence, a gold or scarlet rope was tied to the high priest’s foot on the Day of Atonement. Another priest standing in the Holy Place tended the other end of this rope. If the high priest’s sins were not atoned for properly, then God would strike him dead when he entered the presence of the Shekinah—the glory of God—that filled the Holy of Holies. Since access to that part of the temple was strictly forbidden, the priests felt they needed a way to retrieve the body of the high priest, if necessary.

Exodus 28:33–35 specified that bells (and knitted pomegranates) were to be worn on the hem of the high priest’s garment so that “the sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he comes out” (verse 35). The bells provided an audible cue to those outside the tabernacle of the high priest’s whereabouts. They could tell when he entered and exited the Holy of Holies. According to the rope tradition, the bells also provided a means of knowing if the priest had died: if the jingling stopped, the priest on the other end of the rope would be alerted to the fact that the priest had ceased moving. There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that was the purpose of the bells.

I also note this about the bells on the High Priest's robes quoted from Ellicott when commenting on Ex 28:33 -

Bells of gold.—The bell is also more Assyrian than Egyptian. Its use as an article of priestly costume has no direct parallel, nor are bells known to have been employed in the religious services of any ancient nation. The statement that Persian kings wore bells rests upon no sufficient authority. We seem to have here the introduction of an entirely new religious usage.

Therefore, apart from the dubious Jewish tradition explained above, we do not know the purpose of the High priest's bells. At the same time, while there is no Biblical basis to confirm the above tradition, there is also nothing in the bible that prevents that tradition perhaps being true.

  • 1
    You might be interested in the discovery in 2012 by archaeologists excavating 60 feet underground next to the Western Wall, of a small, spherical, gold "jingle" bell about the size of a fingertip with the chime still inside and with a gold loop hanger. There's a video on YouTube in which you can see what it looks like. The video is on the City of David channel and titled "The Golden Bell (Episode 16)."
    – Dieter
    Mar 7 at 0:30
  • @Dieter - Many thanks for this tip.
    – Dottard
    Mar 7 at 2:45

The text says

וְעָשִׂ֣יתָ עַל־שׁוּלָ֗יו רִמֹּנֵי֙

Rashi says the רִמֹּנֵי֙ were bells, round and hollow in the form of a pomegranate or hen's egg and they rang as the priest moved:

עֲגֻלִּים וַחֲלוּלִים הָיוּ כְּמִין רִמּוֹנִים הָעֲשׂוּיִים כְּבֵיצַת תַּרְנְגֹלֶת: Rashi on Exodus

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