EPHOD: 1. Varieties of Ephod. An implement used by the priests of the Hebrews to obtain oracles from God. In I Sam. xiv. the Urim and Thummim appear as an accessory of the ephod, especially if (as is probably the case) the Septuagint in verse 41 has the right reading: "Yahweh, thou God of Israel, wherefore answerest thou not thy servant this day? If the guilt be mine or my son Jonathan's, let Urim come forth; if it be the people's, let Thummim come forth." Clearly the Urim and Thummim were two holy lots which were in some close connection with the ephod, and were brought forth by the priest (who put his hand into the bag in which they were kept), or were made to leap out by violent shaking of the bag. From the two passages I Sam. xiv. 41, xxviii. 6 it is evident that in the time of Samuel, Saul, and David it was customary to inquire of God by means of the Urim and Thummim, Or, which amounts to the same thing, by the ephod; and further, from I Sam. xiv. 3, 18 (R. V., margin), that it was a part of the high priest's duty to carry it with him. The form of the ephod does not appear from these passages. It is doubtless the same thing which appears in I Sam. xxi. 9, where the sword of Goliath is placed behind it (doubtless as a sacred trophy), in all probability as it hung upon the wall; but this last passage gives no warrant for concluding that it was an image of Yahweh. Besides this ephod which the high priest wore, there is mention of an ephod of linen worn by other priests (I Sam. xxii. 18), by Samuel (I Sam. ii. 18), and by David (II Sam. vi. 14). The ephod to which the Urim and Thummim belonged was therefore not of linen, but probably of some costlier stuff. An ephod which belonged to the high priest's equipment is described Ex. xxv. 7, xxviii. 4, etc.; but it can not be said that this is something entirely different from that which appears in the early accounts. Taken altogether, the references contained in the Old Testament do not permit a very lucid account to be given of the article.
High Priestly Ephod. According to Ex. xxviii., the ephod was made of gold, blue, purple, and fine linen, joined with two shoulder pieces and a band. It was apparently an ornament for the breast and had a loose "pocket" (ḥoshen, a word which is not understood) in which were the Urim and Thummim. This pocket, a span square, was made fast to the ephod by rings of gold and chains which were carried to rosettes on the shoulders, the rings being underneath the ephod. The "pocket" was adorned with three rows of precious stones, four in a row, on which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes. The ephod, which was rather of the nature of regalia than of ordinary clothing, was worn above an overcoat of blue (cf. I Sam. ii. 18-19). So far the ephod of the time of Samuel was like that described in the priest-code.
Ephod not an Image. But it is held that numerous signs indicate another kind of ephod. From Judges viii. 24 it is concluded that the ephod was sometimes an image of deity, since in this case it is stated that the thing became a snare to Gideon and to Israel. Those who support this view see confirmation in Judges xvii.-xviii.; I Sam. xxi. 10, and in the connection between ephod and teraphim in Hos. iii. 4. But this view is untenable. That the teraphim were images is clear from I Sam. xix. 13, 16; but it does not follow from the "and" in Hos. iii. 4 that the ephod was also an image. What the two had in common was that both were used as oracles (Ezek. xxi. 21; Zech. x. 2). Judges xviii. 20 speaks against the similarity of ephod and image, and suits better the explanation that the former was something that could be hung about one. And the passage in which Gideon is said to have made an ephod is little more certain. So little is known of what was actually done in that case, what was bought with the 1,700 shekels, and what was the cost of labor, that no sure conclusion is possible. If the passages quoted do not show that the ephods of Gideon and Micah were images, on the other hand it can not be proved that they were not. Still, the ephod was something habitually worn as a duty by the priests, and this does not agree with the supposition that the article was a standing image, as is required by the hypothesis that the sword of Goliath was placed behind such an image (I Sam. xxi. 10). Moreover, supposing that Gideon's ephod was an image, the carrying of such a weight as is stated to have been the amount of the booty was beyond the power of a priest. In all cases but this, the ephod was made to be worn, and the ephod is never mentioned among the forbidden representations. Some suppose that the gold was used merely as a plating; in that case how massive must Gideon's ephod have been to require 1,700 shekels to cover it! And another terminology is employed to express such images (Ex. xx. 23, xxxii. 31). It is unlikely, too, that the same word would denote an image and a part of the priest's regalia, while a distinction is made between that and a linen ephod. Duhm's explanation of it as a golden mask which the priest put on is equally untenable (Das Buch Jesaiah, p. 200, Göttingen, 1892). Since other peoples made articles of clothing richly decorated to put on the images of their deities, it is not inconceivable that the Hebrews did the same.
The etymological meaning of the word is doubtful. Generally it is taken from a root meaning "to draw over," hence "covering." Lagarde connects it with an Arabic root meaning "to draw near to a greater as a mediator," and so makes it mean "a vestment in which to approach God." Support for this is found in the Syriac pedhta, from a root the same as the Arabic mentioned above. If this be the case, it gives the more reason for rejecting the meaning "image." See IMAGES AND IMAGE-WORSHIP, I.
Bibliography: T. C. Foote, The Ephod, in Johns Hopkins University Circulars, Baltimore, 1900; idem, in JBL, 1902, pp. 1-48; B. Ugolini, Thesaurus antiquitatum sacrarum, xii. 785 sqq., Venice, 1744-69; W. Baudissin, Geschichte des alttestamentlichen Priesterthums, pp. 205 sqq., Leipsic, 1889; P. de Lagarde, in Abhandlungen der Göttinger Gesellschaft der Wissenchaften, 1889, 178; Bensinger, Archäologie, p. 382; Nowack, Archäologie, ii. 21 qq., 118 sqq.; G. F. Moore, Judges, p. 381, New York, 1895; E. Sellin, Beiträge zur israelitischen and jüdischen Religions-Geschichte, II. i. 119-120, Leipsic, 1897; A. van Hoonacker, Le Sacerdoce lévitique, pp. 370 sqq., Louvain, 1899; DB, i. 725-727; EB, ii. 1306-09; JE, v. 185-187.