“Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel in the order of their birth — six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other. Engrave the names of the sons of Israel on the two stones the way a gem cutter engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in gold filigree settings and fasten them on the shoulder pieces of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders as a memorial before the Lord.” (Exodus 28:10-12 NIV84)
The ephod was like an apron that hung from the shoulders of the high priest. Today’s aprons hang from the neck and are worn on the outside. The ephod hung from the shoulders and was worn on the inside. The two parts of the ephod were connected at the shoulder by two onyx stones that had the names of the 12 tribes inscribed on them. Every time the high priest went into the tabernacle/temple to perform his duties he did so carrying the names of the children of Israel upon his shoulders. Bearing those names upon his shoulders was a constant reminder of his role before Almighty God. The high priest was the mediator and reconciler between God and His people. He also was one to bring the burdens and pains of the people to the Lord in intercessory prayer. In order to put the ephod on, the high priest would have to hold in his hands the onyx stones with the names of God’s people on them.
A thought: An image we all have of Jesus as our Good Shepherd is one of Him holding a lamb over his shoulders and returning it to safety. This is quite an interesting image with the backdrop of the Old Testament ephod. Jesus is our true High Priest who bears our names upon Himself. He shoulders our pain, suffering and sin. Through His death on the cross He mediated our redemption and salvation. Jesus continuously brings our names before our heavenly Father in intercessory prayer.