Trains and hems.
Hems are necessary to keep clothes from fraying, and in our society, trains are only worn by brides on their wedding days. I truly never consider my hems, unless one unravels or needs to be ironed, but in the Bible, hems and trains were important.
Some say it is a myth, and many others teach it as truth, that in Bible times, when a king and his army defeated an enemy, a piece of the robe of the defeated king would be cut off and sewn to the train of the victorious king. The more additions to the victorious king’s robe, the greater the testimony of victory, power, and authority. It served as a visible reminder of victories: the longer the train and the more colors and designs, the more victories.
It is a great thought, but either way, a king’s elaborate robe made a statement of his power, authority, wealth, and importance. Every king’s robe was distinct and separated him visually from every other man on earth as well as every other man in the room. It signified his authority.
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1 NKJV).
What Isaiah saw was incredible! He saw the Lord, an amazing event in and of itself. While His throne is magnificent, as the Bible describes in several places, I want to point out that His train filled the temple. It filled the temple!
It filled the temple with memories and evidence of past victories. It filled the temple with a symbol of greatness, power, authority, and strength. It filled the temple with majesty and beauty.
Our Lord is truly a victorious warrior!
The High Priest’s Hem
God is a God of details, and He described in detail the way He wanted even the hem of the robe of the high priest to be made:
“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: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around. 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” (Exodus 28:33–35).
God appointed Aaron as the first high priest, and his descendants, one at a time, inherited the title, position, duties, responsibilities … and the robe. The high priest was only allowed to wear this specially-made, bell-clad robe while ministering. He was the only man on earth allowed to wear it, making it a pretty big deal. The hem drew attention to him visually and with sound, evidence of the difference between him and other men. Its bells rang before the Lord as he moved in ministry.
The Pharisees’ and Scribes’ Hems
The Lord told Moses to have all the children of Israel “make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners” to remind them to obey the commandments of the Lord (Numbers 15:38–39), but the Pharisees and scribes in Jesus’ day took it a little too far.
Pharisees were a religious sect of Jews, and scribes were those who copied the law. Although some of both groups also served as priests, not all did, but they loved to draw attention to themselves and their position in society by enlarging their hems to show their piety.
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. … They … enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi’” (Matthew 23:1–3, 5–7).
Pharisees and scribes were pretentious and wanted their hems to draw attention to themselves. God’s design for a hem reminded the Jews to obey God out of respect for Him, pointing to the importance of God in their lives. The designs of the Pharisees and scribes for their hems reminded others to respect them for their obedience of God’s, pointing to their self-importance.
There was no power or authority behind or within their hems, and their hems did not represent real power or authority. Their hems should have looked like the hems of any other Jew.
Jesus’ hem contained no pretention or exaggeration of power and importance, and it did not draw attention to Him. He wore a simple robe with a simple hem, but when people touched it, they were made whole. There was more power in His hem than in all the trains of all the kings and all the priests combined.
The gospels record several instances where people touched the hem of Jesus’ garment:
- “Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well” (Mark 6:56).
- “And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, ‘If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.’ But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, ‘Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And the woman was made well from that hour” (Matthew 9:20–22).
- “When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent out into all that surrounding region, brought to Him all who were sick, and begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well” (Matthew 14:34–36).
When you touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, you touch it in faith that as King He has won many, many victories, and as Priest, He is your Advocate with the Father because of His sacrifice. You have witnessed the victories, you’ve depended on His priesthood, and His Word promises you the victory, as well:
- “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
- “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).
As King, Jesus connects heaven to earth, and His train reveals His victories. As Priest, Jesus connects earth to heaven, and His hem holds power for freedom.
The works of His train and hems are still available for us and our prodigals. We can “paint a picture” of His magnificent train by writing a list of the victories He’s won in our lives and know He is not finished winning victories. We can touch His hem through prayer, and healing virtue will still flow to us.
There is no reason for pretention with God, because He is God. He doesn’t need to advertise His power, because He is Almighty, omnipotent God.
His train and hem—they speak for themselves.
6 thoughts on “Trains and Hems”
Very good lesson!! Learned something new. Never heard that explanation about the train or the hems.
Cathy Lee, RN
Phone205.971.7500 | Fax 205.971-7571
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We all still have so much to learn, don’t we? I had to do a good bit of research for this one, but God insisted that something important was there.
Wonderful teaching! I’ve never heard it explained like this. Thank you so much for your faithfulness.