For a quick review, we are in the book of Hebrews and are currently somewhere in chapters 9-10, which mention the "earthly tabernacles" of the Old and New Testaments. We have learned that, prior to the building of the first Temple, the people of God worshipped in a very grand tent called the Tabernacle. Then, King Solomon, King David's son, was tasked with building the first Temple, a magnificent structure. That building was mostly destroyed around 587 B.C. when the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and carried the healthiest and youngest Jews off as captives to Babylon. About 70 years later, work on that structure resumed, and the resulting structure stood for about 420 years, until it was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans.
An interesting point:
The Second Temple was not as grandiose as Solomon's Temple, nor did it contain all of the artifacts of the First Temple. Although the design of the Temple was the same, some of the key artifacts were lost in the Babylonian raid and never recovered. One of these was the famous Ark of the Covenant.1 Others included the Urim and Thummim (parts of the high priest's breastplate - - see Exodus 28:30), and holy oil for anointing (Exodus 30:26-29).
In the last post, we studied the significance of the bronze altar, the first Temple feature to "greet" a Jewish man as he entered the Court of Israel (where only Jewish men could enter).
Today, we are going to examine the bronze laver. See link below to the diagram we've been using:
We see God commanding Moses to make this (bronze laver) a feature of the Tabernacle in Exodus 30:18-21 (NET) - - -
17The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 18“You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it. 19“Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; 20when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the LORD. 21“So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; and it shall be a perpetual statute for them, for Aaron and his descendants throughout their generations.”
A second interesting point:
This bronze laver, the original one, was made of solid bronze, the bronze having been procured from the hand mirrors of women who served outside the outer door of the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle).
He made the large basin of bronze and its pedestal of bronze from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
Exodus 38:8 (NET)
BUT, when Solomon built the first Temple, the bronze laver (because its dimensions/design were not specified by God, which I find strange since He was so specific about other things) took on much more grandiose proportions! We read about this in 1 Kings 7:23-26. (I don't like the HCSB translation, but I am using it here to prevent you from looking up measure conversions like cubits and baths....)
23He made the cast metal reservoir, 15 feet from brim to brim, perfectly round. It was 7 1/2 feet high and 45 feet in circumference. 24Ornamental gourds encircled it below the brim, 10 every half yard, completely encircling the reservoir. The gourds were cast in two rows when the reservoir was cast. 25It stood on 12 oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east. The reservoir was on top of them and all their hindquarters were toward the center. 26The reservoir was three inches thick, and its rim was fashioned like the brim of a cup or of a lily blossom. It held 11,000 gallons.
So, to reiterate, this big (YUGE, in the case of the Temple) wash basin stood behind the bronze altar we studied in the last post and in front of the entrance to the "holy place" of the Tabernacle/Temple. Not only were its presence and purpose specified, the rituals associated with it were laid down by God as well. Only the Levitical priests could wash there and only before entering or leaving the Holy Place. When a priest entered the Court of Israel, he first made a sacrifice (blood, for the covering of sins) and then he washed at the laver to be cleansed for service. In a similar way, salvation through Jesus Christ must come before we are prepared for His service.
A priest, after washing, could perform other Temple services. If he were going into the Holy Place, he would first wash. If he were coming out of the Holy Place, he would again wash at the bronze laver. In the court of Israel the altar and laver were made of bronze. The artifacts inside the Holy Place were made of gold. These items represented the holiness of God.
You may be wondering what parts of their bodies the Levitical priests would wash. In Exodus 40:11-16, we learn that upon being consecrated as a priest, a man was washed thoroughly, all over, from the bronze laver, after which he was clothed in priestly garments. This "all over" washing was done only once. (We Protestants might think of it as an "ordination".) But, additionally, we are told in Exodus 30:19-20 (NET) - - look back up in this post, at that those verses again - - that the ritual, every-day washing involved their hands and feet only, right? One commentator has speculated that the hands were washed because they signify their service to God, whereas the feet represented where they went, their lives and ways.2
Now, like many other items/places in the Old Testament, the bronze laver and bronze altar are types of Jesus Christ. I borrow shamelessly from source 2 (see Sources), which expresses this beautifully!
As the altar points to the death of Jesus, so the laver points to the life of Jesus. Blood speaks of a life taken and water speaks of life given. The water in the laver speaks of Jesus, the living Word of God that enters us and gives us eternal life. Jesus said that we are clean because of His Word and that the knowledge of God that comes through His Word is eternal life and is described with the exact same terminolgy in the Hebrew as the sexual union of a man with his wife. As the priest would wash his hands and his feet while coming into the Presence of God (gold) and back out into the world (bronze) so we are continually being cleansed from the corruption of this world by the Word of God. When the Jewish leader named Nicodemus came to Jesus to inquire from Him about the kingdom of God Jesus replied, "unless one is born of the water and the Spirit (Hebrew idiom - "born from above") he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Water brings life to the physical world and so spiritual water (the Word of God) brings Gods spiritual life to us.
As a matter of fact, the entire Tabernacle/Temple is a type of Jesus Christ. I am enjoying this study and pray you are blessed by it as well. We'll continue it, in the next post.