the Fourth Week of Lent
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
( כַּיּוֹר and כַּיּרֹ , kiyor', prop. a basin for boiling in, and so signifying a "pan" for cooking, 1 Samuel 2:14; or a fire-pan, "hearth," Zechariah 12:6; also a pulpit or "scaffold" of similar form for a rostrum, 2 Chronicles 6:13; elsewhere spoken of the sacred wash-bowl of the tabernacle and Temple, Exodus 30:18; Exodus 30:28; Exodus 31:9; Exodus 35:16; Exodus 38:8; Exodus 39:39; Exodus 40:7; Exodus 40:11; Exodus 40:30; Leviticus 8:11; 2 Kings 16:17; plur. fem. 1 Kings 7:30; 1 Kings 7:38; 1 Kings 7:40; 1 Kings 7:43. plural masc. 2 Chronicles 4:6; 2 Chronicles 4:14; Sept. λουτήρ, Vulg. labrum), a basin to contain the water used by the priests in their ablutions during their sacred ministrations. This was of two sorts in different periods.
1. The original one was fabricated at the diviue command (Exodus 30:18) of brass (copper, נְחשֶׁת, see Bihr, Symbolik, 1:484, 485; Michaelis, Soc. Gutt. comment. 4; Umbreit, in the Studien und Kritiken, 1843, page 157), out of the metal mirrors which the women brought from Egypt (Exodus 38:8). The notion held by some Jewish writers, and reproduced by Franzius, Baihr (Symb. 1:484), and others, founded on the omission of the word "women," that the brazen vessel, being polished, served as a mirror to the Levites, is untenable. (See the parallel passage, 1 Samuel 2:22, where נָשַׁים, γυναικῶν , is inserted; Gesenius on the prep. בּ, page 172; Keil, Bibl. Arch. Part 1, 100:1, § 19; Glassius, Philippians Sacr. 1:580, ed. Dathe; Lightfoot, Descr. Templ. c. 37, 1; Jennings, Jew. Antig. page 302; Knobel, Kurtzg. Exeg. Handb. Exodus 38; Philo, Vit. Mos. 3:15; 2:156, ed. Mangey.) Its size and shape are not given, but it is thought to have been circular. It contained water wherewith the priests were to wash their hands and their feet whenever they entered the tabernacle, or came near to the altar to minister (Exodus 40:32). It stood in the court between the altar and the door of the tabernacle, and, according to Jewish tradition, a little to the south (Exodus 30:19; Exodus 30:21; Reland, Ant. Hebr. Part 1, ch. 4:9; Clemens, De Labro AEneo, 3:9; ap. Ugolini Thes. 19). It rested on a basis (כֵּן, ken, Sept. βάσις ), i.e., a foot, though by some explained to be a cover (Clemens, ibid. 100:3:5), of copper or brass, which was likewise made from the same mirrors of the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle court (Exodus 38:8). This "foot" seems, from the distinct mention constantly made of it, to have been something more than a mere stand or support. Probably it formed a lower basin to catch the water which flowed, through taps or otherwise, from the laver. The priests could not have washed in the laver itself, as all the water would have been thereby defiled, and so would have had to be renewed for each ablution. The Orientals, in their washings, make use of a vessel with a long spout, and wash at the stream which issues from thence, the waste water being received in a basin which is placed underneath. (See ABLUTION).
It has therefore been suggested that they held their hands and feet under streams that flowed from the laver, and that the "foot" caught the water that fell. As no mention is made of a vessel whereat to wash the parts of the victims offered in sacrifice, it is presumed that the laver served this purpose also. The Jewish commentators state (perhaps referring, however, to the later vessels in the Temple) that any kind of water might be used for the laver, but that, the water must be changed every day. They also mention that ablution before entering the tabernacle was in no case dispensed with. A man might be perfectly clean, might be quite free from any ceremonial impurity, and might even have washed his hands and feet before he left home, but still he could by no means enter the tabernacle without previous ablution at the laver. "In the account of the offering by the woman suspected of adultery there is mention made of 'holy water' mixed with dust from the floor of the tabernacle, which the woman was to drink according to certain rites (Numbers 5:17). Most probably this was water taken from the laver. Perhaps the same should be said of the 'water of purifying (Numbers 8:7), which was sprinkled on the Levites on occasion of their consecration to the service of the Lord in the tabernacle." Like the other vessels belonging to the tabernacle, the laver was, together with its "foot," consecrated with oil (Leviticus 8:10-11). No mention is found in the Ieebrew text of the mode of transporting it, but in Numbers 4:14 a passage is added in the Sept., agreeing with the Samaritan Pent. and the Samaritan version, which prescribes the method of packing it, viz. in a purple cloth, protected by a skin covering. (See TABERNACLE).
2. In the Temple of Solomon, when the number of both priests and victims had greatly increased, ten lavers were used for the sacrifices, and the molten sea for the personal ablutions of the priests (2 Chronicles 4:6). These lavers are more minutely described than that of the tabernacle. These likewise were of copper ("brass"), raised on bases ( מְכֹנוֹת, from כּוּן, to "stand upright," Gesenius, Thesaur. pages 665, 670, Sept. Graecizes μεχωνώθ, Vulg. bases) (1 Kings 7:27; 1 Kings 7:39), five on the north and south sides respectively of the court of the priests. They were used for washing the animals to be offered in burntofferings (2 Chronicles 4:6). Josephus (A nf. 8:3, 6) gives no distinct account of their form. Ahaz mutilated the laver, and removed it from its base (2 Kings 16:17). Whether Hezekiah restored the parts cut off is not stated, but in the account of the articles taken by the Chalcdeans from the Temple only the bases are mentioned (2 Kings 25:16; Jeremiah 52:17; Josephus omits even these, Ant. 10:8, 5).
"The dimensions of the bases, with the lavers, as given in the Hebrew text, are four cubits in length and breadth, and three in height. The Sept. gives 4 by 4, and 6 in height. Josephus, who appears to have followed a various reading of the Sept., makes them five in length, four in width, and six in height (1 Kings 7:28; Thenins, ad loc.; Josephus, Aut. 8:3, 3). There were to each four wheels of one and a half cubit in diameter, with spokes, etc., all cast in one piece. The principal parts requiring explanation may be thus enumerated:
(a) 'Borders' (מַסְגְּרות, Sept. συγκλείσματα , Vulgate sculptur, probably panels. Gesenius (Thesaur. page 938) supposes these to have been ornaments like square shields, with engraved work.
(b) 'Ledges' (שְׁלִבּים , έξεχόμενα, juncture, from שָלִב, 'to cut in notches,' Gesenius, page 1411), joints in corners of bases or fillets covering joints.
(c) 'Additions' (לֹיוֹת , from לָוָה, 'to twine,' Gesenius, page 746; χῶραι , lora, whence Thenius suggests λῶροι or λῶρα as the true reading), probably festoons; Lightfoot translates 'margines oblique descendentes.'
(d) 'Plates' (סְרָנים , προέχοντα, axes, Gesenius, page 972; Lightfoot, massae aereae tetragonae), probably axles, cast in the same piece as the wheels.
(e) 'Undersetters' (כְּתֵפוֹת , ὠμίαι haeruli, eul, Gesen. page 724), either the naves of the wheels, or a sort of handles for moving the whole machine; Lightfoot renders 'columnae fulcientes lavacrum.'
(f) 'Naves' (חשּׂוּרים, modioli).
(g) 'Spokes' (חשֻּׁקַים, radii; the two words combined in the Sept. ἡ πραγματεία, Gesen. page 536; Schleusner, Lex. V.T. πραγμ ).
(h) 'Felloes' (גִּבּים, νῶτοι , canthi, Gesen. page 256).
(i) 'Chapiter' (כֹּתֶרֶת, κεφαλίς, summites, Gesen. page 725), perhaps the rim of the circular opening (' mouth,' 1 Kings 7:31) in the convex top.
(k) A 'round compass' (עָגֹל סָבַיב, Gesenius, pages 935, 989; στρόγγυλον κύκλῳ; rotunditas), perhaps the convex roof of the base. To these parts Josephus adds chains, which may probably be the festoons above mentioned (Ant. 8:3, 6).
"Thenius, with whom Keil in the main agrees, both of them differing from Ewald, in a minute examination of the whole passage, but not without some transposition, chiefly of the greater part of 1 Kings 7:31 to 1 Kings 7:35, deduces a construction of the bases and lavers, which seems fairly to reconcile the very great difficulties of the subject. Following chiefly his description, we may suppose the base to have been a quadrangular hollow frame, connected at its corners by pilasters (ledges), and moved by four wheels or high castors, one at each corner, with handles (plates) for drawing the machine. 'The sides of this frame were divided into three vertical panels or compartments (borders), ornamented with bass-reliefs of lions, oxen, and cherubim. The top of the base was convex, with a circular opening of one and a half cubit diameter. The top itself was covered with engraved cherubim, lions, and palm-trees or branches. The height of the convex top from the upper plane of the base was one and a half cubit, and the space between this top and the lower surface of the laver one and a half cubit more. The laver rested on supports (undersetters) rising from the four corners of the base. Each laver contained 40 'baths' (Gr. χόας ), or about 300 gallons. Its dimensions, therefore, to be in proportion to seven feet (four cubits, 1 Kings 7:38) in diameter, must have been about thirty inches in depth. The great height of the whole machine was doubtless in order to bring it near the height of the altar (2 Chronicles 4:1; Arias Montanus, De Templi Fabrsica, in Crit. Sac. 8:626, Lightfoot, Descr. Templi. 100. 37:3, volume 1, page 646; Thenius, in Kurzg. Exeg. Handb. on 1 Kings 7, and Append. page 41; Ewald, Geschichte, 3:313; Keil, Handb. der Bibl. Arch. § 24, pages 128, 129)." Mr. Paine, in his work on Solomon's Temple (plate 12, fig. 5), gives the following conjectural view of one of these lavers, which is more compact, less likely to be overturned, and more closely analogous to the form of the great or molten sea (q.v.). Yet in neither of these figures does the "base," with its chest-like form and inconvenient height, seem at all adapted to the above purpose of catching the waste water, or of aiding in any way the ablutions, unless the laver itself were furnished with a spout, and the box below formed a tank with openings on the top for receiving the stream after it had served its cleansing purpose. The portable form was doubtless for convenience of replenishing and emptying.
3. In the second Temple there appears to have been only one laver of brass (Mishna, Middoth, 3:6), with twelve instead of two stop-cocks, and a machine for raising water and filling it (Mishna, Tamidl, 3:8; compare 1:4, Zoma, 3:10). Of its size or shape we have no information, but it was probably like those of Solomon's Temple. Josephus, in his description of Herod's Temple (War, 5:5), scarcely alludes to this laver. See H.G. Clemens, De labro aeneo (Utr. 1725; also in Ugolini Thesaur. 19); Lamy, De tabernac. faed. 3:6, 7, page 460 sq., and table 16; Vilalpandus, On Lazek. 2, page 492; L'Empereur in Surenhusius's Mischna, 5:360; Schaacht, Animadv. ad Iken. antiq. page 297 sq.; Zullig, Cherubim - wagen, page 50 sq.; Gruneisen, in the Stuttgart. Kunstbl. 1834, No. 5 sq.; A. Clants, Scription. biblic. (Groningen, 1733), page 65; Scacchi, Myroth. sacr. elaeochrism. page 41; and the various commentators on the passages of Scripture, especially Rosenmü ller, and Hengstenberg's Pentat. 2:133. (See TEMPLE).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Laver'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​l/laver.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.