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Exodus 30:17-21

Context
The Bronze Laver

30:17 1 The Lord spoke to Moses: 2  30:18 “You are also to make a large bronze 3  basin with a bronze stand 4  for washing. You are to put it between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it, 5  30:19 and Aaron and his sons must wash their hands and their feet from it. 6  30:20 When they enter 7  the tent of meeting, they must wash with 8  water so that they do not die. 9  Also, when they approach 10  the altar to minister by burning incense 11  as an offering made by fire 12  to the Lord, 30:21 they must wash 13  their hands and their feet so that they do not die. And this 14  will be a perpetual ordinance for them and for their descendants 15  throughout their generations.” 16 

1 sn Another piece of furniture is now introduced, the laver, or washing basin. It was a round (the root means to be round) basin for holding water, but it had to be up on a pedestal or base to let water run out (through taps of some kind) for the priests to wash – they could not simply dip dirty hands into the basin. This was for the priests primarily to wash their hands and feet before entering the tent. It stood in the courtyard between the altar and the tent. No dimensions are given. The passage can be divided into three sections: the instructions (17-18), the rules for washing (19-20), and the reminder that this is a perpetual statute.

2 tn Heb “and Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying.”

3 sn The metal for this object was obtained from the women from their mirrors (see Exod 38:8).

4 tn Heb “and its stand bronze.”

5 tn The form is the adverb “there” with the directive qamets-he ( ָה).

6 tn That is, from water from it.

7 tn The form is an infinitive construct with the temporal preposition bet (ב), and a suffixed subjective genitive: “in their going in,” or, whenever they enter.

8 tn “Water” is an adverbial accusative of means, and so is translated “with water.” Gesenius classifies this with verbs of “covering with something.” But he prefers to emend the text with a preposition (see GKC 369 §117.y, n. 1).

9 tn The verb is a Qal imperfect with a nuance of final imperfect. The purpose/result clause here is indicated only with the conjunction: “and they do not die.” But clearly from the context this is the intended result of their washing – it is in order that they not die.

10 tn Here, too, the infinitive is used in a temporal clause construction. The verb נָגַשׁ (nagash) is the common verb used for drawing near to the altar to make offerings – the official duties of the priest.

11 tn The text uses two infinitives construct: “to minister to burn incense”; the first is the general term and expresses the purpose of the drawing near, and the second infinitive is epexegetical, explaining the first infinitive.

12 tn The translation “as an offering made by fire” is a standard rendering of the one word in the text that appears to refer to “fire.” Milgrom and others contend that it simply means a “gift” (Leviticus 1-16, 161).

13 tn Heb “and [then] they will wash.”

14 tn The verb is “it will be.”

15 tn Heb “for his seed.”

16 tn Or “for generations to come”; it literally is “to their generations.”

sn The symbolic meaning of washing has been taught throughout the ages. This was a practical matter of cleaning hands and feet, but it was also symbolic of purification before Yahweh. It was an outward sign of inner spiritual cleansing, or forgiveness. Jesus washed the disciples feet (Jn 13) to show this same teaching; he asked the disciples if they knew what he had done (so it was more than washing feet). In this passage the theological points for the outline would be these: I. God provides the means of cleansing; II. Cleansing is a prerequisite for participating in the worship, and III. (Believers) priests must regularly appropriate God’s provision of cleansing.



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