Edited by Eugene Higgins
The Laver (Ex 30:18-21; 38)
A) General specifications
1. Its size – no dimensions given.
2. Its material – brass (copper).
3. Its parts – the bowl and the foot.
4. Its use – for cleansing by water.
B) Typical significance (Eph 5:25-27; John 13:6-10)
The laver typifies Christ’s sufficiency to meet our every need as worshippers going into the presence of God (1 Peter 2:5; Heb 13:15). We are not told the shape or size of this vessel, nor any account of how it was carried through the desert. The other vessels had rings and bars by which they were lifted off the earth and borne upon the Levites’ shoulders during the march, but nothing like this is said about the laver. It is omitted in Numbers 4, perhaps because that chapter lists the covered vessels only and the laver was likely carried “uncovered” during the march. One possible explanation for this is that the ministry or service of the laver was manward rather than Godward.
1. Its composition
The laver was made of brass (Ex 30). The strength and firmness of the brass present the inflexible righteousness of Christ as He tests and judges His people (Rev 1:15; John 5:27). But how good to remember that He, like the laver, supplies the water which removes the very things which are condemned by Him. In other words, we have brought before us first the personal Word – Christ, and then the written Word – the Scriptures, both operating for the believer. The source from which this material was obtained is very interesting. In Exodus 38:8 we are told that the laver was made from the looking-glasses (mirrors) of the women assembling at the divinely appointed meeting place. These women would be exercised about giving God His proper place amongst His people. They had probably brought their mirrors from Egypt, but were willing to surrender the thing which would cater to the glorification and admiration of the flesh, willing to part with that which would magnify self (Isa 3:18, 23). This is a sacrifice which only the Spirit of God can produce from an exercised heart.
2. Its contents
The laver contained water (Ex 30:18-20). This is a figure of the written Word of God. In Titus 3:4-5 we read, “He saved us by the washing (laver) of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” In John 3:5 we read, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” From these two scriptures we learn that the instrument used in the new birth is described as water. But in 1 Peter 1:22, 23 we read, “Being born again not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” Here is the same instrument now called the Word of God, but earlier typified by water (Ps 119:9; John 15:3; Eph 5:25, 26).
3. Its location
The laver was placed between the Tabernacle of the Congregation and the brazen altar. Midway between the two altars might be a suitable way to describe its position. The priest’s work at the brazen altar and at the golden altar was preceded by a visit to the laver. God’s holiness demanded that defilement be removed before engaging in worship. The penalty for failure to obey was fatal. The position of the laver suggests accessibility as well as necessity. It tells of the need of cleansing if communion and service with and for God are to be maintained.
4. Its use
a) The laver was probably first used for the washing of the priests at their Consecration in Exodus 29:4. This was a work which was done FOR them by Moses. It was only done once. It typifies regeneration or new birth into God’s family and service (Heb 10:22).
b) The laver was certainly used for the removal of the defilements contracted along the way. The hands and feet were contaminated by working and walking in the desert, therefore we read, “Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and feet thereat” (Ex 30:19). This is a work which was done BY the priests – each for himself. So too, a believer must be exercised about defilement picked up in the world which would hinder his communion with God. The Lord Jesus said to Peter in John 13 “He that is bathed (all over) needeth not save to wash his feet.” All that offends the eye of God must be removed before communion and worship are acceptable to Him.
c) The laver was for the exclusive use of the priestly family. They were to apply the water for themselves. This speaks of believers, as priests, applying the Word of God to all their ways, and exercising self-judgment by that Word (1 Cor 11:28; 2 Cor 7:1). Since the laver was constructed from polished mirrors, it would first provide a means of identifying the defilement (James 1:23-25) and then, since it contained water, it also provided a means of removing the defilement (1 John 1:9). The Holy Spirit, who indwells the believer, teaches him the mind and will of God from the Word of God, and also convicts him of everything in his life that is inconsistent with the Father’s will (John 16:3; 1 Cor 2:9, 10; 1 John 2:27). This is the action of identifying the defilement. The Holy Spirit through the Word also provides the means to correct such inconsistencies and thus enables the believer to live under His control (Gal 5:16; Eph 5:8-10, 17-20). This is the action of cleansing and removing the defilement.
5) Its foot
The exact function of the “foot” is not clear. It may refer to the base which supported the “bowl.” If the foot was designed with a rim it may have contained water from the bowl for feet washing.
To summarize the meaning of the laver: The laver clearly teaches that without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.