The Bronze Basin in the Tabernacle:

Christ, Our Cleanser

30:17-21 and 38:8

    DIG: What could be the symbolism of the priest’s regular washing? What effect on their relationship with God was this washing intended to make? What abuses is this practice open to (see Mark 7:1-23)?

    REFLECT: How have you been washed clean (see Hebrews 10:19-25)? What affect does this have on your relationship with the LORD?

    There were seven pieces of furniture in the Tabernacle, and the bronze basin would be the second piece that the worshiper would come to. Before the worshiper could approach God he had to be cleansed by water or he would die.

    One day, when we are in heaven, the streets of gold will reflect the purity of the redeemed. A sea of glass will show the faultless beauty of God’s children, who will be glorified and transformed into the very image of our Lord. There will be no more curse, no more sin, no more pain, no more tears and no more night. We will worship our crucified and risen Lord for all eternity in His presence. But until that day comes, we need Christ, our Cleanser, in a very real sense.552

    Then ADONAI said to Moses His servant: Make a bronze basin, with its bronze foot stand, for washing. It was placed between the Sanctuary and the bronze altar (30:17-18). The bronze basin was to sit on top of a foot stand, which would serve as a place for the priests to stand as they washed themselves. No description is given of the shape or size of either the foot stand or the bronze basin. But both parts were probably round, with the bronze basin being held up by a bronze foot stand with a tapered neck like a giant goblet.

    Aaron and his sons were to wash their hands and feet with water from it (30:19). It was, therefore, easily accessible to the priests whenever they needed to wash their hands and feet before entering the Sanctuary or approaching the bronze altar. It was probably somewhat small, because it was not intended to wash the entire person. Whenever they entered the Sanctuary, they needed to wash with water so that they would not die (30:20a). Also, when they approached the bronze altar to minister by presenting an offering made to ADONAI by fire, they needed to wash their hands and feet so that they would not die. The repetition here is for emphasis and underscores the fact that the washing was a duty that had to be performed. The scope of the command was emphasized by the idea that it was to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come (30:20b-21).

    Washing the body with water was a frequent symbol of ritual purification in the TaNaKh (Leviticus 8:6, 14:8, 16:4, 24-26, and 17:15). It was a sign of cleanliness, and only those who were ritually clean could approach ADONAI either in the Sanctuary or at the bronze altar.553 Repeatedly, God told Moses that Aaron and his sons should wash their hands and feet in the bronze basin, so that they would not die. Without that cleansing, they dared not enter the Sanctuary to worship. There was no shedding of blood in the bronze basin, yet the priests dared not worship without cleansing.554 The lesson for us is clear. We must approach God with clean hands and a pure heart (Psalm 24:3-4).

    They made the bronze basin and its bronze foot stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the Tabernacle (38:8). Ancient mirrors were metallic. The mirrors of the Egyptians were made of a mixed metal, chiefly copper, and were polished to the extent that you could see yourself in it’s reflection. They were usually small in size, and in general shape what would now be called hand mirrors. They were made with great skill with handles of wood, stone, or metal and were artistically shaped and highly ornamented. The Egyptian women were in the habit of carrying a mirror in one hand when they went to their temples to worship. It may be that the Hebrew women imitated this custom when they brought their mirrors to the entrance to the Tabernacle.555 Because the bronze basin points to Christ, the Messiah, it is striking to observe that in the Gospels, the ones we see ministering to Him were devoted women (Luke 8:2-3). It was a woman who washed His feet with her tears. It was a woman who anointed him.556 And it was women who were found at his grave on the day of His resurrection.

    The command to the priests to wash their hands and feet in the bronze basin had great significance. It meant that the very ones who were to minister in the Sanctuary and at the bronze altar were themselves in need of cleansing from their own sinful hearts and deeds. Therefore, the bronze basin points to judgment and pictures Christ as the Judge. We find Him saying: The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son (John 5:22). And again: He (God the Father) has given Him (God the Son) authority to judge because He (Jesus) is the Son of Man (John 5:27).

    The writer to the Hebrews, in 10:19-25, explains that the believer, in a symbolic way, enters into the Holy of Holies by the blood of Christ. There is no longer any need for a priesthood to mediate for believers, because Christ is our perfect High Priest. There will be no bronze basin in the Millennial Temple because ceremonial cleansing will be unnecessary when the Messiah returns (see my commentary on Isaiah Db - The Nine Missing Articles in Messiah's Coming Temple). Believers, therefore, can draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22). Washing with water reminds us of the requirements of the priests. And we, as the priesthood of believers, have been washed by the blood of Christ (First Corinthians 6:11). This is the pure water that the writer to the Hebrews talks about. That water symbolically cleanses us from all sins. As Paul says: Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up on its behalf, in order to set it apart for God, making it clean through immersion in the Word, so to speak (Ephesians 5:25-26).

    When we get to the book of Revelation, there will be no bronze basin in the true Tabernacle in heaven. The bronze basin, the only piece of furniture in the Tabernacle without any specific size dimensions, will become a sea of glass (Revelation 4:6a), because at that time we will no longer need to be cleansed of our sin.


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