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CHARIOTS OF WATER

An Exploration of the Water-Stands of Solomon's Temple

Biblical Horizons Occasional Paper No.12

by James B. Jordan

Biblical Horizons
P.O. Box 1096
Niceville, FL 32588

Copyright (c) Biblical Horizons


April 1991
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An Exploration of the Water-Stands of Solomon's Temple

Biblical Horizons Occasional Paper No.12

by James B. Jordan

In the courtyard of the Temple of Solomon were ten "stands" that held up ten lavers for washing the
sacrifices before they were put on the altar (2 Chron. 4:6). These are connected conceptually and by design
with the large Bronze Sea, which was placed between the altar and the Temple proper on the south side of
the court, and was for the priests to wash in before they did their priestly work (2 Chron. 4:6; 1 Kings
7:39). Like the two bronze pillars, these items were new to the Temple. 1 Like the pillars, they were
decorated with elaborate symbolism.

Precious little has been written on these ten Laver-stands, and what has been written is often quite
unhelpful. First, some traditional commentators have assumed that because these Stands had wheels they
were really carts (though the Hebrew clearly calls them Stands, using a word that indicates, though does not
prove, fixity of position). In fact, however, the lavers in the Stands held 40 baths of water, which comes to
about 384 gallons,2 weighing about 3086 lbs. In addition, the Stands themselves were very large and made
of bronze. The total weight of the Stands has been estimated at 7495 lbs., or three and three quarters tons.
Moreover, the descriptions of the wheels indicate that they were placed on the two sides of the Stands, with
axles, but with no indication that they could turn. A stand that can only go forward and backward, without
turning, is not useful, and a stand that weighs over three tons is clearly immobile. From this it seems
evident that the wheels were not designed to move.3 There was no reason for these Stands to move, since
when the sacrifices were washed they were not dipped into the lavers, but rather water was taken out of the
lavers and used to wash the sacrifices. The placement of the stands, five in front of each "shoulder" of the
Temple, made them convenient for this purpose.4

Secondly, most traditional commentators simply stack up the figures used in the description in 1 Kings
7:27-36, and come up with Stands that were eight to ten feet high - much too high to be used. Thus, it is
assumed that some kind of siphoning technique was used both to place water in the lavers and to get it out
for washing the sacrifices. Or, compounding the error, it is assumed that the lavers were wheeled over to
the altar and the officiating priest reached down from the altar to wash the sacrifices. The altar, however,
was 15 feet high, and nobody is able to work the figures in such as way as to get the Stands that high. Thus,
some have even suggested that the priest came partway down the steps leading to the altar and washed the
sacrifices there. Both of these latter options are impossible because the Stands could not move, and the idea
that siphoning was used is so odd that it should cause us to look for another way of reading the text. It is
much simpler to take the height given in I Kings 7:27, which opens the paragraph on the Stands, as the total
height of four and one half feet. This is high enough to be practical. If the Stands were really as tall as most
traditional commentators assume, we would have to imagine that the priests used a ladder to get up to the
tops of them in order to put in the water and get it out.5 2 Chronicles 4:6 states that they were used for
washing the sacrifices, so we must assume that they were built in a way that was conducive to that purpose.
Thus, we conclude that the Stands with their lavers were only four and one half feet high.

1
See James B. Jordan, "Thoughts on Jachin and Boaz" (Tyler, TX: Biblical Horizons, 1988).
2
Modern translations say 230-240 gallons, for 1849-19291bs.
3
These figures are from Kittel, as cited in James A. Montgomery, The Books of Kings (Edinburgh: T. &: T. Clark, 1951), p. 178. Even
if these estimates are too high, the stands were still far to heavy to be wheeled anywhere.
4
The Laver-stands were not put on the two sides of the Temple, but in two lines in front of the Temple on either side. They lined up in
front of the two "shoulders" of the Temple, which were the two sides of the Temple next to its door. See the discussion of "shoulders"
later in this essay.
5
The Bronze Sea itself was seven and one-half feet high, and rested on the back of twelve large bronze bulls (1 Ki. 7:23-26), so it was
probably close to ten feet high, at least. Nothing is said about how water was put into it or gotten out of it, and ladders were probably
used for this purpose.
3

Third, a number of conservative commentators make the bizarre assertion that the engravings on these
Stands were merely decorative and had no symbolic meaning. That this is absurd can be seen from the fact
that God Himself gave the blueprints for these Stands, and for everything else in the Temple, directly to
David (I Chron. 28:12). Just as Moses built the Tabernacle exactly as God told Him, so the Temple was
built exactly as God told David. Solomon would not have dared to alter the design or add anything to it,
any more than Bezalel would have altered or added to what Moses told him.6 Moreover, God does not
waste His breath in the Bible telling us about mere decorations. Additionally, the symbolism of the Stands
correlates closely with the vision in Ezekiel I, which is of real cherubim, indicating again that the
symbolism of the Stands is not accidental or merely decorative. When we take into account the meaning of
the symbolism of these Stands, it helps us understand how they were built and what they meant.

This paper has two parts. First, I shall try to come up' with a plausible reconstruction of the physical
structure of the Stands by looking at the specifics in the text. Since the information in I Kings 7 is very
compact and hard to interpret, my reconstruction may well be in error at several points. Second, I shall try
to suggest some of the meanings of the Stands, in terms of their use and symbolism.

Physically speaking, each Stand was a large bronze box, six feet on a side. It rested posts and on large
bronze wheels and was decorated with cherubim and wreaths on its sides. Sitting in the middle of the box
and supported by it was a pedestal, on which rested a bronze laver containing the water. Consult diagrams
1,2, & 3. In the original Tabernacle, there had been one Laver resting on a pedestal. The implication is that
we now have ten similar lavers resting on pedestals, housed in these large Stands. It is interesting to
consider that the Laver of the Tabernacle is the only piece of furniture whose portage is not prescribed in
the law. Everything else had to be carried by means of poles on the shoulders of the priests. Perhaps the
original Laver was transported in a cart, and this is what is now seen, in glorified form, in the Temple's
chariot-stands.

In order with confidence to form a picture of the physical structure of the Stands, we would need more
information than we are given in the text. The fact that it is so difficult to come up with a complete picture
of the physical design of the Stands is itself important, I believe. It forces us to pay attention to the
symbolic meaning of the information that is given us. We are forced to treat the Stands as a primarily
literary phenomenon, as Word rather than simply as artifact.

In the Old Testament we frequently encounter what we might call the "Word becoming artifact." In Exodus
25-31 God gave to Moses verbal descriptions of the Tabernacle, its furniture, and the dress of the priests.
Then in Exodus 35-39 we see the Word becoming artifact as Bezalel makes these objects. As is the case
with the Stands we are considering in this essay, so also in the case of the Tabernacle we are not sure
exactly what each artifact looked like. Theologically, though, the meaning of the artifacts is present in the
verbal orders concerning them. The abiding revelatory value lies in the Word, not in the artifacts. This
phenomenon, the Word becoming artifact, is parallel to the way the verbal commands of God are to be
obeyed by persons, so that persons are re-constructed according to the Word of God. Thus, creating a
general physical reconstruction of the Tabernacle furniture, and of the Laver-stands, is helpful in
understanding the Word, but filling in all the details is not necessary.

Symbolically speaking, each Stand featured cherubim, next to which were wheels on two of its sides.
Above the cherubim was the surface of the water in the laver, and in the midst of the cherubim was the
pedestal that held up the laver. This configuration is very similar to the chariot of fire that Ezekiel saw in
Ezekiel I, which had cherubim on four sides, wheels next to them, and the blue firmament on top. The
difference is that Ezekiel's chariot had an altar with fire and coals in the middle of the cherubim, while here
it is water that is in the midst of them. Comparing the two configurations, however, may be of help in
assessing their symbolism.

6
David is the new Moses. Solomon the new Bezalel, and Hiram the new Oholiab. As new Bezalels, the kings were responsible to
build and maintain the physical Temple, as we see throughout Kings and Chronicles. The wisdom of Solomon had a directly practical,
artistic, and liturgical function in connection with the physical plant of the Temple.
4

The Physical Structure of the Stands

The order of presentation in 1 Kings 7:27-37 seems very confusing. Reading over the passage gives the
impression that information has been thrown together haphazardly, for the text appears to wander and
ramble over the configuration of the Stands without any coherent literary design.

A closer reading will reveal the following design in the text:

A. Hiram made ten Stands, all the same size and shape (v. 27).

B. The side panels and frames of the Stands (vv. 28-29) Initially it is the panels, with their symbolic
decorations, that are mentioned, focusing attention on this aspect of the Stands. This section deals with
the middle of the Stands. We move from the middle itself (frames) to the upper middle (pedestal) to the
lower middle (wreaths).

C. The shoulders and insides of the Stands (vv. 30-31). This section focuses on the inner supports of
the Stands, as opposed to the outer frames discussed in vv. 28-29. We move from the lower interior
(feet up through interior shoulders) to upper interior (laver) and then to middle interior (pedestal).

B'. The supports under the Stands (vv. 32-34).


We move now to the supports that are under the Stands, the wheels and the shoulders at the corners. It is
the wheels that are described. Like B. above, this section concerns the outer appearance of the Stands.

C'. The head or top of the Stands (vv. 35-36). We start with the circlet midway up the top part of the
Stand, and then describe the hand-supports at the very top of the Stand. Both of these held the laver
in place. Like C. above, this section concerns the interior of the Stands and the laver.

A'. Summary statement: ten Stands all of the same shape (v.37).

With this rough structure in mind, let us now look at the details in the text.

1 Kings 7:27a. He [Hiram] also made ten Stands of bronze.

Although these "Stands" had wheels, they were far too heavy to be moved easily. Gray says that at the lowest
estimate they would have weighed over a ton (with the water in them). 7 The AV translates "bases," because the
word is related to "foundation." This indicates fixity in place.

27b. Four cubits was the length of each Stand, four cubits its width, and three cubits its height.

These dimensions are given at the beginning of the description, and indicate that the total height of the Stand-laver
was three cubits; 4 & 1/2 feet. Each side was four cubits; 6 feet. Cosmic symbolism is indicated by the number four
(four corners of the world) and by the height of three (three-layered cosmos). 8 Most likely we can assume one cubit
for the wheels, one for the panels, and one for the capital.

28. And this was the design of the Stands: They had panels, and the panels were between frames.

The frames seem to mean the four corner posts and probably one more post in the middle of each side. Putting all
the data together, I conceive of these corner and side posts as 2 cubits high. In the middle, between the upper and
lower cubits, the middle posts were connected by horizontal bars, on which the pedestal of the laver rested. The
upper part of the Stand is called the "head" or "crown" (“capital"). The laver rested inside this section on a short
curved pedestal that lay on the inner framework. See diagram 4.

7
John Gray, I & II Kings: A Commentary (2nd ed.) Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970). p. 193. See also Kittel's calculations above.
8
Compare the three levels of the Ark of Noah; James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World
(Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth &: Hyatt, 1988), pp. 170-172. See also the three zones of the Tabernacle and Temple (courtyard. holy
place, most holy place) and their recapitulation in the three zones of the pillars Jachin and Boaz; Jordan, "Thoughts on Jachin and
Boaz." Here we have "courtyard" wheels, holy cherubic panels, and most holy capital with laver.
5

The text begins, however, by calling attention to the decorated panels that hung between the posts on the outer
sides. The panels between these posts were removable (2 Ki. 16: 17).

29a. On the panels that were between the frames were lions, oxen, and [to wit:] cherubim.

The Hebrew does not say "lions and oxen and cherubim," but simply "lions oxen and cherubim." "And" can mean
"to wit," and cherubim sometimes have lion and ox faces. The latter half of this verse speaks of wreaths below only
lions and oxen. Possibly, then, we have ox-faced and lion-faced cherubim: two panels on each side of the Stand,
with a wheel beneath each panel on two of the sides (v. 32a). I call this the first possibility. Compare the cherubim
in Ezekiel 41: 19.

There are other possibilities. Perhaps we have a cherub with a man-face looking out, an ox face looking left, and a
lion face looking right, implying an eagle face looking into the chariot. I think if this were the case, we would be
given more explicit description.

Or, perhaps we have cherubim on the sides with the wheels, and oxen and lions on the sides without them. This will
not work, for this reason: wreaths are associated in v. 29c with the lions and oxen. Verse 30, however, sets one
wreath (not wreath- work) next to each wheel's "shoulder." Thus, the wreaths have to be on the sides with the
wheels, and thus the lion and ox also have to be on the side with the wheels. In Ezekiel 1, it is cherubim that have
wheels. Thus, we must have lions and oxen and wreaths on the same side with the cherubim and wheels.

Yet another possibility is that each panel had a large cherub on the top half and a lion and an ox on the bottom half.
In that case there was one wreath under the lion and one under the ox. This we shall call the second possibility.

Thus, we have two possibilities. Either we have an ox-faced and a lion-faced cherub on each of the two wheeled
sides, or else we have a cherub on the top of each panel and an ox and lion beneath it. Grammatically, either option
seems to have equal weight. When we explore the theological meaning of this symbolism, we may be able to come
down in favor of one of the possibilities.

On the basis of verse 35, we should probably see these panels as covering both the center and the top sections of the
Stands, and thus as about two cubits in height and in width. The second possibility has the advantage of associating
the guardian cherubim with the top third, the capital, the most holy part of the Stand, with the lion and ox (king and
priest) associated as guards of the middle section. It has the liability of dissociating the cherubim from the wheels
to some extent, and in Ezekiel I the association is clear. (Of course, the chariot of Ezekiel I is a different chariot.) 9

One thing that does stand out, however, regardless of how the panels were engraved, is some kind of association of
king and priest {lion and ox) with guardian cherubim, which correlates with king and priest (pillars Boaz and
Jachin) as watchmen standing at the gates of the Temple. When wicked king Ahaz and wicked priest Urijah
removed these panels, it signified the removal of the priest and king as guardians of God's holiness (2 Ki. 16:17).

29b. And on the frames was a pedestal above.

The pedestal is the "foot" of the Laver in the Tabernacle's Laver. The Hebrew word is related to the word translated
"stand" or "base," referring to these water chariots. Thus, each Stand was a large pedestal housing a smaller one.
The Laver of Cleansing in the Tabernacle courtyard rested on a stand or pedestal. It seems that there was a pedestal
or stand sitting on top of these water chariots, and on it rested the actual bronze laver.

The "above" here is not the four and one half foot top of the entire structure (which is called the "head" in v. 35),
but the top of the Stand's framework, at the three-foot level. This phrase must mean that there was an interior
horizontal frame at this level, on which the pedestal rested. This is the top of the frame- work (though the posts
would have gone up another cubit). Above this top was the capital around the sides of the Stand, and resting on this
top was the pedestal.

The vast weight of the laver would probably have bowed down the interior frame that held up laver's pedestal, so
support "shoulders" are also added below the pedestal to keep it at the proper level (v. 30).

29c. And below the lions and oxen were wreaths of plaited work.

9
See James B. Jordan, "Chariot of Fire" (Tyler, TX: Biblical Horizons, 1991).
6

1st possibility: Whether on the panels or on the frame that ran along the bottom of the Stand, there was a wreath
under each animal-faced cherub. This puts a wheel-shape next to each one, along the lines of Ezekiel 1, and
connects the cherubim with the actual wheels of the Stand.

2nd possibility: There was a wreath under the lion and ox, which were under cherubim on the wheel sides.

30. And four bronze wheels were for each Stand, and axles of bronze, and its four feet as shoulders
[supports] for them [the axles]. And below for the laver were the shoulders [supports] of cast [bronze]
beside each of the wreaths.

This seems to describe first the "shoulders" that held the axles of the wheels in place. Since these "shoulders" went
downward from the bottom of the Stand to the axle beneath, they were also called "feet." These were placed next to
each wreath. Does this mean that the foot-shoulders were to the right and left of the wreaths, or does it mean they
were behind them? For symmetry's sake, I take it that the wreaths hung down a bit and concealed the supports for
the axles. In Ezekiel 1, the cherubim have straight legs next to their wheels, and they cover those legs with two of
their four wings. Also, in Isaiah 6 the seraphim cover their feet with wings. Thus, I think it likely that the wreaths
covered the "feet" of the Stand.

The ensuing description is unclear, but bearing in mind the tremendous weight of water held by the basin of the
laver, it seems to mean that other "shoulders" extended diagonally upwards from the same places on the Stand. Or
perhaps the same "shoulder" ran up inside to the laver and down to the axle. They ran up inside the Stand and
supported the pedestal or small stand that sat on top of the Stand. The effect of this was to connect the wheels not
only with the cherubic Stand-chariot, but also with the laver itself. See diagrams 2 & 3.

31a. And his [the laver's] mouth [opening] on the inside of the capital and above, at the cubit.

The third story of the Stand was a crown or capital. In context, this word has just been used for the capitals of the
pillars Jachin and Boaz. We should not miss the symbolic-theological connection: this is the heaven-most aspect of
the Stand. The capital was probably a cubit high, and was open. Inside the capital was the pedestal and then sitting
on it was the laver, which rose to the height of “the cubit." If the pedestal was a half cubit high, then the basin was
also a half cubit deep. My guess, however, on the basis of verse 35a, is that the pedestal was much shorter, and the
laver almost a cubit deep.

31b. And her [the capital's or the Stand's] mouth was round, the work of a pedestal, a cubit and a half.

Since there were engravings on this "mouth," we cannot take it simply to be a hole in the top; moreover, we have
already seen that the entire 16 square cubit top of the Stand was open. This seems to refer to a mouth-like or bowl-
shaped pedestal in which the laver rested. (The laver is the cup, and the pedestal is the saucer.) This was the mouth
of the Stand or capital (both words are feminine, so either could be referred to in context; "capital,” being closer in
context, is the most likely reference).

If it were a cubit and half high, it would project too high and make the laver itself too high to use. Possibly it sat in
the bottom of the Stand, but since the context is the capital, I think that an unlikely interpretation also. Verse 29b
says that the pedestal sat on "top" of the Stand, which was the level between the Stand proper and the capital. It
seems most likely that the pedestal was a cubit and a half in diameter.

31c. And also on her mouth [the pedestal-mouth of the capital] were engravings, and their panels were
square ones, not round ones.

This seems to mean that on the surface of the top of the pedestal were engravings, so that the laver or basin rested
on top of pictures. Like the panels on the side of the Stand, these were square pictures. This fits with the theological
symbolism of the Stands, which picture cherubim under the heavenly ocean, looking not only outward through the
sides but also upwards into the ocean itself (compare Ezk. 1:22). See diagram 3.

32a. And the four wheels were at-under the panels, and axles of the wheels were in the Stand [part of the
Stand].

We move from the panels on the "mouth" of the pedestal to the panels on the sides of the Stand. The literary
juxtaposition of these two different panels adds strength to the association we have already suggested is between
them.
7

The odd preposition "from under" or "at from under" seems to indicate that the wheels were positioned exactly
underneath the panels. The axles that held and "directed" the wheels were part of the Stands themselves. We can
compare this to the vision in Ezekiel 1, where the wheels are separate entities from the cherubim, but are directed
by them.

32b. The height of a wheel was one and a half cubits.

Let us assume that the shoulders holding the wheels in place projected 1/4 cubit below the Stand, so that one cubit
of the wheel was below the Stand, while 1/2 cubit of it covered the bottom half of the panels on the Stands. See
diagram 1.

33. The workmanship of the wheels was like the workmanship of a chariot wheel; their axle pins, their
rims, their spokes, and their hubs were all of cast [bronze].

Compare again the wheels in Ezekiel 1, which clearly are associated with the cherubic chariot.

34. And there were four shoulders at the four corners of each Stand; from the stand were its shoulders [i.e.,
the shoulders were part of the Stand].

These seem not to be the same four shoulders that ran from the wheels up inside the Stand to support the laver's
pedestal, since these are at the corners. Since these Stands could not move (being far too heavy), and needed all the
support they could get, my guess is that these shoulders extended from the corners downwards, and perhaps
outwards, for support.

35a. And in the head [top] of the Stand, half a cubit the height, was a round circle [circlet, compass].

We now move back up inside the capital. The laver rested on the pedestal, and was kept in place by a round bronze
circlet that was either half a cubit high or was positioned at the half- cubit level. The latter makes more sense to me.
The laver rested on the pedestal, and then was supported halfway up by this circlet, whose diameter we are not told.
See diagram 2.

35b. And on the head [top] of the Stand were her [the Stand's] hands and her panels [extending] from her.

"Hands" held the circlet in place, hands attached to the cherubic Stand. It seems that the cherubic panels were
attached also to the top of the capital, so that they covered the whole two- cubit span of the height of the Stand.

36. And he engraved on the tablets of her hands and on her panels cherubim, lions, and palm trees,
according to the space [available] for each, and wreaths all around.

The hands that held the circlet in place were like tablets (same word used for the ten commandments). These are
said to correspond to one another, both having cherubim, lions, and palm trees engraved on them, as well as wreath
work all around. See diagram 3. This creates an association between the cherubic side panels and the hands that
held up the laver's circlet. We have seen that the side panels had cherubim on them; perhaps they also had smaller
lions and palm trees as well. Another possibility is that only the two sides with wheels had the full cherubim (ox
and lion), while the other two sides had cherubim, lions, and palm trees.

37. After this manner he made the ten Stands. All of them were of one mold, one measure, and one shape.

38. Then he made ten lavers of bronze. Each laver contained forty baths [240 gallons], and each laver was
four cubits [in diameter]. On each of the ten Stands was a laver.

39. And he put five Stands upon the shoulder of the house [Temple] from the right, and five upon the
shoulder of the house from the left. He set the [bronze] sea from the shoulder of the house right-east before
the south.
8

The shoulders of the Temple were the sides next to the door, facing the court. 10 Older drawings of the Temple show
the Stands arranged along the sides of the Temple, but this is not correct. They must have stood in front of the
Temple, in front of the two "shoulders." The front of the Temple proper was only twenty cubits wide, but the
apartments on either side of the Temple added another ten cubits in width. Since the Stands were themselves four
cubits in length, five stands on each side would have taken up twenty cubits by themselves. If these Stands were
arranged horizontally in front of each shoulder, with reasonable space between them, they would extend quite a
distance to the right and left of the shoulders. Thus, it makes more sense to assume that all five on each side were
lined up vertically in front of their shoulder, forming a double row extending from the Altar to the Temple. Since in
1 Kings 6- 7, the word "house" is consistently used only for the Temple proper, and not for the Temple + apartments
complex, it is best to understand 1 Kings 7:39 as stating that the Stands were lined up in front of the Temple proper.
See diagram 5.

If the Stands were arranged horizontally in front of the Temple, which I think is a less likely interpretation of the
meaning of the text, they would form a water-boundary across the front of the Temple, separating the more-holy
Temple area from the less-holy Altar-courtyard area. They would no longer indicate a "ladder to heaven" as regards
their placement, but would still indicate the firmament-boundary between heaven and earth. As we shall see later,
however, the word for "foot" used in connection with the Stands is a word that implies motion. The wheels of the
Stands also imply motion. A line of Stands across the front of the Temple does not to justice to the thought of
motion conveyed by the design of the Stands. A double line of Stands running from the Altar (mountain top) to the
Temple (heaven) fits well with the idea of motion.

The position of the Bronze Sea is a bit more difficult to assess. It was placed "from the shoulder of the house right-
east before the south." The prepositions are arranged differently in this sentence from the way they are arranged in
the sentence describing the placement of the Stands. The Sea stood in some relation to the right shoulder of the
Temple, but far enough from the shoulder so that it was also said to be east. It also stood "before the south,"
evidently placed in such a way that it faced the southern wall of the courtyard. M y guess is that it stood mid-way
between Temple and Altar, next to the right-hand row of Stands, on the south side of the court. See diagram 5.

The Temple of Solomon was not sufficiently holy to have the dimensions of its court prescribed in detail. Thus,
commentators have looked at the holier Temple in Ezekiel 40, and have assumed that Solomon's Temple was
similar in some respects. The inner court of Ezekiel's Temple was a perfect square one hundred cubits on a side,
with the altar in the center. If we assume that the configuration of Solomon's Temple was the same, we can
reconstruct the placement of the Stands, as in diagram 5.

Solomon's Altar was 20 cubits on a side (2 Chron. 4:1). Set in the center of the court, it would occupy 10 cubits in
each direction, leaving 40 cubits between the edge of the Altar and the vestibule of the Temple. Each Stand being 4
cubits long, the Stands would take up 20 cubits of this distance, leaving 20 cubits to be spread out between each
Stand and between the Stands and the Altar to the east and the Temple to the west. If we assume three cubits
between each stand (total of 12), and four cubits between the east-most Stand and the Altar, and between the west-
most Stand and the Temple (total of 8), we can reconstruct the configuration along the lines displayed in diagram 5.

Thus, the Stands formed a "ladder to heaven" stretching from the Altar to the Temple, a ladder of water
representing the firmament between heaven and earth. Off to the south side, the Bronze Sea represented the same
thing.

Interpretations

1. The Laver of Cleansing in the Tabernacle

The first Laver was found in the Tabernacle. Bezalel made it, following God's instruction through Moses.
Exodus 30:18-21 gives the following information about it:

a. It was made of bronze.

b. It sat in a base, or pedestal. The water was off the ground, representing heavenly water, the "waters above" of
Genesis 1.

10
See Robert D. Haak, "The 'Shoulder' of the Temple," Vetus Testamentum 33 (1983): 271-278.
9

c. It was placed between the Tabernacle and the Bronze Altar of sacrifice. Symbolically this is also heavenly water,
the firmament of blue between the top of the holy mountain (Altar) and heaven itself (Tabernacle).

d. Water was put in it, and then taken out for use.

e. The priests were to wash their hands and feet from its water. Doubtless they did not dip their hands and feet into
it, but withdrew water from it, using vessels set aside for this purpose.

(1) Feet (which were bare; no shoes are provided in the vestments for the priests) had to be washed because the
ground near the Altar and in the Tabernacle was holy, and ordinary ground was curse-prosecuting (Gen. 3:19;
4:10; Dt. 21:1-9; etc.).
(2) Hands apparently had to be washed because blood of the sacrifices would get on their hands as a result of
their sprinkling sacrificial blood on the sides of the altar.
(3) If they washed their hands and feet in the water, the water would become defiled. Thus, we assume water
was drawn off for this purpose, to avoid defiling all the water in the Laver.
(4) The Table of Showbread, the Bronze Altar, and the Lampstand are all said to have "vessels" or "utensils"
that were used with respect to them. Nothing is said about any vessels used in connection with the Laver, but on
analogy we can assume that there were such. Perhaps Exodus 39:40, which speaks of "all the utensils for the
service of the Tabernacle," embraces vessels used for Laver water, though as we shall see below this is unlikely.
It is more likely that Exodus 39:40 refers to utensils used with the Altar of Incense, because while no utensils
are ever expressly mentioned in connection with the Altar of Incense, Numbers 4:12 speaks of "utensils of
service" that clearly served the Incense Altar. 11

f. The priests were to wash each time they went into the Tabernacle and each time they approached the Altar, lest
God kill them. Notice that they approached the Laver in a condition of "slight defilement," and this implies that the
layman might also approach the Laver, since if he were in a state of cleanness, he was no more defiled than the
priest. The layman might not wash his hands and feet, though, because he would not be permitted to approach the
Tabernacle or Altar in any event. Thus, the layman never had any reason to approach the Laver.

g. Nothing is said about washing the sacrifices using water from the Laver, though this is doubtless where the water
came from.

h. Specific dimensions are prescribed for the Bronze Altar, the Altar of Incense, the Ark of the Covenant, and the
Table of Showbread. No dimensions are given for the Lampstand, though its features are described. Neither
dimensions nor shape are given for the Laver. As we shall see below, this is because the Laver is not "most holy";
that is, it is no holier than the environment of the courtyard in which it was placed.

More information concerning the Laver is found in later statements in the law. Exodus 31:9 says that
Bezalel, assisted by Oholiab, was to make the Laver, using God's special gift of wisdom-skill.

Exodus 35:16 says that skilled men from all Israel were to assist these men in making all the furniture,
including the Laver.

Exodus 38:8 says that Bezalel made the Laver of bronze "from the mirrors of the serving women who
served at the doorway of the tent of meeting." The association with women is important.

Exodus 39:39 lists the Laver as among the items finished.

Exodus 40:7 says again that the Laver was put between the Altar and the Tabernacle.

Exodus 40:11 says that the Laver and its pedestal were anointed with the same oil as everything else in the
Tabernacle and courtyard. Compare Leviticus 8: 11. Exodus 40:9 and 10 say that the Tabernacle and Altar
are "most holy," but nothing like this is said about the Laver. This stands to reason: If the Laver had been
most holy, the priests could not have approached it without washing at some other laver first! This lesser
degree of holiness, I believe, accounts for the fact that dimensions are not specified for the Laver.

11
The Incense Altar's utensils were not sanctified by that altar but had an independent standing. The utensils of the other objects were
sanctified by the objects they served. For a full discussion, see James B. Jordan, "From Glory to Glory: Degrees of Value in the
Sanctuary" (Tyler, TX: Biblical Horizons, 1988).
10

Exodus 40:30-32 says that the priests washed their hands and feet every time they approached either the
Altar or the Tabernacle.

Numbers 4:4-15 says that when the camp set out on the march, the priests were to cover all the holy objects
so that neither the Kohathites who carried them nor any of the laymen would see them. Everything except
the Laver is said to be covered; the Laver is not mentioned at all. Moreover, everything else is carried on
the shoulders of the Kohathites on poles. Evidently, then, laymen were permitted to approach the Laver.
Also, since the Temple lavers were put in symbolic carts, we can infer that the Laver was transported in a
cart.

Numbers 5:17 says that in the Inspection of Jealousy, "holy water" was mixed with dust from the floor of
the Tabernacle. Since the ash-water of Numbers 19, for "separation," did not yet exist at this point, the
"holy water" would have to be water from the Laver. Mixing this water with dust is equivalent to Moses'
mixing the ashes of the Golden Calf with water in the first Inspection of Jealousy (Exodus 32). The water
was put in an earthenware vessel by the priest. I draw from this that the vessels used in connection with the
Laver were clay pots, and thus not permanent. This is why no mention is made of them in Exodus 25-40,
where only the permanent gold and bronze utensils made by Bezalel are discussed.

Numbers 8:7 says that when the Levites were consecrated they were sprinkled with "water of sin for
cleansing." Again, the heifer-ash-water did not yet exist at this point. This again would seem to be water
from the Laver. Since the Levites did not approach the Altar and the Tabernacle, they would have no reason
to go to the Laver on a daily basis, but since they assisted in the Tabernacle area, being sprinkled with
Laver water seems an appropriate means of consecration.

Leviticus 1 provides a description of how Whole Burnt Sacrifices were offered in the Mosaic Covenant:

a. The layman placed his hands on the sacrifice, appointing it his representative.

b. The layman slaughtered the animal, putting it to death for his sins.

c. Next, the priests took the blood of the animal and splashed it against the sides of the Altar.

d. Then the layman skinned the animal, and cut it up.

e. Meanwhile, the priests arranged the altar to receive the sacrifice.

f. Verses 8 says that the priests (pl.) put the head, the flesh, and the fat (choicest part) on the Altar. This does not
mean that more than one priest had to be involved; it simply refers to the class of priests.

g. Following this is verse 9: "Its entrails and its hind legs he shall wash with the water, and he must burn - the priest
- the whole thing on the Altar as a Whole Burnt Sacrifice." The question is, who washes the entrails and hind legs?
"The water" seems to refer to the Laver's water, drawn off in vessels for this purpose. Compare 2 Chronicles 4:6,
which says that in the Temple, water from the Laver-stands was used to wash the sacrifices. Most commentators
assume, on the basis of the fact that the priests have been referred to in the plural in verses 7 -8, that the "he" here
goes back to the layman. But the second half of verse 9 speaks of the priest in the singular.

h. Possibly verses 12-13 indicate that it is the priest who does the washing, for here the priest is referred to in the
singular before the washing is prescribed: "And he [the layman] must cut it into its pieces and its head and its fat,
and he shall arrange - the priest -them on the wood that is on the fire that is on the Altar. And the inner part and the
hind legs he must wash with the water, and he must bring -the priest -the whole thing and he must burn it on the
Altar as a Whole Burnt Sacrifice." Possibly, though, since the priest is specifically mentioned in connection with
the Altar work, it is the layman who does the washing.

i. Ambiguity persists in the third case, when a bird is offered. Verse 15 says that the priest wrings the head off the
bird and then sprinkles the blood against the Altar. Then "he" removes the crop and feathers, and tears the bird
almost in half. Then the priests put it on the Altar. Who removes the crop and feathers? On analogy with the first
two cases (ox and sheep), it would be the layman.
11

j. Thus, virtually all commentators assume that where the priest is not specifically mentioned, it is the layman who
does the work, including washing the hind legs and innards.12 The water would come from the Laver, but it was
probably gotten by priests and brought to the layman.

k. The ritual had this meaning: Killing the animal with the knife was sacrificial in the strict sense: the animal died
for the sin of the layman. Its blood was put on the sides of the Altar, which was a symbolic holy mountain:
substitutionary blood displays the death of the animal before God, as the blood on the doorposts displayed the death
of the Passover lamb, so that God's wrath is appeased. Then the flesh of the animal was washed, cleansing
(resurrecting) it. This was not a strictly substitutionary act, but rather signified the layman's own cleansing in union
with his sacrifice. Then the flesh was put on the Altar and consumed as food for God, as a sweet smell. This
application of fire did not represent judgment but rather acceptance into fellowship with God, who is a consuming
fire. Again, this was not strictly substitutionary, but represented the layman's own consecration and acceptance by
God in union with the sacrifice. By way of contrast, when God's fire consumes unwashed sinners, the idea is
negative and destructive. It is the same Presence-fire, but it has two different effects. 13 In sum, washing the
sacrifice's hind legs had the same meaning as the priest's washing his feet: It enabled him to approach the Altar
without being slain or negatively immolated by the fire. The Whole Burnt Sacrifice was the only sacrifice whose
legs were put on the altar, so only it was washed (Lev. 1; 2 Chron. 4:6). Through the Whole Burnt Sacrifice, the
layman got to approach the Altar freely; through the Whole Burnt Sacrifice, the layman got to be a priest. Since the
Tabernacle and the Altar were on the same level in this regard, it also follows that through the Whole Burnt
Sacrifice, the layman got to enter the Tabernacle.14

Conclusion: The Laver was less holy than the Altar and Tabernacle. It was not covered in transport, and
was not required to be carried on poles off the ground. There is no specific reason why a layman might not
approach it. No flesh was dipped into it, but water was drawn from it. If the layman washed his own
sacrifice, which seems certain, he did so with Laver water, but this water was almost certainly drawn by the
priest and put into a clay vessel and brought to him. Thus, there was no occasion when a layman would
need to approach the Laver.

In addition to what we have already discussed, we should take note of the following: The Laver is the well
in God's garden. It is a well of heavenly water, held off the ground by its pedestal, and its use for cleansing
fits priests to enter the "heaven" of the Tabernacle and sacrifices to enter the "heaven" of God's presence on
the altar. Still, it is a well.

Accordingly, it calls to mind the many marital encounters with women at wells in the Bible. The laver in
the courtyard corresponds to the wells of water where Abraham's servant got Rebekah for Isaac, where
Jacob met Rachel, where Moses met Zipporah, and where Jesus offered Himself as True Husband to the
Samaritan woman. Ezekiel 16:9 says that God washes His bride clean of defiling blood. The fact that the
Laver was made from the mirrors of women reinforces this symbolism.15

The washing of the priest can be seen as fitting him to be a representative of God's Bride, to stand before
Him and minister to Him. Similarly, the washing of the sacrifices bestows the same privilege
representatively upon the person bringing the sacrifice.

Water is associated in the Bible with the Holy Spirit, the Agent of cleansing and regeneration. In John 7:37-
39, Jesus compared the Spirit to water that flows from believer to believer, based on the fact that the

12
Notice the ABAB literary structure of Leviticus 1:12-13, which corroborates the traditional interpretation:
A. And he [the layman] must cut it into its pieces and its head and its fat,
B. And he shall arrange - the priest - them on the wood that is on the Altar.
A. And the inner part and the hind legs he must wash with the water,
B. And he must bring - the priest - the whole thing and he must burn it on the Altar as a Whole Burnt Sacrifice.
13
On the positive meaning of the immolation of the cleansed sacrifice, see J . H. Kurtz, trans. James Martin, Sacrificial Worship in the
Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House [1863] 1980), pp. 151ff.
14
For an expanded discussion of the Whole Burnt Sacrifice and its meaning, see James B. Jordan, "The Whole Burnt Sacrifice: Its
Liturgy and Meaning" (Tyler, TX: Biblical Horizons, 1991).
15
Specifically, "from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting" (Exodus 38:8). These
"deaconesses" assisted with the work of the Tabernacle. Their sanctity represented the inviolability of God's own bride, and their
seduction by the priests in 1 Samuel 2:22 is directly connected with the subsequent "rape" of God's bride by the Philistines. See my
discussion of this in connection with Jephthah's daughter in Jordan, Judges: God's War Against Humanism (Tyler, TX: Geneva
Ministries, 1985), pp. 211-213.
12

believer has first drunk of the Spirit that flows from Jesus Himself. The reference to "rivers of living water"
flowing from the innermost parts of the believer is almost certainly an allusion to the life-imparting waters
of Ezekiel 47, which correspond in Ezekiel's vision to the Laver. 16 Such imagery points back to the fact that
the Laver, like everything else in the Tabernacle, has a human aspect. The water taken from the Laver is
like the water flowing from Christ,17 and from believer to believer. Insofar as the Laver focuses our
attention on the marital aspect of our relationship with God, this outflow from the Laver can and should be
connected with birth, the new birth of those sprinkled by the water, analogous to the birth of a baby from
the innermost parts of a woman.18

I see the "gender" of the Laver as ambiguous. As it points to Christ, and the cleansing Spirit that comes
from Him, it is masculine. As it points to believers, restored by that Spirit and becoming little lavers
themselves, it is feminine.

2. The Difference in the Temple's Lavers

First, the Laver itself becomes the huge Bronze Sea, and its water was only for the priests to wash with. It
may be worth noting that the Sea has lily-work around its top, and that in 1 Kings 7:26 the word for lily is
masculine, while in 2 Chronicles 4:5 the word for lily has a feminine form. In Canticles, the Bride is a
feminine lily in 2: 1, 2, while the Groom's lips are like masculine lilies in 5:13. The lily-top of the pillars
Jachin and Boaz, signifying priest and king, is masculine (I Ki. 7:22). Perhaps too much should not be
made of this, but possibly the ambiguous gender of the lily-work on the Sea reflects the same ambiguity we
have just discussed.

Second, the use of Laver water for cleansing the Whole Burnt Sacrifice is transferred to the ten water
Stands.

Third, in the cases both of the Sea and the Stands, God prescribed "holy dimensions." This indicates that
the layman was not to approach either of them.

Fourth, the guardian cherubim on the Stands also serve to ward off the layman.

Thus, if it is the case that the layman continued to do the washing of the hind legs and innards in the
Temple administration, he would do so with water brought to him in clay vessels by the priests from the
Stands.

Some have suggested that in the Temple period the layman no longer slew and skinned his own sacrifice.
There is no evidence for this. The priests skinned the Whole Burnt Offerings in 2 Chronicles 29:34, but this
was a national event. Doubtless the priests in Moses' time also skinned the daily and other national
sacrifices. 2 Chronicles 30:17 and 35:10-11 describe Passovers, and on these occasions some of the laymen
slew their own sacrifices, while the Levites assisted others. The fact that Levites assisted on these huge
occasions does not mean that there was any change in the ritual for personal sacrifices, as described in
Leviticus 1.19

3. The Meaning of the Stands

16
And compare the laver-rivers in Revelation 22: 1 & 17.
17
On the cross, water as well as blood came from the side of Christ. Eve was taken from Adam's side. The Spirit-water from Christ's
side creates His holy Bride.
18
To extend the analogy, as I see it: Blood and water come from Christ by the Spirit to create the Bride. The blood of self-sacrificing
(living sacrifice) believers, and the Spiritual water that comes from them, build up the Bride, especially by bringing new children into
the Bride.
19
Ezekiel 44:11 says that the Levites slaughtered the Whole Burnt Offering, but which ones? Again it is the daily and national
offerings that are in view. Thus, whatever light Ezekiel's Temple sheds on Solomon's Temple, it does not indicate any change in the
ritual for personal sacrifices.
13

While the language of furniture and of architecture sometimes uses the language of the human body to
describe features (for instance, the feet of a chair), given the symbolic matrix of the Bible we should not
pass by the biological language used in connection with the Stands without reflection.
The Levites carried the Tabernacle furniture on their shoulders, though as we have seen they may not have
carried the original Laver thus. The idea of shoulder-carrying is, however, present in the Stands (and in the
fact that the Bronze Sea rested on the backs of twelve bronze oxen). At the four corners of the Stands were
shoulders that held up the Stands. Inside the Stands were four shoulders that held up the pedestal in which
the laver rested. It seems that the bottom part of these inner shoulders were called feet, and that they held
the axles of the wheels in place. These two sets of shoulders bore up the laver.

The cherubim in Ezekiel 1 have feet, but they don't move. Instead, the cherubim move by means of wheels.
As we have seen, the "feet" of the water chariots was behind wreaths, as the angels in Ezekiel 1 covered
their legs with wings, and next to these "feet" were wheels. Thus, it is cherubic shoulders that uphold the
laver. As will become clearer as we move along, the cherubim represent what Israel was supposed to be.
Adam was supposed to guard God's holiness, and when he fell the cherubim replaced him. The Levites
cherubically carried the vessels of the Tabernacle on their shoulders. The cherubim in the Tabernacle and
Temple were doing what the people were supposed to do, and what the people by the blood of the sacrifices
(anticipating the blood of Christ) were enabled to do to a limited degree (fully in the New Covenant, now
that the keys to the kingdom have been returned to man).

The shoulders extend from the feet up to the level where the pedestal sits. The area above this is called the
"head." The tops of the pillars Jachin and Boaz are also called "heads," and these pillars are clearly
humaniform (priest and king). The cherubim engraved on the sides of the Stand would have their heads in
this upper region as well.

The top half of the Stand, or the cubit that stuck up above the base of the Stand, is called a "crown." Both
the High Priest and the King wore crowns, images of God's own crown of glory.

Above the shoulders, on the same level as the crowned head of the Stand, were the "hands" that held the
laver in place. The hands are said to have "tablets," a word used almost exclusively for the tablets of the ten
commandments. Are we to see this as the Word of God holding the waters in place?

The picture that emerges from this is of a figure, human- angelic, standing on the ground. His shoulders
bear up a pedestal on which rests a large laver of water. With his hands, he reaches up and holds the laver.
Whoever this man-angel is, he is a ladder to heaven. He stands on the earth, but he holds up the heavenly
ocean, the firmament. He provides a place where men can have access to the waters above, for cleansing.
Compare John 1:51.

Let us now reflect on the socio-cosmic implications of this configuration. While it is not true that human
beings hold up the heavens on their shoulders in a literal sense, it is true that we hold up the heavens in a
liturgical sense. If God is to dwell among His people, then His heavens must be upheld by them. This is
why the holy furniture of the Tabernacle was carried on the shoulders of the Levites. Architecturally, the
only "shoulders" mentioned in connection with the Tabernacle are the eastern sides of the courtyard on
either side of the entrance gate (Ex. 27:14-15; 38:14-15). These "shoulders" hold "up" the Tabernacle
courtyard, and the idea that the entire courtyard is a semi-heavenly environment is supported by the fact
that the pillars of the court are set off the ground in sockets of bronze (Ex. 27:9-17). By means of this
feature, the screens around the courtyard form a replica of the firmament heavens that surround the earth.
The Tabernacle itself, being more heavenly, is surrounded with boards set in two sockets of silver (Ex. 26:
15-25).

Similarly, the sides of the Temple on either side of the main doorway were called "shoulders." 20 These
shoulders "carried" the Temple, and represented again the social cosmos of Israel. If the people were
faithful in carrying, uplifting, the worship of God, then the Temple would be secure, and heaven would be
in their midst. If not, then the Temple would be destroyed, and they would lose heaven.

20
Haak, "'Shoulder' of Temple."
14

Both the outer and inner gates of Ezekiel's visionary Temple have shoulders (Ezk. 41: 18, 40-44), as well as
the Temple itself (Ezk. 42:2, 26). Ezekiel's Temple was not designed to be made into an artifact (see the
discussion of Word becoming artifact earlier in this essay). It simply meant that God would be with His
people after they were restored from exile, and in greater measure than ever before. The shoulders of
Ezekiel's Temple meant once again that God would d well with them as long as they lifted Him up in praise
and obedience.

The fact that there are two sets of shoulders in the Stands, one holding up the Stand itself at the corners and
the other inside the Stand holding up the pedestal, indicates two levels of "heaven." The outer shoulders
are, I think, equivalent to the shoulders of the gateway into the courtyard, while the inner shoulders are
equivalent to the gateway into the Temple itself. The outer shoulders hold up the Stand, which is visible to
the people; the inner shoulders hold up the pedestal and laver, which are not visible.

Above the shoulders are the "hands" that hold the laver in place by gripping the circlet. 21 These hands are
said to have tablets, calling to mind the law of God, as we have seen. They clearly are "uplifted holy hands"
(I Tim. 2:8). The hands are decorated with palm trees, symbolizing the people (as we shall see), with lions
(their kingly service), with cherubim (their guarding duty), and with wreaths (which I think have to do with
God's glory encircling them).22

The "feet" of the Stands also call for comment. The word used for "feet" in I Kings 7:30 is not the word
used for the biological foot in Hebrew (regel). It is a word usually used for time (pa'am), as in the phrase
"several times." By extension it means footsteps, implying motion, as in Psalm 57:6; 58:10; 74:3; 119: 133;
and other places. Its use here, referring to the post that held the wheel-axles in place, implies the potential
motion of these water chariots. As we have seen, the Stands did not actually move, but they are described
as if they were moving chariots. The go to "heaven" to get heavenly water, and bring it down to men. They
are lined up in front of the Temple so as to "run to and fro" between the Temple and the sacrificers.

The word "head" is used for the tops of pillars in the Tabernacle (Ex. 26:29, 38; 38: 17, 19, 28), both the
inner pillars of the Tabernacle itself and the outer pillars of the courtyard. It is also used for the tops of the
symbolic pillars Jachin and Boaz in the Temple courtyard (I Ki. 7: 16-22). As we have seen in the case of
the latter two pillars, this top-most part corresponds to the Holy of Holies in the sanctuary. 23 Agreeably, the
word "head" is used for the top of Mount Sinai, when God was present there creating a Most Holy
environment that only Moses could enter (Ex. 19:20; 24: 17; 34:2). Just as only Moses could enter the
"head" of the mountain, so only Aaron could enter the Holy of Holies in the sanctuary, which replicated the
mountain.

As the "heads" of the pillars Jachin and Boaz were crowned, so the "heads" of the Stands are also said to be
crowned. The crown is an enclosure for the head (Jud. 20:43; Ps. 142:7; Pr. 14:18; Esth. 1:11; 2:17; 6:8).
The crown of the head corresponds to the veil and curtains around the Holy of Holies in the sanctuary.
From this assessment we can now understand that there are three levels of holiness in the Stands, as there
are in the Temple and in the Pillars:

Temple Pillar Stand

upper Most Holy Lily crown Head and crown of the Stand,

21
The hands are not connected directly to the shoulders, but both are part of the Stand, which is considered to be of one piece. Thus,
they are the hands of the human-angelic Stand, just as the shoulders are the shoulders of the Stand.
22
These decorated hands shed light on the use of hands elsewhere in the Bible, as when hands are laid on sacrifices, or when hands
are laid on people in ordination and healing. What is "imparted" by the hands is the phenomenon pictured on the hands in the Stands.
A full study of this aspect of the hands would be very rewarding: The hands impart the law of God (killing the sacrifice under God's
judgment; giving the right to teach to the elder). The hands impart the glory- presence (wreath) of God in ordination. They impart
healing restoration as a palm tree in God's house. They impart lion-like rule in ordination. Etc. We should also associate these hands
with the hands of the cherubim in Ezekiel 1:8 & 10:7 that hold and then dispense the glory-wrath of God, the "anti-wreath" of God's
presence.
23
See Jordan. "Thoughts on Jachin and Boaz.”
15

enclosing laver.
middle Holy Place Collar Middle section of the Stand,
including pedestal and cherubim decor.
lower Courtyard Bronze shaft Lower shoulders and wheels under the Stand.
Just as the Holy Place and Holy of Holies are enclosed by the walls of the Temple, which were visible to
view, so the upper two visible parts of the Stands enclose two degrees of holiness:

Temple: Outer Inner Stand: Outer Inner

holier Holy Place wall Holy Place Frame Pedestal


holiest Most Holy wall Most Holy Crown Laver

Just as the walls of the Temple were continuous, so the panels covered both the frame and crown of the
Stands.

The Bronze Sea can be seen as having the same triple configuration. The twelve bronze bulls on which it
rested should be associated with the courtyard. The walls of the Sea should be associated with the Holy
Place, and the crown-like line of gourds just under the lily-configured lip at the top should be associated
with the Most Holy.

The configurations of both the Sea and the Laver-stands definitely mean that symbolically the water in
them is to be associated with the waters above the firmament. This is holier and more powerful water than
what was available in the Tabernacle, as we can see by contrasting them. The Laver in the Tabernacle was
potentially accessible by laymen, while the holier objects at the Temple are not. The Laver's water is clearly
heavenly, but is not especially associated with the Most Holy, while that of the Temple is. This means that
the cleansing efficacy of the Temple water is greater than that of the Tabernacle. The Kingdom has
advanced to a new stage; heaven is drawing nearer to earth. The priests will be washed more powerfully
than before, and so will the sacrifices. 24

God is enthroned above these waters, so in order to get access to God we have to pass through these waters.
This is seen in Revelation 4:6, where God is enthroned on a crystal sea, and also in Ezekiel 1:26 and
Exodus 24:10. The cherubic chariot brings these waters near to man, so that in Ezekiel 1:24 the sound of
the cherubic chariot is like "the sound of abundant waters."

The Stands, thus, symbolize a double motion. Access to this heavenly water is first of all by God's
condescending grace, as He sends cherubim with their wheels to bring it to the people. Access is also
dependent on the holiness of the people, whose shoulders must bear up the kingship of God. The social
order of the Kingdom depends on keeping this arrangement in place.

Cherubim guard the holiness of God. They are engraved on two places in the Stands. First, they are on the
outer panels, and second they are on the "hands" that hold the laver in place. They face outward to keep
sinners away, and in this they are associated with oxen and lions. The duty of guarding the holiness of God
in the Tabernacle belonged only to the priests and Levites. In the Kingdom, however, the newly created
king also has this duty. Thus, guarding the doors of the Temple were Jachin and Boaz, priest and king, just
as cherubim guarded the door to the garden of Eden. Similarly, the cherubim guarding the Stands are
associated with priest and king symbolically. Practically speaking, this meant that access to heavenly water
was to be guaranteed by the holy behavior of both king and priest. If they sinned and led the nation into
apostasy, access would be withdrawn.

The cherubim inside the Stand on the "hands" face upward toward the water in the Laver. They face
upward to worship God, singing "holy, holy, holy." In this they are associated with lions and palm trees.
This represents the people of God at prayer and praise. The priest (oxen) mediated the people to God and

24
In Ezekiel's post-exilic Temple the waters flow out to cleanse the whole land (Ezk. 47), while in the New Covenant city-Temple the
waters flow out to cleanse the whole earth (Rev. 22).
16

guarded God's holiness. Those who pass the muster of holiness and are brought to God by the priests are
the kingly citizens. Thus, the worshippers are pictured as lions and palm trees.

The Tabernacle was made of boards that represented God's people gathered around His throne. Similarly,
the Temple was also made of wood. The doors and inner walls of Ezekiel's Temple were carved with
cherubim and palm trees (Ezk. 41: 18-26). (Lions are missing because the kingship of Israel 'was over after
the exile.) Thus, we can see that the palm trees represent God's people gathered around Him as His human-
cherubic host. The "hands" positioned around the laver inside the Stand have the same meaning. The people
lift up their holy hands in praise of God, as they are gathered around Him. In the Old Covenant, men were
not actually allowed into God's presence, so these pictures represented them.

The word "wreath" occurs only in Proverbs 1:9, referring to parents' instruction as a garland around the
neck of the righteous child. It means a "turned, twisted, encircling" thing. I Kings 7:36 says that wreaths
encircled the cherubim, lions, and palm trees on the "hands" that held up the laver. I associate this with
God's holy cloud that enveloped the Tabernacle when it was set up (Ex. 40:34). Those drawn into God's
presence, to uphold His throne, are enveloped by His cloud. The four wreaths at the bottom of the panels
would indicate that God's presence encircled the entire Stand as well.

I Kings 7:36 says that lions; palms, cherubim, and wreaths were engraved not only on the hands but also on
the outer panels. We have seen that on the sides of the Stands with the wheels were either two cherubim,
one ox- and one lion-faced, with a single wreath below each; or else a cherub above with an ox and a lion
below, with a single wreath below each. That leaves the other two sides unaccounted for. It seems to me
that verse 36 is probably speaking, therefore, of the remaining two unwheeled sides of the Stands.

Assuming that this is the case, I interpret the configuration as follows: The king and the priests (lion and
ox) had the special cherubic function of guarding God's holiness, and their work is especially connected
with the traveling feet and wheels that connected earth and heaven. More generally, though, all the people
as palm trees and little lions were to be cherubic in guarding God's holiness, and so their work is also
engraved on the other sides of the Stand. The wreaths on the people's sides, and the four wreaths on the
leaders' sides, indicate that God's glory-presence envelopes all.

Drawing back from the details, now, we can see that the overall meaning of the Stands was this: Access to
God's heavenly presence and His cleansing water depended on the people's uplifting Him on their
shoulders, lifting up holy hands in His presence, and guarding His holiness. If they did these things, God's
life-restoring waters from heaven would come upon them and their nation.

One other aspect of the Stands should be mentioned. As we have seen, they were lined up in a double row
between the Altar and the doorway of the Temple, in front of the two "shoulders" or sides of the Temple.
Thus, they formed a "ladder to heaven," showing that their cleansing water brought God to men, and men
to God. Next to this ladder, on the south side, nearest to the Temple, was the great Bronze Sea (1 Ki. 7:39).
This configuration later becomes the river that flows from God's throne to the four corners of the earth in
Revelation 22. It represents the flow of the Spirit from God to men. The water from these Stands washed
the sacrifices, which represented the laity of Israel. Symbolically, the sacrifices were given access into
God's presence by this ladder of Stands, and in union with the sacrifices of the people were given this same
access.
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