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Exodus 38:8 says that the bronze basin of the Tabernacle and its bronze stand was made from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

Why do those women need mirrors? So they look pretty? Are they entertainers?

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Hi Jim, I see the NIV translators understood this passage to mean that these mirrors were donated by the women who served. This would not necessarily mean they needed mirrors in their service. Generally speaking, it seems natural to me that women would have mirrors; and that, upon realizing their mirrors were made of the material needed to make the basin, they would willingly donate the mirrors for the cause. – user2027 Dec 3 '13 at 0:56
What would be a proper tag? I was suspicious that the women are actually prostitutes and mirrors are necessary to make them pretty so people come. Of course, that's an outrageous idea. I just want to know the truth. I think someone actually make that as answer and no body else dispute that – Jim Thio Dec 5 '13 at 5:46… an answer there says that the women are prostitutes – Jim Thio Dec 6 '13 at 6:41
up vote 5 down vote accepted

An alternate translation is “assembling” rather than “ministering”; the relevant root is צבא, see, e.g., Wiktionary. Try this translation on for size:

He made the washstand of copper and its base of copper; from the mirrors of the assembled [women], who congregated at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

The translation of “ministering” is somewhat suspect anyhow; no rôle for women in the Tabernacle is ever mentioned.

But why does the text make such a point of the fact that the women assembled? Here the Midrash expands on the story, as quoted by Rashi:

The Israelite women tried to donate their mirrors, which they had used to beautify themselves with, as a contribution for the Tabernacle. Moses at first rejected these mirrors, since they were tools for lust. But God told Moses, accept them: during the years of servitude in Egypt these women went to lengths to make themselves attractive to their husbands; and only because of this are there the legions [another, more literal meaning of the root צבא] of Israelites today.

(My free translation.)

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The text does not say what the women did when they were ministering. Possibly they were greeting people as they entered the temple? Possibly helped direct visitors or provided a cup of water to thirsty visitors? Maybe they just kept things clean and organized?

Regarding the mirrors, it seems that the women were not very vain for otherwise they would not be willing to give them up for making of the bronze basin. Those women who were ministers upon hearing the needs of the bronze material for the basin brought from their homes their own bronze mirrors and gave them sacrificially. I do not think we are to associate their mirrors kept at home with their service at the temple, for there is no purpose anywhere recorded in the use of mirrors in the religious ceremonies in the temple.

Some commentators mention that Egyptians often took mirrors into temples but I am not sure what for exactly. From this they think possibly Moses was forbidding the practice by forcing the women to give up their mirrors. However, it seems more natural just to assume that the women volunteered to give up their personal possessions due to the high quality of the bronze used in mirror making. These materials would be suitable for the crafting of the basin and may have appeared to have the same shiny and reflective appearance.

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This is an article on the topic: There are no Hebrew words for prostitute in Exodus 38:8 so they are probably not prostitutes. These women are also mentioned in 1 Sam 2:22. I think the Hebrew word tsaba is key to working out what the women were doing as the article explains.

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