Exodus 30:17-21 (KJV)

17 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 18 Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. 19 For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: 20 When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD: 21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.

The book of Exodus makes several references to Aaron to wash with water when appearing before the Lord.Could this be in a physical or spiritual sense, the author of Hebrews uses the same word but in reference to baptism

Hebrews 6:1-2 (KJV)

1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment

  • You stated, “....the author of Hebrews uses the same word but in reference to baptism.” Which word is the same?
    – user862
    Dec 1, 2016 at 2:48

4 Answers 4


The same directions are in Exodus 40;

30 And he set the laver between the tent of the congregation and the altar, and put water there, to wash [withal].
31 And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat

The laver of water denotes laws of the Most High which are spirit that other places in scripture depict as a cleansing agent or simply as water, or a light. The washing signified cleansing a soul before God, but to give you a broader picture of what the matter was here;

Even to the priests there was no access to features that are golden inside the tent, as well as the bronze altar on the outside without having ‘washed’ first with that water in the laver, because placement of all items of that structure signified generation gaps, while the features and elements symbolised servants of God themselves. So the laver signified a servant of God at a point in time, Messiah, the word of God. Messiah started the age of the divine, which culminates in a confluence of saints of all ages even from of old. This age starts at the coming of Messiah, in which is ‘the anointing the most Holy’ of Daniel 9:24.

All items labelled as ‘holy’ and ‘most holy’ to Aaron and sons where indoors in the Tent, and for the most part gold covered, and yet the altar of brass on the outside was also ‘most holy’.
These elements were distinguished as such because of a unique presence of the spirit of the Most High in the midst of the servants that they signify.
The Tabernacle denotes saints, the followers of Messiah, and not all saints, but the rulers, even then themselves in a different age from of the saints that the altar signifies, because spaces between the features of the tabernacle also signify time gaps.

The altar signifies saints that handle the very sacred things of the Most High wherever the symbol is used. The brass altar referred to the children of Israel, who were the only saints collectively associated with sacred duties towards God.

That’s why when blood of atonement was applied to the altar all Israel was atoned for, as they were the altar in whose ‘midst’ God was by His spirit.

Num 5:3 Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell.

The nature of God’s dwelling in the midst of Israel would later change to that implied in Jeremiah 31, since God ‘dwells’ by His Spirit. The water of cleansing in the laver are ‘laws by the power of His Spirit’ for cleansing a soul.
Being in between the bronze and the tent denotes these specific laws came after the age of the saints signified as the brass altar, yet some of the saints in that age of the ‘brass altar’ also walked in them, for example Moses who ‘shared’ the spirit that was on him with the 70 elders, as well as the prophets of old who were benefited in this special empowerment for righteousness, but which were not a full dispensation, only coming later than the times of the brass altar.

1 king 19:16...and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.

See how the ‘anointing’ differs, for instance with kings and prophets, where one was for kingship another for prophecy.
That’s why anointing for kingship on people like David with that of prophecy could have them eat consecrated bread meant for only priests and get away with it because of the spirit on them that marked them out as good as ‘sons of Aaron,’ whereas the ‘anointing’ for kingship alone on kings like king Uzziah, a and a pious king, in offering incense which is a duty for priests alone, didn’t get away with it. This is the kind of washing of the spirit of man meant here.

Aaron and his descendants signified the ‘Messiah and His ‘cleansed ones’ respectively, starting with the children of Jacob.

To go to the tent, the priests ‘became’ one with the servants signified by the Tent or the altar, a people spiritually purged in their ways, these ways symbolised as hands and feet.
That’s why Israel was enjoined up to shun gentile associations because gentile ways were ways of the ‘dead’ that would ‘defile’ them simply by touching, as also their cleansing came by symbolism of blood on the altar's walls.
That Aaron and sons would die if they would not wash signified an apostate state, or at the very least a hypocritical profession in which state any man found is considered ‘dead’ before God, which state was indicated by their physical death.

Exodus 40:31 And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed the feet and the hands,

Aaron’s name connotes a light bearer, which light opens eyes of the peoples in darkness, and Moses’ name indicates rescue from the waters of one in danger of perishing, these names have connotations of the Most High getting sons from all nations and tongues, these peoples signified as waters, Rev 17:15.
All are to walk in conformity to a specific forms of laws of YAH, in that their ways would have to be patterned after the requirements of these laws of YAH.

That’s the washing of the feet and the hands before entering the tent or touching the brazen altar.

  • Very good answer.
    – Gina
    Feb 5, 2019 at 14:59

In the JPS Study Bible Jeffrey H Tigay states:

Before entering the Tent or offering sacrifices (activities just mentioned in 29:38-42; 30:7-8) the priests must wash their hands and feet (28.4 n.), with which they touch the sacrifices, the sanctuary, and its ground. Talmudic sources describe this as "sanctifying" the hands and feet (m. Yoma 3.2) Ramban explains it as an act of respect for God. 1

While this act parallels baptism in the general sense of washing in obedience to God, there is a significant difference. The priest had to wash the sacrifices and themselves repeatedly. Baptism is a one-time event. I do not see the writer of Hebrews making a connection to this instruction in Exodus.

1. Jeffrey H Tigay, JPS Study Bible 2004, p 180


the laver was built after the sin of the golden calf as atonement for the sin and was an integral part of the Tabernacle in the wilderness and later in the Temple. The base of the laver was built with the mirrors of the Hebrew women, who contributed them to Moses for the Laver. Rashi quotes the Michilta, the Midrash on Exodus and teaches us that those mirrors were used by the women in Egypt to inspire and seduce the men, who were demoralized, to procreate. They would bring the men wine and fruit and use the mirrors to show their beauty. When the Tabernacle was being built the men donated gold and silver for the construction, the women donated those mirrors. Moses refused to accept the mirrors, saying they were used immorally . God chastised Moses and said that those mirrors were more precious then all the other contributions. Those mirrors showed the unfailing faith and courage of the Hebrew women who believed that indeed God would lead them out of the wilderness into the land of Israel .

  • Your post was probably down-voted because it doesn't really address the OP's question about the significance of the washing. Was it physical cleanliness, was it like "tvila" in a "mikveh", was it like "ntilat yadayim" before eating "hulin"?
    – user17080
    Feb 21, 2017 at 7:55

The significance of washing in 'Exodus': The laver is built with looking glasses of the servants of the tabernacle, henceforth it is transparent. The priest can look into it and can find the spot or wrinkle on his face and wash it with the water in the laver. So also the New Testament priest, who is the born again Christian can wash away the uncleanness of day to day life in the light of the Word of God which resembles the water of the laver.

The reference of looking glasses: Exodus 38:8(in some other versions Mirrors) The water is Word of God Reference: Ephesians 5:27

  • Dev, can you provide any evidence (such as a quote from an encyclopedia, or a scripture verse) regarding the looking glasses? Also, if you are saying that the ritual was done as a metaphor for "washing of the water of the word" then you should say that, though it would be the opposite... Paul citing Moses.
    – user10231
    Nov 21, 2016 at 16:44

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