Exodus 38:8 – And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses ( mirrors) of the women which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
The beautiful laver stood midway between the altar and the door of the tabernacle. It was much more beautiful than many writings would lead anyone to believe. The vessel consisted of two parts: the laver and the foot.
Both were likely roundish in form, with the foot probably being flat shaped somewhat like a saucer. It received its supply of water when needed from the laver which was supported by a shaft or pillar arising from its center. The foot thus served as a basin, and the laver as a cistern large enough to contain at least a day’s supply of water. The water was pumped into the foot by small faucets. There would have been a way, also, to drain the dirty water out of the foot when needed.
Ordinary brass would not have been fine, pure, or transparent enough to fashion this holy vessel. Nothing but brazen mirrors would suffice, and the women parted with theirs as it says in the above verse. This laver was a striking memorial of the generosity of the women in making it beautiful.
Exodus 30:19 says that Aaron and his sons washed their hands and feet at the laver. It may have served the double purpose of a basin the priests washed at, and a mirror for seeing themselves in. The priests were required to keep themselves and their garments spotlessly clean, so this may have been the intent of the women in giving of their mirrors. The use of the laver was mainly to hold water to wash certain parts of the bodies of the animals that were slain as sacrifices, and most importantly of all to wash the hands and feet of the priests as stated in the verse above. The penalty for neglecting this was severe as stated in verses 20-21 – 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: 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.
SIGNIFICANCE OF WASHING WITH WATER
The washing pointed to the holiness of God, the pollution of sinful man, and to the purity of heart necessary in those who would bring forth acceptable worship before God. If just the neglect of washing hands and feet with water was punishable by death, how much more was an unpure heart a stench in the nostrils of God.
The priests were required to draw near to God, not only with clean hands and feet, but with a pure heart. No real worship could be rendered without a pure heart.
Washing with water is mentioned several times in the New Testament in Ephesians, John, and Hebrews. In each instance it is unmistakably evident that the cleansing of the soul from the defilement of sin is what it correlates to. John 15: 3-4 says “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you, As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”
Christ died so that he could redeem us from all iniquity and purify us into a people that he could use to do his earthly work. We must never forget, though, that it is the Holy Spirit that takes the things of God and shows them to us; it is He who makes the Truth real in our lives and shows us how to live and how to be set apart.
The brazen altar pointed to the atoning work of Christ, and the laver to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. The guilt of sin can be canceled by only the Blood of Christ.
The altar and laver were the only articles of furniture in the Court and were inseparable companions. Neither of them could be dispensed with if the priests were to carry out their daily duties in the various services of the Tabernacle. In the New Testament the altar and laver also have a voice that say “without the shedding of Jesus’ blood there can be no remission of sin.” Also without holiness, no man can really see who God is. So we also need to be careful that we don’t come into God’s presence with sin and impurities in our life that we won’t rid ourselves of. God wants us to live before Him holy lives that he can mold and use for His own good.
Below is a picture of what the laver and foot may have looked like.