The Pulpit Commentary

1 Kings 7:26 (1 Kings 7:26)

And it was a handbreadth thick [ i.e; three inches], and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup [Heb. and his lip like the work of the lip of a cup, i.e; curved outwards], with flowers of lilies [lit; " a blossom of lily." Keil understands "ornamented with lily flowers," but the strict interpretation the "lily blossom" being in apposition to "cup"—requires us to refer the words to the shape rather than to the ornamentation of the laver. The lip was curved like a lily]: i t contained two thousand [In Chronicles and by Josephus the number is given as 3000. This may have resulted, as Keil thinks, from confounding ג and ב but it is suspicious that so many of the numbers of the Chronicles are exaggerations. The common explanation of the discrepancy, viz; that it held 2000 baths "when filled to its ordinary height, but when filled to the brim 3000" (Wordsworth), appears to me hardly ingenuous] baths. ["The data for determining the value of the bath or ephah are both scanty and conflicting". Josephus, the only authority on the subject, says that it equalled the Attic metretes (about 8.5 gals.), but it is very doubtful whether he was "really familiar with the Greek measures" ( ib. ) At any rate, if this statement is correct, his other statement as to the shape of the laver must be altogether erroneous, since 2000 baths would equal 17,000 gals; and a hemispherical laver could not possibly have contained more than 10,000. The attempt has been made, on the assumption that the sea was a hemisphere, as Josephus affirms, to calculate from its capacity the value of the bath, which in that case would be about four gallons. But there is good reason for doubting whether the laver was hemispherical—such a shape would be ill adapted to its position on the backs of oxen—and some have maintained that it was cylindrical, others that, like the laver of the tabernacle, it had a foot ( Exodus 30:18 ) or basin. The prevailing opinion of scholars, however, appears to be that it was 30 cubits in circumference only at the lip, and that it bellied out considerably below. While the shape, however, must remain a matter of uncertainty, we are left in no doubt as to its purpose. It was "for the priests to wash in" ( 2 Chronicles 4:6 )—not, of course, for immersing their whole persons, but their hands and feet ( Exodus 30:19 , Exodus 30:21 ). The priests (after Exodus 3:5 ; Joshua 5:15 , etc.) ministered barefoot. It was, according to Rabbinical tradition, provided with taps or faucets (Bähr). It has, however, been held by some that the water issued forth (as in the Alhambra) from the lions' mouths. It is probable that a basin of some sort was attached to it. Whether the laver was filled by the hand or by some special contrivance, it is quite impossible to say. We know that provision was made for storing water hard by. The present writer was privileged in 1861 to explore the great reservoir, the Bähr el Khebir, still existing underneath the Haram area, at a time when very few Europeans had seen it. The water was probably brought from Solomon's pools at Bethlehem, though "a fountain of water exists in the city and is running unto this day, far below the surface". Tacitus mentions the fens perennis aquae and the piscinae cisternaeque servandis imbribus.

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