A laver is a basin for water or for cooking (1 Samuel 2:14). A laver was used in the tabernacle and later in the temple to hold water for priests in ceremonial cleansings. The tabernacle laver was made of bronze and molded to God’s specifications. In Exodus 30:17–21, God gave instructions for the laver: “You are to make a bronze basin with a bronze stand for washing. Set it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water into it, with which Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet. Whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the altar to minister by presenting an offering made by fire to the LORD, they must wash with water so that they will not die. Thus they are to wash their hands and feet so that they will not die; this shall be a permanent statute for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.”
The first laver was made from the metal mirrors the Israelite women brought with them from Egypt (Exodus 38:8). God instructed Moses to place the laver between the altar and the tabernacle door. The priests were to wash their hands and their feet with water from the laver before approaching the Holy Place to symbolize the necessity of purifying oneself before approaching a holy God.
When Solomon built the first temple, he included ten lavers: five on the north side of the courtyard and five on the south. All were used for rinsing the articles used in the sacrifices (2 Chronicles 4:6). But, for the ceremonial bathing of the priests, Solomon constructed a large, ornate bronze laver called “the Sea” (2 Chronicles 4:1–5). Interestingly, no lavers are mentioned in the second temple built by Zerubbabel in 516 BC.
Everything in the tabernacle and, later, the temple was symbolic of God’s relationship with man. The laver symbolized our need for cleansing before we can enter into a relationship with a pure and holy God. God sent His Son into the world “to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26), and He declared that faith in Him would purify us (Titus 3:5). To keep us spiritually clean, God uses His Word to wash us (Ephesians 5:26; 1 John 1:7). We no longer need temples or lavers in order to meet with God. Our bodies become His temple when we repent and submit to the lordship of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:19). More than the water from any laver, the blood of Christ purifies us and makes us worthy to enter the presence of the Lord.