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What Is A Laver In The Bible

The Bible contains many famous and fascinating stories, but the meaning and purpose behind them can be unclear to those unfamiliar with the context. One such story is that of the Laver – or sea – of the Bible. To understand the spiritual meaning and importance of the Laver, one must first understand the historical and religious setting in which it appears.

The Laver appears in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, each constituting a major part of the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible. Within Catholic and Protestant canonical Bibles, these books are understood to provide a spiritual and historical account of the formation of the Israelite people. Thus, like many other elements of the Pentateuch, the Laver serves an important role in the context of the formation of the Israelite people.

The Laver is a ceremonial bowl-like vessel, used for purification in the Hebrew tabernacle. In the book of Exodus, God commands the Israelites: “Make a laver of bronze… and put it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it. Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet with water from it” (Exodus 30:17-20). In this context, the Laver is the primary means of purification of the Israelites, and by extension, the means for the Israelites to come closer to God through the rites of sanctification.

In Jewish religious tradition, the Laver is associated with both physical and spiritual cleansing. According to rabbinic commentary on the book of Exodus, the Laver symbolizes the need to “wash one’s mind as well as one’s body”. By washing their hands and feet in the Laver, the Israelites purify their bodies of impurities and their minds of distractions, so that they may be better able to approach the presence of God. The symbolism of the Laver is further reinforced in the Book of Leviticus, wherein God commands the Israelites to “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Leviticus 17:10).

The spiritual significance of the Laver is further highlighted in the New Testament, in which the apostle Peter mentions the Laver in his epistles. In his first epistle, Peter writes “We were cleansed from our sins when we were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ… cleansed by the laver of water” (1 Peter 3:20-21), emphasizing the connection between baptism and spiritual cleansing.

Throughout religious history, the Laver has been a source of profound philosophical reflection. Notably, medieval Christian philosopher Thomas Aquinas used the Laver to develop his understanding of the Christian faith and its relationship to one’s internal actions. As Aquinas argued, the rites of washing one’s body and hands symbolically purify one’s soul by cleansing it of any moral impurities it may have acquired. By purifying oneself in the Laver, one can achieve a closer union with God, and lead a more moral life.

Symbolithic Nature of the Laver

Apart from its spiritual significance, the Laver carries a symbolithic meaning. Many Rabbis have understood the Laver to symbolize the image of the nation of Israel, which had to be parted from the rest of the nations of the earth in order to be made holy and pure before God. Just as the Laver enables the Israelites to become purified, it represents the need for the Israelites to be distinct from other nations in order to serve God. Thus, the Laver serves a dual purpose – to both physically cleanse the Israelites, and to symbolically illustrate the concept of holiness that God requires of the Israelites.

In the Christian New Testament, the Laver is further understood in terms of the spiritual rebirth of an individual. Jesus is said to have linked the concept of purification through baptism to the need for an individual to be “born again” (John 3:3), for an individual to be spiritually “cleansed” through a symbolic washing away of sins. The Laver is thus seen as a metaphor for spiritual purification – for washing away past sins and beginning a new life that is focused on service to God.

Service of the Priests at the Laver

The significance of the Laver is further reinforced in the service of the priests at its side. The book of Leviticus describes the actual instructions God gives to Aaron and the priests: “They are to wash their hands and feet so that they will not die” (Leviticus 16:24). The symbolism here is profound – not only is the Laver a source of ritual purification, but it also serves as a reminder that a life devoted to the service of God must be lived with mindfulness and care. The priests’ presence at the Laver also symbolizes their continued devotion to God and their trust in divine judgement.

The presence of the priests at the Laver serves a practical purpose as well. As is stated in the book of Numbers, the priests are positioned around the Laver to ensure that the people are not unduly exposed to the presence of impurity, as this would threaten the sanctity of the temple service. Furthermore, the presence of the priests at the Laver emphasizes the importance of purity and holiness as a necessary part of worship.

Connection with the Christian Faith

Although the Laver has great spiritual significance in the Old Testament, its importance in the New Testament is just as great. In his epistles, Peter clearly links baptism with the act of spiritual purification through the Laver. Additionally, Jesus himself identifies the Laver with spiritual cleansing and rebirth when he says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:6). Thus, Jesus emphasizes the importance of spiritual purification in the Christian faith.

The spiritual significance of the Laver for Christians is not limited to its role in baptism, however. Jesus is also said to have linked the concept of the Laver with moral and ethical behaviour. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus states “‘Wash the inside of cups and dishes, and the outside will become clean as well’” (Matthew 23:26). Here, Jesus is explicitly connecting the internal spiritual state of an individual with the outward observances of righteousness and holiness. In this way, the Laver serves not only as a symbolic means to purify oneself in God’s eyes, but also as an example of the need to stay mindful of one’s behaviour and actions in order to preserve one’s spiritual health.

The Relevance of the Laver Today

For those seeking a deeper understanding of the spiritual significance of the Laver, all of the major religious denominations offer various interpretations of the symbolism of the Laver. From a Christian perspective, for instance, the Laver is understood to be a symbol for spiritual rebirth and the need for moral and ethical living. From a Judaic perspective, the Laver symbolizes the need for the Israelites to remain distinct from other nations and purify themselves in order to serve God faithfully. Hindus and Buddhists, meanwhile, may view the Laver as a symbol of the need to cleanse oneself of all forms of attachment in order to achieve higher spiritual attainment. Regardless of the exact interpretation, the Laver remains a relevant and powerful symbol of spiritual cleansing, and a reminder of the need to stay mindful of one’s actions and behaviour.

Symbolic Representation of the Universe

Finally, the Laver has come to symbolize the structure of the universe itself. Throughout religious history, the concept of a “cosmic ocean” has been used to represent the order of nature. For instance, the ancient Greeks viewed the Milky Way as an earthly ocean in which the gods interacted with each other. Similarly, Hindus view the mythical river Ganga as a holy river that flows from the highest point of the universe to its depths. As such, the Laver has been used as a symbol for the divine complexity of the universe, as well as the need for humans to purify their souls in order to reach it.

The Laver is thus both a source of spiritual cleansing and a metaphor for the complexity of the universe. As such, the Laver serves as an important reminder of the need to create spiritual balance and harmony in one’s life, and to strive towards purification and holiness in order to achieve a closer relationship with God. Though the exact meaning and interpretation of the Laver may differ across religious denominations, its spiritual significance remains clear and profound.


Throughout religious history, the Laver has served as a powerful symbol of spiritual purification and holiness. Not only is it used to cleanse the Israelites of the impurities of their bodies and minds, but it also serves as an example of the need to stay mindful of one’s behaviour and actions in order to lead a life devoted to God. Additionally, the Laver has become a symbol for the divine complexity of the universe and the need for humans to cleanse their souls in order to reach it. As such, the Laver is an enduring reminder of the spiritual importance of purification and the need to strive for holiness in order to come closer to God.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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