1 Kings 7:26
And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was worked like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies: it contained two thousand baths.
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7:13-47 The two brazen pillars in the porch of the temple, some think, were to teach those that came to worship, to depend upon God only, for strength and establishment in all their religious exercises. Jachin, God will fix this roving mind. It is good that the heart be established with grace. Boaz, In him is our strength, who works in us both to will and to do. Spiritual strength and stability are found at the door of God's temple, where we must wait for the gifts of grace, in use of the means of grace. Spiritual priests and spiritual sacrifices must be washed in the laver of Christ's blood, and of regeneration. We must wash often, for we daily contract pollution. There are full means provided for our cleansing; so that if we have our lot for ever among the unclean it will be our own fault. Let us bless God for the fountain opened by the sacrifice of Christ for sin and for uncleanness.The palm or hand-breadth seems to have a little exceeded three inches.

With flowers of lilies - Rather, "in the shape of a lily flower." The rim was slightly curved outward, like the rim of an ordinary drinking-cup, or the edge of a lily blossom. See 2 Chronicles 4:5 margin.

23-26. he made a molten sea—In the tabernacle was no such vessel; the laver served the double purpose of washing the hands and feet of the priests as well as the parts of the sacrifices. But in the temple there were separate vessels provided for these offices. (See on [297]2Ch 4:6). The molten sea was an immense semicircular vase, measuring seventeen and a half feet in diameter, and being eight and three-fourths feet in depth. This, at three and a half inches in thickness, could not weigh less than from twenty-five to thirty tons in one solid casting—and held from sixteen thousand to twenty thousand gallons of water. [See on [298]2Ch 4:3.] The brim was all carved with lily work or flowers; and oxen were carved or cut on the outside all round, to the number of three hundred; and it stood on a pedestal of twelve oxen. These oxen must have been of considerable size, like the Assyrian bulls, so that their corresponding legs would give thickness or strength to support so great a weight for, when the vessel was filled with water, the whole weight would be about one hundred tons [Napier]. (See on [299]2Ch 4:3). Which amounts to five hundred barrels, each bath containing about eight gallons; the bath being a measure of the same bigness with an ephah, Ezekiel 45:11.

Object. This sea is said to contain three thousand baths, 2 Chronicles 4:5.

Answ. Either there were two sorts of baths, as of cubits, the one common, the other sacred, and the sacred held half as much more as the common; or rather, he here speaks of what it did actually and usually contain, to wit, two thousand baths, which was sufficient for use; and in 2 Chronicles 4:5, he speaks of what it could contain if it were filled to the brim, as it is implied in the Hebrew words, which differ from these, and properly sound thus, strengthening itself, (to wit, to receive and hold as much as it could, or being filled to its utmost capacity,) it contained, or could contain, three thousand baths. And it was an hand breadth thick,.... Or four fingers, as in Jeremiah 52:21.

and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup,

with flowers of lilies, embroidered and engraven on it for ornament sake:

it contained 2,000 baths; which is reckoned about five hundred barrels of water; it was filled by the Gibeonites; in 2 Chronicles 4:5, it is said to receive and hold 3,000 baths, which the Jewish writers (s) thus reconcile; they suppose here it means so many baths of liquid, as the Targum expresses, there of dry measure, which might be heaped up, and so contain more; but as this was a vessel for water, and this distinction seems to answer no purpose, it may be better to observe, that in common, for the use of the priests, whether for washing their hands and feet, or dipping their bodies, it had no more than 2,000 baths in it, but, if filled up to the brim, it would hold 3,000. How a vessel of such dimensions should hold so much is difficult to account for; the Rabbins say (t), that in the two upper cubits of it it was circular, and in the three lower cubits square, by which they imagine it would hold more, and the position of it on the oxen seems to countenance this; but very probably it was wider, and bellied out in the lower part of it, and so more capacious; but of the contents of this, according to mathematical rules, see a treatise of Bishop Cumberland's (u). It is said (w) of a temple of Neptune's, in the fore part of it were two signs of him, and another of Amphitrite, and that was a brasen sea. This brasen sea of Solomon was typical of Christ, the fountain opened to wash in for uncleanness, by all that are made priests unto God; and this being larger than the laver in the tabernacle, may denote the greater efficacy of Christ's blood than in anything in the law of Moses to cleanse from sin; and the larger provision made for it, not only for Israel, but for all the people of God in the several nations of the world, in the four quarters of it; being published, and proclaimed, and directed to by the twelve apostles of Christ, and by all Gospel ministers since, signified by oxen for their laboriousness and strength. In the second temple there were no sea, nor bases, after mentioned, nor lavers, but one, which stood between the porch and the altar, which was for the priests to wash their hands and feet at (x).

(s) Shilte Hagibborim, c. 27. fol. 23. 4. (t) T. Bab. Eruvin, fol. 14. 2.((u) Of Scripture Weights and Measures, c. 3. p. 93, &c. (w) Pausaniae Corinthiaca, sive, l. 2. p. 87. (x) Shilte Hagibborim, c. 27. fol. 24. 2.

And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies: it contained two thousand {p} baths.

(p) Bath and ephah seem to be one measure, Eze 45:11 a bath contains about 5 gallons.

26. an handbreadth thick] i.e. The metal of which it was made.

with flowers of lilies] Rather (as R.V.) ‘like the flower of lily.’ This is to indicate that the brim bent outward and not that lily-flowers were all round it.

it contained two thousand baths] In 2 Chronicles 4:5 it is said ‘three thousand baths.’ Perhaps the smaller quantity was about what was usually kept in supply, the larger what it could contain if it were quite full.

The ‘bath’ was the largest Hebrew liquid measure, but it is not easy to discover what its size was. According to Josephus it held rather more than 8 gallons. Other data make it about half that size. A vessel that could contain 16,000 gallons must have been very enormous to be made in one casting. And the dimensions given, viz. a diameter of 10 cubits by a depth of 5 cubits if the cubit = 18 inches would not hold so much, unless the sides were bowed outward very considerably so as to make the diameter much greater in the inside than at the top. But the description of Josephus makes it to be hemispherical, so that the diameter would be largest at the top. A vessel of this shape however could not be made to rest on the backs of twelve oxen without a good deal of contrivance, while with a cylindrical vessel there is no difficulty. Now a cylinder of the dimensions given in 1 Kings 7:23, taking the cubit = 18 inches, would contain nearly 8260 gallons. It seems therefore that the Hebrew ‘bath’ should be taken as a measure of rather more than 4 gallons. The figures which Josephus gives are so frequently exaggerated, very often doubled, that it need not trouble us if they appear so in this case. The difference between Chronicles and Kings above mentioned may be due to the misreading of a letter in the Hebrew form of notation.Verse 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]: it 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" (Dict. Bib. 3. p. 1741). 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, 21). The priests (after Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15, etc.) ministered barefoot. It was, according to Rabbinical tradition, provided with taps or faucets (Bahr). 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 Bahr el Khebir, still existing underneath the Haram area, at a time when very few Europeans had seen it (see Pal. Explor. Fund, No. 7; Barclay, "City of the Great King;" Porter, Handbook, 1. pp. 134, 138). 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" ("Our Work in Palestine," p. 103). Tacitus mentions the fens perennis aquae and the piscinae cisternaeque servandis imbribus. In 1 Kings 7:19 and 1 Kings 7:20 a second decoration of the capitals of the pillars is mentioned, from which we may see that the rounding with the chain-like plaited work and the pomegranates enclosing it did not cover the capital to the very top, but only the lower portion of it. The decoration of the upper part is described in 1 Kings 7:19 : "And capitals, which were upon the top of the pillars, were (or, Hiram made) lily-work after the manner of the hall, four cubits." The lily-work occupied, according to 1 Kings 7:20, the upper portion of the capitals, which is here called כּתרת, as a crown set upon the lower portion. It was lily-work, i.e., sculpture in the form of flowering lilies. The words אמּות ארבּע בּאוּלם are obscure. According to Bttcher and Thenius, בּאוּלם is intended to indicate the position of the pillars within the hall, so that their capitals sustained the lintel of the doorway. But even if בּאוּלם were rendered, within the hall, as it is by Bttcher, it is impossible to see how this meaning could be obtained from the words "capitals upon the head of the pillars lily-work within the hall." In that case we must at least have "the pillars within the hall;" and בּאוּלם would be connected with העמּוּדים, instead of being separated from it by שׁוּשׁן מעשׂה. Even if we were to introduce a stop after שׁוּשׁן and take בּאוּלם by itself, the expression "in (or at) the hall" would not in itself indicate the position of the pillars in the doorway, to say nothing of the fact that it is only in 1 Kings 7:21 that anything is said concerning the position of the pillars. Again, the measurement "four cubits" cannot be understood, as it is by Thenius, as denoting the diameter of the capitals of the pillars; it must rather indicate the measure of the lily-work, that is to say, it affirms that there were four cubits of lily-work on the capitals, which were five cubits high, - in other words, the lily-work covered the four upper cubits of the capitals; from which it still further follows, that the plaited work which formed the decoration of the lower portion of the capitals was only one cubit broad or high. Consequently בּאוּלם cannot be understood in any other sense than "in the manner of or according to the hall," and can only express the thought, that there was lily-work on the capitals of the pillars as there was on the hall. For the vindication of this use of בּ see Ges. Lex. by Dietrich, s.v. בּ.

(Note: This is the way in which the earlier translators appear to have understood it: e.g., lxx ἕργον κρίνου κατὰ τὸ αὐλὰμ τεσσάρων πηχῶν ("lily-work according to the hall four cubits"); Vulg. Capitella... quasi opere lilii fabricata erant in porticu quatuor cubitorum; Chald. ארבע אמּין עובד שׁושׁנתא לקיט בוּלמּא (opus liliaceum collectum in porticu quatuor cubitorum); Syr. opus liliaceum idem fecit (Syr. wa-(ekad ke)set[a4wa4)) in porticu quatuor cubitis. These readings appear to be based upon the view supported by Rashi (בּאוּלם for כּאוּלם): lily-work as it was in the hall.)

There is no valid objection to the inference to which this leads, namely, that on the frontispiece of the temple-hall there was a decoration of lily-work. For since the construction of the hall is not more minutely described, we cannot expect a description of its decorations. - In 1 Kings 7:20 a more precise account is given of the position in which the crowns consisting of lily-work were placed on the capitals of this columns, so that this verse is to be regarded as an explanation of 1 Kings 7:19 : namely, capitals upon the pillars (did he make) also above near the belly, which was on the other side of the plait-work." הבּטן, the belly, i.e., the belly-shaped rounding, can only be the rounding of the lower portion of the capitals, which is called גּלה in 1 Kings 7:41, 1 Kings 7:42. Hence השּׂבכה לעבר (Keri), "on the other side of the plaited work," can only mean behind or under the plait, since we cannot suppose that there was a belly-shaped rounding above the caldron-shaped rounding which was covered with plaited work, and between this and the lily-work. The belly-shaped rounding, above or upon which the plaited work lay round about, might, when looked at from without, be described as being on the other side of it, i.e., behind it. In the second half of the verse: "and the pomegranates two hundred in rows round about on the second capital," the number of the pomegranates placed upon the capitals, which was omitted in 1 Kings 7:18, is introduced in a supplementary form.

(Note: Hermann Weiss (Kostmkunde, i. p. 367) agrees in the main with the idea worked out in the text; but he assumes, on the ground of monumental views, that the decoration was of a much simpler kind, and one by no means out of harmony with the well-known monumental remains of the East. In his opinion, the pillars consisted of "a shaft nineteen cubits in height, surrounded at the top, exactly after the fashion of the ornamentation of the Egyptian pillars, with seven bands decorated like plaited work, which unitedly covered a cubit, in addition to which there was the lily-work of five cubits in height, i.e., a slender capital rising up in the form of the calyx of a lily, ornamented with pomegranates." Our reasons for dissenting from this opinion are given in the exposition of the different verses.)

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