Exodus 38:8
And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the mirrors of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) He made the laver of brass.—Comp. Exodus 30:18-21, where the laver is commanded, and the uses whereto it was to be applied are laid down. By “brass” we must understand “bronze” in this place, as in others.

Of the lookingglasses.—Rather, mirrors. The mirrors used in ancient times were not of glass, but of burnished metal. Bronze was the metal ordinarily employed for the purpose, and was in common use in Egypt, where mirrors were bronze plates, round or oval, with a handle, like our fire-screens. The Etruscan women employed similar articles in their toilets, and had them often delicately chased with engravings.

Of the women assembling.—It would seem that these women—the women wont to frequent the “tent of meeting” which Moses had recently set up (Exodus 33:7), and to flock thither in troops—offered voluntarily for the service of God the mirrors, which were among the most highly prized of their possessions. Moses, to mark his approval of their devotion, formed their offerings into the most honourable of all the brazen vessels, and recorded the fact to the women’s credit.

Exodus 38:8. He made the laver of brass — The brass font for the priests to wash in before service, Exodus 30:18. This laver signified the provision that is made in the gospel for cleansing our souls from the pollution of sin by the atoning blood of Christ and the regenerating Spirit of God, that we may be fit to serve God in holy duties. That is here said to be made of the looking-glasses, (or mirrors rather, for they were not glasses,) of the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle — Mirrors, before the invention of glass, were made of polished brass. Pliny says those of brass and tin mixed together were esteemed the best, before those of silver came to be in use. These here mentioned, no doubt, were of the finest kind of brass, and the women who gave them seem to have been eminent for devotion, attending more constantly than others at the place of public worship, which, is here taken notice of to their honour. In the laver these mirrors were either artfully joined together, or else molten down and cast anew; but it is probable the laver was so brightly burnished that the sides of it still served for mirrors, that the priests, when they came to wash, might there see their faces, and so discover the spots to wash them clean.38:1-8 In all ages of the church there have been some persons more devoted to God, more constant in their attendance upon his ordinances, and more willing to part even with lawful things, for his sake, than others. Some women, devoted to God and zealous for the tabernacle worship, expressed zeal by parting with their mirrors, which were polished plates of brass. Before the invention of looking-glasses, these served the same purposes.See the marginal reference. The women who assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting were most probably devout women who loved the public service of religion. The giving up of their mirrors for the use of the sanctuary was a fit sacrifice for such women to make (compare Exodus 35:22 note). 8. laver of brass … of the looking glasses of the women—The word mirrors should have been used, as those implements, usually round, inserted into a handle of wood, stone, or metal, were made of brass, silver, or bronze, highly polished [Wilkinson]. It was customary for the Egyptian women to carry mirrors with them to the temples; and whether by taking the looking glasses of the Hebrew women Moses designed to put it out of their power to follow a similar practice at the tabernacle, or whether the supply of brass from other sources in the camp was exhausted, it is interesting to learn how zealously and to a vast extent they surrendered those valued accompaniments of the female toilet.

of the women assembling … at the door—not priestesses but women of pious character and influence, who frequented the courts of the sacred building (Lu 2:37), and whose parting with their mirrors, like the cutting the hair of the Nazarites, was their renouncing the world for a season [Hengstenberg].

Looking-glasses, as now they are sometimes made of polished steel, so anciently were made of polished brass, as appears both from sacred and from profane writers. See Job 37:18 Philippians 3:9, &c. The words following seem to note a company of religious women, who in a more peculiar manner devoted themselves to the service of God in or about his tabernacle, by fasting, prayer, &c. See 1 Samuel 2:22 Luke 2:37. And whereas some object that the tabernacle was not yet built, it may be replied, either that this is to be understood of the tabernacle spoken of Exodus 33:7, which might serve for that purpose till this was built; or that here is a prolepsis or anticipation, and that he speaks not of what the women now did, but of what they did after the tabernacle was built, which was before Moses writ these words. And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass,.... Not of the brass of the offering, for of that were made the brazen altar, its grate and vessels, the sockets of the court and court gate, and the pins of the tabernacle, Exodus 38:29 but no mention is made there of the laver; for that was made, as here said:

of the looking glasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation; though these are called looking glasses, it is not to be supposed that they were made of glass as ours are; for of what use could such be in the making of a brazen laver? Some indeed choose to read the words "with the looking glasses" (d), and take the sense to be, that there were looking glasses about the laver, affixed to it, that when the priests came to wash, they might see their spots, and the better know how to cleanse themselves from them: but it should be observed, that the priests did not come hither to wash their faces, but their hands and feet, Exodus 30:19 and so stood in no need of looking glasses for that purpose. The particle is here, as Aben Ezra observes, instead of and denotes the matter of which the laver was made, and therefore these instruments to behold the face in, or those mirrors, were of brass, as both he and Philo the Jew (e) affirm; and, indeed, what else could they be, for a laver of brass to be made of? mirrors in former times were made of various sorts of metal polished, some of gold, some of silver, some of brass, and some of brass and tin (f); and the Indians to this day have mirrors made of brass, well polished, and exactly represent the complexion (g). Pliny says (h), that those of Brundusium, which were made of brass and tin mixed, were with the ancient Romans reckoned the best. Aristotle (i) speaks of mirrors of brass, and of their receiving and showing the least touch, because the brass is smooth and polished; and so in our times, there are such as are made of polished steel, and even of burnished brass too: De la Hay (k) says that he had one in his study, which was given him, made of brass of Damascus, and was so finely polished that no crystal one could give a truer sight of the face than that; however, it is certain the ancients used such kind of mirrors; see Job 37:18 these the good women of Israel, in their great zeal, brought for the service of the sanctuary, though they were of daily use, and peculiarly serviceable to them in their dressing; for though the word "women" is not in the text, it is rightly supplied, as it is in all the three Targums, the word being feminine, and as may be justified by a parallel passage, 1 Samuel 2:22 indeed Varenius (l) proposes another, rendering the words thus,"of the looking glasses in great number gathered together, which they had heaped together at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation;''but the word used is active and not passive, and is used of persons gathering together, and not of things gathered, as appears from the above quoted place, and others; and these women gathered together, not for devotion and religion, to pray, as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan paraphrase it, or to pray, and hear the words of the law, as Aben Ezra, much less to bear any part in the ministry and service of the sanctuary, which as yet was not built; for this tabernacle of the congregation was no other than the tent of Moses, or, however, some little tabernacle erected while the other was preparing, see Exodus 33:7 hither the women crowded with their mirrors of brass for the service of the sanctuary; for the word signifies an assembling in troops like an army; and they came in great numbers and beset the door of the tent where Moses was, that he might take their offerings at their hands; not but that it will be allowed that devout women sometimes did assemble at the tabernacle and temple, to perform acts of religion and devotion; but this seems not to be the case here, nor this a time and place for it; see 1 Samuel 2:22.

(d) "cum speculis", Oleaster. (e) De Vita Mosis, l. 3. p. 673. (f) Vid. Doughtei Analecta Sacr. excurs. 44. p. 124. (g) Agreement of Customs between the East Indians and Jews, art. 15. p. 65. (h) Nat. Hist. l. 33. c. 9. & l. 34. c. 17. (i) De Insomniis, c. 2.((k) Apud Habikhorst. de mulier. Zobheoth in Thesaur. Theolog. Philolog. vol. 1. p. 321. (l) Apud ib. p. 318.

And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the {b} lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

(b) R. Kimbi says that the women brought their looking glasses, which were of brass or fine metal, and offered them freely for the use of the tabernacle: which was a bright thing and of great majesty.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. The Bronze Laver (Exodus 30:18-21). V. 8a as Exodus 30:18 a; v. 8b is new. Exodus 30:18 b–21 is not repeated here (see Exodus 40:30-32).

8b. the serving women which served] The expression is peculiar, the word used (צבא) being (both times) not the ordinary Heb. for ‘serve,’ but the word which means properly and regularly to serve in a host, to war or fight. The same word is used by P of the service of the Levites in (particularly) the transport of the Tabernacle and its appurtenances (Numbers 4:1-33), Numbers 4:23 (RVm.) ‘Heb. to war the warfare’; cf. the cognate subst. warfare (EVV. ‘service’), vv. 3 (see RVm.), 35, 39, 43, Exodus 8:24-25 (see RVm.). Either, it seems, the Levites in Nu., and the women here, are pictured as performing their duties in organized bands, like soldiers in an army (cf. Ges. Thes., Di.), or (Gray, Numbers, pp. 32, 36) the word is one of those which in postexilic times, when the nation had become a church, acquired a religious connotation. The women were no doubt thought of as washing, cleaning, repairing, &c. Women ‘doing “warfare” at the entrance to the tent of meeting’ are also mentioned in 1 Samuel 2:22 b: but the passage is not expressed in the LXX., besides differing in representation from the context (the sanctuary a ‘tent,’ not a hêkâl, or ‘temple’); and is beyond question a late gloss. LXX. render νηστεύσασαι, ‘fasting,’ either paraphrasing, or misreading צבאת as צמות (‘fasting’). Onk. has who prayed. For other haggadic interpretations, see reff. in DI. The clause (8b) must (Di. al.) be a later addition to the original narrative; for it obviously presupposes the erection of the Tent of Meeting, which is not narrated till ch. 40.

The metal mirrors are to be thought of as the terûmâh, or ‘contribution,’ of the women; and the laver and its base, cast from them, as a ‘memorial’ of the gift. Comp. the explanation of the metal casing of the altar in Numbers 16:37-40.Verse 8. - Of the looking-glasses of the women. This interesting fact has not been previously mentioned. Bronze plates, circular or oval, admitting of a high polish, were used by the Egyptian women as mirrors from a very early date, and may be seen in the Egyptian collection of the British Museum. They have handles like those of our fire-screens, generally also of bronze. It was natural that the Hebrew women should possess similar articles, and should have taken care to bring them with them out of Egypt. The sacrifice of them for a sacred purpose is rather to be ascribed to their own serf-denying piety than to any command issued by Moses (Spencer). Which assembled. Literally, "who came by troops." Women assembled themselves by troops at the entrance of the "tent of meeting" set up lay. Moses (Exodus 33:7), as at a later date we find Hannah (1 Samuel 1:9-12) and other women who were less worthy (1 Samuel 2:22) doing. The women who showed this zeal were those that made the sacrifice of their mirrors for God's service. There is no reason to suppose (with Hengstenberg and others) that they constituted a regular "order." Preparation of the vessels of the dwelling: viz., the ark of the covenant (Exodus 37:1-9, as in Exodus 25:10-22); the table of shew-bread and its vessels (Exodus 37:10-16, as in Exodus 25:23-30); the candlestick (Exodus 37:17-24, as in Exodus 25:31-40); the altar of incense (Exodus 37:25-28, as in Exodus 30:1-10); the anointing oil and incense (Exodus 37:29), directions for the preparation of which are given in Exodus 30:22-38; the altar of burnt-offering (Exodus 38:1-7, as in Exodus 27:1-8); the laver (Exodus 37:8, as in Exodus 30:17-21); and the court (Exodus 37:9-20, as in Exodus 27:9-19). The order corresponds on the whole to the list of the separate articles in Exodus 35:11-19, and to the construction of the entire sanctuary; but the holy chest (the ark), as being the most holy thing of all, is distinguished above all the rest, by being expressly mentioned as the work of Bezaleel, the chief architect of the whole.
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