—Biblical Data:

The brazen laver of the Mosaic ritual; made by Solomon out of bronze captured by David at Tibhath and Chun, cities of Hadarezer (I Chron. xviii. 8). It served the same purpose for the officiating priests of Solomon's Temple as did the layer for those officers at the tabernacle The dimensions of the sea (I Kings vii. 23-26) were as follows: height, 5 cubits; circumference, 30 cubits (consequently it was about 10 cubits in diameter); and a handbreadth in thickness. It was capable of holding 2,000 "baths"; on the smallest calculation, about 17,000 gallons. "Under the brim of it round about there were knops which did compass it, for ten cubits compassing the sea round about; the knops were in two rows, cast when it was cast" (ib. 24). This great brazen vessel was set on the backs of twelve brazen oxen; three of them facing each cardinal point, and all of them facing outward; see illustration, p. 358.

The humiliation of Ahaz before Tiglath-pileser III. and his desecration of the Temple and all sacred things led him to take this sea down from its position on the oxen, and to set it upon a pavement of stone (II Kings xvi. 17). It was finally (II Kings xxv. 13) broken into pieces at the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, and the material was carried to Babylon.

  • Nowack, Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Archäologie, 1894, ii. 42;
  • Benzinger, Arch. 1894, p. 252.
J. Jr. I. M. P.—In Rabbinical Literature:

The layer contained water sufficient for 150 ritual baths ("miḳwaot"), if forty seahs be taken as the legal measureof such bath. The laver was not entirely round, as might be inferred from Scripture (I Kings vii. 23): the upper two-fifths were round; but the lower three were square ('Er. 14a, b). The symbolism of the brazen sea is described in detail in the Midrash Tadshe. The sea represented the world; the ten ells of diameter corresponded to the ten Sefirot; and it was round at the top (according to the Talmud passage above cited) as the heavens are round. The depth of the sea was five ells, corresponding to the distance of five hundred years' journey between heaven and earth (compare Ḥag. 13a). The band of thirty ells around it corresponded to the Ten Commandments, to the ten words of God at the creation of the world, and to the ten Sefirot: for the world can exist only when the Ten Commandments are observed; and the ten Sefirot as well as the ten words of God were the instruments of the Creation. The two rows of colocynths (knops) below the rim were symbolic of the sun and the moon, while the twelve oxen on which the sea rested represented the zodiac ("mazzalot"). It contained 2,000 baths (cubic measures), for the world will sustain him who keeps the Torah, which was created 2,000 years before the world (Midrash Tadshe ii., ed. Epstein, in "Mi-Ḳadmoniyot ha-Yehudim," xvi., xvii.; Yalḳ., Kings, 185).

J. Sr. L. G.
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