Baths

Dear Aron,

I hope and pray you are doing fine.

I will try to keep my comments short (perhaps more will come later, for what they are worth).

In 2 Chronicles 4:5 of the KJV (King James Version), one will see "received and held three thousand baths."

Can you comment on it - such as if you find anything significant in it?

Thank you.

i7sharp

Dear i7sharp,
This verse refers to the basin in Solomon's temple (sometimes called the "Sea"), which the priests were to use for ceremonial washing, before beginning their work on the daily sacrifices and offerings, as commanded in the Torah.

A "bath" was an ancient Hebrew measure of liquids. Unfortunately, we don't know exactly how big it was, but the early biblical commenters put it at around four or eight gallons.  So what I find most significant here is that this is a LOT of water; around ten thousand gallons!  It would have been a very impressive sight.

(Some of the measurements in the Temple may have numerological significance, but I don't see any particularly obvious meaning associated to the the number 3,000.  Also, the parallel passage in 1 Kings 7:26 has 2,000 baths instead; one of those minor discrepencies which maybe indicates that the Hebrew historians weren't quite as concerned with precision of detail as a modern historian might be.)

Spiritually speaking, the items in the Temple all prefigure the work of Christ. Water is used to wash away filth, so the giant basin of water represents the vast mercy of God, big enough to wash away the worst sins.  The fact that the priests had to wash before beginning their duties, shows the necessity of repentance before we can draw near to God.

In the New Covenant, we are reminded of the same symbolic truth by the ritual of Baptism.  However, unlike the priests (who had to wash many times), Christians are baptized only once, in order to show that Christ's sacrifice is more effective than animal sacrifice.  It is capable of causing a permanent cleansing of the human heart, even though of course we do need to continually seek forgiveness regarding day-to-day issues.  As Jesus said, "A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean" (John 13:10).  In the same way, Christians need to repent of the sins that arise from time to time, but we should do so in a way which does not deny the work which God has already done in us.

In the Book of Revelation, items from the Temple reappear in the visions to show that the true temple of God is in Heaven.  In particular, there is a Glassy Sea before the throne (4:6), which is associated with the victory of God's saints (15:2).

So that's what I see in this passage. Y ou can find more commentaries on BibleHub.

About Aron Wall

In 2019, I will be studying quantum gravity and black hole thermodynamics as a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge. Before that, I read Great Books at St. John's College (Santa Fe), got my physics Ph.D. from U Maryland, and did my postdocs at UC Santa Barbara, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Stanford.
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One Response to Baths

  1. Tim says:

    So glad this question didn't come to me! But if it ever does, I'll send the person to your blog. Nicely done. Or, as Dr. John Calhoun often respond: Noted, with interest.

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