by Tony Badillo  

We continue our journey with the Israelites. After departing from Egypt (see Secrets of Passover: Separating Flesh and Spirit) they pass through the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds) where the Egyptian army drowns.

The Bronze Sea is the Red Sea

The waters of the Red Sea symbolize the Divine spirit – something the Israelites did not receive, except for a few, such as Moses and others. And just as Noah’s flood drowned a wicked world, so the Red Sea eliminated the Egyptian army. Both events portray Divine judgment against evil. Therefore, when Solomon built the Temple he set up a huge bronze basin supported by twelve bulls – one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel – to commemorate this immense and miraculous event.

Origins of the Bronze Sea Concept

Was Solomon’s Bronze Sea idea derived from the Mosaic books, the Torah?
Yes. But he may have borrowed something from pagan Babylon, or at least this seems likely.

Moses set up a bronze laver that was succeeded by Solomon’s huge Sea of Bronze. No dimensions are given for the laver but it was small, light, and portable. Its Hebrew designation kiyor refers to a round, bowl-shaped object. The Torah says it was used for the priests to wash their hands and feet, Exodus 30:17 -21; 40:30-32, had a base or ‘foot,’ Exodus 30:28; was made from the bronze-plate mirrors of women, Exodus 38:8; was posted between the Tabernacle and the Altar, Exodus 40:7; and was anointed and consecrated in the same way as the Altar, Exodus 40:11.

It was posted slightly to the right, as if one were exiting the Tabernacle (this is deduced  from  the location of Solomon’s Bronze Sea which came later). When the Laver was finished its waters were used to give Aaron and his sons a bath for ordination, Exodus 40:12-15; and after this they had only to wash their hands and feet in it each time they entered the Tabernacle, ‘lest they die,’ 30:20. The priests officiated barefooted (because they were portraying spiritually reborn persons). These are the most important biblical facts about the laver. They are mentioned here because the Temple inherited the Tabernacle’s priesthood system and its regulations, meaning that at least some or most regulations applied to both holy structures, and also Laver and Bronze Sea.

The Bronze Sea and the Babylonian Apsu

Bible scholars suspect that the Bronze Sea had some sort of symbolic value because of its enormous  size – too large for the mere washing of the priests’ hands and feet, II Chron. 4:6. Otherwise they seem mystified by it. Others compare it to the Babylonian Apsu,the primordial Deep, “the begetter of all,” while suggesting its twelve oxen were fertility bulls, or that the bulls signify the twelve signs of the zodiac. The true symbolism of Solomon’s Sea escapes these otherwise erudite men. Remarkably, though, it does have some relation to the Apsu, but not  quite the way they imagine.

As has been explained, the Bronze Sea commemorates the Red Sea crossing that drowned the Egyptian army, a symbol of sin and the Evil Inclination. But the Sea itself depicts the spirit of God which, when joined to the human spirit (soul) initiates a life-long process of restraining the Evil Inclination. Yet there’s more: The water in the Sea also symbolizes God’s seed * and, therefore, when the Divine spirit-seed is joined to the human spirit, a new person is created, spiritually speaking. While the blood of the korban chatat (offerings for sin) separates one from sin’s penalty, the Divine spirit-seed, in conjunction  with one’s own efforts, gradually begins redeeming the human spirit from the grip of sin that works through the Evil Inclination. So in this sense the Sea relates to the “begetting” or birthing of a new, spirit-led people – shades of Apsu ! To emphasize: This symbolizes a rebirth through the Divine spirit, the Divine seed, and results in a renewal of the mind and heart, Ezekiel 36:25,26,27.

Mirrors and the Four Directions

Only two final points need explaining. According Exodus 38:8, Moses’ small laver was made from the ‘mirrors’ (of polished metal, not glass) of women, their reflective quality relating to the water inside the laver, and the water itself symbolizing the Divine spirit as a mirror for exposing spiritual blind spots by illumining dark areas of the heart and mind, Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 11:19; 36:25 - 27.

Second point: The twelve bulls supporting Solomon’s Sea were posted according to the four directions of the world: three pointing north, three south, three west and three east, I Kings 7:25. This agrees with how the tribes were arranged under Moses: Judah and two others toward the “rising of the sun,” i.e., east; Reuben and two others to the south, Ephraim and two others west; and Dan and two others north (Numbers 2:3, 10, 18, 25). But Levi with the tabernacle was posted in the middle (blue square), v. 17, because it was the priest tribe and normally not counted among the others. This arrangement forms a square of 12 tribes symbolizing the four compass directions (red squares) but moving in one direction (pink arrow). Solomon’s 12 bulls also pointed in the four directions, implying that some worldwide mission was involved that the 12 tribes were intended to achieve (see also Genesis 28:14). When the mobile tabernacle was put away, the tribe of Levi assumed charge of the Temple.

The Ten Wheeled Lavers as Ten Fingers

Solomon’s artisans also constructed ten bronze wheeled lavers, symbolizing the ten fingers of the hands, I Kings 7:27-39; II Chronicles 4:6. Since the Temple was in the hidden form of a man, these correspond to the ten fingers of Jacob, King Messiah, and the Levite High Priest. But since the Temple is identified as the “house of God” in the Tanach, they also relate to his fingers, even if  this should be a figure of speech. For example, the Egyptians exclaimed of the ten plagues, “This is the finger of God!” in Exodus 8:15, (EV 8:19); and Moses tells us that the stone tablets of the Covenant were written with “God’s own finger,” Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10. Therefore at right is my version of what these bronze wheeled lavers may have looked like. According to the biblical description they had lions, oxen and cherubim on their four panels. The cherubim would be on the panels not shown. The carts were four cubits wide and long, I Kings 7:27, but with a height of three cubits. The water lavers themselves were possibly removable and likely mounted on top. And although the lavers had wheels, they were not meant to be moved about from place to place. Once installed on the right and left sides of the Temple (1 Kings 7:39)  – but  toward its front – there would be no need to move them anymore; and in this particular position they clearly form the hands and fingers of Temple Man as High Priest. Moreover, this was the most practical position because they were solely for washing off blood from the offerings, II Chronicles 4:6, meaning that they had to be posted close to the slaughtering tables and Bronze Altar where the such offerings were made daily and where the priests officiated.

Lastly, since the bronze lavers are the hands, the water in them symbolizes the Divine spirit. Compare First Chronicles 28:12 with v.19. In v.12 David says he received Temple plans by the Lord’s spirit, but in v. 19, by the Lord’s hand. In this case, inspiration by the Divine spirit counts as the work of his hands.

* The seed of God has its counterpart in man’s seed. Just as a man produces a son or daughter who is in his likeness inwardly and/or outwardly, so God renews his qualities within each person infused with his spirit; and these are in opposition to those of sin and its inclinations. This is the key secret of Bronze Sea.