Molten Sea

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The Molten Sea or Brazen Sea was a large basin in the Temple in Jerusalem made by Solomon for ablution of the priests. It is described in 1 Kings 7 and 2 Chronicles 4. It stood in the south-eastern corner of the inner court. According to the Bible it was five cubits high, ten cubits in diameter from brim to brim, and thirty cubits in circumference. It was placed on the backs of twelve oxen, standing with their faces outward. It was capable of containing two or three thousand baths of water. Though some think this impossible to unlikely based upon the stated dimensions([1]), the fact that it was a wash basin which was too large to enter from above lends to the idea that water would likely have flowed down into a sub container beneath. (2 Chronicles 4). It was originally supplied by the Gibeonites, but was afterwards brought by a conduit from the pools of Bethlehem. It was made of "brass" (copper), which Solomon had taken from the captured cities of Hadarezer, the king of Zobah (1 Chronicles 18). Ahaz later removed this laver from the oxen, and placed it on a stone pavement (2 Kings 16). It was destroyed by the Chaldeans (2 Kings 25).


In Rabbinical Literature

The basin as contained water sufficient for 150 ritual baths (mikvah). According to the Talmud the laver was not entirely round, as might be inferred from Scripture the upper two-fifths were round; but the lower three were square (Talmud Eruvin 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 Chagigah 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.; Yalḳuṭ, Kings, 185)

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