Exodus 30:20
When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire to the LORD:
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(20) That they die not.—Comp. Exodus 28:35; Exodus 28:43. It is not altogether easy to see why the death-penalty was threatened against neglect of certain ceremonial observances, and not of others. Ablution, however, was so easy, and probably so long-established a practice, that to omit it would imply intentional disrespect towards God.

30:17-21 A large vessel of brass, holding water, was to be set near the door of the tabernacle. Aaron and his sons must wash their hands and feet at this laver, every time they went in to minister. This was to teach them purity in all their services, and to dread the pollution of sin. They must not only wash and be made clean, when first made priests, but must wash and be kept clean, whenever they went to minister. It teaches us daily to attend upon God, daily to renew our repentance for sin, and our looking to the blood of Christ for remission; for in many things we daily offend.That they die not - See Exodus 28:35 note. 18-21. Thou shalt … make a laver of brass—Though not actually forming a component part of the furniture of the tabernacle, this vase was closely connected with it; and though from standing at the entrance it would be a familiar object, it possessed great interest and importance from the baptismal purposes to which it was applied. No data are given by which its form and size can be ascertained; but it was probably a miniature pattern of Solomon's—a circular basin.

his foot—supposed not to be the pedestal on which it rested, but a trough or shallow receptacle below, into which the water, let out from a cock or spout, flowed; for the way in which all Eastern people wash their hands or feet is by pouring upon them the water which falls into a basin. This laver was provided for the priests alone. But in the Christian dispensation, all believers are priests, and hence the apostle exhorts them how to draw near to God (Joh 13:10; Heb 10:22).

That they die not; for though the fault might seem small, yet the command was evident and easy, and therefore the disobedience was worse, arguing presumption, rebellion, and contempt. And God is more severe in the matters of his worship than in other cases. When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water,.... The laver standing near the door of the tabernacle, they washed at it as soon as they entered; and no man, we are told (c), entered into the court before he washed, even though he was clean; though he had contracted no filthiness, and even though he had washed his hands and feet at home, he was obliged to do it when he went into the tabernacle, before he attempted to perform any service. This intimates to us the necessity as of pure hearts, so of pure hands, in order to compass the altar of God, to attend public worship, and particularly prayer, in which holy hands should be lifted up, 1 Timothy 2:8,

that they die not: sin exposes to death, eternal death; that is the wages of it, and it is only the blood of Christ, and being washed in that, that can secure from it:

or when they come near to the altar to minister; to the altar of burnt offering to minister there, by laying on the wood and the pieces in order, and burning them on it, as follows:

to burn offering made by fire to the Lord; no man was fit for this service, or might be admitted to it, until he was washed; and it was usual among other nations to wash before they entered on religious service (d); even in the East Indies, the priests do not sacrifice to their idols before they wash in water that is about the temple (e); which seems to be a satanical imitation of this practice among the Jews.

(c) Misn. Yoma, c. 3. sect. 3.((d) Vid. Outram de Sacrificiis, l. 1. c. 6. sect. 14. (e) Vartoman. Navigat. l. 5. c. 23.

When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD:
20. that they die not] cf. Exodus 28:35, with the note.Verse 20 - That they die not. Compare Exodus 28:35 and 43. Contempt of the simple and easy regulation to wash at the laver would imply contempt of purity itself; and so an entire hypocrisy of life and character, than which nothing could be a greater offence to God. "When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel according to them that are numbered, they shall give every one an expiation for his soul to the Lord at their numbering, that a plague may not strike them (happen to them) at their numbering." פּקד, lit., adspexit, then inspexit explorandi causa, hence to review, or number an army or a nation, for the purpose of enrolling for military service. לפקדיהם with reference to the numbered, qui in censum veniunt. כּפר (expiation, expiation-money, from כּפּר to expiate) is to be traced to the idea that the object for which expiation was made was thereby withdrawn from the view of the person to be won or reconciled. It is applied in two ways: (1) on the supposition that the face of the person to be won was covered by the gift (Genesis 32:21; 1 Samuel 12:3); and (2) on the supposition that the guilt itself was covered up (Psalm 32:1), or wiped away (Jeremiah 18:23), so far as the eye of God was concerned, as though it had no longer any existence, and that the sinful man was protected from the punishment of the judge in consequence of this covering. In this way כּפר has acquired the meaning λύτρον, a payment by which the guilty are redeemed (Exodus 21:30; Numbers 35:31); and this is the meaning which it has in the passage before us, where the soul is said to be protected by the copher, so as to be able to come without danger into the presence of the holy God (Numbers 8:19. See Oehler in Herzog's Cycl.). Such an approach to God took place at the numbering of the people for the purpose of enrolling them in the army of Jehovah (Numbers 1:3, cf. Exodus 7:4; Exodus 12:41). Hence "every one who passed over to those that were numbered," who was enrolled among them, i.e., in the army of Jehovah, - that is to say, every male Israelite of 20 years old and upwards (Exodus 30:14), - was to pay half a shekel of the sanctuary as atonement-money; the rich no more, the poor no less (Exodus 30:15), because all were equal in the sight of Jehovah; and this payment was to be a "heave" (terumah, see Exodus 25:2) for Jehovah for the expiation of the souls. The shekel of the sanctuary, which contained 20 gerahs, was no doubt the original shekel of full weight, as distinguished from the lighter shekel which was current in ordinary use. In Exodus 38:26 the half shekel is called בּקע, lit., the split, i.e., half, from בּקע to split; and we find it mentioned as early as the time of the patriarchs as a weight in common use for valuing gold (Genesis 24:22), so that, no doubt, even at that time there were distinct silver pieces of this weight, which were probably called shekels when employed for purposes of trade, since the word shekel itself does not denote any particular weight, as we may perceive at once form a comparison of 1 Kings 10:17 and 2 Chronicles 9:16, at least so far as later times are concerned. The sacred shekel, to judge from the weight of Maccabean shekels, which are in existence still, and vary from 256 to 272 Parisian grains, weighed 274 grains, and therefore, according to present valuation, would be worth 26 groschen (about 2 Samuel 7d.), so that the half-shekel of bekah would be 13 groschen (1 Samuel 3 1/2d.).
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