The Scriptures do not provide a detailed description of basins used in ancient times, though such vessels were commonly earthenware or were made of wood or metal. Some basins served a domestic purpose, like those that were among the provisions brought to David and the people with him when they fled from Absalom. (2Sa 17:27-29) The Hebrew word saph is used for a basin of this kind. It is also employed for the basin into which the Israelites in Egypt put the blood of the Passover victim (Ex 12:22) and for the temple basins that Nebuchadnezzar took to Babylon. (Jer 52:19) This word may also be rendered “bowl,” and thus Jehovah is represented as saying prophetically: “Here I am making Jerusalem a bowl [saph] causing reeling to all the peoples round about.” (Zec 12:1, 2) The Greek ni·pterʹ is used to refer to the “basin,” or “washbasin,” that Jesus used when he washed the feet of his disciples.—Joh 13:5; compare Int.
Sanctuary Use. Basins were also used for sacred purposes in connection with Jehovah’s worship at the tabernacle and the later temples. As Jehovah instructed Moses, the tabernacle articles included a large basin that was to be filled with water. It was made of copper, rested on a copper stand, and was placed between the tent of meeting and the altar to provide the high priest and the other priests with water for washing their hands and feet either before entering the tent of meeting or before ministering at the altar. (Ex 30:17-21; 31:9; 40:30, 31) This basin, called a laver in some translations (AS; AT; KJ; RS), was made “by the use of the mirrors of the women servants who did organized service at the entrance of the tent of meeting.”—Ex 38:8.
According to the Masoretic text, there is no specific instruction given on the transporting of the tabernacle basin. However, the Greek Septuagint (which agrees with the ancient Samaritan Pentateuch) adds to Numbers 4:14 the words: “And they will take a purple cloth and cover the basin and its stand and put them in a blue skin covering and put [them] upon poles.”
The Hebrew word ki·yohrʹ (or ki·yorʹ), meaning “basin” or “laver,” is used for the tabernacle basin. (Ex 35:16, ftn) It is also used to refer to the ten basins Solomon had made for temple use, in which things having to do with the burnt offering were rinsed.—2Ch 4:6, 14.
Each of the ten copper basins (lavers, AT; RS) Hiram made for temple use could hold “forty bath measures,” or about 880 L (230 gal) of water. If these basins were hemispherical in shape this would mean that they had a diameter of perhaps 1.8 m (6 ft). Of course, if they bulged and tapered somewhat toward the top, the measurements would be different, and it must be observed that the Bible does not provide detailed information on their form, though it says that “each basin was four cubits.” Each basin was placed on a four-wheeled carriage skillfully made with ornamental work and engravings, five being placed on the right and five on the left side of the house.—1Ki 7:27-39.
Another basin of great size was the large ornamented molten sea that stood upon 12 fashioned bulls and was “placed at the right side, to the east, toward the south” of the house. Stored therein was water the priests used. It was circular, 10 cubits (4.5 m; 14.6 ft) from brim to brim and 5 cubits (2.2 m; 7.3 ft) high.—2Ch 4:2-6, 10.
Bowls. As with other vessels mentioned in the Scriptures, bowls were variously made of clay, wood, or metal. The Hebrew term miz·raqʹ denotes a metal vessel evidently used in connection with sacrifices in worship. (Ex 27:3; Nu 4:14; 7:13; 1Ki 7:50; 2Ch 4:8) Among the larger bowls used at meals was the tsal·laʹchath (“banquet bowl”; Pr 26:15) and the seʹphel (“large banquet bowl”; Jg 5:25). Gul·lahʹ is used to denote a “bowl” (Zec 4:2), but it is also rendered “bowl-shaped” and “round” to describe the capitals of the pillars standing before the temple in Solomon’s time. (1Ki 7:41) The two Greek terms for bowls are tryʹbli·on and phi·aʹle. Tryʹbli·on denotes a relatively deep bowl from which a meal was eaten (Mt 26:23), whereas phi·aʹle refers to a “bowl” often used for offering liquid sacrifices.—Re 16:2-17.