The Hebrew word ra·chatsʹ is rendered either “bathe” or “wash” and applies to the human body and other objects that are cleansed by dipping or by having water poured over them. (Le 16:24; Ge 24:32) However, to describe the washing of clothes when they are pounded under water, Bible writers used the Hebrew word ka·vasʹ, related to the Arabic kabasa (knead; stamp) and the Akkadian kabasu (tread down). We, therefore, read in Leviticus 14:8: “And the one cleansing himself must wash [a form of ka·vasʹ] his garments and shave off all his hair and bathe [wera·chatsʹ] in water and must be clean.”—See also Le 15:5-27; Nu 19:19.
The Greek word for “bath” is lou·tronʹ.—Tit 3:5.
Physical cleanliness is required of those who worship Jehovah in holiness and purity. This was demonstrated in connection with the tabernacle arrangement and the later temple service. At their installation, High Priest Aaron and his sons bathed before donning the official garments. (Ex 29:4-9; 40:12-15; Le 8:6, 7) To wash their hands and feet, the priests used water from the copper basin in the courtyard of the tabernacle and, later, from the huge molten sea at Solomon’s temple. (Ex 30:18-21; 40:30-32; 2Ch 4:2-6) On the Day of Atonement the high priest bathed twice. (Le 16:4, 23, 24) Those who took the goat for Azazel, the remains of the animal sacrifices, and the sacrificial red cow outside the camp had to bathe their flesh and wash their garments before reentering the camp.—Le 16:26-28; Nu 19:2-10.
Ceremonial bathing on the part of the Israelites in general was required for various reasons. Anyone who recovered from leprosy, anyone who contacted things touched by those with “a running discharge,” a man who had an emission of semen, a woman after menstruation or hemorrhaging, or anyone having sexual intercourse was “unclean” and had to bathe. (Le 14:8, 9; 15:4-27) One in a tent with, or touching, a human corpse was “unclean” and had to be purified with cleansing water. If anyone refused to comply with this regulation, he “must be cut off from the midst of the congregation, because it is Jehovah’s sanctuary that he has defiled.” (Nu 19:20) Appropriately, then, washing is used figuratively to denote a clean standing before Jehovah. (Ps 26:6; 73:13; Isa 1:16; Eze 16:9) Bathing with Jehovah’s word of truth, symbolized by water, has power to cleanse.—Eph 5:26.
Passing references in the Bible are made to individuals bathing: Pharaoh’s daughter in the Nile (Ex 2:5); Ruth before presenting herself to Boaz (Ru 3:3); Bath-sheba unwittingly in the sight of David (2Sa 11:2, 3); David before prostrating himself in the house of Jehovah (2Sa 12:20); prostitutes at a pool in Samaria (1Ki 22:38). Leprous Naaman, at Elisha’s command, ‘Bathe and be clean,’ did so seven times in the Jordan River. (2Ki 5:9-14) It was a custom to bathe newborn babes and also to bathe the bodies of the dead before burial.—Eze 16:4; Ac 9:37.
In the hot climate of the Middle East where people walked dusty roads in open sandals, it was a mark of hospitality and kindness to provide for washing the feet of one’s guests. Abraham extended this kindness to angels (Ge 18:1-4); other examples included Lot, Laban, and Abigail. (Ge 19:1, 2; 24:29-32; 1Sa 25:41; Lu 7:38, 44; 1Ti 5:10) Jesus also washed the feet of his disciples.—Joh 13:5-17; see WASHING OF FEET.