Bath, Bathing

BATH, BATHING. Bathing in the ordinary, nonreligious sense, whether for physical cleanliness or refreshment, is not often mentioned in the Scriptures. The average Hebrew had neither the water nor the inclination for bathing. In most cases “bathe” means partial washing. Public baths of the Greek type were unknown among the Hebrews until Greek culture invaded Palestine under Antiochus Epiphanes (c. 168 b.c.). The dusty roads of Palestine made frequent washing of the feet necessary, and this was always done when staying at a house (Gen.18.4; Gen.19.2; John.13.10). In the Bible bathing stands chiefly for ritual acts—purification from ceremonial defilement because of contact with the dead, defiled persons or things, or things under the ban. Priests washed their hands and feet before entering the sanctuary or making an offering on the altar (Exod.30.19-Exod.30.21). The high priest bathed on the Day of Atonement before each act of expiation (Lev.16.4, Lev.16.24). In the time of Christ, the Jews washed their hands before eating (Mark.7.3-Mark.7.4). According to Josephus, the Essenes practiced daily bathing for ceremonial reasons.——SB