Clarke's Bible Commentary - Exodus 38:8 Verse 8. He made the laver] See note on "chap. xxx. 18, &c.
The looking-glasses] The word tarm maroth, from har raah, he saw, signifies reflectors or mirrors of any kind. Here metal, highly polished, must certainly be meant, as glass was not yet in use; and had it even been in use, we are sure that looking - GLASSES could not make a BRAZEN laver. The word therefore should be rendered mirrors, not looking-glasses, which in the above verse is perfectly absurd, because from those maroth the brazen laver was made. The first mirrors known among men were the clear, still, fountain, and unruffled lake; and probably the mineral called mica, which is a very general substance through all parts of the earth.
Plates of it have been found of three feet square, and it is so extremely divisible into laminae, that it has been divided into plates so thin as to be only the three hundred thousandth part of an inch. A plate of this forms an excellent mirror when any thing black is attached to the opposite side. A plate of this mineral, nine inches by eight, now lies before me; a piece of black cloth, or any other black substance, at the back, converts it into a good mirror; or it would serve as it is for a square of glass, as every object is clearly perceivable through it. It is used in Russian ships of war, instead of glass, for windows. The first artificial mirrors were apparently made of brass, afterwards of polished steel, and when luxury increased they were made of silver; but they were made at a very early period of mixed metal, particularly of tin and copper, the best of which, as Pliny tells us, were formerly manufactured at Brundusium: Optima apud majores fuerant Brundisina, stanno et aere mixtis. - Hist. Nat. lib. xxxiii., cap. 9. But, according to him, the most esteemed were those made of tin; and he says that silver mirrors became so common that even the servant girls used them: Specula (ex stanno) laudatissima Brundisii temperabantur; donec argenteis uti caepere et ancillae; lib. xxxiv., cap. 17. When the Egyptian women went to the temples, they always carried their mirrors with them.
The Israelitish women probably did the same, and Dr. Shaw states that the Arabian women carry them constantly hung at their breasts. It is worthy of remark, that at first these women freely gave up their ornaments for this important service, and now give their very mirrors, probably as being of little farther service, seeing they had already given up the principal decorations of their persons. Woman has been invidiously defined by Aristotle, an animal fond of dress, (though this belongs to the whole human race, and not exclusively to woman.) Had this been true of the Israelitish women, in the present case we must say they nobly sacrificed their incentives to pride to the service of their God. Woman, go thou and do likewise.
Of the women-which assembled at the door] What the employment of these women was at the door of the tabernacle, is not easily known. Some think they assembled there for purposes of devotion. Others, that they kept watch there during the night; and this is the most probable opinion, for they appear to have been in the same employment as those who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation in the days of Samuel, who were abused by the sons of the high priest Eli, 1 Sam. ii. 22.
Among the ancients women were generally employed in the office of porters or doorkeepers. Such were employed about the house of the high priest in our Lord's time; for a woman is actually represented as keeping the door of the palace of the high priest, John xviii. 17: Then saith the DAMSEL that KEPT THE DOOR unto Peter; see also Matt. xxvi. 69. In 2 Sam. iv. 6, both the Septuagint and Vulgate make a woman porter or doorkeeper to Ishbosheth. Aristophanes mentions them in the same office, and calls them shkiv, Sekis, which seems to signify a common maid-servant. Aristoph, in Vespis, ver. 7lxviii. - Æoti thn quran anewxen h shkiv laqra.
Homer, Odyss., y, ver. 225-229, mentions Actoris, Penelope's maid, whose office it was to keep the door of her chamber:- aktoriv - h nwin eiruto qurav pukinou qalamoio.
And Euripides, in Troad., ver. 197, brings in Hecuba, complaining that she who was wont to sit upon a throne is now reduced to the miserable necessity of becoming a doorkeeper or a nurse, in order to get a morsel of bread. - h tan para proquroiv fulakan katecousa, h paidwn qrepteira.
Sir John Chardin observes, that women are employed to keep the gate of the palace of the Persian kings. Plautus, Curcul., act 1., scene 1, mentions an old woman, who was keeper of the gate.
Anus hic solet cubitare, custos janitrix.
Many other examples might be produced. It is therefore very likely that the persons mentioned here, and in 1 Sam. ii. 22, were the women who guarded the tabernacle; and that they regularly relieved each other, a troop or company regularly keeping watch: and indeed this seems to be implied in the original, wabx tsabeu, they came by troops; and these troops successively consecrated their mirrors to the service of the tabernacle. See Calmet on John xviii. 16.
Matthew Henry Commentary Verses 1-8 - In all ages of the church there have been some persons more devoted to God, more constant in their attendance upon his ordinances, and mor willing to part even with lawful things, for his sake, than others Some women, devoted to God and zealous for the tabernacle worship expressed zeal by parting with their mirrors, which were polishe plates of brass. Before the invention of looking-glasses, these serve the same purposes. (Ex 38:9-20)
Original Hebrew ויעשׂ 6213 את 853 הכיור 3595 נחשׁת 5178 ואת 853 כנו 3653 נחשׁת 5178 במראת 4759 הצבאת 6633 אשׁר 834 צבאו 6633 פתח 6607 אהל 168 מועד׃ 4150