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“He Shall Bathe in Water; then He Shall Be Pure”: Ancient Immersion Practice in the Light of Archaeological Evidence

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image of Vetus Testamentum

AbstractThe rite of purification according to biblical rules was accomplished by washing in water, but the precise nature of this necessary washing is not specified anywhere. The absence of installations meant for ritual washing, along with the limited availability of springs and cisterns within the borders of the Kingdom of Judah, require us to assume that while immersion in springs was a possible mode of purification, in most instances ritual washing during the time of the First Temple was accomplished by pouring water from a vessel over the body. That purification could take place within the confines of a private residence, as in the case of Bathsheba. Only from the period of the Second Temple onwards do we witness a change in the manner of ritual washing, such that purification comes to require immersion of the entire body, all at once, in living water.

Affiliations: 1: The Open University of Israel, Email:, URL:


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