Wash (denoted by several Hebrew words of varying import; but in Greek νίπτω, which applies to a part of the person, is clearly distinguished from λούω, which applies to the whole body, in Joh 13:10, where the A.V. unfortunately confounds the two). This act for ordinary purposes of personal cleanliness is considered under SEE BATHE. We here treat it under its ceremonial aspect. SEE ABLUTION.
The Jews had two sorts of washing for purposes of religious purification: one, of the whole body by immersion, טָבִל, tabal, which was used by the priests at their consecration, and by the proselytes at their initiation; the other, of the hands or feet, called dipping, or pouring of water, צָבִע, tsabd, which was of daily use, not only for the hands and feet, but also for cups and other vessels used at their meals (Mt 25:2; Mr 7:3-4). The six water-pots of stone used at the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee (Joh 2:6) were set for this purpose. To these two modes of purification our Lord seems to allude in Joh 13:10, where the being "clean every whit" implies one who had become a disciple of Christ, and consequently had renounced the sins of his former life. He who had so done was supposed to be wholly washed, and not to need any immersion, in imitation of the ceremony of initiation, which was never repeated among the Jews. All that was necessary in such a case was the dipping or rinsing of the hands or feet, agreeably to the customs of the Jews. SEE WASHING (the Hands and Feet). Sometimes the lustration was performed by sprinkling blood or anointing with bil. Sprinkling was performed either with the finger, or with a branch of cedar and hyssop tied together with scarlet wool (Le 14:4-6; Nu 19:18; Ps 51:7). SEE BAPTISM.
The practice of frequent ablutions was not peculiar to the Hebrews; we find it rigidly enjoined by the Mohammedan law. We quote the following extract from Taylor, History of Mohammedanism:
"The Sonna of the Mohammedans exactly corresponds with the משנה, Mishnah, of the Jews, and comprehends all their religious traditions. (a.) From it we take the following account of the greater purification, Ghasl. It must be remembered that there are seven species of water fit for rightly performing religious ablutions; that is to say, rain, sea, river, fountain, well, snow, and ice water. But the principal requisites for the lustration Ghasl are three:
(1) intention; (2) a perfect cleansing; (3) that the water should touch the entire skin and every hair. There are five requisites of the traditional law, or Sonna: (1) the appropriate phrase, Bismillah ('In the name of the most merciful God'), must be pronounced; (2) the palms must be washed before the hands are put into the basin; (3) the lustration Wodfi must be performed; (4) the skin must be rubbed with the hand; (5) it must be prolonged. (We omit the cases in which this lustration is required.) (6.) The second lustration, Wodfi. The principal parts, indeed the divine (they are called divine because taken from the Koran) institutions, of the lustration Wodfi are six:
(1) intention; (2) the washing of the entire face; (3) the washing of the hands and forearms up to the elbows; (4) the rubbing of some parts of the head; (5) the washing of the feet as far as the ankles; (6) observance of the prescribed order.
"The institutes of the traditional law about this lustration are ten:
(1) the preparatory formula, Bismillah, must be used; (2) the palms must be washed before the hands are put into the basin; (3) the mouth must be cleansed; (4) water must be drawn through the nostrils; (5) the entire head and ears must be rubbed; (6) if the beard be thick, the fingers must be drawn through it; (7) the toes must be separated; (8) the right hand and foot should be washed before the left; (9) these ceremonies must be thrice repeated; (10) the whole must be performed in uninterrupted succession. (We omit the cases in which this lustration is required.)
"Of purification by sand. The divine institutions respecting purification by sand are four:
(1) intention; (2) the rubbing of the face; (3) the rubbing of the hands and forearms up to the elbows; (4) the observance of this order.
But the Sonnite ordinances are three:
(1) the formula Bismillah; (2) the right hand and foot precede the left; (3) that the ceremony be performed without interruption.
The Mohammedans have borrowed the permission to use sand for water, in case of necessity, from the Jews. Indeed, Cedrenus mentions an instance of sand being used for a Christian baptism. Their necessity dictated the permission; we need not therefore have recourse to Reland's strange theory, that sand is really a liquid. Four requisites to its validity are added by the commentators:
(1) the person must be on a journey; (2) he must have diligently searched for water; (3) it must be at the stated time of prayer; (4) the sand must be clean." SEE LUSTRATION.