The two usual Hebrew words for "wash" are rachats, and kabhac, the former being normally used of persons or of sacrificial animals (Genesis 18:4, etc., often translated "bathe"; Le 15:5, etc.), and the latter of things (Genesis 49:11, etc.), the exceptions to this distinction being few (for rachats, 1 Kings 22:38 margin; for kabhac, Psalms 51:2,7; Jeremiah 2:22; 4:14). Much less common are duach (2 Chronicles 4:6; Isaiah 4:4; Ezekiel 40:38) and shataph (1 Kings 22:38; Job 14:19; Ezekiel 16:9), translated "rinse" in Leviticus 6:28; 15:11,12. In Nehemiah 4:23 the King James Version has "washing" and the Revised Version (British and American) "water" for mayim, but the text is hopelessly obscure (compare the Revised Version margin). In the Apocrypha and New Testament the range of terms is wider. Most common is nipto (Matthew 6:17, etc.), with aponipto in Matthew 27:24. Of the other terms, louo (Susanna verses 15,17; John 13:10, etc.), with apolouo (Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11) and the noun loutron (Sirach 34:25b; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5), usually has a sacral significance. On baptizo (Sirach 34:25a; Mark 7:4; Luke 11:38), with the noun baptismos (Mark 7:4 (text?); Hebrews 9:10), see BAPTISM. In Luke 5:2; Revelation 7:14; 22:14 the Revised Version (British and American) occurs pluno, while Judith 10:3 has perikluzo. Virtually, as far as meaning is concerned, all these words are interchangeable. Of the figurative uses of washing, the most common and obvious is that of cleansing from sin (Psalms 51:2; Isaiah 1:16, etc.), but, with an entirely different figure, "to wash in" may signify "to enjoy in plenty" (Genesis 49:11; Job 29:6; the meaning in So 5:12 is uncertain). Washing of the hands, in token of innocence, is found in Deuteronomy 21:6; Matthew 27:24.
The "washing balls" of Susanna verse 17 (smegma, a very rare word) were of soap.
Burton Scott Easton
These files are public domain.