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An Everlasting Covenant Of Salt

Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the LORD
I give to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share.
It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD for both you and your offspring.
Numbers 18:19

Don't you know that the LORD, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and
his descendants forever by a covenant of salt?
2 Chronicles 13:5

The covenant of salt is an everlasting covenant (Numbers 18:19). In biblical times, most men would carry a pouch of salt on their belts. When two men desired to make a covenant of loyalty, each would take some salt from his pouch and sprinkle it into the other man's pouch. Then they stated the terms of their agreement and shook their salt pouches, mingling the grains of salt. Because it was no longer possible to go into the other man's pouch and retrieve the original salt grains, this covenant was therefore an permanent contract that could not be broken. If this covenant were a treaty between two tribes or people groups, its violation would be a serious and grievous offence. One of the punishments was to sow or plow salt into one's land so that its future productivity would be impaired (Judges 9:45).

Salt was an important mineral in the ancient world. Its chemical composition is sodium chloride, a white crystalline substance. It is a necessity of life. Mankind is well aware of the importance of salt to their health. It is used for seasoning foods as well as to purify and preserve certain foods and commodities. Salt is not only inorganic, it is also non-degradable. Thus, a covenant of salt implies faithfulness, dependability and durability. Nomads of the Middle East still eat bread and salt together as the sign and seal of a covenant of trust and brotherhood.

The Promised Land is rich in salt. High concentrations of salt exist in the Dead Sea, a body of water that is more than nine times saltier than the ocean. The ancient cities of Sodom and Gommorah may have been located near the south end of the Dead Sea. It was here that Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). An ancient method of extracting salt from seawater was to collect salt water in holes dug in the sand. As the water in these salt pits evaporated, salt was left behind (Zephaniah 2:9). Salt pans were later used for this purpose.

According to the priestly laws, all sacrifices are to be salted:

Every grain offering you bring to the LORD must be made without yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey in an offering made to the LORD by fire. You may bring them to the LORD as an offering of the firstfruits, but they are not to be offered on the altar as a pleasing aroma. Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings. (Leviticus 2:11-13)

You are to offer them before the LORD, and the priests are to sprinkle salt on them and sacrifice them as a burnt offering to the LORD. (Ezekiel 43:24)

It is easy to understand this law in the context of meat sacrifices. Besides being an excellent preservative, salt is great in removing whatever blood still remaining after slaughtering the animals. But with regards to the grain offerings, the requirement to use salt is quite interesting. Salt is used on the altar of God whereas yeast, leaven and other fermentatives are forbidden. Salt is pure and undefiled. It is a symbol of permanence, in contrast to leaven which produces change and degeneration. Here again, we see that the covenant of salt is an unbreakable covenant.

Our Lord Jesus described His disciples as the salt of the earth in Matthew 5:13:

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

How can we become the salt of the earth? How can we preserve life and season the lives of others? We can find the answers in the following verses:

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Hebrews 13:15-16)

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise...(Matthew 21:16)

As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. (Ezekiel 16:4)

The Israelites rubbed their newborn babies with salt so that they would be free from diseases and other infections. Salt promoted good health to the newly born babes. We can learn a great lesson here. We need to perfect our praise and worship to the Lord. Babes and infants are pure and innocent in offering to Him the fruit of their lips, giving thanks to Him! They are healthy and unstained with sins and lusts. Their conversations are harmless, full of grace and love.

As salt is required in our offerings to the Lord, we need to season them with salt. What is salt in our present Christian context? Salt is pure and undefiled. We need to be true, holy, righteous and just before the Lord. We do not degrade ourselves by degenerating our minds and souls to our fallen nature. We need to, by the mercies of God, present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service. And we do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2).

This covenant of salt reminds us that we are the people of God - a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9). We have an everlasting covenant with Him. We are to be holy as He is holy. We are to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). As such, let everything that we think, say and do bring Him glory and honour, power and praise!

Then, we will reign with Him forever like David and his descendants by this covenant of salt (2 Chronicles 13:5).

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Written on:
4 June 2004