The Covenant of Salt

Today, our message from God discusses the Covenant of Salt.

Most of us know what salt is. You put it on your food to hone its taste.

Salt, however, is much more than that. Though commonplace now, people in the past recognized salt as a valuable commodity.

You may have heard the term, “He’s not worth his salt,” in the vernacular, reflecting a sense of value (or ack thereof).

We even derive the word “salary” from the word “salt,” further showing its historic representation of value.

Also, even today, in some cultures, when two people sit down together to make an agreement, they eat salt together to seal the contract.

Let’s dive into this topic with the goal of learning the facts and finding applications for your life today.

First mention of Salt and Covenant

The “first mention” principle establishes the pattern for a word or topic in the Bible. With this in mind, let’s look at “salt” and “Covenant” before we move on to discuss the Covenant of Salt.

First mention of salt (H4417)

As God’s judgment fell upon Sodom, God instructed Lot and his wife to flee the city (along with their two daughters). God explicitly told them not to look back.

It came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.

Genesis 19:17

Sadly, Lot’s wife looked back.

His [Lot’s] wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

Genesis 19:26

This seems similar to a person, who hesitates to leave a burning house, clinging to their possessions.

Lot’s wife didn’t want to say “Goodbye!” to Sodom, looked back, and suffered the consequence.

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament tells us:

The obvious intent here is to depict her [Lot’s wife] as stopped, trapped, transformed as and where she was, in a still upright posture.

TWOT 1398b

Why did God turn Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt (H4417)? Why not a pillar of wood or magnesium or some supernatural rock?

Lot’s wife was valuable to God. When she became a pillar of salt, she became valuable to the world.

As we discuss this pillar of salt, don’t forget the value of this commodity.

Divine Favor

As God helped her and her family escape Sodom, God extended mercy and grace. After all, God could have left Lot and his wife in Sodom.

Disobedience

Despite seeing God’s power and providence, Lot’s wife rebelled against the only requirement God placed upon those who escaped: “Don’t look back.”

Loving Sin

Lot’s wife looked back. The life she had in Sodom was something she longed for. Perhaps she wished to retrieve some of her belonging. Maybe she wanted to see her house one more time.

Probably, she pined away for the sin which had enveloped her life in that sinful place. She wanted to save her possessions.

The Fire of Sodom

God will purify the entire earth with fire, just as he purified the lands of Sodom, Gomorrah, and their surrounding cities.

The Survival of Salt (from fire)

Under normal conditions, salt doesn’t burn. When Lot’s wife rejected God for the last time, God rendered her as salt. Everything good about her was gone. Only her last state served the purpose of testifying to the consequences of rejecting God’s favor.

Purification of salt, in Lot’s wife’s case resulted in ultimate consumption.

Her sin made her less valuable to God and more valuable to the world.

Dissolution of Salt

Despite the value of salt back then, someone or the forces of nature could crush or dissolve it.

Remember Lot’s Wife

Jesus, during his prophecy of Jerusalem’s end, exhorts the people not to go back for their possessions. In doing so, Jesus gave this warning:

In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.

Luke 17:31

After this, the Lord delivered an example of someone who failed to obey a similar command from God:

Remember Lot’s wife.

Luke 17:32

We all should remember Lot’s wife and what happened to her.

Next, let’s talk about the covenant.

First mention of Covenant (H1285)

Scripture first refers to “covenant” regarding Noah.

With thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.

Genesis 6:18

God made a unilateral covenant with Noah.

What is a Covenant?

A mutual agreement between two or more persons to do or refrain from doing certain acts ; a compact, contract, bargain ; sometimes the undertaking, pledge, or promise of one of the parties.

The matter agreed upon between two parties, or undertaken or promised by either.

Applied esp. to an engagement entered into by the Divine Being with some other being or persons.

Oxford Unabridged Dictionary 1933

Unconditional Covenant

Noah’s covenant was unconditional, but also…

The most well-known example of an unconditional covenant in the Old Testament is the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, 15:1-21, and 17:1-14. This covenant, also known as the Abrahamic Covenant, was a promise made by God to Abraham and his descendants, stating that they would become a great nation, inherit the land of Canaan, and be a blessing to all the families of the earth. This covenant was not dependent on Abraham’s obedience, but on God’s faithfulness and grace.

Conditional Covenant

According to the above definitions, a single party may make a covenant with someone without reciprocity. God does this many times, including the covenant to deliver Lot and his family from Sodom. As long as they didn’t look back, God would save them.

One example of a conditional covenant in the Old Testament is the Mosaic Covenant, which God established with the Israelites through Moses. Through Moses, God established the Mosaic Covenant with the Israelites, as described in Exodus 19:1-8, 20:1-17, and Deuteronomy 5:1-22. The Mosaic Covenant was conditional, as it required the Israelites to obey the laws and commandments of God in order to receive His blessings and protection. If they disobeyed, they would face consequences and judgment.

The gift of the Promised Land was conditional on Israel’s obedience to God.

Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit [any] of these abominations; [neither] any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: … That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that [were] before you.

Leviticus 18:26,28

Now, I’ve spoken of salt, and I’ve spoken of covenants. Let’s put these together and look at the…

The Covenant of Salt

The concept of “the covenant of salt” is a fascinating and complex topic in the Hebrew Bible, with roots in ancient Middle Eastern culture and symbolism. Let’s explore the biblical context, and its connections to covenant, loyalty, and purification, with a focus on Leviticus 2:13, Numbers 18:19, and 2 Chronicles 13:5.

Salt in Ancient Near Eastern Culture

In the ancient Near East, salt was a prized commodity, essential for preserving food, especially meat and fish. People also used salt as currency, and its scarcity increased its value as a trade item.

Beyond its practical uses, salt held significant symbolic meaning.

Spiros Zodhiates says,

Eating salt together signified an unbreakable friendship. Salt was used as a preservative. Therefore, it was an appropriate symbol for eternity. A covenant of salt could not be changed.

Spiros Zodihates, The Complete Word Study Old Testament, page 1157

When entering into a covenant, the Hebrews used to eat together, as seen in Genesis 31:54.When entering into a covenant, the Hebrews used to eat together, as seen in Genesis 31:54.

Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.

Genesis 31:54

In this way, we obtain an explanation of covenant (an eating) of salt.

In many ancient societies, salt was associated with the divine, and its use in rituals and ceremonies was widespread. The Greeks, for example, used salt to purify and consecrate their temples, while the Romans employed it in their sacred rites.

In the biblical context, salt’s symbolic significance roots itself in its profound connection to covenant and loyalty.

Leviticus 2:13: Mandatory Salt

In Leviticus 2:13, we find the first mention of “the covenant of salt”:

Every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.

Leviticus 2:13

Here, the Lord commands the Israelites to season their meat offerings with salt, emphasizing the importance of including “the salt of the covenant” in their sacrifices.

God commands the Israelites to include salt with every meat offering.

Why?

This passage includes the unique phrase “salt of the covenant” (Hebrew: מֶלַח בְּרִית, melach berith), but other biblical texts also reflect its significance.

The covenant is an affirmation of the covenant between God and Israel, established at Sinai (Exodus 19-24).

By including salt in their offerings, the Israelites acknowledged their commitment to this covenant, symbolizing their loyalty and fidelity to God.

Salt

In the Bible, salt “possesses a strongly preservative property, and hence it became an emblem of incorruption and purity, as well as of a perpetual covenant–a perfect reconciliation and lasting friendship. No injunction in the whole law was more sacredly observed than this application of salt; for besides other uses of it that will be noticed elsewhere (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown).

Additionally, since the priests depended on the offerings as their food source, the salt has the practical function of preserving that food for a longer period.

Next, let’s look at…

Numbers 18:19: A Perpetual Covenant of Salt

All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it [is] a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee.

Numbers 18:19

Here in Numbers 18:19, we find another reference to “the covenant of salt” The Lord reaffirms His covenant with Aaron and his descendants, granting them a perpetual right to the heave offerings of the Israelites.

The phrase “a covenant of salt for ever” (Hebrew: בְּרִית מֶלַח עוֹלָם, berith melach olam) echoes Leviticus 2:13, solidifying the connection between salt and covenant.

This covenant is not only a divine promise but also a reciprocal agreement, where the Israelites offer their heave offerings, and the Lord provides for the needs of Aaron and his descendants.

2 Chronicles 13:5: The Covenant of the Kingdom

We get yet another view of the covenant of sale in 2 Chronicles Chapter 13 Verse 5:

Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, [even] to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?

2 Chronicles 13:5

Here, Abijah, the king of Judah, reminds the northern kingdom of Israel of their covenantal obligations to the Davidic dynasty, emphasizing the eternal nature of this covenant.

The phrase “by a covenant of salt” (Hebrew: בְּרִית מֶלַח, berith melach) is reminiscent of Leviticus 2:13 and Numbers 18:19, highlighting the connection between salt, covenant, and loyalty. The Davidic covenant, established in 2 Samuel 7, is reaffirmed here, with salt serving as a symbol of the enduring nature of this divine promise.

The “covenant of salt” in 2 Chronicles 13:5 represents a powerful symbol of God’s enduring commitment to the Davidic dynasty. It emphasizes the permanence, loyalty, and purification that characterize this sacred agreement.

Theological Significance of the Covenant of Salt

The covenant of salt, as seen in these three passages, represents a multifaceted concept that encompasses several key themes:

  1. Loyalty and fidelity: Salt, as a symbol of purification and preservation, represents the Israelites’ commitment to their covenant with God. By including salt in their offerings, they acknowledged their loyalty and fidelity to the divine.
  2. Covenantal Obligations: The covenant of salt emphasizes the reciprocal nature of God’s relationship with Israel. Just as salt preserves and protects, so too does God’s covenant provide for the needs of his people, while also expecting their loyalty and obedience in return.
  3. Permanence and Eternity: The perpetual nature of the covenant of salt underscores the eternal character of God’s promises. Whether in the Sinai covenant, the Aaronic priesthood, or the Davidic kingdom, salt serves as a symbol of the enduring nature of these divine commitments.
  4. Purification and Consecration: Salt, as a purifying agent, represents the Israelites’ need for spiritual cleansing and consecration. By including salt in their offerings, they acknowledged their dependence on God’s grace and mercy.

Conclusion

The covenant of salt, as seen in 3 scripture passages, weaves together themes of loyalty, covenant, purification, and eternity.

Through the symbolism of salt, the Israelites acknowledged their commitment to their divine covenant, while also recognizing the perpetual nature of God’s promises.

Salt represents the enduring bond between God and his people.

Respond

It’s up to you to decide how to respond to God’s covenant with you.

He that believeth on him [Jesus] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:18

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