The salt of the earth

February 14, 2020

by Barry Fike

          In Leviticus 2:13 the Jews were commanded by God to always put salt on their offering.  In Jesus’ day and time it was a well-known law that every sacrifice burned on the altar must be sprinkled with salt.  In fact, according to the Talmud, not only each offering but even the wood, which kindled the sacrificial fire, was sprinkled with salt.[1] 

          That sacrificial salt was called the “salt of the covenant”.  (Num. 18:19; 2 Chron. 13:5)  The addition of the salt made the sacrifice acceptable.  Since salt halted corruption and death Elisha used it in 2 Kings 2:19-22 to begin his ministry.  This showed the power of life which destroys death. 

          Salt symbolized the binding character of the covenant made.  The covenant between God and Levi and God and David are termed covenants of salt  (Num. 18:19; 2 Chron. 13:5).  Salt was made a part of all offerings to symbolize that a covenant, like the one between the Lord and Israel, was to be an indissoluble alliance between friends. In this present day to eat bread and salt is an expression for a league of mutual amity. The Persian term for traitor is “faithless to salt.”  This is an eternal covenant with the Lord and its obligations and privileges.  It showed that the Jew was to surrender himself to the Lord and that all impurity and hypocrisy be repelled.  In the New Testament we are told to “have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another” (Mark 9:50).


You are the salt of the earth...-  Salt was used to preserve dried fish, olives and certain vegetables but here it no doubt means it has its greatest value in giving flavor to food.  The people of God’s Kingdom would in the present age modify and bless a world still far from God and greatly in need. 


But if salt has lost its taste how can its saltiness be restored? - This statement seems to have been proverbial, and occurs in exactly the same words in the Talmud, apparently to denote a thing that is impossible.  [Bechoroth 8b: “Salt if it has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?”] 


          Salt was brought in those days from the area of the Dead Sea and was rarely simply sodium chloride, so that it indeed could “lose its savor.”  It was mixed with earth or vegetable substances, because of the way it was collected, so that it might retain its salty taste.   Eventually, however, it would turn to dust but was never profitable soil.  It destroyed fertility wherever it was thrown, thus it was cast into the street.  In Jesus’ day salt could look good but have lost its salty flavor and therefore be good for nothing.   

          Have salt, flavor or influence, in yourselves but do not let that salt be corrupted by making it an occasion of offense to others, or among yourselves, as in the dispute by the way, or in the disposition or mind that led to it, or in forbidding others to work who follow not with you, but ‘be at peace among yourselves’.[2] What a message for God's people today in the midst of such strife and division.  Be at peace among yourselves.  What better message to give to the world than that of a unified body of Christ.

[1] Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. 2, p. 121.

[2] Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. 2, p. 121.