Monday, February 6, 2012

Covenant of Salt

"And 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

I don't remember ever reading this before (although I'm sure I have), and it boggled my mind. Salt? Why did God tell the Israelites to salt all their offerings? There must be some significance to this that I'm missing. So off I went on my quest to discover the meaning behind salt, and the "salt of the covenant".

Here's what I found.

For centuries, in Arabic-speaking countries, salt has been a symbol of loyalty and friendship. The Arabic word for "salt" and for "compact" or "treaty" is the same. This probably comes from the ancient practice of  eating a meal together to seal a covenant - a tradition still practiced today among Arabic-speaking people. Since salt was considered an essential component of the daily food, the word became synonymous with hospitality and friendship. (Thus the Arabic expressions, "There is salt between us"; "He has eaten of my salt.")

Salt also is known to be a preservative.

So now with these properties of salt in mind, let's unravel the symbology. I like the point brought out in Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary: "Salt is required in all the offerings. God hereby intimates to them that their sacrifices, in themselves, were unsavoury. All religious services must be seasoned with grace." (Another verse comes to mind: "...all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags....")

Elsewhere in Leviticus 2, the use of leaven, or yeast, is forbidden. Why? Usually in Scripture, leaven is a symbol of sin. Things that have been made with leaven tend to spoil quickly. Contrast that with the preserving properties of salt. Salt and leaven are opposites.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary sums up the symbology of salt better than I ever could.
"The same reasons which led to the prohibition of leaven, recommended the use of salt--if the one soon putrefies, the other 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, it had a typical meaning referred to by our Lord concerning the effect of the Gospel on those who embrace it (Mr 9:49, 50); as when plentifully applied it preserves meat from spoiling, so will the Gospel keep men from being corrupted by sin. And as salt was indispensable to render sacrifices acceptable to God, so the Gospel, brought home to the hearts of men by the Holy Ghost, is indispensably requisite to their offering up of themselves as living sacrifices."
 So, ceremonial salt can be summed up as representing an everlasting commitment of friendship between us and God, and His grace, which will keep us pure and undefiled from sin (Titus 2:11-14), and without which all our offerings and attempts at righteousness are insufficient. Wow!!! Who knew Leviticus could be so powerful? ^_^


  1. Yay! She's blogging! :-D
    This is so interesting! I ran into the whole covenant of salt thing a while back but I didn't pursue studying it further because I was in the middle of a different study. It's been itching in the back of my mind though and now this makes me want to study it even deeper..

  2. Haha yes, I'm blogging! :P Yeah, if you do get around to studying this topic more deeply, let me know what you find! (I have sooo many other questions about Leviticus 1-3, too.)