Salt. Let’s talk about salt.
The Bible makes a lot of references to salt; more than I even realized!! I went diving for a deeper understanding of salt and I kept diving deeper and deeper and finally I had to stop because I was literally in salt up to my knees in the Bible. For example in;
- Leviticus we learn why salt is added to grain offerings
- Numbers we are told of the covenant of salt made with the priests,
- 2 Chronicles shares a covenant of salt reference to king David,
- Ezekiel throws salt as a covenant relationship reminder,
- Lots wife in Genesis turns into a pillar of salt,
- Matthew the Sermon of the Mount makes reference to the disciples being the salt of the earth,
- Mark 9 the preserving qualities of salt during tribulations and
- Colossians compares salt and our speech....
I mean whoa!! But don’t let all of that scare you. The idea of Salt being used in the Bible is super cool and very symbolic.
Did you know in ancient Roman times the soldiers were sometimes paid in salt? (That’s a whole other rabbit trail for you to google)
Point being, salt was a valued commodity. Which is one of the reasons God requires it in an Old Testament sacrifice. It was of importance to the people and seen as a great sacrifice to give up. In fact, salt was a necessity of life in the ancient times used by many cultures as a seasoning, preservation, disinfectant, for ceremonial offerings and unit of exchange.
Readings: Old Testament References
Let’s dive into salt starting in the exciting book of Leviticus. Moses is telling the Israelites the Laws for the Grain Offerings.
Read Leviticus 2:13 below
“You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of your covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.”
Got it. Salt in the grain. It’s important. But why?
For several reasons. Salt was an important part of the offering because it spoke of purity, of preservation, and of expense. Every sacrifice offered to God should be pure, should be enduring, and should cost something (David Guzik)
Salt was used to preserve and slow decay.
Here is a quick 101 on salt... salt is an aseptic meaning free from contamination and harmful bacteria. Basically salt prevents infection. Cannot cure but can stop the spread. So in ancient times they used salt to keep items from spoiling. And think about it. In ancient times there was no electricity which meant no refrigeration system so salt was how they kept their food from going bad whether it be their grains or meats.
Salt also spoke of friendship or to deep relationships.
According to ancient customs, a bond of friendship was established through the eating of salt. It was said that once you had eaten a man's salt, you were his friend for life. God wanted every sacrifice to be a reminder of this desired relationship with us.
The idea of this salt covenant is also repeated in Numbers 18 when Moses speaks to the priests about the covenant God made with them. Numbers 18:19 – “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 perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.”
And then again in 2 Chronicles 13:5 which makes reference to King David and the covenant of salt God made with him. – “ 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?”
Both of these promises or covenants were seen as lasting covenants made by God because the sacrifice included salt.
Ezekiel’s 43:23 also makes reference to the symbolism of salt. “When you have finished purifying it, you are to offer a young bull and a ram from the flock, both without defect. 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.” This was a reminder to Ezekiel and the priests of God’s lasting commitment to his people.
So when God required salt to be a part of their grain offering, it wasn’t just for a random reason. It was symbolic. - it showed the relationship God wanted with his people and how God wanted his people to be the preservative of the earth.
Which brings us to the New Testament. There are three passages that reference salt.
Read: Matthew 5:13
The most well known being his Salt and Light reference during Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:13
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
Jesus is saying to his disciples and followers, you are the salt. I see you and God sees you as precious. You are valued. You are also what will preserve this world. You should be a preserving influence on your culture. Without your Godly influence, this world would be spoiled. Evil, disease, bacteria, whatever you may call it would conquer but because with God and His people being the salt, we will preserve and bring goodness.
This passage also talks about flavor. “But if salt has lost its taste, how shall it’s saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled.”
Back in Jesus day if they saw that salt lost its flavor or preserving qualities they would just throw it out on the streets and it would be trampled in the ground by passerby’s. It was not good to them anymore.
This passage should be a warning to us as Christians. If we are the salt but we lose our flavor, or better said our influence, actions, preserving qualities for this world, we are no longer of value for the Kingdom of God. It might seem harsh, but this is God’s warning to us. He wants us to live as people on mission for him.
Read: Genesis 19:23-26 and Luke 17:32
The story of Lot’s wife is a perfect example (Genesis 19:23-26). She turned into a pillar of salt. Why salt? She looked back on leaving her life of sin and decay with sorrow. She lost her preserving qualities and became one with the world. She is a warning to us.
Jesus warns us not to be like Lot’s wife in Luke 17:32 as he speaks of the coming Kingdom. “Remember lots wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”
We are to look forward to our deliverance and new life with Jesus and not back on old life of sin and miss it.
Read: Mark 9:42-50
To understand this verse you need to back up and read the whole passage as harsh as the passage may read. The passage talks about the temptation of sin and warning from Jesus to stay away. In 9:49 it states that everyone will be salted with fire. What does that mean? Well, a lot. But let’s simplify. Most believe it to mean that fire represents trials and tribulations. So we as God’s people will be salted or given trials in our life. Those trials are our sacrifice and if we are the salt and our flavor is still good, we will be preserved during those trials. And it’s those trials that we seem to grow the most in our faith, giving it all to God, thus reaching that deep relations God desires to have with us.
Lastly, Read: Colossians 4:2-6
This passage isn’t too hard to figure out after we just studied what salt symbolizes in the Bible. Our speech when talking to God and others should be free of corruption and full of flavor. What kind of flavor? I imagine words full of spiritual wisdom that speak truth and love.
Do I still have you with me in this post?! I think it’s the longest I’ve ever written! But in short. Salt symbolizes a deep relationship God wants with us and how He wants us to preserve the earth and flavor it like crazy.
So how are you going to be the salt? Jesus called his disciples to be the salt of the earth. Just as they were called, we are called.
So... how are you going to “leave a taste in someone’s mouth” after your conversation with them. Will it be pleasant and flavorful or bland and will you have lost your Godly flavor? Will they even know where you stand with Jesus? What are you doing to “purify” our world? Are you conforming to this world or preserving the Word of God?
Make an impact.
Be the salt...