The Covenant of Salt

Three texts name the Covenant of Salt in the bible. Lev. 2.13, Num. 18.19, and 2Chron. 13.5. However, they do not refer exactly to each other but are related. Lev.2.13 commands the symbolic use of salt in all the sacrifices of the Aaronic Priesthood. Additionally, Ezek. 43.24 commands the priests of a future temple to sprinkle salt on the burnt offering (and presumably the other offerings also) without specifically mentioning “The Covenant of Salt.” The Numbers and 2Chron. references  point to durable agreements. Num. 18.19 speaks to the offerings of the Israelites being given to the House of Aaron the priest. Even though offerings are mentioned, no salt is, but rather shows the permanent nature of a statute. 2Chron. 13.5 speaks to the inviolability of the decree that the Kingship of Israel is made with the House of David and names it the Covenant of Salt, again showing a durative action.

A question is then raised as to why salt is referenced to indicate permanence or durability. The ancient people to whom the bible was written would not have thought it unusual to connect salt with permanence. Each household would prepare their food from scratch or preserve it using salt in the process. They used salt in virtually all their foods excepting fruits which could be eaten raw (fruits, of course, contain traces of salt as all other plants-more on this later). Modern bible readers may be puzzled by salt’s reference because so much of today’s food is processed for us.

Initially, when I started tracing the use of salt in the bible, it was to try to understand the metaphorical use of salt in the New Testament: “have salt among yourselves” (Mark 9.5), and “salt losing its flavor” (Mt. 5.13). Col. 4.6 instructs Christians: “Let your speech always be seasoned with salt.” The prior references to salt in the Old Testament intrigued me also as to their meaning. Often, to find metaphorical meaning, the bible student needs to trace all biblical references to help to determine their usage.

Initially I thought my research complete concerning The Salt Covenant, but recently I read a section that seemed to explain the idea better. Incidentally, this biblical section refers to David’s Covenant also and provides a rationale of permanence. This crucial text is Jer. 33.20-21b: “Thus says the Lord, ‘If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time,  then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne.”

God cites His fixed order of creation to indicate faithfulness to David’s Descendant (Jesus) of the promise of an eternal kingdom. So, it seems, God has a covenant with the physical creation to regulate it. With this usage, and others, covenants can be made with non-living entities. Since He is the Creator and Sustainer of all, therefore, this should not surprise us. Likewise, The Covenant of Salt. God has ordained that salt is a necessary nutrient in virtually all living things, plants,  animals, and microorganisms.

Often, when thinking of life’s sustenance, we think of water. However, water is exceedingly difficult to purify absolutely (laboratory water). It will usually contain traces of substances, especially Sodium, a component of salt. Water and salt seem to have a relation to each other in forming an electrolyte in living things. Without this water and salt solution (electrolyte) our hearts could not beat, nor could our nerves make connections in our brain. Blood transports, among other things, salt to every cell in an organism. Even plants rely upon salt to function. Soil contains salts which plants take up to grow. Salt water is a fertilizer when mixed with fresh water at a specific ratio. Of course too much salt in both fields and organisms is injurious and even deadly. For the most part, animals and humans regulate salt concentrations by water intake and careful seasoning. So everything living is designed to depend on salt. God has made a covenant with all living things, it seems, to use salt for sustaining life.

Therefore, looking at salt from the perspective as a necessary component of life, it is easier to understand the concept of durability in connection with the term “Covenant of Salt” in the bible.




Author: Alex the Less

My education: BA (Bible), M.Div, BBA (HRM). Also, I have been a professional carpenter for about 25 years. Now retired, I have more time to study the bible and write about it.

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