( Proverbs 25:20 ; RSV marg., "soda"), properly "natron," a substance so called because, rising from the bottom of the Lake Natron in Egypt, it becomes dry and hard in the sun, and is the soda which effervesces when vinegar is poured on it. It is a carbonate of soda, not saltpetre, which the word generally denotes ( Jeremiah 2:22 ; RSV "lye").
A mineral; carbonate of soda.
As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon NITRE, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart. ( Proverbs 25:20 )
Mention of this substance is made in ( Proverbs 25:20 ) --"and as vinegar upon nitre"--and in ( Jeremiah 2:26 ) The article denoted is not that which we now understand by the term nitre i.e. nitrate of Potassa--"saltpetre" --but the nitrum of the Latins and the natron or native carbonate of soda of modern chemistry. Natron was and still is used by the Egyptians for washing linen. The value of soda in this respect is well known. This explains the passage in Jeremiah. Natron is found In great abundance in the well-known soda lakes of Egypt.
ni'-ter (nether; nitron):
Nitre as used in the King James Version does not correspond to the present use of that term. Nitre or niter is now applied to sodium or potassium nitrate. The writer has in his collection a specimen of sodium carbonate, called in Arabic naTrun, which was taken from the extensive deposits in Lower Egypt where it is found as a deposit underneath a layer of common salt. Similar deposits are found in Syria and Asia Minor. This is probably the "nitre" of the Bible. the American Standard Revised Version has rendered niter "lye" in Jeremiah 2:22, and "soda" in Proverbs 25:20. Soda or lye has been used as a cleansing agent from earliest times. It effervesces energetically, when treated with an acid; hence, the comparison in Proverbs 25:20 of the heavy-hearted man roiled by the sound of singing to the sizzling of soda on which vinegar has been poured.
James A. Patch
These files are public domain.