used to season food ( Job 6:6 ), and mixed with the fodder of cattle ( Isaiah 30:24 , "clean;" in marg. of RSV "salted"). All meat-offerings were seasoned with salt ( Leviticus 2:13 ). To eat salt with one is to partake of his hospitality, to derive subsistence from him; and hence he who did so was bound to look after his host's interests ( Ezra 4:14 , "We have maintenance from the king's palace;" A.V. marg., "We are salted with the salt of the palace;" RSV, "We eat the salt of the palace").
A "covenant of salt" ( Numbers 18:19 ; 2 Chr 13:5 ) was a covenant of perpetual obligation. New-born children were rubbed with salt ( Ezekiel 16:4 ). Disciples are likened unto salt, with reference to its cleansing and preserving uses ( Matthew 5:13 ). When Abimelech took the city of Shechem, he sowed the place with salt, that it might always remain a barren soil ( Judges 9:45 ). Sir Lyon Playfair argues, on scientific grounds, that under the generic name of "salt," in certain passages, we are to understand petroleum or its residue asphalt. Thus in Genesis 19:26 he would read "pillar of asphalt;" and in Matthew 5:13 , instead of "salt," "petroleum," which loses its essence by exposure, as salt does not, and becomes asphalt, with which pavements were made.
The Jebel Usdum, to the south of the Dead Sea, is a mountain of rock salt about 7 miles long and from 2 to 3 miles wide and some hundreds of feet high.
Indispensable as salt is to ourselves, it was even more so to the Hebrews, being to them not only an appetizing condiment in the food both of man, ( Job 11:6 ) and beset, ( Isaiah 30:24 ) see margin, and a valuable antidote to the effects of the heat of the climate on animal food, but also entering largely into the religious services of the Jews as an accompaniment to the various offerings presented on the altar. ( Leviticus 2:13 ) They possessed an inexhaustible and ready supply of it on the southern shores of the Dead Sea. [SEA, THE SALT] There is one mountain here called Jebel Usdum, seven miles long and several hundred feet high, which is composed almost entirely of salt. The Jews appear to have distinguished between rock-salt and that which was gained by evaporation as the Talmudists particularize one species (probably the latter) as the "salt of Sodom." The salt-pits formed an important source of revenue to the rulers of the country, and Antiochus conferred a valuable boon on Jerusalem by presenting the city with 375 bushels of salt for the temple service. As one of the most essential articles of diet, salt symbolized hospitality; as an antiseptic, durability, fidelity and purity. Hence the expression "covenant of salt," ( Leviticus 2:13 ; Numbers 18:19 ; 2 Chronicles 13:5 ) as betokening an indissoluble alliance between friends; and again the expression "salted with the salt of the palace." ( Ezra 4:14 ) not necessarily meaning that they had "maintenance from the palace," as Authorized Version has it, but that they were bound by sacred obligations fidelity to the king. So in the present day, "to eat bread and salt together" is an expression for a league of mutual amity. It was probably with a view to keep this idea prominently before the minds of the Jews that the use of salt was enjoined on the Israelites in their offerings to God.
solt (melach; halas, hals):
Common salt is considered by most authorities as an essential ingredient of our food. Most people intentionally season their cooking with more or less salt for the sake of palatability. Others depend upon the small quantities which naturally exist in water and many foods to furnish the necessary amount of salt for the body. Either too much salt or the lack of it creates undesirable disturbance in the animal system. Men and animals alike instinctively seek for this substance to supplement or improve their regular diet. The ancients appreciated the value of salt for seasoning food (Job 6:6). So necessary was it that they dignified it by making it a requisite part of sacrifices (Leviticus 2:13; Ezra 6:9; 7:22; Ezekiel 43:24; Mark 9:49). In Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5, a "covenant of salt" is mentioned (compare Mark 9:49). This custom of pledging friendship or confirming a compact by eating food containing salt is still retained among Arabic-speaking people. The Arabic word for "salt" and for a "compact" or "treaty" is the same. Doughty in his travels in Arabia appealed more than once to the superstitious belief of the Arabs in the "salt covenant," to save his life. Once an Arab has received in his tent even his worst enemy and has eaten salt (food) with him, he is bound to protect his guest as long as he remains.
See COVENANT OF SALT.
The chief source of salt in Palestine is from the extensive deposits near the "sea of salt" (see DEAD SEA), where there are literally mountains and valleys of salt (2 Samuel 8:13; 2 Kings 14:7; 1 Chronicles 18:12; 2 Chronicles 25:11). On the seacoast the inhabitants frequently gather the sea salt. They fill the rock crevices with sea water and leave it for the hot summer sun to evaporate. After evaporation the salt crystals can be collected. As salt-gathering is a government monopoly in Turkey, the government sends men to pollute the salt which is being surreptitiously crystallized, so as to make it unfit for eating. Another extensive supply comes from the salt lakes in the Syrian desert East of Damascus and toward Palmyra. All native salt is more or less bitter, due to the presence of other salts such as magnesium sulphate.
Salt was used not only as a food, but as an antiseptic in medicine. Newborn babes were bathed and salted (Ezekiel 16:4), a custom still prevailing. The Arabs of the desert consider it so necessary, that in the absence of salt they batheir infants in camels' urine. Elisha is said to have healed the waters of Jericho by casting a cruse of salt into the spring (2 Kings 2:20). Abimelech sowed the ruins of Shechem with salt to prevent a new city from arising in its place (Judges 9:45). Lot's wife turned to a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26).
Salt is emblematic of loyalty and friendship (see above). A person who has once joined in a "salt covenant" with God and then breaks it is fit only to be cast out (compare Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50). Saltness typified barrenness (Deuteronomy 29:23; Jeremiah 17:6). James compares the absurdity of the same mouth giving forth blessings and cursings to the impossibility of a fountain yielding both sweet and salt water (James 3:11).
James A. Patch
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