COVENANT OF SALT
A Covenant of Salt is mentioned only three times in Scripture:
Leviticus 2:13 - “And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the Salt of the Covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.”
God used the term again in Numbers 18:19 when talking about what part of the offering the Levites were to use for their provision of food. “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 regular share. It is an everlasting Covenant of Salt before the LORD for both you and your offspring." Eventually, people began to make a connection between an offering to God, salt, a meal, and the making of a covenant.
2 Chronicles 13:5 reinforces this. “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?”
Among people of the middle and far east, both today and in Old Testament days, the act of eating together is an act of friendship and commitment one with the other - a bonding together. “To eat salt with” another was to share not only his hospitality but was a symbol of incorruptibility (salt’s natural cleansing agents) and permanence (salt’s preservative qualities).
In Numbers 18:19, the covenant is between the Lord and the Levites and their descendants. In this chapter, God is giving instructions for the heave offerings, telling what parts the priests could eat and what was to be burned by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. Certain portions were for the priests and their sons “as an ordinance forever.” It was to be eaten in “a most holy place” so in other words, it was not to be taken lightly. These portions, as well as the tithe were given to the Levites as their provision. It is interesting to notice that in the context of the Lord telling the people how He was going to provide for them this way and the type of blessing He would give them, He also told them that they would have no inheritance in the land like the rest of the Israelites did. Instead, He said, “I am your portion and your inheritance…”
This fits with the command to always add salt to the offering. God wants to be our All in All, Jehovah Jirah. He wants to come into our lives and “eat salt with us”. Through Jesus, He has provided the food - Himself (symbolized and made tangible in the Holy Eucharist). It is a very costly “meal” that we must not take lightly in spite of the fact that it is the most joyous gift we could receive. This is because the simple act of eating with Him, makes for a Covenant to be made. A Covenant of Salt that is perpetual, everlasting and incorruptible.
The Second Chronicles passage reinforces this interpretation because it is referring to the Covenant God made with David in 2 Samuel 7:8-16 which has never been revoked. The specific covenant God made with David was not only one of friendship, but for a place (vs. 10), a house (vs. 11), and seed (vs. 12). The place given was the land of Israel, the house is a royal dynasty or lineage, and the seed (not plural) is Christ.
The Covenant God made with David also spelled out details concerning that holy Seed. He would build a HOUSE (lineage - us) for God’s name. In turn, God would establish the THRONE (read power) of His KINGDOM (read people and land) forever. (vs. 13).
Even as offerings were to be seasoned with salt in the Old Testament, so are they to be in the New Testament. Mark 9:49 “For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt.” So what is the sacrifice and what is the salt?
Hebrews 13:15 tells us to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name.” Thus we see that it is the words of our mouth that are to be our offering to the Lord. With our mouth, we are admonished in Colossians 4:2-6 to “continue earnestly in prayer” and to be “vigilant in it - with thanksgiving.” We are told to pray for open doors to speak the word and for how to speak in such a way as to manifest the mystery of Christ. But when we do speak, we are to let our speech “always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”
So, for us today, a Covenant of Salt takes place when an offering is made to the Lord (ourselves), the salt of grace is added, a meal is shared (His Body and Blood) and the Covenant God made with man is received (salvation). A Covenant that is incorruptible and everlasting.
Footnote: Because of these and other references to salt in scripture, many liturgical traditions use salt that has been prayed over and blessed for cleansing, healing and deliverance much like blessed oil is used by all denominations - as an outward and visible sign of an inner work of grace.