9th July 2011

Covenant Of Salt

“Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Mark 9:50 (NRSV) 

You might be surprised at how many interesting facts you can come up with about common old garden salt. For example, did you know that the oceans alone hold enough salt to build a wall around the equator 180 miles high and a mile thick? That salt played an important role in the defeat of Napoleon’s army during their retreat from Moscow (The soldiers wounds wouldn’t heal because their bodies lacked salt and thousands died.)? That Roman soldiers were paid partially in salt because of its value? This payment was called “Salarium Argentum”—silver salt; and today we still have the word salary in the English language which comes directly from the Latin salarium. The Bible mentions salt quite a few times in the Old Testament concerning sacrifices and covenants, and in the New Testament Jesus draws attention to it several times. 

But have you ever wondered why he made this statement in the scripture cited above and more importantly, what did he mean by it? 

Let’s begin by taking a look at what salt is symbolic of in the book of Numbers 18:19 (Jerusalem Translation); God is speaking to Aaron here, “All that the sons of Israel set aside for Yahweh from the holy things, this I give to you, and to your sons and daughters, by perpetual ordinance. This is a covenant of salt for ever before Yahweh, for you and your descendants after you.” 

Salt in the Middle Eastern culture has always been a symbol of friendship and faithfulness. To eat someone’s salt and bread within that culture was to be on friendly terms and to enjoy fellowship in a covenant of peace, which can’t be broken! This is what Jesus was exhorting his disciples to do, and why? Notice in Mark 9:33-34 (Moffatt translation), “Then they reached Capharnahum [Capernaum]. And when he was indoors, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing, for on the road they had been disputing about which of them was the greatest.” In the light of this argument about greatness, he is urging them to “get their act together” and to make that bond of friendship, unity and faithfulness with each other, by a covenant of salt forever. Moffatt translates verse 50 this way, “Let there be ‘salt between you’; be at peace with one another.”

Great God of peace, help us desire to make this special covenant of salt with all who enter our lives each day, and especially those in the body of Christ; a covenant of friendship, unity and peace forever in Jesus’ name.

Study by Cliff Neill

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