The Covenant of Salt

An Orientalism:
A Custom or Mannerism in the Bible Times

Read Time: 5 Minutes

Bishop K. C. Pillai explains the culture and custom regarding salt and the covenant of salt as well as the importance of it in swaddling.

Salt plays an important part in the eastern culture. Not only is it good for seasoning, healing, and preserving but it plays an important part symbolically. Taking salt with another person ceremonially or even in food  is a pledge, a promise of fidelity. When a person shares salt with another they have entered into a pledge with one another. They can never betray each other, they will be truthful, and they are willing to die in defense of the other. They can not be called to testify against each other either. There is a pledge of utmost trust among them. The penalty for breaking the covenant of salt is death.

In the Old Testament God requires salt in the sacrifices. His pledge to Israel is binding.

Numbers 18
:19  All the heave offerings of the holy things,
        which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee,
        and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever:
    it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee.

God made a promise to David.

II Chronicles 13
:5  Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever,
to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?

The record in II Chronicles is about Abijah, king of Judah, being attacked by Jeroboam king of Israel. Israel had rejected God and was worshiping idols. Judah looked only to God and sacrificed unto Him. When Abijah called upon God for help he had reminded the people that God had given the kingdom to David and no idol worshippers should over take them. God did protect Abijah and Judah and the children of Israel fled before them.

A new testament reference to the covenant of salt is in Matthew

Matthew 5
:13 Ye are the salt of the earth:
    but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?
    it is thenceforth good for nothing,
        but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

In the East it is customary to get salt like brown rock salt in large stone jars that weight 20 - 30 pounds. The jar stands on the floor of the kitchen and is covered with a stone slab. Every morning the kitchen floor is washed with water which gets the bottom of the jar wet. Over time the salt in the bottom of the jar gets leached away and it will actually lose its saltiness. That useless salt then gets cast out into the street to be trodden underfoot.

Jesus Christ is talking to his disciples; he tells them they are the salt of the earth and the light of world in the next verse. Those who carry the truth of God's Word to the people are the ones that will be upright and not crooked. They are the ones that will declare the promise and pledge of God to the world. They will shine as lights in the darkness.

The Purpose of Salt in Swaddling

Swaddling is a practice that signifies to God that a child will be taught to walk uprightly before God and be truthful, free from crookedness. A small amount of salt is rubbed on the baby and then wound around the baby are 2 1/2 inch strips of fine linen or silk so the child's body, arms, and legs are straight as a ramrod. They stay in this position for 15 minutes to 2 hours while the parents meditate on the Word and make their vows to God concerning their sacred trust which was given them when they received the child. 

As soon as the child is old enough to understand they are taught that they were salted and swaddled and it's significance so the child will walk uprightly and full of truth. The mothers know the truth in Proverbs 22.

Proverbs 22
:6  Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

God makes reference to salting and swaddling in Ezekiel regarding Israel.

Ezekiel 16
:4  And as for thy nativity,
    in the day thou was born thy navel was not cut,
    neither was thou washed in water to supple thee;
    thou was not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.

Israel was born in sin, but God took them in, washed them, prospered them, made them to multiply, and caused their fame to spread abroad among the nations. The other nations knew God was taking care of them. But they became confident in their own beauty and prosperity, no longer recognizing God as their benefactor. Their words were not salted, they didn't remain truthful and straightforward to God and men.

Joseph and Mary swaddled Jesus Christ (Luke 2:7). It has been taught in the Western culture that Joseph and Mary were poor; they couldn't afford a room at the inn nor did they have good baby clothes, they had to wrap Jesus in rags. That is far from the truth. That thinking comes from a lack of knowledge of Eastern customs. They knew who Jesus Christ was so they salted and swaddled Jesus; vowing to God that they would teach him to walk uprightly without any crookedness and be truthful.

Our Lives and Salt

Our words are to be salted as well. When we accept Christ as lord in our lives and believe that God raised him from the dead we are redeemed and brought into the family of God.

Colossians 4
:6  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt,
    that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Let God help you walk uprightly.