Covenant of Salt

Bearpecs at Bearpecs at
Thu Jul 5 21:26:57 EDT 2001

In a message dated 7/4/01 10:00:16 AM Eastern Daylight Time, 
myronkauk at writes:
> Anybody have any insight on the "Covenant of Salt" in Num 18:19,

_Leviticus 1-16:  A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary_ by 
Jacob Milgrom (Anchor Bible vol. 3), pp. 191-192 [on Lev 2:13]:

The idiom melah berit 'eloqeka is used again to refer to the binding 
character of the priestly perquisites (Num 18:19) and of the Davidic dynasty 
(2 Chr 13:5).  Salt was the preservative par excellence in antiquity (see 
Philo, Laws 1, 289; Theophylact. in Luc. 14:34; Diog. Laert. Pythag. 
19[8.35], Pliny H.N. 31.9 [45]).  A figurative extension of its preservative 
properties is the reference to the apostles as "the salt of the earth" (Matt 
5:17), in other words, teachers who guard the world against moral decay.  
Moreover, its preservative qualitites made it the ideal symbol of the 
perdurability of a covenant (Tg. Ps.-J.).  A neo-Babylonian letter speaks of 
"all who tasted the salt of the Jakin tribe" (ABL 747, r.6), referring to the 
tribe's covenantal allies.  Loyalty to the Persian monarch is described as 
having tasted "the salt of the palace" (Ezra 4:14).  Arab. milhat, a 
derivative of malaha 'to salt', means "a treaty" (G.B. Gray 1903:232).  
"There is salt between us" implies among Arab bedouin a treaty stipulating 
mutual aid and defense (R. Smith 1927:270).  The Greeks likewise salted their 
covenant meals and referred to salt as "holy" (Iliad 9.214; Heliod. 4.16).  
Thus it is likely that in Israel as well salt played a central role at the 
solemn meal that sealed a covenant (e.g., Gen 26:30; 31:54; Exod 24:11).  
Salt was deemed so essential in Ezekiel's vision of the restoration that he 
makes room for marshes and swamps in his otherwise fertile land in order to 
provide salt (Ezek 47:11).

Why is this injunction to salt all sacrifices inserted here with the cereal 
offering rather than with any of the clearly more important blood sacrifices? 
 Abravanel suggest that because bread normally contains flour, leaven, and 
salt, the question would naturally arise:  if leaven is forbidden in the 
cereal offering, should not salt also be forbidden?
/end quotation

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