What is a Salt Covenant?
Salt is essential for physical life. In ancient times salt was used as a seasoning, a preservative, a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a unit of exchange. Thus, it was a precious commodity and was treated with great care. A salt covenant meant that salt was used to seal an agreement. Salt was mixed from each party’s pouch, and then bread was dipped into the salt and consumed. The remaining salt was then split and returned to the pouches. It was impossible to separate the fine grains of salt back to the original owners once it was mixed; therefore, this practice exemplified, because of their agreement, that the parties could also no longer be separated. The salt covenant signified a level of deep, abiding, unbreakable friendship.
Where is the Salt Covenant in scripture?
The first explicit mention of the salt covenant is recorded in Numbers 18:19, which says, “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 forever; it is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord unto thee and to thy seed with thee.” Here we see that God extended His hand of deep friendship to Aaron and his seed. Since God does not change, we can infer that with the priesthood covenant comes the opportunity of deep friendship with God.
A second reference that confirms this understanding of the salt covenant is found in 2 Chronicles 13:5, “Ought ye not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David forever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?” Nathan conveying this covenant to David is recorded in 2 Samuel 7:16. Clearly an abiding friendship with God has wonderful, eternal ramifications.
How does the Salt Covenant fit with other covenants?
When considering the salt covenant, one must ask how does this fit with the baptismal covenant or everlasting covenant? These are covenants that are more commonly understood among Restorationists. The ancient Hebrew marriage covenant, where four cups of wine were drunk signifying the coming to stronger and stronger agreement on the terms of the marriage between the bride and groom’s families, provides insight. Since we are to be the bride of Christ, does it not follow that Jesus and His Father are bringing us to full agreement with the marriage terms as well?
The four cups represent four levels of covenant relationship—servant-hood, friendship, son-ship, and bride. The bible is replete with examples of, and counsel on, each of these. For the sake of brevity, I will cut to the conclusion of the matter. When we first accept Jesus Christ as our Savior we enter into a blood covenant relationship with Him as His servant. We witness this covenant in the waters of baptism. For most, it takes a while to achieve consistent obedience to His laws, but once this happens, we enter into a friendship covenant relationship with Him. When and how this happens may not be known or recognized, but with hindsight, it becomes more apparent, as our walk and interaction with the Lord has changed. With more time, if we lay down self, we continue to grow spiritually, in greater intimacy and understanding of Jesus and His ways. This brings us into a son-ship relationship, where we can be trusted with His authority, to use to do the things that He would do in the earth. Eventually, there will be a body of people prepared, through great sacrifice, to be equally yoked with Christ as His bride. This will be realized once Zion is redeemed, when a people live continually according to the Celestial law. Then will a people function in full endowment with a power that enables protection and preservation of Zion, just like Enoch of Old manifested for the sake of Zion.
Other scriptural witnesses of this type of progression can be seen in the glories (Doctrine & Covenants 76), or the parable of the sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8), or the parable of the marriage super (Matthew 22). In each of these we see people grouped in four groupings, where some end up with greater reward or glory than others. What the Lord is saying to us through these various passages is that we must continue to come unto Him, submitting fully ourselves, if we want to receive His fullness, even a place with Him and His Father for eternity.
Thus, the salt covenant follows the baptismal covenant, but precedes the everlasting covenant, which is synonymous with the bride covenant in the marriage cup paradigm.
Where is the Covenant Pattern of progression or grouping found in scripture?
As we are to hold fast to the word of God, we must look to see whether this covenant pattern is further developed in scripture. The Hebrews were given practices that embodied spiritual things, so that they could come to understand. One place where the covenant pattern is concisely, neatly inferred is Ezra 6:9, which says, “…young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests…” Here it speaks of things that the priests and workers on the temple are to receive in order to perform their duties. The use of wheat is a reference to the body of Christ, hence the first covenant. Salt is a reference to the second covenant of friendship. Wine is a reference to the third covenant, where fruit is brought to the Father in son-ship. Finally, oil is a reference to the last covenant, where the bride is completely immersed in the Spirit, fully one with Christ her Bridegroom.
Another similar concise scriptural inference to the covenant pattern is found in Ezekiel 16:4, “And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.” Here we see a pattern of four, and the salt is rather conspicuous. We do not know why they would have salted a newborn baby, but perhaps it was done to disinfect or to toughen the outer skin. Although not quite in order, we see here an inference to the covenant pattern. This is even more interesting in light of the entire chapter, which speaks of Israel’s terrible state before and after her national covenant with YHWH. This was given to help the Jews understand why they were captive in Babylon. The navel cut refers to the circumcision cut, which alludes to the blood covenant. Washed in water refers to the son-ship covenant, when one is more thoroughly washed in the word. Salt refers to the friendship covenant, and swaddled refers to the bridal covenant. These things are not chance, the Lord God continually seeks to help us understand, that we may come fully unto Him.
Now, the place that best exemplifies the progression, not just the grouping, is found in 2 Kings 2, where Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire. This passage has a wealth of meaning. Let’s take a closer look at it. I will first outline the chapter and then explain it.
Elijah and Elisha depart from Gilgal. Then the Lord told them to go to Bethel. Next they were to go to Jericho, and, finally, they were to cross the Jordan River. They met with prophets at Bethel and Jericho. Fifty came to watch as they went to the Jordan River, for all knew that Elijah was to be taken to heaven that day. At the Jordan River, Elijah smote it with his mantle; it parted, and Elijah and Elisha walked through on dry land. Then Elijah asked Elisha what could he do for him, and Elisha asked for a double portion of his mantle. Elijah said that he asked a hard thing, but if he saw when he was taken, he would receive it. The chariot came from heaven and took Elijah, Elisha saw it, and the mantle was left on the ground. Elisha picked up the mantle and used it to smite the Jordan River, it parted, and he returned, on dry land, to the watching prophets on the other side. These men knew that the spirit of Elijah was given to Elisha, so they asked him to help with their water problem at Jericho. Elisha took a crucible of salt and poured it into the water, and it was repaired. Next he went back to Bethel, where children mocked him.
He cursed them, and two she bears came and 42 children were killed. The chapter closed with Elisha going to Carmel.
This passage is a type of the Lord’s people in the path that they must trod, if they are to come unto Him fully. Elisha was allowed to walk the path, yet, he was asked to return and help his brothers & sisters. They left from Gilgal, because this is where Joshua first brought the people into the Promiseland, the beginning of the covenant relationship. Each one must find their way on this same path. They must first overcome the sins of the flesh, represented by the priests of Baal. They must next come to the Lord and learn to walk as a servant, and then become a friend, once they are able to walk in consistent obedience. This is shown in the progression to Bethel, where Jacob was received as a friend of the Lord. Next they must continue in learning, humility and patience, if they are to become trusted with more authority of the Spirit to walk as a son, even with the authority of the Father at times. This is represented by the going to Jericho, for Jericho was taken by the authority of the Spirit. Finally, once a servant has shown himself to be a friend and son, some will learn to walk in complete submission to the Lord, and these will be brought to His Promiseland, to share in the Celestial Kingdom. Thus, we see that Elijah crossed over the Jordan, a type of entering therein, and was received by a chariot from heaven, as part of the bride of Christ.
If this is not enough, the chapter is organized as a chiasm, with Elijah going to heaven in the center. In Hebrew writing, the center of the chiasm is the most important part. Elisha returns the same way that they came, but, of course, in reverse order, hence the chiasm. Elisha shows forth great power and authority as a son of God in also parting the waters of the Jordan. At Jericho, the prophets received him and acknowledged his authority and place with God. His assistance to them, in healing the water, magnifies the friendship relationship, but when he travels to Bethel it is another story. In chiasms it is sometimes the opposite that shows forth in the inverse, and this is the case at Bethel, when the children are cursed and die horrifically. Here we see what will happen, eventually, to all who reject Jesus Christ’s blood covenant offer. Finally, Elisha goes on to Carmel, the place where other servants reside, even the school of the prophets, that he might assist them.
We are to be the salt of the earth, meaning the friend to all in the earth; and, as a friend, we should help everyone receive the most important thing we have, our relationship with Jesus Christ. This calling is clearly stated in modern day revelation; for it says in Doctrine & Covenants 98:5k, “When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth, and the savor of men.” And when we do not magnify our calling, we suffer, the church suffers, and the whole earth suffers. “But inasmuch as they keep not my commandments, and hearken not to observe all my words, the kingdoms of the world shall prevail against them, for they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men; and inasmuch as they are not the saviors of men, they are as salt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.” (Doctrine & Covenants 100:2cd)
Let us carefully consider these things. I will leave you with one final scripture, found in Doctrine & Covenants 98:5j, “Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul, and seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life.”