The Salt Covenant

Why did Jael drive a stake through Sisera's head while he slept, after she promised to keep him safe?
Why did Lot's wife turn into a pillar of salt when she disobeyed the Lord?
When the Lord spoke to Israel, He said, "When you were born, you were not salted or swaddled." What does that mean?
Why did Y'shua tell us that we are the salt of the earth?
Why did Paul say that our speech should be seasoned with salt?

Salt is important in the Bible and it was important in ancient culture; it is still important in parts of the Mideast and India. When President Sadat of Egypt greeted Prime Minister Begin of Israel as he set foot on Egyptian soil, the two men stopped to take bread and salt together. They entered into a covenant of protection. Sadat was saying, by his actions, that Begin would be safe while visiting Egypt and that he was willing to guarantee that safety with his life.

It was a tradition to welcome people into the home by offering them salted food, such as bread & salt or buttermilk, etc. It was a pledge of loyalty & protection.

In the Torah (Law), the covenant of salt is mentioned in connection with the sacrifices. ".it is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord unto you and to your seed with you." Num. 18:19 It is also mentioned in II Chron. 13:5, "Ought you not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?"

As we shall see, the salt covenant is unbreakable & the penalty for violating the salt covenant is death.

Judges 4:17-22 tells the story of Sisera (enemy of Israel) fleeing from a battle to Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. (Sisera's king had a peace treaty with the Kenites) Jael invites Sisera into the protection of her clan.
1. She covers him with a mantle showing the protection of her people over him. He asks for water.
2. She gives him buttermilk (salted milk) making him the offer of a salt covenant.
Then he asks her to stand in the door of the tent and lie to anyone passing by who asks if he is there.
3. She agrees to do that. Once someone is under the protection of the household, it is assumed that the host will lie to protect the guest, if necessary.

Then Jael killed him while he slept! Why?

Later, when Barak (General of Israel) pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him and showed him Sisera lying in "her tent". The tents are partitioned into the men's (hospitality) area and the women's section. It is forbidden for any man, except the husband, to go into the woman's tent section. Indeed, if a man even walks near the southern end of the tent where the women are, he can be killed for it.

The problem was, Sisera did not trust Jael, even though she offered him the protection of the tribe (by way of the mantle) and she offered the salt covenant of protection, and she agreed to lie for him. He apparently crawled under the curtain dividing the hospitality section of the tent into HER TENT. He knew that no man would search the women's tent. So she put a tent peg right through his temple -He was guilty of wrong thinking and put her in a compromising situation, & she killed him for it. If she had not killed him, and her husband or other relative had discovered that Sisera was in Her tent, she would have been killed by her husband for unfaithfulness. Quite possibly, the Kenites would have gone to war over the incident. Jael prevented all that by killing Sisera.

Sisera was a recipient of the salt covenant, but he did not take it seriously; he violated the covenant and he paid with his life.

Jud. 5:24-25 "Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.." The song goes on to declare the virtues of Jael & to praise her for her actions. She earned a place in the history of Israel!

Lot's wife paid with her life also. The angels of the Lord accepted Lot's hospitality, & in turn, offered salvation from the doomed city of Sodom. But Lot's wife disobeyed the instructions of the Lord. She became a salt monument to her own disobedience when she insisted on looking back. An attitude of regret for what she left behind, rather than an attitude of thanksgiving for the salvation of God; it is a good lesson for us today. Gen. 19

In Ezek. 16:4, the Lord, speaking of the origins of Israel, said, "On the day you were were not rubbed with salt or swaddled.". It was a custom to rub a tiny bit of salt on the baby as an indication that the parents intended to raise this baby to be truthful & loyal. It was an acknowledgment of the salt covenant in the baby's life. The swaddling clothes were another promise by the parents to raise the child to be "straight" in all his ways. The cloths were wrapped around the baby to make his limbs straight - anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour shortly after his birth. (Thus, we know from the shepherds' visit to the stable to see baby Y'shua (Jesus), that they came shortly after his birth.) In India, this custom is still practiced by parents who are carrying on the tradition. It has nothing to do with being poor; it was done even for the sons of kings.

Since ancient times in the Middle East, if you were traveling and needed shelter for the night, you could ask one of the Bedouin for his protection & help, by asking if you could partake of salt together. He would ask for all your money & valuables and put them in his pockets, then he would feed you, give you a place to sleep, and then he would stand guard all night to make sure you were safe. In the morning, he would feed you again, give your valuables back to you, and make sure you were safely on your way & would not think of taking any payment for his services, because it is looked upon as an act of service to God. That's what a salt covenant does for you.

Y'shua (Jesus) said that we believers are the Salt of the earth. Matt. 5:13 Salt is a preserving substance. When used to preserve food, it prevents mildew and bacteria from growing. It is also a cleansing agent. When the Lord was preparing to destroy Sodom & Gomorrah & the cities around it, Abraham asked if the Lord would withhold his judgement if there were 10 believers in the city. And the Lord said yes, the city would be saved (preserved) if there were at least 10 believers in it. Of course, there weren't that many, only Lot, so the Lord saved him & his family. We believers are the preserving factor today in our communities and countries.

The apostle Paul said that our speech should always be full of grace & seasoned with salt. Col. 4:6 Our words should preserve relationships, not destroy them. Our words should be words of life to the hearers. Our conversation should be "tasty" for others. When our words are edifying, rather than condemning, we are following the injunction to be salt & to season our words with salt, and of course, salt speaks of being truthful, loyal & protective - the truth & protection of a covenant.

Understanding this, makes it much more horrendous a crime for Judas to have betrayed Y'shua (Jesus) at the Passover Meal. During the meal, it is customary to dip bitter herbs into salted water. In Mark 14:18-20, Y'shua tells his disciples that one of them will betray him. "And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, 'Is it I?' And another said, 'Is it I?' And He answered and said unto them, "It is one of the twelve, that dips with me in the dish." This sign was inconclusive because several people would have been dipping the dish together. Later in the meal, Y'shua hands Judas the unleavened bread which he has dipped in the bitter herbs, and says to him. "What you are about to do, do quickly!" John 13:26-27

Judas, who took salt with Y'shua on many occasions, broke the salt covenant and betrayed the Lord. No wonder Y'shua said, "It would have been better for that man never to have been born." Mark 14:21 The penalty for betrayal is death. Judas could not live with what he had done, so he went and hanged himself. Because it was the Passover time, the city was inspected by the priests to be sure it was cleansed and there were no dead bodies in it. When Judas' body was discovered, it was not buried, but was tossed over the wall into the Kidron Valley where the garbage dump was located. His body was torn open on the way down (burst asunder). Acts 1:18-19

In India, the salt covenant is administered to the bride & groom during the wedding ceremony. Many of the Messianic Jews also do this during their marriage ceremonies. It is a good custom. I do not think it was an accident that Y'shua gave his long discourse to the disciples at the Passover supper just before He was crucified. He took salt with them, and then he said the words from the wedding ceremony, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." John 12:1-3

It was the custom of the groom to go back to his Father's house and build an addition to His Father's house to prepare for the arrival of the Bride. Y'shua is waiting until the Bride is mature enough to take home to His Father's house. Soon, any day now, our Bridegroom is coming back to take us to be with Him forever. I Thess. 4:13-18

When He comes, will He find faith on the earth? Are we living up to the salt covenant? He is!

Lura Maiman, Congregation Yeruel, Israel