Salt - what does it mean?
Salt. I've heard it preached in church many times from a Greek, human and modern understanding, sometimes even a culinary one! Five years ago I was asked for the first time to share with a church leader what it meant from the Hebrew which, as we will see, opens up many deep meanings. Why is it important to fully understand what "Salt" means? Yeshua the Messiah said: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." (Matthew/Mattityahu 5.13)
So we are the salt. That is why it’s so important to understand all the meanings the author of the Bible, not our minds, attaches to it. I want to endure until the end. I want to not be deceived. So I really want to understand what He means when He is saying "you are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness...." How can I know what I must not lose?
So, what does salt mean to the Jewish Messiah when He speaks? In Hebrew, the word for salt is: "melach" This is made from the Hebrew letters mem, lamed and chet. Hebrew is a consonantal language so words can be said without the vowels. Modern Hebrew, for example, is written without the vowels. Biblical Hebrew, thankfully, includes the vowels as tiny dots and dashes around the consonants. But the vowels do not form part of the root, only the consonants do. We'll come back to this important point later.
"Melach" means: “to eat salt." But more specifically: “to be under obligation to eat the salt of the palace, to be under the solemn obligation to the King's interests, not one’s own.”
Immediately, there is a greater prophetic meaning in the Hebrew than the Greek mindset allows us to see. If we really are Yeshuatim (followers of Yeshua/Jesus), then our whole lives are not our own. We don't, first and foremost, approach the King to sanction or bless our own interests. We enter the courts of the King, under solemn obligation to "eat the salt of the palace", which means to live under the obligation to the King's interests, not our own.
But what exactly does "eating the salt of the King's palace" mean?
When I prayed this some years ago, the LORD told me to study the word "salt" in the Hebrew thoroughly throughout the Old Testament. He said that is where He defines it. He showed me that there are only three discussions of salt in the Brit Chadesh (New Testament). Jesus/Yeshua doesn’t define what He means by "salt" directly, in any of them. He is talking to His Jewish people in the Gospels, so He is assuming they know, because, by contrast, salt appears in thirty three discussions in the Old Testament/Tanakh. So, the word for "Salt, salted, saltiness, salt-pits" appears in the Old Testament thirty three times, and those mentions fall into
Salt appears twelve times referring to: Judgement/God’s Curse on Wickedness/Place of Destruction of Enemies of Yisrael/Barrenness (unproductivity)/Slime (sin): Genesis 14.3, Genesis 19.26, Deuteronomy 29.23, Judges 9.45, 2 Samuel 8.13, 2 Kings 14.7, 1 Chronicles 18.12, 2 Chronicles 25.11, Job 6.6, Jeremiah 17.6 (curse on the trust in man who turns aside his heart from the God of Israel), Ezekiel 47.11, Zephaniah 2.9
Salt appears three times referring to: the LORD’s Covenant of Salt with Israel: Leviticus 2.13, Numbers 18.19, 2 Chronicles 13.5. The church knows of many Old Testament covenants but do we know about this covenant and what does it mean? We’ll come back to this later.
Salt appears seven times referring to: Holiness/Sacrifice/Healing of the God of Israel: Leviticus 2.13 (twice), 2 Kings 2.20, 2 Kings 2.21, Ezra 6.9, Ezra 7.22, Ezekiel 43.24,
And salt appears eleven times referring to: Border/boundary of land of Yisrael (ie: salt sea, valley of salt) and Protection of the people of Israel: Numbers 34.3, Numbers 34.12, Deuteronomy 3.17, Joshua 3.16, Joshua 12.3, Joshua 15.2, Joshua 15.5, Joshua 15.62 (city of salt), Joshua 18.19, Psalm 60 (Title), Ezekiel 16.4 (to salt a newborn baby). In this last reference, the LORD is talking to Jerusalem and saying she wasn’t salted as a new born baby in order to protect her from infection. Therefore this is one of the reasons she becomes so sinful and adulterous. Which is heartbreaking if you think about it.
So we are normally salted by God when we are born as children of Israel. Therefore if we are born a second time spiritually, as Jesus/Yeshua says we are (John/Yonatan 3), then the same thing spiritually must happen as happens physically. All of us that are true second births are spiritually salted by God. How does this feel?
You will know if you have been salted by the LORD to protect you from sinful behaviour, because firstly, it can sting! This is the protective role of trials, both in the early days after we become baby believers and in a cycle of living with Jesus ever since. It can sometimes literally save our life! Have you ever lost a job, a relationship or what looked like a great opportunity, but then years later found out that God was protecting you? And secondly, when we are immersed in the LORD's salt, we will become thirsty for living water. Testing times draw us closer to Him.
Being salted by God means we have spiritually become a child of Israel. We are being protected by God from sin and infection from the world and that sting drives us to gulp in the Living Water of His Word and His Spirit. We may never have heard of this teaching in the Greek church, that sometimes repeatedly being salted by God is necessary to keep us alive and safe spiritually, and that although painful it is wise to succumb to this.
The apostate church will not be salted. Becoming a "christian" is sadly often sold as something that has no pain or sting to it. Therefore, there will be very little protection (from sin) rubbed into the apostate church by the God of Israel. So, those people will tragically become infected by the nation’s worldview and current cultural norms. The bacteria of life, whether that is cynicism, unholiness, manipulation of others, bitterness or self-pity will sink in through their spiritual skin, because there is none of God's salt on it as a protective layer. If you are immersed in God's Word you will not soak up the culture around you but rather reject it and keep your Biblical integrity.
As we move out of the Old Testament and into the New, there are now only three passages which refer to salt. So to understand them fully one has to understand the Old Testament references. Otherwise we will just put onto God’s meaning our own worldly and smaller understanding of salt; for example being a preservative. The New Testament mentions are:
We can clearly see that these mentions hint at some of the Old Testament meanings: holiness, being separated by God for holiness, healing and God’s judgement as mentioned above. But, does the modern church know that to be "salty" also means, in Hebrew, to understand God’s boundaries and protection of His Jewish people and His land, as mentioned above? If it did, some sections of the church would act very differently. I had the privilege of meeting an Israeli research-based group in Jersualem, who monitor the political funding of so-called Non-Governmental Organisations, called NGO Monitor. Here is what they said: "93% of one of the anti-Israel NGO's Boycott, Divestment and Sanction organisation's funding comes from churches. What has happened to their theology that they would seek to undermine Israel?" Is the church as a whole acting as the salt of the earth, or just some sections of it?
The New Testament references to salt are also, I believe, referring to the Jewish people themselves. Because Jesus/Yeshua says: “If you lose your saltiness (your holiness and therefore your protection by God) I will throw you out and you will be trampled underfoot.” The Jewish people did lose their holiness by following other gods. And so, throughout history, we repeatedly see Jewish communities thrown out, most significantly from the Land of Israel itself, often for centuries. And the Jewish people have definitely been trampled underfoot, metaphorically and tragically quite literally during the Holocaust (Shoah). Have we ever seen this prophetic meaning in the New Testament parables of salt being taught in the church before? At the time Jesus/Yeshua was speaking this teaching, He was talking to His Jewish people, who were still in the Land of Israel and hadn’t yet been thrown out and trampled underfoot by the nations.
But even as we wandered in exile through centuries, the Jewish people have kept a witness to the Messiah by how salt is used in the LORD's feasts (Leviticus/Vayikra chapters 23-26). This will touch your heart in its prophetic significance of the hope of the Jewish people for our Messiah to come back for us:
As Jews we use salt in two of our appointed times. These clearly show Messiah hidden in the feasts:
On Shabbat (Sabbath), we always have bread and wine on the Shabbat table. But salt is also sprinkled on the bread after it is "cut" and then broken for all present to eat. This is a prophecy of Christ acted out by all practicing Jews every week, whether we "see" it yet or not. The Messiah was "cut" by a spear before He became the full sacrifice for sin. The Jewish people are blinded by the LORD as to the identify of the Jewish Messiah, in order to give time for the gentiles to come in (Romans 11-13). What grace He has for the nations!
But how do we know that the cut and broken bread in the centre of the Shabbat table, which is sprinkled with salt, represents the Messiah's perfect sacrifice? Because all the Old Testament sacrifices were to be sprinkled with salt (Leviticus 2.13). It is one of the LORD's commandments to His people. So this is identifying Yeshua as the ultimate Shabbat Rest, the ultimate sacrifice. There is only one way a Jewish person cannot see this parallel every Shabbat. The Word of God tells us it is a supernatural temporary blinding of His treasured people (Romans 11-13). This is because the LORD wants the nations to see His Love and Grace too. But when You're so obvious to Your Own, You then need to lovingly and temporarily blind them, so that they don't immediately see You. How many times did Jesus/Yeshau say in the Gospels "if you have eyes to see..."?
On Shabbat we thank the LORD for "the bread that comes from the earth." Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, Hamotzi lechem min haaretz. This is said in all Jewish households worldwide who practise Shabbat. It means: “Blessed are You LORD, our God King of the Universe, who gives us the bread from the earth.” Yeshua is the Bread of Life that came to, and from, the earth, through a woman made from the dust of the earth.
Bethlehem (Beit Lechem) means “House of Bread” in Hebrew. Jesus/Yeshua came to “dwell” in us and He is the Bread of Life. So He chose to be born in a town that clearly showed He was the sacrificial salted bread in the Hebrew language. Amazingly, this is so clear in the Hebrew because the word for bread and the Hebrew word for salt both have the same Hebrew root-word made of the letters mem, lamed, chet.
Salt is melach.
Bread is lechem.
The consonants do not have to be in the same order to share a root. As long as the three consonants are the same ones, the order doesn't matter. So you can clearly see in the English transliteration that both words share the letters m, l and ch (mem, lamed and chet in Hebrew).
Remember the three times the word "salt" appears as the LORD’s Covenant of Salt with Israel in the Old Testament? (Leviticus 2.13, Numbers 18.19, 2 Chronicles 13.5)
"Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings (from the firstborn) the Israelites present to the LORD I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD for both you and your offspring.”
The meat of the firstborn is to be eaten by Aaron and his sons and daughters as a sign of God’s everlasting Covenant of Salt. To put simply, the sons and daughters in the priestly family of God may eat the flesh of the first born! This is a prophecy of "eating" the body of the Messiah through His offering and sacrifice as both the Firstborn and as the Perfect Passover Lamb. Yeshua said "Eat my body and do this in remembrance of me" meaning "consume what I do, and what I say and live it out, to show Me!" Yeshua is the Covenant of Salt hidden right back in the middle of Numbers to Aaron and the lineage of priests. Amazingly it says to "his sons and daughters", which is also a prophecy of Christ’s salvation and prophetic promise to "pour out my Spirit on your sons and daughters" in the book of Joel.
So the bread we eat sprinkled with salt every Shabbat is clearly Yeshua hidden as the flesh, bread and salt that we consume in order to receive God’s eternal covenant. We can now see that the meaning of "salt" from the Hebrew language is a lot more than man’s idea of a preservative!
If the Jewish people had been enabled to "see" completely by the LORD 2000 years ago, then the last 2000 years of mission into the world wouldn’t have had time to happen.
2) Passover (Pesach):
The second appointed time (Leviticus/Vayikra 23) we use salt is Passover. During the Passover Service (Pesach Seder) we dip vegetables in salt water to represent the tears of oppression during Egypt, until our release from wickedness and slavery. Release came through the deliverance of the LORD, through the Passover Lamb. In this life, we are oppressed by evil and slavery to sin, until we are delivered by the Passover Lamb, who I believe is the LORD Jesus/Yeshua.
So, to sum up, in Hebrew the revelation of His meanings for "salt" helps us see that our saltiness in Jesus/Yeshua actually means all the following:
Diving for hidden treasure: The Hebrew language is not only a Holy Language but a dancing language. It's alive with meaning in every letter. So now we're going to finish by looking at the Hebrew word for salt by its consonants, rather than where it occurs in the Bible, and seeing what other Hebrew words share the same root-word, the same three root consonants. Remember the vowels can change, the order of the letters can change, even a prefix or suffix can be added, but the three root letters mean that the word shares its meaning with every other word that shares those same three consonant letters, in a perfect, coded heavenly word-family.
So, "Salt" as we've seen is the word "Melach", made up of the three Hebrew letters mem (m), lamed (l) and chet (ch). It also shares those three root letters with all the following Hebrew words:
The war is worth fighting! Keep persevering. Ask Him to make our foreheads like flinty rock. Let's encourage each other to know and live in Him, as He is our only authority and strength. Be encouraged to know and live under His salt-promises from the Old Testament/Tanakh, and the New Testament, to overcome in His Name. And then like all great epic battles in movies and literature, we will, through Him, get to take our place at the Banquet Table in Heaven!
We can bear being salted if we know it will save our life; if we know the Hands rubbing it in are loving and are preparing us with great yearning in love for eternity. If trouble is coming the best thing the LORD can do is prepare us through His Word and Spirit.
Hebraic and Prophetic Teaching
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