3.1.5 Salt: Preservation, Purification, and Flavor
Volume 3: Living Symbols—Chapter 1.5
Salt: Preservation, Purification, and Flavor
In Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, “The Last Supper,” Judas Iscariot (the one with the money bag) is pictured having tipped over a container of salt, which was supposedly a sign of broken trust (and, perhaps because of the painting, was later seen as an omen of bad luck). I don’t know what Leonardo really thought about the symbolism of salt, but it shows up often enough in scripture (though not in the Last Supper narrative) to warrant a closer look.
We know it best as a flavor enhancer and preservative, which is primarily why Yahshua described his followers as “the salt of the earth,” rhetorically asking, “What good are you if you don’t do what salt does—making the world a better place?” But salt, as we shall see, also has a negative, destructive side: sterilizing or preventing growth—which, if you think about it, is actually how salt preserves food, by inhibiting bacteria that would ordinarily make it go bad. It all depends on your point of view, I guess: salt is destructive if you’re Staphylococcus aureus, but it’s an angel of preservation if you’re beef jerky.
Salt played a small but significant part in the Levitical offerings: “Every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.” (Leviticus 2:13) It’s not clear whether “all your offerings” is meant to include every type of sacrifice, or merely every form of minha, the grain offering. Considering the larger context here, the latter would seem to be the case; but perhaps it doesn’t much matter, because grain offerings were to accompany most blood sacrifices (Numbers 15:1-4). It seems salt was always in the picture somewhere, but it’s not specifically mentioned in reference to sacrifices other than the minha.
We encounter this phrase “season (or seasoned) with salt” several times in scripture. Paul counseled his readers to take on the attributes of salt as they interacted with the world: “Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5-6) Dour, legalistic religiosity does nothing to make life “taste better,” and flippant, shallow “fire-insurance Christianity” does nothing to preserve our world from corruption. But if our conversation is “seasoned with salt,” we will fall into neither of these traps, but will rather love without prejudice, discern without hatred, empathize with understanding, and communicate with compassion. Our “answers” to those who demand to know why we live hopefully in a hopeless world must be both realistic and encouraging. Our hope is in Yahweh’s Christ, the “author and finisher of our faith.” When the chips are down—when you finally realize you have to rely on something—it only makes sense to place your trust in One who has never broken a promise or proved Himself inadequate in any way. Anything else is hopeless.
Our “speech” need not be restricted to our fellow humans, of course. We may also converse with God, in prayer. The Mosaic metaphor for prayer was incense, and—no surprise here—salt was an ingredient in the “exclusive recipe” for the incense the priests were instructed to offer within the tabernacle: “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy.” (Exodus 30:34-35) We’ll track down what each of these components mean later in this unit. For now, just notice that preservation, purification, and enhancing the “flavor” of one’s mortal life are all part of prayer’s “formula.”
Literally, the phrase “seasoned with salt” might be rendered salted with salt, since both words are virtually identical in Hebrew—the noun and verb are spelled the same; the phrase is malach melach. As if to paint a word picture for us, malach also means “to vanish, be dissipated, i.e. to spread thin and scatter and so eventually disappear and no longer be seen” (Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains). It’s a picture of the way salt “vanishes” when sprinkled on food, becoming one with it. The word is used in this sense in Isaiah 51:6—“For the heavens vanish [malach] like smoke.” Like salt disappearing into your soup, the heavens will one day “melt with a fervent heat” (as Peter puts it)—at the very least, a poetic description of the results of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. So it’s worth noting that Isaiah goes on to point out what won’t vanish like this: “…But My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will never be dismayed.”
This concept of salt “vanishing” or “dissipating” may help us to understand the ramifications of the “covenant of salt.” This was a custom in which two people, having agreed upon something, would exchange a pinch of salt. Everyone carried a pouch of salt with them back then, so Party A would put a little of his salt into Party B’s pouch, and Party B would reciprocate. The point was that once my salt was mixed in with yours, it would henceforth be impossible to separate them out again. The covenant of salt was thus a picture of unity of purpose, of inextricably linked destiny or fortune. Salt’s potential for preservation through total absorption made it a natural symbol for a relationship’s permanence or a covenant’s binding nature—and the harm that would result if it was broken. A covenant of salt was thus characterized as being perpetual, irrevocable, and serious.
A few examples will illustrate Yahweh’s use of the covenant of salt. It was first used to confirm God’s alliance with the priesthood of Israel. “‘All the holy contributions that the people of Israel present to Yahweh I give to you [Aaron], and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual due. It is a covenant of salt forever before Yahweh for you and for your offspring with you.’ And Yahweh said to Aaron, ‘You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel.’” (Numbers 18:19-20) Since Aaron (in this context) is symbolically representative of Yahshua (the One who stands before God on our behalf), and his “sons and daughters” ultimately refer to those who follow Him in faith, what’s being promised here is stunningly significant: Our fortunes are being inextricably blended with Yahweh’s—what’s His belongs to us; what moves Him motivates us as well. We have no life at all apart from what Yahweh provides; His Spirit is what quickens us. It’s sort of the mirror image of holiness: our separation from the world is becoming complete through our absorption into His will. Once our “salt” has been mixed with God’s, nothing (“neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,” as Paul put it in Romans 8:38-39), can separate it back out again.
Another example: “Then Abijah stood up on Mount Zemaraim that is in the hill country of Ephraim and said, ‘Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel! Ought you not to know that Yahweh, God of Israel, gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?’” (II Chronicles 13:4-5) Only one of David’s “sons” matters, of course—his descendant (physically through Mary and legally through Joseph): Yahshua of Nazareth, who was also the Son of God, and thus capable (not to mention worthy) of reigning “forever,” just as the covenant decrees. For a Jew today looking for his Messiah, this is more significant than it appears at first glance: Yahweh asserts that His fortunes are permanently linked to the biological family tree of David the king. So if somebody shows up touting messianic aspirations (is there an Antichrist in the house?), the first thing you need to do is require him to trace his lineage back to David (as Yahshua did). Good luck with that: doing so has been impossible since the sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
A subset of the salt covenant bound a subject to his king, exemplified in this obscure reference from the Book of Ezra: “Now because we eat the salt of [i.e., receive support from] the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king [in this case, the Persian King Artaxerxes], in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers.” (Ezra 4:14-15) The concept of “being under obligation” was rendered with the phrase melach hekal melachna,’ literally, to “eat salt of the palace.” It implied a subject’s unshakable loyalty to the interests of the king, since he was in the king’s debt. So when Yahweh (our King) commanded that “with all of your offerings you shall offer salt,” He was telling us that because every minha grain sacrifice was a reflection of His own commitment to His provision of redemption of mankind, the addition of salt duly demonstrated our obligation to be loyal and thankful.
But there’s more. In what would seem a strange twist of fate (but isn’t, really), the Artaxerxes to whom Ezra owed his loyalty (“eating the salt of the palace”) was the same Persian king by whose decree we are able to calculate the prophesied date of first advent of the Messiah—so we too find ourselves under a certain “obligation of salt” to Artaxerxes. Daniel’s prophecy (in 9:25) tells us that the coming of the Anointed Prince would be sixty-nine “sevens” from “the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem.” This very command, issued by Artaxerxes, is recorded in Nehemiah 2, giving us the historically verifiable starting gun: Nisan 1, 444 BC. The “sixty-nine sevens” are counted in “prophetic” or schematic “years” of 360 days—a unit of time common in prophecies relating to Israel. Precisely 483 of these (i.e., 173,880 days) brings us to the 10th of Nisan, or March 28, 33AD. It was Palm Monday, the very day Yahshua rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey amid the adulation of the throng—the triumphal entry, something so critically important it was recorded in all four Gospels (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 12). Coincidence? Gimme a break.
Salt played a major role in Elisha’s very first miracle—performed just three days after his mentor Elijah was “raptured.” “Now the men of the city [Jericho] said to Elisha, ‘Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.’ He said, ‘Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him. Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, ‘Thus says Yahweh, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.’ So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.” (II Kings 2:19-22) It is not clear if the salt had anything physically to do with healing the spring. Since the “fix” was permanent, I rather doubt it. Rather, this seems to be one of those instances where the symbol—what salt represents—was allowed to get up and walk on all fours, so to speak. If salt speaks of preservation, purification, and enhancing taste (all things that Yahweh does for us) then using it to sweeten “bad” water is a metaphorical miracle. The record says nothing about the salt itself being efficacious in healing the spring. Rather, Yahweh says, “I did it.” The salt was merely a visual aid, something to prove that this was Yahweh’s purposeful act, not merely a bit of timely good luck.
Note too where this took place—Jericho. This, you’ll recall, was the city overlooking the Jordan Valley that Joshua’s armies had taken by following Yahweh’s counterintuitive instructions to march around it, shout, and blow their shofars. Joshua placed a curse upon whoever rebuilt the city (Joshua 6:26), a curse that came to pass exactly as promised (I Kings 17:34) only a few years before Elisha showed up and healed the spring.
If I may chase a theological rabbit for a moment, it seems there is a plethora of circumstantial evidence connecting Jericho with the rapture. First, shouting and blowing the shofar (the ram’s horn trumpet) are images inextricably linked to Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets. This appointment with God, the fifth of Yahweh’s seven holy convocations, is next in line for prophetic fulfillment (since the first four were all fulfilled in order in 33 AD). “Yom Teruah” literally means the “day of blowing (as of a trumpet) or shouting.” These very images are used several times in the New Testament (e.g., I Corinthians 15:52, I Thessalonians 4:16) to describe the instantaneous transformation of the ekklesia from the mortal state into the immortal. Second, Jericho is the neighborhood where Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire—without dying—making him one of only two Bible characters to experience something akin to the “catching up” of I Thessalonians 5:17 (Greek: harpazo; Latin: rapiemur, thus “rapture” in common parlance). Third, once Jericho (assuming it represents the world that will experience the rapture) was destroyed, there was a curse placed upon it—a curse that will be echoed in the carnage of the Tribulation, which will surely follow closely on the rapture’s heels. Fourth, Elisha was a witness to Elijah’s “translation,” making him analogous both to the “left-behind” Church of Laodicea and to Israel—both of whom will come to know their Messiah only after the Church of Philadelphia (represented by the raptured Elijah) is taken.
So what does all this have to do with salt? Like the inhabitants of Jericho, those on earth during the Tribulation will have a “water problem.” The third trumpet judgment states: “The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star [Greek: aster—read: asteroid] fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.” (Revelation 8:10-11) And then, a bit later: “The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, ‘Just are You, O Holy One, who is and who was, for You brought these judgments. For they [the inhabitants of earth, the objects of Yahweh’s wrath] have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!’” (Revelation 16:4-6) Although I have no doubt that literal plagues are being described—with real causes and equally real effects)—remember what water as a scriptural symbol signifies: restoration and cleansing. Then factor in Elisha’s cure for cursed Jericho’s bitter water: he threw in salt, taken from a “new bowl.”
We should discern from this (if I’m not hallucinating) that the successful restoration and cleansing needed by a thirsty, filthy world will come about—if at all—through what salt represents: purification and preservation. And where must this “salt” come from? Elisha told us: from a new bowl, a new vessel. Paul explains: “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom He has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:20-24) Yahweh has the right (as our Creator—the “Potter”) to squash us and start over if we’re not turning out as He wished. He can’t (or at least won’t) make use of “salt”—purification and preservation—from “vessels of wrath.” But the repentant multitudes, both Jews and Gentiles, will have allowed themselves to be “re-formed” by their Creator on the potter’s wheel of adversity—the Tribulation. They will therefore be new, fit vessels from which to dispense Yahweh’s “salt,” making possible the cleansing and restoration of pure water—while the unrepentant world continues guzzling wormwood, bathed in blood.
On a more prosaic note, will the repentant souls living through these terrible times be able (as Elisha did) to sweeten their tainted drinking water by adding salt from a new bowl? I have no earthly idea. If you find yourself in that particular pickle, give it a shot. Realistically, of course, the chances of my crazy ideas being read by anyone after the rapture are vanishingly remote, and who else would broach such a theory? My suggestion: if you haven’t done so already, receive Yahshua as your Savior and Messiah now—and render this whole theoretical discussion moot.
As a symbolic attribute of salt, purification is a two-edged sword. We usually view purification as a good thing, but if we happen to be the problem—the thing that needs to be scrubbed off—our viewpoint changes. Yes, salt also has its negative, destructive side. It has the ability to make land barren and infertile—worthless for any productive purpose. For instance, we read: “And Abimelech fought against the city [Shechem] all that day. He captured the city and killed the people who were in it, and he razed the city and sowed it with salt.” (Judges 9:45) The idea was to make it sterile, incapable of fostering life and growth. When Vespasian and his son Titus destroyed Judea in 67-70 AD, they killed or enslaved millions of Jews and tore down entire cities, but they left the soil alone. The land wasn’t so “fortunate” a generation later, however, when Emperor Hadrian (in 135 AD) drove out all the Jews and sowed the fields with salt in the wake of the revolt of Bar Kochba—the brutal warlord touted as Israel’s Messiah by the influential Rabbi Akiba. Hadrian (or was it Yahweh?) was so angry with Israel (whose leaders had rejected the true Messiah a century before this) that the “glorious land” was rendered barren with salt, and its name changed to Palestina, in an effort to permanently sever the Jews’ ties to it. And it worked (on a political level if not an emotional one) for eighteen centuries. In order to purify and preserve the land for future generations of Jews, Yahweh had used salt to purge it of their ancestors—making the land as barren as their souls. Now that’s what you’d call irony.
Jeremiah was warning Judah—if not Bar Kochba and Akiba directly—when he reported this: “Thus says Yahweh: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from Yahweh. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.” (Jeremiah 17:5-6) “Trusting in man” instead of God was the sin that precipitated Israel’s eviction from the land. But notice the precise nature of the curse: he would carry his barrenness with him to “the wilderness.” In other words, though eretz Israel had been rendered sterile, the rebellious Jews could not expect to find contentment outside the land, either. They were to be a “valley of dry bones” (in every conceivable sense) until Yahweh decreed their return—a process that has now begun.
Nor is this the first admonition to Israel that their land would be destroyed with salt if they abandoned Yahweh. Moses warned them in the most vivid of terms before they even crossed the Jordan: “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’” That, in case you missed it, is tantamount to what Jeremiah had cautioned against—“trusting in man and making flesh his strength.” “This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. Yahweh will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of Yahweh and His jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and Yahweh will blot out his name from under heaven….” This is a heavy-handed hint that the curses endured for failing to trust Yahweh might be more than temporal: one’s name (Hebrew: shem—his identity, reputation, glory, or character) follows him into eternity; if one’s name is “blotted out,” so is he.
The curse wasn’t just personal, either, but also national (as Israel was to learn the hard way). “When they see the afflictions of that land and the sicknesses with which Yahweh has made it sick—the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which Yahweh overthrew in his anger and wrath—all the nations will say, ‘Why has Yahweh done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of Yahweh, the God of their fathers.’” (Deuteronomy 29:18-25) Note two things here. First, the curse upon the land was to serve as a witness: it is evidence of Yahweh’s anger. A witness to whom? To the gentiles, who might be expected to say, “If God is willing to chasten His own chosen people like this, we would be wise to repent, while there’s still time.” Second, the reason for the curse is said to be “abandonment of the covenant of Yahweh.” This, of course, is the mirror image of the way it was stated above—trusting in man rather than in God. The crux of the covenant is trust in Yahweh and His Messiah—not in ourselves. We cannot earn our own redemption: we must receive it as a free gift from Yahweh.
Another prophecy equating “salted land” with barren, sterile waste speaks of the ultimate fate of modern Jordan: “‘As I live,’ declares Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Moab shall become like Sodom, and the Ammonites like Gomorrah, a land possessed by nettles and salt pits, and a waste forever. The remnant of My people shall plunder them, and the survivors of My nation shall possess them. This shall be their lot in return for their pride, because they taunted and boasted against the people of Yahweh of hosts.’” (Zephaniah 2:9-10) This is the exact converse of what the Arabs of Jordan (whom the world refers to as “Palestinians”) would do to Israel if they could: plunder them, possess their land, and boast proudly in their conquest over Israel’s God (whose name, ironically enough, most Israelis don’t know yet). Israel has no designs on Jordanian territory; they merely want to be left alone in peace. And yet, although the lands east of the Jordan River will never be distributed as tribal territories (see Ezekiel 47:13-23), Yahweh has promised (here and elsewhere) that a severely depopulated Jordan will serve sort of as the Israeli “outback” during the Millennial Kingdom—forever a wasteland, a monument to the Palestinians’ arrogant covetousness toward the land of Israel.
It’s interesting that Zephaniah mentioned Moab and Ammon as the progenitors of salt-cursed lands. These two groups are descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot, who had personal history with salt curses. But before we look at what happened to him, let us avail ourselves of the lesson Yahshua chose to teach us about him: “Just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed….” He had just made the same sort of comparison with the days of Noah. His emphasis is not (as we might have expected) on the heinous overt debauchery of the populace, but merely that they were living their lives oblivious to the word of God. They didn’t know Him, they didn’t want to know Him, and they were studiously unaware of His impending visitation, no matter how much Noah and Lot had tried to get their attention.
That’s the situation; here’s the lesson: “On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife.” (Luke 17:28-32) We’re warned that the Son of Man will be revealed (by taking His people out of harm’s way, as both examples demonstrate) quite suddenly, without warning. Further, we won’t be able to cling to anything pertaining to this world when we’re whisked out of danger: the rapture (the event to which Yahshua was referring) will be a “come-as-you-are” party.
So what are we to remember about Lot’s wife? The record states, “Then Yahweh rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from Yahweh out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:24-26) This is such a cryptic description, it’s hard to say, forensically, what actually took place. The word translated “pillar” is the Hebrew netsib, denoting a garrison or outpost—a guard or governor standing watch over a place. It’s derived from the verb natsab: to stand upright, to take a stand, which makes the derivative “pillar” a bit easier to comprehend. The point seems to be that because Lot’s wife looked back longingly at the life in Sodom she was leaving, she was engulfed in the destruction of the place, perhaps encased so suddenly she remained standing upright in the sulfurous salt that accomplished the destruction of the city. As bizarre as this sounds, it wouldn’t be the strangest curse ever described in the Bible (see Zechariah 14:12). Whatever actually befell Mrs. Lot, she became a silent sentinel, a mute monument to the foolishness of people who cling to the comfortable familiarity of an evil world, out of fear of the unknown country of God’s grace.
Whereas Lot’s wife became a shrine to sterility and lifelessness (taking upon herself the role of whatever it is that salt destroys in its role as an agent of preservation), we are instructed to be salt in the world—the agent itself, the substance that inhibits corruption and spoilage in people’s lives, making their existence “taste good.” Yahshua said, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5:13) Luke’s recounting is similar: “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away.” (Luke 14:34-35)
The salt we know is usually pure, processed sodium chloride, a chemical substance that can be expected to remain unchanged pretty much forever. But in the first century, salt was liable to contain any number of impurities or contaminants. So under certain conditions, salt could become less “salty,” making it worthless for its intended purpose. Yahshua has made several important points here: (1) We are supposed to be what brings flavor and preservation to the world, purifying it by discouraging the growth of corrupting influences. (2) We, like salt, can lose our effectiveness if we become compromised by foreign contaminants—doctrines and distractions that dilute or compromise our purpose. (3) Once we have become thus corrupted, it is impossible to regain our former place of service (at least, without a whole lot of “processing”). One’s ministry, reputation, and usefulness can be irretrievably lost in the blink of an eye. So (4) if we have lost our ability to season and preserve our world, we will be retasked to some other function, something that requires less integrity of us, with less responsibility, less effort, less reward. Note that Yahshua isn’t saying we’ll lose our salvation; we’ll merely lose our opportunity to serve Him in any significant way. To any serious disciple of Christ, that ought to be a terrifying prospect.
I get the feeling that Yahshua used His “salt” illustration in several different contexts. Mark remembers it this way: “For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:49-50) What does it mean to be salted, or seasoned, with fire? Fire, if you’ll recall, is a symbolic agent of purification through separation. And the Hebrew concept of “salting” something, as we saw above, is a picture of the “salt” vanishing or being absorbed into that to which it was applied. So “being salted with fire,” in the end, is symbolic of the Holy Spirit’s convicting and purifying presence within the life of every believer—becoming part of us, changing us from within, and being absorbed as salt permeates our food. This also explains the equivalence between “having salt in yourselves” and “being at peace with one another.”
The same Spirit indwells us all. As long as we’re in harmony with the Spirit, we’ll be at peace with each other. Note that “everyone” here (Greek: pas) doesn’t necessarily mean every single human being on the face of the earth. The word is often used as poetic hyperbole in scripture (as in Acts 2:5—“Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.”) Yahweh was speaking to His disciples here. The meaning is clearly “all of you guys will be salted with fire.” We are thus reminded of John the Baptist’s prediction: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12) That baptism is the “salting with fire” of which Yahshua spoke. Through it, we will be preserved and made pure. And what of salt’s other property, that of enhancing flavor? That too is part of Christ’s baptism. It is through us, the “salt of the earth,” that the world may do this: “Oh, taste and see that Yahweh is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)
(First published 2014)