Today, we return to the text of Matthew 5:13 to discuss what it actually means when our Lord said, "Ye are the salt of the earth".
Salt of the Earth
v.13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. In this verse, we clearly see the need for contextual interpretation before any attempt can be made at application. Let’s first look at the interpretation of this verse.
Many will say that this verse applies to Christians. However, this verse does not apply to the Church specifically as that it has specific application to the House of Israel. He is still talking to the same people; the Jews. Sure, application can be made to the church but the interpretation has to first and foremost be given to the house of Israel.
When teachers apply it to Christians, they say things like, "Salt keeps meat from corrupting, so when we preach the gospel we keep the world from corrupting." However, in reality, just the opposite is true; we have been preaching the gospel for centuries and the world is just as corrupt as it always has been…or worse.
They go on to say that "Salt cleanses, thus we have a cleansing effect on the world." I have yet to see that in my lifetime. On the contrary, the world has crept into the Church (for the most part) and defiled it.
The Kingdom of Heaven
Again, we must keep in the forefront of our minds that this passage is in the “Sermon on the Mount” or what I prefer the “Giving of the Law”, was preached to Jewish disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven, a literal, visible kingdom on this earth in which the Jews will be the ruling nation and over which Jesus will be the King.
Again, where does the Old Testament end and the New Testament begin? The cross! Hebrews 9:16-17 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Mat 26:26-29 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. So, the reference to "ye" is a reference to Israel.
So, why are the Jews called the salt of the earth? They are the salt of the earth because of God’s covenants of salt were made with them. The book of Numbers records God’s Covenant of Salt for the Aaronic priesthood. Numbers 18:19 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 for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee. Also, in 2 Chronicles 13:5 Ought ye 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 a matter of fact, all of Israel’s offerings were accompanied by salt. Leviticus 2:13 And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.
These covenants were called perpetual in that they have no end and will stand forever. That includes into the Millennial Reign of Christ. Rabbi Moshe Yoseph Koniuchowsky said, “The term "covenant of salt" is indicative of the everlasting nature of the relationship between the children of salt, and their Elohim Yahweh. When we hear the term salt, the understanding is that the things Yahweh addresses are eternal, enduring, never changing, and abiding forever. All salt covenants then are eternal, and eternally binding on the sons and daughters of Yisrael, regardless where they are to be found, and regardless of whether a physical temple stands on Mt. Moriyah or not.”
Lost Their Savor
Notice, but if it loses its savor or flavor. How does salt lose its savor or flavor? A Christian chemist named Morvant says that Jewish women used salt on meat to preserve it since they had no refrigeration. Salt has ways of stopping bacteria and fungus by dehydrating the meat. The women would use the salt over and over because it was an expensive commodity.
In the dehydrating process, the salt would take on the impurities from the meat. The result was that the salt would lose its ability to "preserve" because its chemical composition would change with the addition of other chemicals from the meat. The women could tell when it was no longer good or “had lost its savor” by tasting it. Then it was thrown out because it was good for nothing.
Notice, to be trodden under foot of men. What does this mean? The women would then take the old salt that had lost its savor and throw it around their yards and pathways to keep the grass from growing. Very similar to the way we de-ice a sidewalk or road today with salt.
It is interesting that this same phrase is used to describe what they did to their Messiah and what he in return will allow to happen to them. Hebrews 10:29 “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” The phrase is also used in Luke 21:24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Application to the Jew
How does this apply to the Jews that Jesus is speaking to? They were the salt that he was referring to! However, they were now impure and had lost their savor! They had picked up impurities in their worship of God. Instead of sacrificing to Jehovah God according to their Covenants of Salt, they sacrificed to idols. Psalms 106:36-38 And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. 37 Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, 38 And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.
Instead of following priests in Aaron’s line according to their Covenant of Salt, they followed other priests. 1 Kings 12:28-31 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. 31 And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.
Instead of being under a king from David’s line according to their Covenant of Salt, they put themselves under tribute to foreign kings. John 19:15“But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priest answered, We have no king but Caesar.
Conclusion of Jewish Application
The conclusion is that the Jews had had lost their savor and were good for nothing. Jeremiah 13:10 This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing. They were good for nothing but to be “cast out.”
Two things were to happen as a result of the Jew losing savor.
1. Physically - They were to be cast out of the land physically in 70 AD by the Roman General Titus just like the salt was cast out.
2. Spiritually – They had rejected their Messiah and were spiritually blinded (Romans 11:25).