Salt is one of the most common everyday items, yet it carries deep symbolic meaning in the Bible. If you’re wondering about the spiritual significance of salt in Christianity, here’s the short answer: in Scripture, salt represents wisdom, purification, permanence, loyalty, and Christian witness.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore the rich biblical foundation for each facet of salt’s spiritual meaning. We’ll look at key salt passages and explain how salt relates to covenant, sacrifice, discipleship, evangelism, and more.

You’ll gain a full understanding of why Jesus calls believers the “salt of the earth” and how adding salt to offerings in the Old Testament prefigures New Testament teachings.

The Origins of Salt’s Significance in the Ancient World

Salt’s value and scarcity in antiquity

Salt has held an exalted status throughout history due to its value, scarcity, and role in health and food preservation. In the ancient world, salt was incredibly precious – it was often compared to gold in value.

The word “salary” even comes from the Latin word “salarium” which referred to the money paid to Roman soldiers to buy salt.

Salt was scarce and difficult to obtain in antiquity. Before modern mining and transportation methods, the only way to acquire salt was through labor-intensive processes like solar evaporation of seawater or digging deep into the earth to find mineral deposits.

This made salt incredibly valuable as a commodity. According to some records, in ancient Greece salt sold for the equivalent modern price of $300 per pound!

The high value and scarcity of salt in the ancient world stems from its crucial role in health, food preservation, and religious practices. Salt’s ability to preserve meat and fish against decay made it vital for storing food.

It was also essential for human health – our bodies require adequate sodium intake. Additionally, salt was used to seal covenants and featured prominently in religious rituals and offerings. All these factors imbued salt with great spiritual and material significance in antiquity.

Salt’s use in preserving and purifying sacrifices

In ancient religious rituals across Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and Palestine, salt was sprinkled on sacrifices before offering them to the gods. This practice held both practical and symbolic meaning.

On a practical level, the salt helped preserve and purify the sacrificed animal, preventing decay. But perhaps more importantly, salt spiritually cleansed and sanctified the offering, making it acceptable for the gods.

Its preservative qualities endowed salt with a sense of immutability, incorruptibility, and purification – traits the ancients believed were divine.

The Bible contains over 30 references to salt, often in connection with sacrifices and covenants. In Leviticus 2:13, God commands offerings be seasoned with salt. “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt.

You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt. “ Here salt seals the covenant between God and his people. It spiritually binds their contract just as it physically preserved meat and other offerings.

So from ancient times, salt has possessed sacred qualities beyond mere flavoring. Its ability to preserve, purify and seal established its cosmic value across many ancient cultures and faiths.

Salt as a Sign of God’s Covenant in the Old Testament

The everlasting covenant of salt with Aaron and his descendants

In Numbers 18:19, God makes a covenant with Aaron and his sons, promising them “all the holy contributions the Israelites present to the LORD” (NIV). This covenant was said to be “an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD.” Salt was prized in ancient times, used to flavor and preserve food.

Thus, this covenant of salt signifies an enduring, unbreakable agreement. God would always provide for the priests.

According to some sources, salt covenants were common in ancient Middle Eastern cultures when “two parties wished to ratify an agreement. “[1] By invoking salt, both God and the priests showed their commitment to hold up their respective ends of the covenant – the priests needed to faithfully serve Him, while God would supply their needs.

Ezra’s offering of salt to show covenant loyalty

In Ezra 7, King Artaxerxes allows Ezra the priest to take silver and gold back to Jerusalem, to beautify the temple. Ezra blesses the king, saying, “because you, O king, have sent me to bring offerings of salt to the God of Israel, I sang out with joy” (GNT). Why salt offerings?

Salt was used with grain offerings in the temple (Leviticus 2:13). And in the ancient world, salt signified loyalty and friendship. So Ezra offered salt to demonstrate the Jewish people’s continuing loyalty to God, despite their trials in exile.

Ezra thus invokes this meaning of salt to assure King Artaxerxes of his people’s goodwill. Though allowed to return to Jerusalem, they intended to faithfully serve both God and king.

Jesus Calls His Followers “the Salt of the Earth”

Salt has deep symbolic meaning throughout the Bible. When Jesus calls his followers “the salt of the earth” in Matthew 5:13, He is talking about their role in the world as preservers of righteousness and purity. The passages that follow unpack key implications of this metaphor.

Salt as a metaphor for wisdom and purity

  • Just as salt seasons and preserves food, Jesus expects His followers to promote godly virtue in society. They must have the wisdom to know right from wrong and the purity and integrity to stand up for it.

Remaining salty: preserving righteous character

  • Once salt loses its flavor, it becomes useless. Jesus warns against compromising one’s Christian witness through complacency about sin, like Lot living in Sodom. To preserve holiness, believers continually cleanse themselves through God’s Word (Psalm 119:9).

Losing saltiness: compromising Christian witness

  • If Christians blend too comfortably into an ungodly culture, they lose their counterbalancing impact. Jesus wants His followers to engage society while retaining distinctiveness. Compromising virtuous standards corrupts communities. Paul warns, “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The New Testament uses salt to convey how the righteous example and teaching of sincere Christians can positively influence communities, whetting spiritual appetites for the kingdom of God. Remaining spiritually flavorful requires separating oneself from sin’s corrupting effects.

Salt’s Enduring Legacy in Christian Worship and Teaching

Salt’s linkage to baptism and purification

Since ancient times, salt has been intricately linked with purification rituals across many cultures and religions. In Christianity, this enduring legacy continues through the use of salt in baptismal waters and other cleansing ceremonies.

During infant baptisms in several Christian denominations including Catholicism, a small pinch of salt is mixed into the water to indicate purification. This symbolizes the washing away of sin and the preservation against evil (Matthew 5:13).

Historically, salt’s preservative abilities allowed it to prevent decay, just as a baptized Christian is preserved from spiritual decay.

Additionally, salt is used to bless other substances like holy water and sacred oils to sanctify them before religious use. The Anglican church performs the blessing of holy water and salt during important religious ceremonies.

Orthodox Christians consume blessed bread and salt following their baptism. Here, the salt represents wisdom and preservation in the faith.

Salt’s enduring place in Christian rituals and symbols

Beyond baptism, salt continues to infuse many modern Christian rituals and symbols across denominations:

  • Catholics place blessed salt on their tongue to aid spiritual wisdom.
  • In some churches, a pinch of salt may be sprinkled on the coffin or grave symbolize Christ’s resurrection.
  • Spilling salt is still considered bad luck in some Christian cultures, as Judas spilled salt at the Last Supper.
  • A salt crystal light represents the everlasting light of Christ. The crystal structure reflects the divine order and love flowing from God.

Additionally, various biblical expressions using salt endure in modern Christian languages:

  • To “enter into a covenant of salt” means establishing a durable, long-lasting covenant (Numbers 18:19).
  • An irreverent person could be called a “person without salt“.
  • A “salty dog” may denote a seasoned, experienced Christian versed in the Bible’s teachings.

Therefore, while salt held practical significance in biblical times, traces of its spiritual symbolism still sprinkle across modern Christian languages, rituals, and traditions.


Throughout Scripture, salt maintains layered meaning tied to purification, preservation, and Christian identity. Jesus Himself draws on these associations when He commands believers to be the “salt of the earth.”

As in biblical times, salt continues to signify incorruptibility, loyalty, and the witness of Christ to the world.

The next time you sprinkle a pinch of salt, remember the rich spiritual symbolism it has carried for millennia. Just as a little salt can profoundly impact food, Christ teaches that even a small number of faithful believers can have far-reaching influence.

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