SALT AND SEASONING
Salt was highly valued in the ancient world. Our word "salary" comes from the Roman
"salarium," or the portion of a soldier's pay that was taken in salt. Exodus 30:
35 refers to seasoning with salt:
"Can that which hath no savour be eaten without salt?" Job asks in Chapter 6: 6. Newborn
children were salted ceremonially (Ezekiel 16: 4). Meal-offerings to Yahweh were
to be salted (Leviticus 2: 13; Ezra 6: 9; Ezekiel 43: 24).
God made a covenant of salt with the Children of Israel (Numbers 18: 19), and St.
Paul tells us to let our speech be "always with grace, seasoned with salt" (Colossians
Jesus used salt as a symbol of the Church's purifying influence on the world: "Ye
are the salt of the earth..."--and continues with a warning:
"...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 trodden under foot of men."
(Matthew 5: 13; cf: Mark 9: 49-50; Luke 14: 34)
While salt was the most important seasoning in Bible times, as it is today, the Hebrews
also used many herbs and spices to flavour their food. In Matthew 23: 33, Jesus speaks
of the Pharisees tithing mint, anise (probably dill), and cumin. There is a reference to cumin in Isaiah 28: 27, and tithing of mint is also mentioned by Jesus in
Luke 11: 42. The Lucian reference also mentions rue (a herb) as part of the Pharisees'
tithes--but Jewish texts say that rue was not tithed, and again, dill is probably
a more accurate guess.
Cinnamon is mentioned in Proverbs 7: 17, and coriander in Exodus 16: 31. Bay Laurel
appears in Psalms 37: 35 in the King James Version, but later translations just say
"green tree." The "hyssop" used to smear the doorposts and lintel in Exodus 12: 21
was likely the herb marjoram, while the hyssop sponge soaked in vinegar and offered to
Jesus on the Cross was a cereal grain. Pine nuts were used in Middle Eastern cooking
(Isaiah 44: 14).