Re: Salty Salt

From: David Moore (
Date: Sun Oct 08 1995 - 16:49:26 EDT

"JOHN HAYDEN, JEWELL, IA" <> quoted and wrote:

>David Moore responds:
>> We should keep in mind that Jesus said that salt that has lost its
>>savor is useful neither for the land *nor* for the dunghill. There is no
>>implication that salt that has *not* lost its savor would be good for
>>either of these.
>> Unger's suggestion is most probably not true since salt does not
>>hasten decomposition of anything; to the contrary, it retards
>>decomposition. Almost any kind of organic refuse could be thrown on a
>>dunghill (i.e. compost pile) to decompose and later be used as fertilizer.
>>But refuse that was even a little salty could not be so used since salt
>>retards the growth of most plants.
>> What "salt that has lost its savor" might be is another question.
>>It has been suggested that Jesus could have been referring to slag that
>>was left after impure salt had been used to salt-cure fish or other
>>foodstuffs. Such material would not be salty enough to be used as salt
>>but would be too salty to be thrown on the land or even on the dunghill
>>(in which case it would also eventually end up on the land).

> 1. Is there certainly NO implication that good salt IS somehow
>"fit" (EUTHETOS) for the LAND (i.e., as a herbicide/curse) or for the
>DUNGHILL (i.e., as Unger proposes)?

        Besides what present agriculture teaches us about the effect of
salt on farmland - i.e. that it retards or extinguishes most plant life -
we have the biblical references that attest its use to render the land
infertile (Dt. 29:23; Job 39:6 [NEB, NRSV], Jdg. 9:45). To try to get an
implication that good salt is "fit" (EUQON) for the land would require
accepting the *converse* of the Scripture's statement as true; this would
amount to faulty logic. For example, if we accept that unsalty salt is
not good for the land, it does not logically follow that salty salt is
good for the land.

> 2. Do we know that "dunghill" means "compost pile."

        As mundane as it may seem to say it, dung, piled up, does compost.
It produces heat and decomposes to break down into components more readily
usable by the plants around which it is spread. Wasn't anyone else on the
list ever a farm boy?

> 3. Is Jesus saying that unsalty salt is neither fit for the land
>nor for the land via the compost pile?

        I think we can safely assume that some refuse could be thrown
directly on the land where it is absorbed directly into the soil. Other
materials would need to be composted first, since they are not easily
assimilated by the earth until they decompose. It may be helpful to look
at the parallel in Matthew which adds, "[Salt that has lost its savor] is
no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled under foot."
The roadways would be essentially the only non-agricultural land, and it
is only on the roads and paths that the unsavory salt could be thrown.

> I wish I had more light on ANE uses of salt in agri[de]culture and
>sanitation. HELP!

        You might try checking the index of Theophrastus or of Pliny the
Elder s.v. "salt." Either of them reports a great deal about ancient
agricultural practice, sometimes mentioning the countries where those
practices were current.

All the best,

David L. Moore Southeastern Spanish District
Miami, Florida of the Assemblies of God Department of Education

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