Who are Notsrim? "Watchmen" of the Torah

The commandments of the Torah and Prophets have not been abolished or changed by Yehoshua the Son of YeHoVaH, as it is written, "Think not that I come to annul the Torah, but to perfect it. Truly I say to you until heaven and earth (depart) not one letter or dot shall be abloshed from the Torah or Prophets, because all will be established" (Heb. Matt. 5:17-18).

Jesus' parables 

"Salt is good"

"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt becomes tasteless, what can be salted with it? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men" (Matt. 5:14).  

As a rule of interpretation, none of Messiah's sayings exist in a bubble.  They all have a context he applies them to.  So what's the context for this saying?  

The whole teaching beginning in Matthew Ch. 5 starts with this preface: “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him” (Matt. 5:1).

This "ye" of "ye are the salt of the earth" specifically refers to those who were willing to make the effort to follow Messiah up the mountain: his disciples (students).  This takes effort!  

This salt parable comes after a list of nine blessings that starts out the Sermon on the Mount, as it is commonly to referred to.  These blessings are:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." - Matt. 5:3-11 

The next verse is: "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt becomes tasteless, what can be salted with it? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men" (Matt. 5:14).  

Context tells us that these qualities: being poor, mournful, meek, hungry/thirsty for righteousness, etc., bring blessings - the blessings of the kingdom of heaven, comfort, inheritence, being filled with righteousness, obtaining mercy, seeing Elohim, etc. So, what does being salt, let alone the "salt of the earth", mean?  Within the context of the teaching, it is being a disciple of Jesus.  But the warning is about not becoming "tasteless", which seems to mean a lack of these qualities and the resulting blessings.  

In the gospel of Luke, we read essentially the same blessings, possibly the same teaching, but with the addition of what might be called the "woes":

“But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:24-26).  

These woes are surely connected to the "salt becomes tasteless" part of the parable.  

Historical background:

Salt at the time was much more valuable than it is today, because of its use in preserving meat and other foods from spoiling (no fridges, remember?).  It was particularly valuable to the Jews because of its use in "koshering" meat by drawing out any remaining blood/hemoglobin (eating blood is forbidden by the commandments of God).  At the time that Messiah said these words, there was a sort of monopoly on salt which was controlled by king Herod and his subordinates (Jews and Romans alike).  The major source of salt was the Dead Sea, and the main distribution point for the Hebrews was the temple in Jerusalem.  This created a virtual stranglehold on the salt the people required, because there had apparently been a lack of Mediterranean salt coming in, and this was a major source of income for the Romans (salt was taxed), and the Temple, specifically for the Jewish religious leaders in league with Herod at the time. The rampant export of Dead Sea salt at Cesaerea must have also driven up the price (my assumption).  Source:  http://salt.org.il/frame_rel.html 

Taking this into account, Jesus' words bare even more weight.  He was speaking to people who had been disenfranchized from something they needed most: salt.  At least four of his disciples were fisherman, who surely would have known the importance of salt in preserving their catch for market.  Not only this, but the salt monopoly also aided a religious monopoly: the Pharisees and Saduccees were getting rich, yes, but they were also using man-made Judaism to do this via their obsession with koshering meat with salt (this is not really biblical, only draining blood is- see Lev.17:13).  Basically, if a Hebrew wanted to get salt in quantity, they had to come pay a high price at the Temple.  When Jesus overturned the money-changers' tables, he was symbolically rejecting this type of monopolistic robbery:

"And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves" (Mark 11:15-17).  

When Messiah says "ye are the salt", he takes a materialistic concern (salt/its cost) and turns it on its head, entering the spiritual dimension.  He was bucking the materialist religion/politics/big business of his day!  

Ok, here's the first definition from Thayer's Greek Lexicon for the Greek term for salt, halas

Salt with which food is seasoned and sacrifices are sprinkled.  

This is of particular interest because of how it ties into Israel's sacrficial worship of Yahweh: 

“Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to Yahweh I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before Yahweh for both you and your offspring” (Num. 18:19).

"Don't you know that Yahweh, the Elohim of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt?” (II Chron. 13:5). 

“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” (Lev. 2:13).

“and make an incense blended as by the perfumer seasoned with salt pure and holy” (Ex. 30:35).

The salt on the sacrfices would make it last longer by preserving it, in addition to making it taste good. Therefore the term "everlasting covenant of salt" is fitting because it signifies preservation and continuity.  

Salts themselves are actually healing, as a story from 2 Kings of the prophet Elisha illustrates:

"And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, thus saith Yahweh, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake" (2 Kings 2:19-22).  

In this case, both the water and the land was healed as a result of Yahweh's salting it through his prophet.  In fact, the prophet himself does the salting along with the propehtics speaking. Clearly, Elisha is also a "salt of the earth" type! *a study of his life will show he fits almost all of the "blessed" categories of the first part of the sermon leading up to the parable in Matt. 5.  This connection between the blessing and "good salt", again, is key. 

Messiah actually explains this same parable in other sections of the gospels: 

"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other" (Mark 9:50).  This connects back to the preceding sermon on the mount of Matthew 5, where Yahushua says, "blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of Elohim" (Matt. 5:9).

The apostle Paul instructs us how to dwell in Yah's peace, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God and the peace of Elohim, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Messiah Yahushua” (Phillipians 4:7).  

I know from experience that one thing that makes me feel like crap is when there is no peace between myself and someone I love.  When there is shalom, however, there is wholeness.  

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusts in thee" (Is. 26:3). 

The Hebrew for "perfect peace" is "shalom shalom"', a word play on the literal meaning of the root verb shalam: to be complete (BDB Dictionary).  

Up to this day, Arabs still use the term, "there is salt between us" to indicate a strong bond of friendship. (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13043-salt)

Thayer's final definition of "salt" - halos - also confirms this Near East context: 

Salt is a symbol of lasting concord, Mark 9:50{c}, because it protects food from putrefaction and preserves it unchanged. Accordingly, in the solemn ratification of compacts, the Orientals were, and are to this day, accustomed to partake of salt together. 

The word used for "good" in Matt. 5:13 is actually better translated as "potent."  Here's the Helps word-studies definition for the greek word: 

2480 isxýo – properly, embodied strength that "gets into the fray" (action), i.e. engaging the resistance. For the believer, 2480 (isxýo) refers to the Lord strengthening them with combative, confrontive force to achieve all He gives faith for. That is, facing necessary resistance that brings what the Lord defines is success (His victory, cf. 1 Jn 5:4).

The greek word for "good" salt in Mark 9:50 is equally instructive:

2570 kalós – attractively goodgood that inspires (motivates) others to embrace what is lovely (beautiful, praiseworthy); i.e.well done so as to be winsome (appealing). 

Salt is linked in, also, with being free from the cares of the world to serve the Messiah:

"Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Luke 14:33-35).  

The notion of salt as preserving a sacrfice is especially fitting here:  If giving our wordly pursuits up to serve the Messiah is an acceptable sacrifice before God, the meat won't last long if those corrupting, wordly cares keep getting in the way.  

Whew, there are quite a few meanings packed into this salt parable.  Yet, there's more:

“Let your speech be alway with favor, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Collosians 4:6). 

What about this salt that's "losts its taste" and is only good "to be cast under the foot of men?" 

A bit of historical data helps contextualize it: 

“To be trodden underfoot” – There was a species of salt in Judea, which was generated at the lake Asphaltites (The Dead Sea), and hence called bituminous salt, easily rendered vapid, and of no other use but to be spread in a part of the temple, to prevent slipping in wet weather. This is probably what our Lord alludes to in this place. The existence of such a salt, and its application to such a use, Schoettgenius has largely proved in his Horae Hebraicae, vol. i. p. 18, etc. - from http://evidenceforchristianity.org/can-salt-lose-its-saltiness/ 

According to other sources, this type of oily salt had a fragrant quality that when burned by the priests on the sacrifice made the smell more enjoyable and made the fire burn stronger (see Mark 9:49).  However, when exposed to the atmosphere it lost this quality and was only good for the above-stated purpose.  

It should also be noted that "Dead Sea salt" is not good for seasoning food because it's only about 10 % salt.  It tastes bad.  It is good for soaking the feet in, however.  

Because the actual compound of salt can never really lose its "saltiness", what must be referenced is a salt that has become impure because diluted in other compounds, having lost its salt concentration.  

The reference to the temple's floor is particularly interesting... take it with a grain of salt, as it is historical and not scriptural.  Nonetheless, if the unsalty salt was to prevent slipping, it might be inferred that disciples of Messiah who have diltued their beautiful qualities of love and peace are examples to prevent others from falling from favor.  

More on negative uses of salt:

"And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that were therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt" (Judges 9:45). From this one understands that "salt of the earth" does not refer to salt that is strewn on the ground.  The Hebrew Matthew reads, "ye are salt in the world", not referencing "land." 

"And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which Yahweh overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath" (Deut. 29:23). 

"Therefore, as I live, declares Yahweh of hosts, the Elohim of Israel, Moab shall become like Sodom, and the Ammonites like Gomorrah, a land possessed by nettles and salt pits, and a waste forever” (Zeph. 2:9).

“But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (Gen. 19:26).

"Lot's wife" formation 

This is a picture of halite-limestone salt formation on Mt. Sodom referred to as "Lot's wife."  The formation is composed of halite salt and limstone - a mixture that could indeed be called "salt that has lost its flavor."  She is facing the plain of Sodom where Sodom and Gemorrah was thought to have been.  Indeed, the plain is filled with sulfurous brimstone that can still be burned till this day:

 sulphur from the site of Sodom/Gemorrah    

Lot's wife's action of turning back to Sodom is a lesson: don't turn back to a life of wickedness after having left it behind. She is also an example of a salt or powder that has lost its savor, being mixed with sand-stone.  Also, salt that's in a pillar can't be used because it's not powdered.      

 

"Ye are the light of the world" 

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16). 

This parable comes right after the salt parable, indicating a strong connection to it and the preceding blessings.

In fact, the same word for "good" (kalos, 2570) is used (see above).  Thayer's gives this definition:

Beautiful, applied by the Greeks to everything so distinguished in form, excellence, goodness, usefulness, as to be pleasing.  

So the "salt" and the "light" are of the same beautiful, excellent, pleasing quality...if they are doing what they're supposed to be doing: seasoning/shining.    

Messiah interprets the parable, which is fairly simple to understand.  However, some might get the wrong idea and think this parable is just about being seen doing good works: 

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 6:1).  

This doesn't mean we're not supposed to practice righteousness before others - we are - but that we're not supposed to do it to be seen! 

The connection to the next verse is also clear:

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:17-20).  

So the commands (Mitsvah) and Torah (law/lit. instruction) ARE light: 

“For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Prov. 6:23).

“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18).  

And doing and teaching even the small commandments is SHINING that light.  

Next part: "A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid." This is pretty straightforward, but I want to connect it to the "light of the world" portion.  Think about a city on a hill at night.  It would be seen as a group of many lights shining.  Because Messiah uses the plural "ye" in addressing his students, the notion of many lights shining together fits the "city on a hill" comparison.  The need for shining together as a group/community, and publically, is clear.  

..."Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it gives light to all those that are in the house." Now we come to the personal/domestic use of light.  Not only are disciples to be a public light to the world, but they are to be a light to each other within the household of faith. The abdsurdity of lighting a candle/lamp and putting it under something is clear: it defeats its very purpose.  

The community of Messiah is supposed to be like a family: 

“Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).

“For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt. 12:50).

That close-knit, loving family in Messiah is supposed to be a shining beacon and testimony for others:

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another” (John 13:34-35).

The sacrifice Messiah made in giving his life for the sins of the world was the shining example he set for us:

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends” (John 15:13-14).

At the end of the day, Messiah is our example who modeled how to be the light of the world.  If we say we abide in him, that means we walk like him:

He washed his disciples feet and said: 

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15). 

The apostle John also reminds us: 

“He that says he abides in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). 

This specifically reminds us that we are not called to be sinners and lawbreakers, as the next verse after this parable brings home: 

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.  Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:17-20). 

The righteous keep the law of Elohim and SHINE!!! 

"If your eye offends you..." 

The sermon on the mount continues with Yahushua teaching the law in its fullest sense.  He taught his disciples to keep the commandments on the outside, yes, but also in their hearts. 

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, that whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matt. 5:27-30). 

I firmly believe that Messiah was NOT literally advocating plucking out one's eyes or cutting of one's hand to prevent sin, but intentionally used a saying that would drive home the fact that if one does not STOP sinning (cut it out), Gehennom (lit. "valley of lamentation") is where one goes when dead.  This term appears in the Greek, but comes from Hebrew.  It is also a geographical place to the SW of Jerusalem where people formerly burned their children to a pagan deity in hopes of saving themselves.  The irony of its use is that Elohim will save the children (Matt. 9:14), but will condemn the wicked to the same fate they would have sent their children to.  

Here's part of the Strong's entry on the area:

The Jews so abhorred the place after these horrible sacrifices had been abolished by king Josiah (2 Kings 23:10), that they cast into it not only all manner of refuse, but even the dead bodies of animals and of unburied criminals who had been executed. And since fires were always needed to consume the dead bodies, that the air might not become tainted by the putrefaction, it came to pass that the place was called "the Gehenna fire."  

So, why not just say plainly, "stop doing those things"?  I believe Messiah is actually teaching us how to repent in our hearts and minds.  It's well know that the body exists neurologically inside the central nervous system and brain.  The phenomenon of phantom limbs proves this, that even when someone's hand is cut off, they can still "feel it."   But this is more about breaking a habit that is rooted in our body's lusts.  Did you know that we're actually supposed to treat our entire body as if it were dead?  

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). 

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). 

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13).  

“For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he lives, he lives unto Elohim. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto Elohim through Yahushua Messiah our Lord.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto Elohim, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto Elohim” (Rom. 6:10-13). 

Our bodies have lusts, that we know.  Men, specifically, often want to look at women in a lustful way.  But Messiah is saying that we have to RESIST that desire inside of us.  Avert your eyes!  

What we find is that through discipline, these desires DO get cut off and put to death.  It just takes the focus of mentally saying NO to that desire and cutting it off before it brings forth sin.   This is repentence, and it's key to salvation: 

“There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).   

You see, repentence isn't just an attitude - it's a change.  We are called to stop sinning (breaking Elohim's commandments) and start obeying them, even in our hearts!  HalleluYah!  It's possible - don't let anyone tell you it's not, otherwise why would Messiah even teach this?