Then Abijah stood up on Mount Zemaraim that is in the hill country of Ephraim and said, “Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel! Ought you not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?
(2 Chronicles 13:4-5 ESV)

This is the only mention of a "covenant of salt" with respect to David. How is Jeroboam to know the LORD God gave the kingship over Israel to David and his sons, by a covenant of salt? The other reference to a covenant of salt is in Numbers 18 where the LORD God makes a covenant of salt with Aaron:

All the holy contributions that the people of Israel present to the LORD I give to you, and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual due. It is a covenant of salt forever before the LORD for you and for your offspring with you.” (Numbers 18:19 ESV)

When David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, he first built a portable Tabernacle like Moses did, then he acted as Aaron the high priest would:

And they brought in the ark of the LORD and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it. And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts. (2 Samuel 6:17-18 ESV)

David offered burnt offerings, peace offerings, then blessed the people as Aaron is instructed (Numbers 6). In summarizing David's leadership over Israel, his sons are called priests:

and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and David's sons were priests. (2 Samuuel 8:18 ESV)

In particular, Chronicles describes the extent to which Solomon carried out priestly duties:

Then Solomon offered up burnt offerings to the LORD on the altar of the LORD that he had built before the vestibule. as the duty of each day required, offering according to the commandment of Moses for the Sabbaths, the new moons, and the three annual feasts—the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths. (2 Chronicles 8:12-13 ESV)

The "revised" history in Chronicles describes Solomon functioning as priest for at least one complete annual cycle.

Is Abijah using a covenant of salt to say David and his sons are rightful priests as well as the rightful king?


The phrase "covenant of salt" is likely used as a figure of speech in II Chronicles 13:4-5 to indicate an everlasting covenant rather than as a specific reference to the covenant of Aaron.

The classical commentators suggest that the metaphor "covenant of salt" originated from the well known use of salt as a preservative. See also Leviticus 2:13.

Abijah is apparently referring to the prophecy of Nathan in II Samuel 7:12-15 (NIV)

"The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you. When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever."

The attempt to connect between the two uses of "covenant of salt" to suggest that Abijah implied that the house of David would be not only kings but priests is without foundation.

The prophecy of Nathan makes no mention of priesthood, only of kingship.

In 2 Chronicles 13:4-5 Abijah makes no reference to priesthood, but later in the same speech, 2 Chronicles 13:9 (ESV), Abihah says:

Have you not driven out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron...?

which shows that Abijah sees the sons of Aaron, not the sons of David, as the rightful priests.

In I Samuel 23:9-11 (ESV), after Abiathar escapes from Saul to Keilah with the ephod (the breastplate on which were mounted twelve precious stones):

David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand?

there is no indication that David himself wore the ephod or even asked the questions himself. Since David was not only not a son of Aaron but was certainly not a high priest, to have worn the such a garment that was worn only by the high priest and worn only with the other accompanying priestly garments would certainly have been noteworthy.

In 2 Samuel 6:17-18 there is no indication that David himself is performing the priestly duties of the sacrifices, only that he has brought the sacrifices, i.e paid for them and accompanied them to the place where they were offered. And the following verse, 19, reads

and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house.

It is unlikely that David himself personally handed out this largesses to the multitudes even though a simple reading of the verse could indicate this. David probably had a large group of administrators and staff who took care of the details.

The ESV translates כהנים in II Samuel 8:18 ESV simply as "priests", while the KJV and others translate "chief rulers" or "chief ministers", an alternate meaning of כהנים that fits the context of the verse. The Targum for II Samuel 8:18 translates כהנים as "רבריבין" - overlords. The parallel verse in I Chronicles 18:17 (ESV) reads

and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were the chief officials in the service of the king.

Finally, in II Chronicles 8:12-13 there is no indication that Solomon did anything other than bring the sacrifices, as anyone can do, Israelite or non-Israelite. There is no indication that he performed any part of the of the sacrifice such as receiving the blood or placing parts on the altar or removing the ash from the altar that were reserved for the sons of Aaron.

Throughout the OT, the distinctions between priesthood, civil leadership and prophecy are clearly maintained. There is no indication of an ideal that any of these functions should be combined.

  • "Since David was not a son of Aaron, there is no possibility that he could be offered priesthood." I wonder if this is true.David did things reserved for descendants of Aaron. Melchezedek was both king and priest. Jesus is both King and Priest. This suggests God's plan was (is) for both offices to reside in a single person. In this case, the separation is an interim issue created by man (first the golden calf then the request for a king) and as the NT shows is not permanent. If the 2 offices are to be held by 1 person and if David is to rule forever, priesthood does enter the picture. Aug 27 '17 at 13:52
  • @RevelationLad The OT is completely consistent in its separation between kingship and priesthood in Israel from the time of the exodus onwards. Melchezedek was not an Israelite and was pre-exodus, so he is not an example to learn from. David appointed Aviatar and Tsadok as priests and never himself did priestly functions. Whatever God's plan is now, it is clear that throughout OT times, the separation between priest and king was strictly maintained. Can you find a counterexample, of a king in Judah or Israel performing priestly duties?
    – user17080
    Aug 27 '17 at 14:25
  • 1
    What do you make of 1 Samuel 23:9-12?
    – enegue
    Aug 29 '17 at 23:25
  • I have added other elements from Chronicles where it seems the Chronicler is making a clear connection of the priesthood and Solomon. Aug 30 '17 at 18:24

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