Hebrew: nether, an effervescent material. Proverbs 25:20, Jeremiah 2:22.
Probable Identification: biblical nitre is natron. Ancient descriptions of the occurrence and properties of nitre and natron reveal that the ancient and modern nomenclature somehow became reversed. Vinegar and natron react vigorously with effervescence.
Nitre is potassium nitrate (KNO3), or saltpeter, which forms clear to white needlelike rhombohedral crystals in evaporite deposits of deserts and arid regions.
Natron or saltpeter is hydrated sodium carbonate (Na2CO3.10H2O), a different evaporite mineral which forms in alkali lakes of the East African rift valleys that receive drainage from volcanic highlands. Natron crystallizes in the monoclinic system, though it commonly forms white masses. Its hardness on the Mohs scale is 1 to 1.5.
Pharonic embalmers preserved corpses for mummification with the divine salt netjry, natron, from the salt flats and soda lakes of Wadi Natrun, northwest of Cairo. This natron contains 2 to 29% salt . Natron and salt both preserve by dehydration, but the Egyptians preferred natron because it also decomposes fat and grease. The Egyptians also used natron as a flux for making glass.
The nether of Jeremiah 2:22 stands for ineffectual attempts to remove the stains of sin.
Borchert, Hermann, & Richard O. Muir, 1964. Salt deposits: The origin, metamorphism and deformation of salt deposits. London: D. Van Nostrand; 10
Hurlbut, 1952, op. cit.; 281.
Kurlansky, Mark, 2002. Salt: A world history. New York: Walker & Co.; 41-43.
Lucas & Harris, op. cit.; 267-268.
Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006 by Richard S. Barnett, Virtual Curator of