Summary: The sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their sinfulness. Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at the cities. Do we deserve the same fate for looking back to our sinful lives?
Pillar of Salt
And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall
live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And He overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became
a pillar of salt.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a familiar one in the Bible. It begins with a man named Abram leaving the city of Ur with his nephew Lot. The two men owned a great deal of livestock but they traveled and fed their flocks together. The flocks grew too large and there were fights among the servants which made Lot and Abram decide they needed to separate themselves from each other. Abram allowed Lot to choose which direction to take and Lot chose the plain of Jordan. This area was looked according to the Bible “like the garden of the Lord”.
At some time, and very probably soon after his arrival, Lot gave up shepherding or he turned the responsibility over to his servants because Lot and his family moved into the cities and set up residence there. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah along with three other kings attack the kings of four other countries and lost the battle; Lot was taken prisoner. When Abram heard about this he gathered his men and rescued Lot and reclaimed his nephew’s possessions. When Abram was 99 years old, which would have been about 20 years since he and Lot separated, God told Abram that the cities Sodom and Gomorrah were going to be destroyed because of their wickedness. It was here that Abraham (God had renamed Abram), knowing Lot lived in the cities “bargained” with God for his nephew’s life (if the Lord found fifty righteous people lessening the number by five until he got to ten people) would the cities be destroyed. God assured Abraham that no righteous people would perish in the cities.
God sent two angels to tell Lot to gather up his family and leave the cities as they would be destroyed. Lot went to the men who were engaged to his daughters and told them to leave with him but the two men thought Lot was joking. As dawn came, the angels urged Lot and his family to leave, but Lot hesitated in his departure. The angels grabbed Lot’s hand and those of his family and led them safely out of the city. Lot’s request to go as far as the city of Zoar and not go into the mountains was granted and but the angels warned the family not to look back or they would be consumed. As soon as Lot entered Zoar God rained down fire and brimstone (known today as sulfur) and completely destroyed both cities. But Lot’s wife looked back to the cities and was turned into a pillar of salt.
It is interesting to note that Lot and his family hesitated when told to leave Sodom and Gomorrah, so much so the angels grabbed the hands of the family to lead them out. Then as everyone approached the city of Zoar, Lot’s wife lagged behind the rest and looked behind her. The Hebrew for “looked back” means more than to glance over one’s shoulder. It means “to regard, to consider, to pay attention to.” She had a more than passing interest in what happened to her old home. The Scriptures don’t say whether her death was a punishment for valuing her old life so much that she hesitated in obeying, or if it was a simple consequence of her reluctance to leave her life quickly. Either she identified too much with the city—and joined it—or she neglected to fully obey God’s warning, and she died.