Genesis 19 tells the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, lived in Sodom with his family. His daughters were engaged to local men. Lot was sitting at the gate of Sodom, the area where financial and judicial transactions took place, when two angels came into town. Lot invited them to stay with his family. The angels made sure Lot, his wife, and his two daughters left before God destroyed the city (Genesis 19:13). As they fled, the angels warned them, “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.” Genesis 19:17
Lot ran, his daughters close behind. “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:26
She lagged behind. She turned and watched the flaming sulfur fall from the sky, consuming everything she valued. Then it consumed 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.” 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.
We’re fortunate to receive similar warnings. Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us to take off the old self that is ruled by sin and be renewed, putting on the new self that is in the likeness of God. Similarly, 1 John 5:16 says that willful, deliberate sin can lead to death. Lot’s wife wasn’t able to accept that. What she chose to value in her heart led her to sin, which led to her death.
The Bible isn’t clear whether Lot’s wife was covered in the salt that rained down with the brimstone or if her remains were dusted with a coating of salt later. But she is described as a “pillar.” The Hebrew for “pillar” refers to a garrison or a deputy, that is, something set to watch over something else. To date, there remains a pillar of salt that dates to the period 1890 BC, corresponding to the biblical account of Lot. This salt deposit is loosely shaped as human, this pillar is considered to be Lots wife in Jordan over looking the area of Sodom at the Dead Sea. The image of Lot’s wife standing watch over the Dead Sea area—where to this day no life can exist—is a reminder of Gods judgment.