What is the significance of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Why was Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt? What is so special about salt? Although a depressing subject, you asked about it so here we go!

In Genesis 13:12, the Bible says: “Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.” Lot is Abraham’s nephew (Genesis 12:5). Move to chapter 19, verse 1: “And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;….” The city gate in ancient times was where court proceedings and other legal/civil matters were handled. Lot “sat in the gate” signifies he was a prominent political leader in Sodom.

Continue in chapter 19: “[12] And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: [13] For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it. [14] And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.

“[15] 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. [16] 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.

“[17] 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. [18] And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: [19] 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: [20] 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. [21] 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. [22] Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

“[23] The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. [24] Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; [25] And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. [26] But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. [27] And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD: [28] And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace. [29] And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.”

Lot and his wife had profited materially and socially in Sodom, so she, understandably, had great difficulty leaving all her possessions and social connections behind. The angel had instructed them in verse 17: “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” However, verse 26: “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” She turned around to observe her former dwelling one last time, indicating she had not fully broken away from that sinful place. We can imagine her saying, “Oh, what a shame we have to leave all that behind! Our friends, our house, our other belongings, to be totally ruined!”

Her attitude is borne out in Luke chapter 17, where the Lord Jesus advises Israel’s believing remnant not to be attached to this evil world system as they await His Second Coming: “[26] And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. [27] They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. [28] Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; [29] But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. [30] Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. [31] In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. [32] Remember Lot’s wife. [33] Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”

“Remember Lot’s wife” is Jesus’ counsel. She was materialistic, more concerned with physical matters than spiritual ones. Her priorities were out of order. She was nothing but an idolater, worshipping physical wealth. Yet, why did God turn her into salt of all things? Well, part of the answer lies in Mark 9:49: “For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.” If you read verses 42-50, you will see Hell described as “the fire that never shall be quenched… the fire is not quenched… the fire that never shall be quenched… the fire is not quenched… hell fire… the fire is not quenched.” Hell is where unbelieving souls are sacrificed perpetually. Lot’s wife’s soul is one of those beings! The fire never goes out. It burns forever because those souls last forever. God’s wrath against their sin is never satisfied. Those souls are preserved. Hell’s fires are likened unto “salt,” a preservative. (Prior to the advent of modern refrigeration, salt was frequently used to preserve meats.)

While we know it as the “Dead Sea,” the Bible name is “the salt sea” (Genesis 14:3; Numbers 34:3,12; Deuteronomy 3:17; Joshua 3:16; Joshua 12:3; Joshua 15:2,5; Joshua 18:19). As a Master of Geology, this author might as well give a brief lesson on earth science. The Dead Sea is almost 10 times saltier than the world’s oceans. It is endorheic, meaning it has no outlet to the ocean. The Jordan River flows into it, but nothing flows out of it. Water escapes the sea by evaporating in the desert sun, leaving behind evaporites (salt, gypsum, et cetera). Sodom is thought to have been on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, on what is known as the Lisan Peninsula. Gomorrah may have been located further south, near the southeasternmost tip of the Dead Sea.

On the southwestern shore of the Dead Sea is Mount Sodom, a 700-foot- (213-meter-) tall hill made primarily of salt. A section of it is a formation resembling a pillar, aptly named “Lot’s Wife.” While this landform is probably not actually her, we can appreciate the scientific plausibility of her turning into salt in this very area. She became physically incorporated into the same land she so desired to continue “occupying!” As a preservative, salt is the perfect material to make an example or memorial of such unbelief and idolatry.

Also see:
» How many daughters did Lot have?
» Was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah inhospitality?
» How can a “loving” God send people to Hell forever?