Some individuals in the Bible get whole chapters or books dedicated to their story. Others feature in a few brief sentences, and then disappear into the faded edges of history. Sometimes these individuals have just as much to teach believers as the people who get multiple chapters devoted to their highs and lows.

For Abraham’s cousin Lot, he only gets a few mentions in Genesis, and little is known about his family. His wife receives even less attention, and almost nothing is known about her life. However, her death serves as a potent lesson about the dangers of materialism, sin, and earthly attachment.

Who Was Lot's Wife?

In many ways, Lot’s wife is an enigma, an unknown. Her name is not in the Bible; some Jewish traditions have her name as Ado or Edith, but these cannot be confirmed. Most of what people surmise is speculation.

Lot journeyed with Abraham from further east toward the area that would be given by God to the Israelites centuries later. It is not mentioned during these passages if Lot was married when he left with his uncle. His wife could have come with them, or she could have been a resident of Sodom whom Lot married after he settled there.

We know she had two daughters with him, and both these girls married men from that same city. There is also no record of her reaction to the attempted assault on her husband, or the presence of the two angelic messengers.  What is known is that when her husband roused the family to flee from their homes, she and her daughters left with him, but her sons-in-law scoffed and stayed.

Why Did Lot and His Family Have to Flee?

When Lot settled in Sodom and Gomorrah, he never intended to leave. Despite the reputation of these cities as wicked, violent, and depraved, he built a life there.

After decades of evil, God judged these cities, and was set to pour out his wrath. He even agreed with Abraham that if He could find ten good men in the cities, He would hold back. But He could not. Lot, though he compromised his integrity by living there for so long, did try to do the right thing, even protecting the angelic messengers when the citizens attempted to assault them.

God gave the family time to leave before the coming destruction, with the warning from the angels, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away” (Genesis 19:17b). They could not look back or stop. Part of this warning was because of the nature of God’s actions. He eliminated both cities off the map, and the region Biblical archaeologists believe these cities were located in is still uninhabitable.

The Bible records, “...the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:28b). Part of why they could not stop to look back was practical; God’s fire was so powerful that stopping meant being consumed by it. It was also spiritual, meaning they could not look back, as an act of obedience.

Unfortunately, “...Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26). She did not heed the warning, or obey the command, and died as a consequence.

Why Did Lot's Wife Turn Back, and What Happened to Her?

Without a first-person account of why she looked back, it is speculation. There are some hints in the Bible though.

The root word in Hebrew for “looked” used in Genesis 19:36 is נָבַט or nabat. Strong’s Concordance defines this word as, “a primitive root; to scan, i.e. Look intently at; by implication, to regard with pleasure, favor or care – (cause to) behold, consider, look (down), regard, have respect, see.” There is a subtle implication of looking with favor based on the context and usage of the word. Perhaps part of why she turned her head was to look fondly back at these cities; she thought well of her comfortable life, the people, and the lifestyle. Maybe she regretted having to leave it.

She was destroyed by her decision.

Theologians debate what it meant that she turned to a pillar of salt. Did she turn into a physical rock formation? Was she evaporated? There is no solid conclusion. There is a rock column near the Dead Sea around the valley where Lot’s family was fleeing that some venerate as Lot’s wife, though it is more myth than anything substantiated by history or the Bible. Ultimately, God did not have her fate recorded to inspire archaeological expeditions for salt pillars, but to serve as a warning.

God’s desire for people to learn from Lot’s wife was so strong, even the Lord Jesus talked about her. When speaking about the end of days, Jesus warned, “but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them — it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it” (Luke 17:29-33, emphasis added).

Part of any reference to the day of the Son of Man is God pouring out His wrath on the world. Jesus warns believers to run to the hills, just like Lot, and not to look back or take anything. He then says to remember Lot’s wife, and warns those who want to secure their life that they will lose it. It is a reminder that everything in this world is temporary, flimsy, and will rust and decay. In essence, those who look back are those who put their faith, their hope, and their love in the material and physical world rather than the eternal things of God.

At that moment, Lot’s wife valued her stuff and her lifestyle more than the breath in her lungs. Jesus wants people to focus on eternal life, because that is more permanent than any earthly comfort. 

How Does the Story of Lot’s Wife Apply to Us Today?

Part of growing closer to God is undergoing the process of sanctification. The Holy Spirit shapes an individual’s heart, helping them embrace holiness and righteousness and reject the sin and the flesh. The Bible actually uses language that is almost violent, that believers are to die to themselves, to the flesh, and to the world in order to become more like Jesus, ready for a heavenly assignment.

Whether God blesses an individual with material wealth or not, that should not be their focus. If personal comfort comes by getting in the muck with wicked people and indulging their behavior that flaunts God’s Word, Christians should reject that comfort; evangelism does not require participating in, or indulging in, wicked behavior, even if some people advocate doing so. Lot’s wife was perfectly content to go on living in two cities that so thoroughly rejected God, that her husband was the only righteous man in a valley filled with thousands of people. Her attachment to the comfortable life they built for themselves was such that she could not obey one simple command from the Lord - do not look back.

For Christians, it is also important to emphasize that believers should not look back at their old life before they were saved. Instead, the Apostle Paul encouraged, “...But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14).

Eternity with God in Heaven is what lies before those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, which is far more precious than anything this world has to offer. It is easy to fall into the same trap as Lot’s wife, valuing comfort, indulging in sin, and ultimately, devaluing the things of God and being disobedient. Her life serves as a warning about focusing too much on this world, and not enough on the things of God.

Sources

Yamasaki, April. Remembering Lot’s Wife and Other Unnamed Women of the Bible. Elgin: Brethren Press, 1991.

Higgs, Liz Curtis. Bad Girls of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them. Colorado Springs: WaterBooks Press, 2013.

Whitelaw, James. Lot Biblical Characters Study. Glasgow: Swackie Lmtd., 2021.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/m-imagephotography

Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer and editor. She maintains a faith and lifestyle blog graceandgrowing.com, where she muses about the Lord, life, culture, and ministry.