Biblical Archaeology Review 35:3, May/June 2009

How Lot’s Wife Became a Pillar of Salt

By Amos Frumkin

Abraham famously argued with God about his decision to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah: “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” the patriarch asks the Master of the Universe. “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?” God agrees for the sake of the innocent fifty. A superb negotiator, Abraham bargains with the Lord until he agrees to save the city even for only ten righteous souls (Genesis 18:23–32).

But there were not even ten. “The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven” (Genesis 19:24).

Only Lot was warned ahead of time. While living in Sodom he had been hospitable to two angels of the Lord. As dawn broke, the angels urged Lot to flee with his wife and two daughters. But “do not look behind you,” they warned. Lot’s unnamed wife, however, “looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:1–26).

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