Did Lot’s wife really turn into a pillar of salt?


Genesis 19 tells the story of Sodom’s destruction. When Lot and his wife are told to run and not look back, the Bible specifies Lot’s wife was turned into salt.

Is there any commentary on why this happened? Is this a literal expression? And finally, why salt?

Thank you.


@Ajax93 Great question :slight_smile: Salts were common in that region and a catastrophic event like an earthquake could have ignited these chemicals. It appears to be unclear exactly what her turning into salt means, but the below commentary suggests that Lot’s wife did not just look back, but actually returned towards the city and was destroyed along with it.

One can only speculate about the actual manner of this destruction, but perhaps the combustion of natural tars and sulfur deposits and the release of noxious gases during an earthquake form part of the story (Deut. 29:23). The mineral salts of the region include sodium, potash, magnesium, calcium chloride, and bromide. An earthquake in the area could easily have ignited these chemicals, causing them to rain down on the victims of the destruction. Since the destruction does not begin until Lot and his daughters have reached Zoar (Gen 19:23-24), we should assume that Lot’s wife does not simply glance back, but returns to the city and is swept up in the destruction like everyone else in the cities (Luke 17:28-32). Many “pillars of salt” would have littered the streets. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary


Interesting theory SeanO.

I agree that the turning back was the issue and it was a returning to the condemned path of S & G. As to the earthquake thing, that is less likely. More likely was asteroid or falling space debris. The area is riddled with evaporates as you said and the story may have come from the life-like humanoid pillars of these salts.

It is just as likely, that upon turning back she was reduced to carbon by the falling fire…because she was too close to the condemned cities.

Earthquakes are plentiful in the area but I can’t see these evaporate rocks burning.

The story about looking back when told to go forward and the consequences is also brought up in the new testament about the man plowing the field who looks back, resulting in everything he is presently doing being uneven, thus unworthy.


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@tlday Yep, definitely some uncertainty as the the exact nature of the turning to salt. I think it is helpful to recognize we don’t have to believe she was just vaporized on the spot when she turned back, though that remains within the realm of possibility.