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Why Did Lot's Wife Turn into Salt?

Why Did Lot's Wife Turn into Salt?

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Lot's wife turns into a pillar of salt
Lot's wife turns into a pillar of salt

Hi,

I’m stymied by the story in Genesis where Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt. Can you please explain it to me?

Answer:

The inhabitants of Sodom were known for their cruelty to strangers. In fact, inhospitality was included in their code of law.

Lot was the exception. Although he lived in Sodom, the years that he had spent with his uncle1 Abraham had influenced him, and he had learned to emulate Abraham's hospitality.2

When G‑d sent two angels, disguised as men, to destroy Sodom,3 Lot invited them to his home and served them food.4 His wife Adit,5 a native Sodomite6, disapproved of his actions.7

Lot asked his wife for salt for the guests and she replied, "Also this evil custom you wish to introduce into this place?” She had no salt in the house and went from door to door asking neighbors for salt for her husband's guests, letting everyone know that Lot had ignored the laws of the city by inviting strangers.8 A short time later, a mob gathered at Lot's door, demanding that he give up his guests to be mistreated.9

The next morning, as Sodom was about to be destroyed, the angels rescued Lot and his family. As they fled, the angels warned them not to look back at the city. It was not appropriate for them to stare at the suffering of others. But Lot's wife disregarded the admonition and, "She looked from behind, and she became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26)."10

The Midrash explains, "She sinned with salt, and she was punished with salt."11

For more information see our articles on the Destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah.

Footnotes
1.

See Bereishit Rabah 41:8.

2.

According to many accounts he was not much better when it came to other sinful acts (see Bereishit Raba 50:2; Midrash Tanchumah, Buber edition, Vayeira 22).

4.

See Genesis ch. 19.

5.

See Pirkei Derabi Eliezer 25.

6.

Targum Derabi Yonoton, Bereishit 19:26.

7.

Midrash Tanchumah ibid.

8.

Midrash Agadah Bereishit 19:32.

9.

See Genesis ibid.

10.

Bereishit Rabbah 50:4-10.

11.

Yalkut Shemoni Bereishit 85.

Mrs. Rochel Chein is a member of the chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
Imagery by Natalia Kadish. Natalia is a surrealist artist inspired by the joy received from learning Torah and contemplating the infinite. See more of her art at NataliaKadish.com.
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Anonymous US September 4, 2016

I've heard that Sodom is rumored to be near the Dead Sea, and that there's plenty of salt in that area. An especially fiery disaster (as was described and as some claim to find evidence for in the area) perhaps encased her in salt? Reply

KJH USA August 6, 2016

Please don't forget how important salt is in history. Salt was, among other things, used as currency and a preservative. Reply

Nicholas Jones Denbigh March 21, 2016

Surely pillar of salt is a flowery way of saying covered in tears, frozen by her grief. It makes so much more sense than her physically being turned into a pillar of actual salt. I know if be pretty upset if everyone I had ever known was being murdered by winged creatures. Reply

Abigail UK March 5, 2016

Lot's salty wife Fixating on the past is destructive because we can't move forward. Her reluctance to hurry and move on resulted in her being covered by the flaming sulphur. Maybe over the years the salt around that area covered her thus preserving her as an example of her disobedience for not listening to Hashem. That salt would have had impurities in it and lacking in flavour and this is what happens to those who live in the past. Reply

Anonymous Colorado October 29, 2015

Salt as a covenant I think this article is very insightful. Being that salt has always represented a covenant, it is very possible Lot's wife was upset that he wanted to share salt with these strangers and betrayed them the way the article stated. I don't know if it is true but it definitely makes sense. Reply

Clau USA October 27, 2015

Where did you get Lot's wife name from? And that she went looking for salt? Where did you get this information??Our RV Bible version doesn't mention anything about it!!! Reply

Debbe Maryland October 26, 2015

Lots Wife / Salt Lots wife didn't want to leave the world of sin. Lot couldn't find
7 righteous men in that corrupt city.
Makes you realize how serious sin is to G-d. Reply

Anonymous Florida August 18, 2015

Having salt in the house is sin? This I just don't understand at all. What is sinful about salt? It is a condiment like pepper or mustard. How can sin be attached to salt? There must be a deeper/explanation someplace else because this article does not actually address the original question except to say in a round about way that she was turned into a pillar of salt because the Bible says she did. I think this answer is rather more a non-answer. Reply

Anonymous Florida May 19, 2015

I've always believed Lot murdered his wife and made up the story about the pillar of salt. Clever. No witnesses, because they were told not to look back. This enabled Lot, (one of the few virtuous men in the town...) to continue sexually abusing his daughters. In this day if Lot came up with that story after impregnating two of his children, he would have been convicted of murder and labeled a sexual predator for life. Reply

Anonymous May 14, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

So you saying you think the Bible is wrong, we can believe a lot of things, but God Words is True. Reply

Charlotte Martin Ohio December 8, 2014

She turn into a pillar of salt because of one word "disobedience" Reply

Shelley Porter East Orange July 29, 2014

Pillar of Salt THank You for the revelation of why Lot's wife turned to the pillar of salt. Wow! The very sin you commit it is what will destroy you! Awesome! Reply

Amma-MS Oregon, USA February 23, 2014

Lot's Wife LOT’S WIFE

While Lot advances his campaigns
She who has no name remains
Turning backward other wise
Witness to torment and demise

Becomes the salt of all our tears
Waiting frozen through the years
She suffers the punishing angels toll
Watches the eons of night unroll

Her reasonless compassion cries
Those lost are solaced in her eyes
Until the star-flecked darkness spins
To lilac rose and the new dawn begins

And shattered Holy Vessel’s parts
Restore again in all our hearts Reply

DL Minneapolis, MN December 18, 2013

Lot's wife went to look for salt The King James Bible mentions nothing about Lot's wife having to look for salt. Where is that information coming from? Reply

Anonymous Crestmead September 15, 2013

Lots Wife There were many reasons why Lots wife turned around
1 she didn't want to see the people of sodom and gomorrah suffer when destroyed.
2 she was more worried about materialistic things and maybe cared more about trying to save her house and all her belongings.
3 She had no salt to wash the angels(men) feet when they came to her house and therefore was responsible for the mob of men wanting to hurt the men. They would have never known that the men were there if she didn't go looking for salt.
4 salt represents a friendship covenant Reply

Brian Sri Lanka December 5, 2012

Lot's wife Why was Lot's wife turned into salt and not into any other chemical.
Why not rock, ice, phosphorous or sulphide? Reply

Geoff Seattle, WA September 4, 2012

how did anyone know? I'm confused how the author of Genesis knew specifically that she was turned into a salt pillar. Presumably neither Lot nor his daughters turned back to check? Reply

David Chicago November 28, 2011

to yehudis Will you please explain to me why Lot's family deserved to die as well? I thought they were the few good people living in a city of sin.

I really like my friend's explanation that people need to focus on moving forward in life and to having a positive future envisioned. People should not focus on the past because if we dwell there mentally and emotionally part or all of us will remain in the past. We can preserve ourselves there. Reply

David Chicago November 28, 2011

to William "Was the reason for her punishment because of disobedience of Hashem's commandment or the consequences of her action"

Good distinction and good follow-up question. IMHO, some people have committed worse or graver acts of disobedience and the same with people committing even more terrible actions yet the punishments have not been similar or as um final. Then again, being mortal, I am only capable of seeing a limited glimpse of the event removed a few thousand years and miles. Reply

Eliezer Banda nyc, ny November 28, 2011

Mrs. Lot's name Her name is mentioned in the Sefer Hayasher which is printed in Yiddish in many "Beis Yehuda" Chumashim and even in the Tzena Urenah.
My Mother OB'M, used to read it every Shabbos. One of my Rabbis once told our yeshiva class that the Holy Chasam Sofer used to learn the Tzena Urenah. Reply

yehudis November 28, 2011

re:david They were not supposed to watch the suffering of others because they really deserved to die as well, but were spared because they were Avraham's relatives. Reply

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