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Why Did Lot's Wife Turn into Salt?

Why Did Lot's Wife Turn into Salt?

E-mail

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).

3.

See The Destruction of Sodom.

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.
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Discussion (16)
December 8, 2014
She turn into a pillar of salt because of one word "disobedience"
Charlotte Martin
Ohio
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!
Shelley Porter
East Orange
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
Amma-MS
Oregon, USA
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?
DL
Minneapolis, MN
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
Anonymous
Crestmead
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?
Brian
Sri Lanka
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?
Geoff
Seattle, WA
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.
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.
David
Chicago
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.
Eliezer Banda
nyc, ny
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