Obscure Study: Lot’s Wife

The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah has all the trappings of a thriller. It would make a great movie! I’ve always been fascinated with the whole saga. And I’ve always had this nagging fear that I would wind up as a pillar of salt. Not something I like to admit! 


Genesis 13:12-13
Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord. ESV

Genesis 18:20-24, 32
Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.” 22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?”…32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” ESV

Genesis 19:12-17
Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. 13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. 15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” ESV

Gen 19:23-26, 29
The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt…29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. ESV


The outcry due to Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin was so great it had reached the ears of God. The sin of these cities had so impacted the people that it remained in the consciousness of the prophets for generations. The end result is described in Genesis 19:28-29 as follows:  And he [Abraham] looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley…


Abraham’s nephew, Lot, did not seem to be the sharpest guy on the block. He chose to live near sinful cities, he didn’t listen very well, and he responded slowly. Divine mercy could be the reason that Lot and some of his family were saved. Lot’s wife did not survive, but that was her own fault. God’s mercy had been made available and she chose to ignore the angel’s commands.

A New Testament reference (Luke 17:32) gives us another look at this story. Luke makes the point in the verses prior to Luke 17:32 that when the end times are upon us we should not be stalling for time or failing to be alert. If we fail to listen to God’s instruction and are lax in responding, we might find ourselves caught up in God’s wrath.


Genesis 19:29 tells us why Lot was saved: “So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.” God remembered” Abraham, meaning He honored His covenantal relationship (Gen 18:18-19). We know from 2 Peter 2:7 that Lot was described as a “righteous” man. However, God’s decision to save Lot was perhaps more as a favor to Abraham than because of Lot’s righteousness, which means he was “right with God, not sinless

Since Lot was said to be righteous, how would you explain Lot’s behavior in all these events? One logical explanation is that he had a true feeling of responsibility for the people and the city – he was likely a leader (19:1). He may have wanted to be a light in the darkness. Given the way the men of Sodom were described (Gen 13:13) why would anyone pitch his tents near Sodom? Lot may have wanted to participate in the activities of Sodom or he could have just been unwise or curious! He might have been influenced by others, including his family, who were not identified as righteous by God. The problem with living near Sodom is that you become who you associate with! Proximity heightens the possibility of falling into temptation. Living there was an outward appearance of support for the residents’ sinful lifestyle.

Genesis 19:16 says that Lot hesitated. Why would he hesitate? Lot may have been reluctant to leave his home and possessions. Even though he was righteous, there may have been a strong attraction to the world and its values. Since he was at the city gate (19:1), implying a position of leadership, he may have felt responsible for
the people and city, and he may have felt he was abandoning his responsibility.

Why would Lot’s wife stop and look back after she was told not to? What is the significance of that? What was her issue? Did she really not believe the angels or did she have a sadness (grief) for Sodom? She may have been exhibiting her innate stubbornness and defiance. Or she may have just been curious.

In reviewing Gen 19:15-20 we see that (1) Lot and his family had not heeded the warnings, (2) Lot continually hesitated when told to leave, (3) angels had to take the hands of the family and physically move them outside the city, and (4) Lot negotiated with them to flee only to Zoar. Lot did not listen or take instruction very well, even from supernatural beings. His actions came close to open rebellion. Lot wanted the easy way, his way, and he had no control over his family.

If someone said that God demonstrated “extravagant mercy” in His willingness to spare these cities if only ten righteous people were found, how would you respond? Would this seem right or logical to you? First, God is sovereign and can do what He chooses. He has the prerogative to be merciful, just, or generous. My finite mind does not have enough wisdom to determine the appropriate action for God. His mercy demonstrates how much love and compassion God has and how far He will go to accommodate His people.

Application Questions

Are you really listening to what God is saying? Or are you listening for what you want to hear?

Would you dare to negotiate with God?

For answers to these and many more questions about this obscure character, check out the 3rd book in the Obscure Bible Study series or the digital version of the Obscure Bible Study

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