Lot's wife

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This article is about the biblical person. For other uses, see Lot's wife (disambiguation).
"Lot's Wife" pillar, Mount Sodom, Israel.

In the Bible, the wife of Lot is a figure first mentioned in Genesis 19. The Book of Genesis describes how she became a pillar of salt after she looked back at Sodom. She is called "Ado" or Ildith or "Edith" in some Jewish traditions, but is not named in the Bible. She is also referred to in the New Testament at Luke 17:32.

Genesis narrative[edit]

The Sodom and Gomorrah motif from the Nuremberg Chronicle by Hartmann Schedel, 1493. Note Lot's wife, already transformed into a salt pillar, in the center.

The narrative of Lot's wife begins in Genesis 19 after two angels arrived in Sodom, at eventide, and were invited to spend the night at Lot's home. As dawn was breaking, Lot's visiting angels urged him to get his family and flee, so as to avoid being caught in the impending disaster for the iniquity of the city. Lot delayed, so the angels took hold of his hand, his wife's hand and his daughters and brought them out of the city. The command was given, "Flee for your life! Do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, lest you be swept away."[1] Lot objected to the idea of fleeing to the hills and requested safe haven at a little town nearby. The request was granted and the town became known as Zoar. Traveling behind her husband, Lot's wife looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.[2]

Composition[edit]

The Hebrew verb used for Lot's wife "looking" back is נבט, nāḇaṭ. Her looking back at Sodom differs in word usage to Abraham "looking" שקף, šāqap toward Sodom in (18:16).[3]

Pillar of salt[edit]

The 'Lot's wife' sea-stack, Marsden Bay
Sodom's destruction; Lot and daughters escape; Monreale Cathedral mosaics

A pillar of salt named "Lot's wife" is located near the Dead Sea at Mount Sodom in Israel. The Mishnah states that a blessing should be said at the place where the pillar of salt is.[4] Other pillars are said to be at the crossing of the Red Sea as well as at the Wall of Jericho.[4][5]

The Jewish historian Josephus claimed to have seen the pillar of salt which was Lot's wife.[6] Its existence is also attested to by the early church fathers Clement of Rome and Irenaeus.[7]

A sea-stack formation in Marsden Bay, UK, is also called 'Lot's wife' because of the shape and location of the feature. Large amounts of salts were deposited in the shallow tropical Zechstein Sea that extended from the Pennines over to Germany and Poland in Europe during the Permian period. Subsequent dissolution of these salts caused collapse (brecciation) of the overlying Magnesian Limestone rock layers that predominantly make up the cliffs today, providing much of their distinctive appearance and properties.

A crag in the Izu Islands of the western Pacific is also called Lot's Wife. Properly it is a basalt pillar and is known in Japanese as Sōfu Iwa (Widow's Crag).

Jewish commentaries[edit]

In Judaism, one common view of Lot's wife turning to salt was as punishment for disobeying the angels' warning. By looking back at the "evil cities" she betrayed her secret longing for that way of life. She was deemed unworthy to be saved and thus turned to a pillar of salt.[8]

Another accepted view in the Jewish exegesis of Genesis 19:26, is that when Lot's wife looked back, she turned to a pillar of salt upon the sight of God who was descending down to rain destruction upon Sodom and Gomorrah.[4]

A Jewish legend gives one reason for Lot's wife looking back, and that was to check if her daughters, who were married to men of Sodom, were coming or not. Instead, she saw God descending in order to rain fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Thus, the sight of God turned her into a pillar of salt.[4]

Another Jewish legend says that because Lot's wife sinned with salt, she was punished with salt. On the night the two angels visited Lot, he requested of his wife to prepare a feast for them. Not having any salt, Lot's wife asked of her neighbors for salt which so happened to alert them of the presence of their guests, resulting in the mob action that endangered Lot's family.[4]

In the Midrash, Lot's wife is given the name Edith[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Schwartz 2004, p. 465.
  2. ^ a b Schwartz 2004, p. 466.
  3. ^ Hamilton 1995, p. 49.
  4. ^ a b c d e Schwartz 2004, p. 467.
  5. ^ (Talmud B. Ber. 54a)
  6. ^ Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. Book I. Chapter 11. Verse 4.
  7. ^ Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. Book I. Endnote Number 23
  8. ^ Scharfstein, Sol (2008). Torah and commentary : the five books of Moses : translation, rabbinic and contemporary commentary. Jersey City, NJ: KTAV Publishing. p. 71, #26. ISBN 9781602800205. 

Bibliography[edit]