|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
19:1-29 Lot was good, but there was not one more of the same character in the city. All the people of Sodom were very wicked and vile. Care was therefore taken for saving Lot and his family. Lot lingered; he trifled. Thus many who are under convictions about their spiritual state, and the necessity of a change, defer that needful work. The salvation of the most righteous men is of God's mercy, not by their own merit. We are saved by grace. God's power also must be acknowledged in bringing souls out of a sinful state If God had not been merciful to us, our lingering had been our ruin. Lot must flee for his life. He must not hanker after Sodom. Such commands as these are given to those who, through grace, are delivered out of a sinful state and condition. Return not to sin and Satan. Rest not in self and the world. Reach toward Christ and heaven, for that is escaping to the mountain, short of which we must not stop. Concerning this destruction, observe that it is a revelation of the wrath of God against sin and sinners of all ages. Let us learn from hence the evil of sin, and its hurtful nature; it leads to ruin.
Verse 26. - But his wife looked back from behind him, - i.e. went behind him and looked back; ἑπέβλεψεν (LXX.), implying wistful regard-; respiciens (Vulgate); an act expressly forbidden by the angel (ver 17) - and she became (literally, she was, conveying an idea of complete and instantaneous judgment) a pillar of salt. נְעִיב מֵלַח; στήλη ἀλός (LXX.); a statue or column of fossil salt, such as exists in the neighborhood of the Dead Sea. That she was literally transformed into a pillar of salt (Josephus, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Wordsworth), though not impossible, is scarcely likely. A more probable interpretation is that she was killed by the fiery and sulphurous vapor with which the atmosphere was impregnated, and afterwards became encrusted with salt (Aben Ezra, Keil, Lange, Murphy, Quarry), though against this it has been urged
(1) that the air was not filled with "salt sulphurous rain," but with fire and brimstone; and
(2) that the heaven-sent tempest did not operate in the way described on the other inhabitants of Sodom (Inglis). A third explanation regards the expression as allegorical, and intimating that the fate of Lot's wife was an everlasting monument of the danger of disregarding the word of the Lord, either as a covenant of salt signifies a perpetual covenant (Clark), or with reference to the salt pillars which, in a similar manner, attest the destruction of the cities (Inglis). The notion that Lot's wife, returning to the city, stuck fast in terra salsuginosa, like a salt pillar (Dathius), and that she perished in the flames, having afterwards erected to her memory a monument of the salt stone of the region (Michaelis), may be disregarded.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But his wife looked back from behind him,.... That is, the wife of Lot, whose name the Jewish writers (x) say was Adith, or as others Irith (y); and, according to the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, she was a native of Sodom: now, as they were going from Sodom to Zoar, she was behind Lot, his back was to her, so that he could not see her; this was a temptation to her to look back, since her husband could not see her; and this she did, either, as the above paraphrases suggest, that she might see what would be the end of her father's house and family, or whether her married daughters, if she had any, were following her, after whom her bowels yearned; or being grieved for the goods and substance left behind, and for the people of Sodom in general, for whom she had too much concern; however, be it on what account it may, she was severely punished for it:
and she became a pillar of salt; was struck dead at once, either by the immediate hand of God, or by the shower of fire and brimstone; and her body was at once changed into a metallic substance, a kind of salt, hard and durable, such as Pliny (z) speaks of, cut out of rocks, with which houses were built, and hardened with the sun, and could scarcely be cut with an iron instrument; so that she did not fall to the ground, but stood up erect as a pillar, retaining very probably the human form, Josephus (a) says, this pillar continued to his times, and that he saw it; Irenaeus (b) and Tertullian (c) speak of it as in their times, a thing incredible; and Benjamin of Tudela says (d), it stood in his times two parsas from the sea of Sodom; and though the flocks were continually licking it, yet it grew again to its former size. Rauwolff (e) relates something of the same kind by information, but not on his own testimony; that the pilgrims who visit it used to beat off some small pieces, and yet was found whole again; nay, which is beyond all credit, that they once knocked off a whole hand and took it away, and when they returned found it whole again: and one (f) that travelled in those parts in the beginning of the sixteenth century affirms, that almost in the midway to Zoar is seen to this day the pillar of salt into which Lot's wife was turned; he does not say indeed that he saw it, but leaves his reader to think so; and the Jerusalem Targum says, it will remain until the resurrection; but modern travellers of credit and intelligence could never see it; and when they have inquired of the country people about it, they either tell them there is no such thing, or say it stands in the mountains, where it cannot be come at, because of the Arabs, or because of wild beasts (g): but no doubt there was such a statue, but how long it continued cannot be said; nor should it be thought incredible, when there are similar facts affirmed by authors of the best credit and reputation: Aventinus (h) reports, that in Bavaria, in 1348, more than fifty peasants, with the cows they had milked, at the time of an earthquake were struck with a pestilential air, and stiffened into statues of salt, and which he himself saw, and the chancellor of Austria: and Bisselius relates (i), that Didacus Almagrus, who was the first person that with his army penetrated through the cold countries from Peru into Chile, lost abundance of his men, through the extremity of the cold and a pestiferous air; and that, returning to the same place five months afterwards, he found his men, horse and foot, standing unmoved, unconsumed, in the same situation, form, and habit, the pestilence had fastened them; one lying on the ground, another standing upright, another holding his bridle in his hand, as if about to shake it; in short, he found them just as he left them, without any ill smell or colour, common to corpses: indeed, the very fables of the Heathens, which seem to be hammered out of this history, serve to confirm the truth of the whole of it: as the fable of Jupiter and Mercury coming to a certain place in Phrygia, where they were hospitably entertained by Baucis and Philemon, when the doors were shut against them by others; wherefore they directed their guests, after being entertained by them, to leave the place and follow them to the mountains, when they turned the town into a standing lake (k): and also that of Niobe being changed into a marble stone while weeping for the death of her children: and of Olenus and Lethaea, turned into stones also (l). But, leaving these, and passing by other instances that might be observed, we are directed to remember this wonderful case by our Lord himself, Luke 17:32; and it should be an instruction to us not to look back nor turn back from the profession of the true religion we have made, but to follow Christ, and abide by his truths and ordinances.
(x) Pirke Eliezer, c. 25. (y) Baal Hatturim in loc. (z) Nat. Hist. l. 31. c. 7. (a) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 11. sect. 4. (b) Adv. Haeres. l. 4. c. 51. (c) In Carmine Sodoma. (d) ltinerarium, p. 44. (e) Travels, par. 3. c. 21. p. 313. by Ray. (f) Baumgarten. Peregrinatio, l. 3. c. 12. p. 96. (g) Universal History, ib. p. 124. Witsii Miscellan. Sacr. tom. 2. p. 195. (h) Annal. Bojor. apud Heidegger. Hist. Patriarch. tom. 2. exercitat. 8. p. 270. & Witsii Miscellan. tom. 2. exercitat. 7. p. 201. (i) Argonaut. Americ. l. 14. c. 2. apud Witsium, ib. p. 202. (k) Ovid. Metamorph. l. 8. fab. 8. (l) Ib. l. 6. fab. 4. & l. 10. fab. 1. Apollodor. de Deorum Orig. l. 3. p. 146.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
26. Lot was accompanied by his wife and two daughters. But whether it was from irresistible curiosity or perturbation of feeling, or that she was about to return to save something, his wife lingered, and while thus disobeying the parting counsel, "to look not back, nor stay in all the plain" [Ge 19:17], the torrent of liquid lava enveloped her so that she became the victim of her supine indolence or sinful rashness.
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