Genesis 19:26
But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) His wife looked back from behind him.—In Oriental countries it is still the rule for the wife to walk behind her husband. As regards the method of her transformation, some think that she was stifled by sulphureous vapours, and her body subsequently encrusted with salt. More probably, the earthquake heaped up a mighty mass of the rock-salt, which lies in solid strata round the Dead Sea, and Lot’s wife was entangled in the convulsion and perished, leaving the hill of salt, in which she was enclosed, as her memorial. Salt cones are not uncommon in this neighbourhood, and the American Expedition found one, about forty feet high, near Usdum (Lynch, Report, pp. 183 et seq.). Entombed in this salt pillar, she became a “monument of an unbelieving soul” (Wisdom Of Solomon 10:7).

Genesis 19:26. But his wife looked back from behind him — Herein she disobeyed an express command. Probably she hankered after her house and goods in Sodom, and was loath to leave them. Christ intimates this to be her sin, Luke 17:31-32; she too much regarded her stuff. And her looking back spoke an inclination to go back; and therefore our Saviour uses it as a warning against apostacy from our Christian profession. And she became a pillar of salt — She was struck dead in the place, yet her body did not fall down, but stood fixed and erect, like a pillar or monument, not liable to waste or decay, as human bodies exposed to the air are, but metamorphosed into a metallic substance, which would last perpetually.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.Then follows the overthrow of the cities. "The Lord rained brimstone and fire from the Lord from the skies." Here the Lord is represented as present in the skies, whence the storm of desolation comes, and on the earth where it falls. The dale of Siddim, in which the cities were, appears to have abounded in asphalt and other combustible materials Genesis 14:10. The district was liable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions from the earliest to the latest times. We read of an earthquake in the days of king Uzziah Amos 1:1. An earthquake in 1759 destroyed many thousands of persons in the valley of Baalbec. Josephus (De Bell. Jude 3.10, 7) reports that the Salt Sea sends up in many places black masses of asphalt, which are not unlike headless bulls in shape and size. After an earthquake in 1834, masses of asphalt were thrown up from the bottom, and in 1837 a similar cause was attended with similar effects.

The lake lies in the lowest part of the valley of the Jordan, and its surface is about thirteen hundred feet below the level of the sea. In such a hollow, exposed to the burning rays of an unclouded sun, its waters evaporate as much as it receives by the influx of the Jordan. Its present area is about forty-five miles by eight miles. A peninsula pushes into it from the east called the Lisan, or tongue, the north point of which is about twenty miles from the south end of the lake. North of this point the depth is from forty to two hundred and eighteen fathoms. This southern part of the lake seems to have been the original dale of Siddim, in which were the cities of the vale. The remarkable salt hills lying on the south of the lake are still called Khashm Usdum (Sodom). A tremendous storm, accompanied with flashes of lightning, and torrents of rain, impregnated with sulphur, descended upon the doomed cities.

From the injunction to Lot to "flee to the mountain," as well as from the nature of the soil, we may infer that at the same time with the awful conflagration there was a subsidence of the ground, so that the waters of the upper and original lake flowed in upon the former fertile and populous dale, and formed the shallow southern part of the present Salt Sea. In this pool of melting asphalt and sweltering, seething waters, the cities seem to have sunk forever, and left behind them no vestiges of their existence. Lot's wife lingering behind her husband, and looking back, contrary to the express command of the Lord, is caught in the sweeping tempest, and becomes a pillar of salt: so narrow was the escape of Lot. The dashing spray of the salt sulphurous rain seems to have suffocated her, and then encrusted her whole body. She may have burned to a cinder in the furious conflagration. She is a memorable example of the indignation and wrath that overtakes the halting and the backsliding.

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. His wife looked back, through curiosity, or unbelief, or desire of what she left, or from all these causes; from behind her husband, whom she followed. Which circumstance seems to be mentioned as the reason of this presumption, because she could do it without her husband’s observation or reproof, to which she had a greater regard than to the all-seeing eye of God.

And she, i.e. her body, by a very common synecdoche,

became a pillar of salt; either metaphorically, i.e. a perpetual durable pillar, as an everlasting covenant is called a covenant of salt, Numbers 18:19; or properly, for there is a kind of metallic salt which resists the rain, and is hard enough for buildings, as Pliny, Solinus, and others witness. And that salt was here mixed with brimstone, may be gathered from Deu 29:23. Add to this, that Josephus, Antiq. i. 12, affirms that this pillar remained in his time. And the like is witnessed by others after him. 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.

But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a {n} pillar of salt.

(n) Concerning the body only: this was a notable monument of God's vengeance to all who passed that way.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
26. a pillar of salt] Lot’s wife for disobeying the command, recorded in Genesis 19:17, was, according to the tradition, changed into a pillar of salt. Our Lord’s words, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32), refer to the narrative in this passage. Her looking back indicated the place of her real treasure. She failed to trust whole-heartedly, or to obey. Compare the story of Orpheus and Eurydice (Ovid, Met. x. 51). Our Lord’s warning is directed against the absorption of mind in temporal pleasures and interests. His allusion to this passage was one that all Jewish hearers understood. He does not raise the question of its historicity. He appeals to the teaching of the parable contained in the Scripture story.

Travellers speak of the remarkable ridge called Jebel Uzdum (“mountain of Sodom”) at the S.W. extremity of the Dead Sea. Its fantastic pillars and ragged fragments attract attention. It consists of rock salt. One of these needles or pinnacles has been called by the people “Lot’s wife.” Such pinnacles would in process of time change their appearance owing to the effects of wind and rain. One known as “Lot’s wife” existed in the days of our Lord. See Wis 10:7; Josephus, Ant. i. ii, 4.

“Suddenly we saw before us among the pinnacles of salt a gigantic ‘Lot,’ with a daughter on each arm hurrying off in a south-westerly direction, with their bodies bent forward as though they were in great haste, and their flowing garments trailing behind” (Pal. Q.S. 1870, p. 150).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. When they left him here (הנּיח, to let loose, and leave, to leave to one's self), the Lord commanded him, for the sake of his life, not to look behind him, and not to stand still in all the plain (כּכּר, Genesis 13:10), but to flee to the mountains (afterwards called the mountains of Moab). In Genesis 19:17 we are struck by the change from the plural to the singular: "when they brought them forth, he said." To think of one of the two angels - the one, for example, who led the conversation - seems out of place, not only because Lot addressed him by the name of God, "Adonai" (Genesis 19:18), but also because the speaker attributed to himself the judgment upon the cities (Genesis 19:21, Genesis 19:22), which is described in Genesis 19:24 as executed by Jehovah. Yet there is nothing to indicate that Jehovah suddenly joined the angels. The only supposition that remains, therefore, is that Lot recognised in the two angels a manifestation of God, and so addressed them (Genesis 19:18) as Adonai (my Lord), and that the angel who spoke addressed him as the messenger of Jehovah in the name of God, without its following from this, that Jehovah was present in the two angels. Lot, instead of cheerfully obeying the commandment of the Lord, appealed to the great mercy shown to him in the preservation of his life, and to the impossibility of his escaping to the mountains, without the evil overtaking him, and entreated therefore that he might be allowed to take refuge in the small and neighbouring city, i.e., in Bela, which received the name of Zoar (Genesis 14:2) on account of Lot's calling it little. Zoar, the Σηγώρ of the lxx, and Segor of the crusaders, is hardly to be sought for on the peninsula which projects a long way into the southern half of the Dead Sea, in the Ghor of el Mezraa, as Irby and Robinson (Pal. iii. p. 481) suppose; it is much more probably to be found on the south-eastern point of the Dead Sea, in the Ghor of el Szaphia, at the opening of the Wady el Ahsa (vid., v. Raumer, Pal. p. 273, Anm. 14).
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