“But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following along behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26 NLT). That’s about the extent of information we have about Mrs. Lot. Where did she come from? How many children did she have? Was she an Old Testament believer or a godless, untrusting woman?
Since she isn’t mentioned anywhere by name, any study of Mrs. Lot has to begin with her husband. If we follow Lot from the beginning, we learn that he left Ur of the Chaldeans with his grandfather Terah, and his uncle Abram, sometime after his father died (Genesis 12:4). We don’t know how old he is when they leave, but by the time he pitched his tent towards Sodom, he was a grown man with substantial wealth and many herdsmen.
I believe there are two possible answers to the question, “Where did Mrs. Lot come from?” First, Lot may have married one of the women traveling with him and Abram. We know that Abram was childless until Ishmael was born so whoever Lot married was amongst the herdsmen’s families under his or Abram’s care, a number so large it caused them to part ways. It would be logical to assume he was married in light of his age and his ability to support a family. If that is the case, Lot probably had daughters born while he still lived on the plains, an issue that will play into the account later.
A Mrs. Lot from the plains would have been familiar with the concept of Abram’s God but, since there was no nation of Israel at that time, the full extent of God’s law was not known to any of them, although subsequent events show they grasped the sinfulness of homosexuality.
Living with Lot in a Bedouin lifestyle, moving from place to place, packing and unpacking tents, would have made a move into Sodom desirable to Lot’s wife. Since she came with prestige and purchasing power, she would command respect in that culture; her friendship cultivated by the leading women of the city.
One drawback to this view is that, while there are numerous references to Sarai, there is no mention of Lot’s wife or any children when Lot and Abram part ways. More important, there is no record of sons, a frequent topic of discussion due to Sarai’s inability to produce an heir for Abram. Another phrase spoken by Lot to the angry mob in Sodom (Genesis 19:8), "See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man…” may indicate that Lot had only been a family man for fifteen to twenty years, if these two girls were his only offspring.
If Mrs. Lot was among the group living on the plains, she was surrounded by family and friends. The uncertain, constantly changing landscape would have created a strong bond of love, respect, and trust amongst these Bedouin people.
Another possibility is that Lot married a woman from Sodom. The era suggests an arranged marriage, one that ensured mutual financial benefit and a guarantee of safety for Lot’s entourage and the citizens of Sodom. His wealth and the number of people traveling with him would have made him attractive to the merchants of Sodom. In exchange, Lot gained Sodom, a desirable place to live with its fertile plains and abundant water supply.
When the angels arrive in Sodom, Lot is “sitting in the gate.” Political positions were often part of a marriage contract. This prominent position could also be an indication that the alliance between Lot and the city of Sodom had proved mutually agreeable over the years.
If Mrs. Lot is a home town girl, she has spent her whole life in that infamous city, surrounded by parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and lifetime friends. These were her people.
A Bedouin wife or a home town girl, either one would have become callous to the sinfulness of the culture because the erosion of Sodom was no doubt progressive. A local girl would have grown up with it; repulsed at first, a foreigner would have adapted to it, and accepted it, just as Lot did.
We lived in Springfield, Colorado for eight years and our neighbor to the west, an eccentric old man, filled his yard full of junk cars many, many years before we moved in. The sight of rusty vehicles half covered with weeds and the thought of vermin roaming through them drove us crazy at first but after a few months and a contract with the local exterminator, we didn't see them anymore. People who visited us for the first time would always ask, with a bewildered look, “How can you stand that junk yard next door?” We always laughed. To us, all that junk was just part of the landscape. This is the same way a young woman in Sodom or Gomorrah would have seen the rampant sin that filled the city—it was just part of the landscape.
This is what we know for sure: When the angels arrive in Sodom to pronounce judgment, a Mrs. Lot is living in an established home and at least two daughters are part of this true story.
One big incident in Mrs. Lot’s life occurs in Genesis chapter 14, after Abram and Lot have gone their separate ways. War breaks out when five kings of the valley rebel against an oppressive super power. In the crossfire, Lot and his family are captured and taken from Sodom. Genesis 14:12: “They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.” Someone escaped and to tell Abram, who put together an army and rescued his nephew. Verse 16: “So he (Abram) brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.”
This had to be a horrific experience for Mrs. Lot. The amount of time it took to put together an army and pursue the marauders could have been as much as a year. According to the timeline, she had at least two little girls with her. Besides the challenge of caring for them, she would have been frantic for their safety.
Ten or twelve years later the angels arrive. By this time, Mrs. Lot is in a home with her children, happily settled into the community, enjoying all the prestige that comes with being a political wife. They are extremely rich, and very influential. She has friends and family all around her. Sodom is a beautiful place to live, “like the garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10).
II Peter 2:7-8 tells us that Lot is a righteous man: “…and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)…” When the angels show up in Sodom, Lot sees them immediately and recognizes the importance of their visit. Even dressed as ordinary men, something in their demeanor alerts Lot that these visitors are significant and require protection.
He insists they come home with him for dinner and stay the night. Since he could not give Mrs. Lot advance notice, she is confronted with spur-of-the-moment instructions to prepare a feast and lodging for important guests. Although she does not realize it when the angels cross her threshold, life as she knows it is over, and she is helpless to prevent it.
They sit down to a feast. Perhaps the angels leave the bad news for later and allow the family this last evening of happiness.
Picture the next scene. Right before they retire for the night, an ugly mob of angry, unruly homosexuals comes to the door looking for the important men Mrs. Lot has just fed. They surround the house, intent on breaking down the door, screaming for Lot to bring them out to be sexually abused. When Lot refuses, they threaten to abuse him first.
Then comes a moment often glossed over in our evaluation of her: Mrs. Lot watches in HORROR as her husband offers that angry mob her two virgin daughters. We know they were mature enough to have children because they both became pregnant by their father shortly after Sodom was destroyed, but Lot calls them virgins, indicating they are very young.
Lot had to be shouting to make his voice heard. His words resonated through the house. I picture Mrs. Lot, standing in her bedroom, shivering with terror, clutching her two daughters, willing herself to be strong for her children but inwardly quaking with anxiety. Knowing the make-up of Sodom, there were certainly other stories of homosexual abuse reported over the years; she would be thinking of those events now.
It is difficult for us to put ourselves into an ancient era and assign to those people the same emotions we have today but, in order to fully understand the drama in this account, we have to recognize that women in the Old Testament era felt happiness, joy, fear, anxiety, apprehension and every other emotion common to humanity.
When we read of the many children that died in infancy, we tend to think their mothers were calloused to it because it was common, but a multitude of painful experiences does not make them less painful. We cannot lose sight of this fact when we think of Mrs. Lot. Issues of the heart are part of every culture, every era. She was a flesh and blood woman who heard her husband make an inexplicable offer to a mob of violent men.
Once the angels blinded the men at the door and the mob dissipated, tension in the Lot household had to be at the breaking point. I am convinced Mrs. Lot had some choice words for Mr. Lot; nothing he said would have assuaged or comforted her. It’s unlikely that anyone actually slept that night.
The next morning, on high alert, nerves are frayed and the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Lot is not good. Two young girls look to their distraught parents for reassurance. The angels insist on leaving.
Lot’s frame of mind should be noted at this point. This is the first time in scripture we see him grappling with a major decision; one that needs to be made quickly. For the most part, he has lived a sheltered life. Lot was under Abram’s protection until he moved to Sodom. The one time he was in danger, Uncle Abram came to the rescue; this time he is on his own. If the angels told Lot of the conversation they had with Abram before traveling to Sodom, Lot knew Abram had already interceded for him and further help was not coming.
He hesitates. The angels ask him if he has any other family in Sodom and he leaves to speak to a group of men, begging them to flee with him. There is a difference of opinion among Bible translators as to who these men were. The English Standard Version reads ”So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters.” (Genesis 19:14) But the King James insinuates differently: “And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons-in-law, which married his daughters,…” I always assumed there were two of them and they were the fiancés of his virgin daughters, the ones he offered to the homosexual mob. But it is equally possible they were actual sons-in-law, married to other daughters belonging to Lot, and the number is not specific. As was stated earlier, if Lot was married while living on the plains, he very well could have had several older daughters.
The men laugh at him.
Lot is desperate to prolong the departure. (Genesis 19:16, “And while he lingered,…”)
On the other side of the room stands a woman who is tired and nervous, unsure of following a husband who is hesitant and unsure of himself. A husband who invited strangers into their home; strangers who have ordered them to leave the city and everyone they love, everything they own. She has no idea where they are going; they have only the clothes they are wearing.
She heard the angels say “destruction.” Not “capture” or “temporary exile.” She has either been in Sodom her whole life or she came with her extended family thirteen years ago. She is thinking of the people she will never see again if what the angels say is true. Looking around her palatial home, she sees her jewels, the beautiful tapestries, the memories of a peaceful life; she wonders what she can carry with her. Her head is spinning with uncertainty, fear, and panic.
Finally, in exasperation, the angels grab Lot's hand and Mrs. Lot's hand and the two daughters' hands and force them out of the doomed city.
Mrs. Lot looked back.
Who could blame her??
Perhaps some of us can recall an experience comparable to what Mrs. Lot faced; certainly almost every Christian I know has a tale of sorrow to share. However, there is a moral to this story, a truth that has to be included in order to make sense of this account:
God expected Mrs. Lot to leave Sodom.
He expected her to leave and be thankful she was spared. Mrs. Lot lost her life because she did not trust God to take care of her. She could have lived and perhaps, like Job, seen her life restored, even doubly blessed, had she obeyed God.
“But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”