What do we know about Lot's wife?
The Bible refers to Lot’s wife in the Old and New Testaments. There are also some historical references to her. First we look at the Old and New Testament references.
Old and New Testament
The Old Testament only refers to Lot’s wife in Genesis 19.
And when 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.” But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the LORD was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. And it came about when they had brought them outside, that one said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, lest you be swept away.” But Lot said to them, “Oh no, my lords! Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your lovingkindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest the disaster overtake me and I die; now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be saved.” And he said to him, “Behold, I grant you this request also, not to overthrow the town of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the town was called Zoar. The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife, from behind him, looked back; and she became a pillar of salt. (NASB) Genesis 19:15-26
We do not know the name of Lot’s wife. Genesis simply tells us that Lot and the women of the home did not want to leave the city of Sodom. As a result, the angels “seized” them by the hand and took them out of the city. The angels had warned them to not look back, but Lot’s wife did and she became a pillar of salt. This was an act of God’s judgment.
In the New Testament Jesus tells us why she looked back. We discover that she did not become a pillar of salt because she simply looked back. What was her sin? She was longing for the pleasures of Sodom – the pleasures of this world – more than she was longing to be faithful to God.
It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. . . . Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to keep his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life shall preserve it. (NASB) Luke 17:28-29, 32-33
She was willing to live with the great wickedness that God hated in order to enjoy its pleasures. She did not really love God. She loved the things of this world more. She was not really willing to obey. So God punished her by turning her into a pillar of salt.
Did she really become a pillar of salt? Flavius Josephus, the Roman historian, recorded that he had seen her pillar of salt.
But Lot’s wife continually turning back to view the city as she went from it, although God had forbidden her so to do, was changed into a pillar of salt; for I have seen it, and it remains at this day.
Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. 1.11.4
Other ancient writers such as Irenaeus, a church father, and Clement of Rome, a contemporary of Josephus, record that they had seen her pillar of salt (Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 31; First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter 11). This also means that Jesus may have seen the pillar of salt since Joesphus lived at the time of Jesus. What a serious reminder of man’s love for this world rather than for God.
God did not give us her name because it was not really important for us to know. He wants us to remember that He wants our hearts – our longing for Him. When we long for the pleasures of this world, they get in the way of our relationship with God.
Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever. (NASB) 1 John 2:15-17