Genesis 19:15–26 (ESV)

15 As 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.” 16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

God Destroys Sodom

23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

The text doesn't answer or indicate why Lot's wife looked back, and Googling the question doesn't really turn up very much that's useful. Is there anything in the doctrines of Protestant denominations (the closer to Wesleyan, the better) that explains why Lot's wife looked back?

  • 3
    I don't know about Wesleyan, but in all the times I've heard a preacher giving a sermon that touches on this story, it's accepted that this is simply human nature. She got curious and wanted to see. The context of the message is usually that it is our nature to obey such impulses, even when God commands otherwise. It's just our basic sinful nature to disobey and do what we want to do. Or that she wanted to go back... But as none of us were in her head, and Scripture doesn't explain it, I don't know that there's an objective "for sure" answer to this. Oct 8 '12 at 13:01
  • 1
    Here's an excellent speech on this topic: speeches.byu.edu/talks/jeffrey-r-holland_remember-lots-wife
    – Matt
    Oct 8 '12 at 20:36
  • Also on gotquestions.org/pillar-of-salt.html
    – Pacerier
    Jan 23 '16 at 1:05

Jesus refers to this episode in Luke 17. Here are verses 28-33 in the NIV:

"It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it."

She is used here as an example of people who are too attached to their old life, indicating that she looked back in regret for what she was losing. There is a double meaning: attachment to physical goods, and to the unregenerate life.

John Wesley's Explanatory notes upon the Old Testament (1765), which is surely as Wesleyan as could possibly be expected, says:

Probably she hankered after her house and goods in Sodom, and was loath to leave them. Christ intimates this to be her sin, 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 apostasy from our Christian profession.

Other commentators have made the same interpretation, so it's not exclusive to the Wesleyan school of thought. Here's John Calvin in his Genesis commentary (1563; English translation 1578):

First, the desire of looking back proceeded from incredulity; and no greater injury can be done to God, than when credit is denied to his word. Secondly we infer from the words of Christ, that she was moved by some evil desire; and that she did not cheerfully leave Sodom, to hasten to the place whither God called her; for we know that he commands us to remember Lot's wife, lest, indeed, the allurements of the world should draw us aside from the meditation of the heavenly life. It is therefore probable, that she, being discontented with the favor God had granted her, glided into unholy desires, of which thing also her tardiness was a sign; for Moses intimates that she was following after her husband, when he says, that she looked back from behind him; for she did not look back towards him; but because by the slowness of her pace, she was less advanced, she, therefore, was behind him.

and here's Augustine in City of God 16.30 (5th century):

For what is meant by the angels forbidding those who were delivered to look back, but that we are not to look back in heart to the old life which, being regenerated through grace, we have put off, if we think to escape the last judgment? Lot's wife, indeed, when she looked back, remained, and, being turned into salt, furnished to believing men a condiment by which to savor somewhat the warning to be drawn from that example.

  • 1
    Fine answer. There's an even shorter answer--and perhaps equally good; namely, she disobeyed God's instructions as delivered by God's messenger. Lot was not what you would call an eager beaver to leave Sodom, and his "bargaining" with the angels proves this. He did not, however, turn back. Unfortunately, his wife did! Please pass the salt. Don Sep 25 '15 at 23:00
  • @rhetorician, "pass the salt" meaning?
    – Pacerier
    Jan 23 '16 at 1:08
  • @Pacerier: It's a weak attempt at comic relief. It's just a non-sequiter which I co-opted from a very common request heard around the family table during a meal: "Please pass the salt, Mom" (for example). Don Jan 23 '16 at 23:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .