It all started way back, when some angels knocked on Lot’s door. (Genesis 19) It’s always trouble when those guys come round, isn’t it? They never come round with good news. It’s always disapproval of this, destruction of that, and never “you’re doing a great job with that” or “you’re about to receive extra special attention” for another thing. Nope; it’s always bad news when they come around.
Lot’s wife, Idit, didn’t want the angels in the house. Lot though, knew the importance of hospitality and said they should come in. Idit said, “Well, you take them in your part of the house, I want nothing to do with them!” And, in they came.
Naturally, Lot wanted his house to be known as a house of hospitality, so he asked Idit to bring some salt for their guests. She rolled her eyes and gritted her teeth. “So, now you want to take even this bad habit from Abraham?” and went off to the kitchen. She hadn’t any intention of sharing the salt she’d worked so hard for, and went to a neighbor’s house and asked for “a cup of salt”.
Her neighbor was surprised. “Why do you need salt? Why didn’t you prepare enough?”
“Well, I did make enough for my own family, but now we’ve got company and Lot will practice old Abraham’s customs and now I haven’t enough salt in the house.”
Well, the neighbor told her neighbor, who told her sister, who told her brother, who told his son… well, you get the idea. Next thing you know, the whole neighborhood knew Lot had company. They stormed over and demanded that he hand them over to them.
Well, the angels struck them all blind and started gathering up their things to leave. They told Lot that the town was about to be destroyed and he’d best run for his life without looking back. Lot took them at their word and off they went.
Idit was very saddened by the idea of leaving her home. She had a couple of married daughters; she desperately hoped they would make it out before it was too late. Perhaps that’s why she looked back. Maybe, she just wanted to see her father’s house one more time before it was destroyed.
Whatever motivated her to look back, it was taken by God as an affront; direct disobedience to his orders, and she was instantaneously turned to a pillar of salt.
Josephus claims to have seen it and so did Irenaeus and Tertullian. Benjamin of Tudela said that the flocks of sheep and goats licked it, and it re-grew to its former size. A great many tales grew around the pillar of salt; some of them quite fantastic. Over the years the pillar seemed to become magical. One story says that people used to break off pieces to take as souvenirs only to return and find the missing part restored. One story even tells of an entire hand being taken and miraculously reappearing.
Jesus hinted that Lot’s wife was concerned about the things she left behind; her household possessions. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. (Luke 17:31,32)
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