coffee and a Bible

Salt is an Odd Choice (Genesis 19:26)

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One of my earliest memories is sitting in Bible class at Olsen Park church of Christ in Amarillo, TX and listening to my Bible class teacher tell us the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The story is horrifying. If you haven’t taken the time to read all of Genesis 19 and ponder just how much of a tragedy it is, I suggest you take the time. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

Oddly enough, out of all the things I learned that day, the one thing that stood out the most to me was a question:

“Why did Lot’s wife turn into salt?”

God could’ve chosen any condiment He wanted to. He could’ve chose pepper, garlic, thyme, or maybe a dash of paprika.

Salt has always seemed like an intentional choice, so I decided many years later to dig in. Here’s what I found. 

Why Salt?

Let’s be clear here: The question is not, “why was Lot’s wife punished?”, but “why salt?” That’s the question under review.

As it turns out, there have been several prevailing theories on this question. 

Literal Salt as a Metaphor

One of the most popular opinions seems to be that salt was chosen as a way to “preserve” this lesson for us. Since salt was used throughout history as a way to cure meats and keep meats edible, so salt was used to “preserve” the lesson for all time.

That strikes me as a shaky explanation that seems more forced than anything else, but I guess it’s one option?

The Land Became Salt

I’m not a Hebrew scholar, but at least one Jewish rabbi believes that the answer lies in the translation. Instead of “Lot’s wife” turning into salt, Rabbi Hizkuni argues that “the entire land” became a pillar of salt.

Woe to me for arguing with someone who clearly knows this academic background more thoroughly than me, but I have to ask: If it wasn’t her that turned into a pillar of salt, then what happened to Lot’s wife?

Lot’s Wife was Coated With Salt

Interestingly enough, someone else has also made a case for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah “coating” Lot’s wife with salt. The argument goes that if she hadn’t gotten far enough away from Sodom, Lot’s wife would have been hit with superheated water and deposited a layer of salt all over her.

One has to ask why Lot and his daughters weren’t also coated with this, but it’s possible that Lot’s wife didn’t just glance back, but may have even stopped to linger. If that’s the case, theoretically, there could have been enough distance to make the difference.

But hey — I’m not a scientist.

Do You Agree With the Story?

The story of Lot’s wife turning into salt has caused some people enough issues that they turn their back on the Bible altogether. “It’s too weird,” they argue.

Of course it’s weird, but that doesn’t mean it’s improbable. We are dealing with the Creator of the universe, after all. If He wants to turn a woman into a gigantic pile of saline to teach us a lesson, who am I to argue the why?