Apologetics, Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt

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Apologetics, Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt

Postby Jericho on Fri Oct 05, 2018 9:39 pm

My goal here is to address a story from the bible, which may be difficult to understand or believe for the non-believer. It can also be beneficial to the believer in defending the faith and to better understanding things. There is always an explanation, and my experience is that it can often be explained in natural terms. I'll preface by saying that it is not an attempt to explain away every supernatural event in natural terms. There are legitimate miracles, things that can’t be explained naturally, though they appear to be more rare. More often than not, God does work through the natural to achieve His purposes. That, however, does not make them any less miraculous.

Here I will be examining Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt. Lot’s wife’s name is not given in the bible, but in rabbinical literature she’s identified as “Irit” or “Idit”. As the story unfolds, Lot and his family are fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah before its sudden destruction. But Lot’s wife turns back and is suddenly turned into a pillar of salt:

“Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens.

So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. (Gen 19:24-26 NKJV)”

At first glance it appears she looks back and is instantly turned into a pillar of salt, or so it seems. Obviously, something like that just doesn’t happen. So how do we explain it? Our first clue is the location of Sodom and Gomorrah, which was situated near the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is located on the lowest place on earth below sea level. Because there is no outlet the water is particularly salty, about 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. It’s an area that’s hot and receives very little rain. It is also a very unstable region. There are earthquakes, underground heat energy sources, and petroleum seeping up from the bottom of the Dead Sea. In fact, during the time of Abraham the area was full of tar pits (Gen 14:10). Incidentally, it was also much more fertile in Abraham’s time than it is now.

The bible says Sodom was destroyed by fire and brimstone (burning sulfur). In natural terms, this could have been caused by a volcanic eruption, or by an earthquake that could have set off an explosion from the combustion of petroleum products and or natural gases. In any case it’s not hard to imagine how it was destroyed in such a volatile region. Incidentally, archeology evidence shows evidence of burning, including charred bones, from the ancient cities that existed along the banks of the Dead Sea.

With all of that in mind, here’s what I believe happened. When the bible says Lot’s wife “looked back”, I believe it’s a poetic way of saying she turned back and went back to the city. Why would she do this when she knew it was about to be destroyed? The answer is because she had two additional daughters still in the city. We can discern this from two verses. In Genesis 19:8 Lot says he has two daughters that have not known a man (i.e. virgins):

“See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”

However, in Genesis 19:14 he says he has two daughters that were married:

“So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.”

Some have thought this was a contradiction, when in reality Lot had four daughters total. The Genesis Rabbah also concludes that Lot had four daughters at the time, two who were married and two who were engaged to be married. The latter two were the daughters that fled with Lot and his wife.

In returning to the city, Lot’s wife would have gotten caught up in the destruction of Sodom. She would have likely been buried very quickly. Due to the extreme heat and the silicone dioxide found in the Dead Sea minerals, she may have been fossilized. Under the right conditions, fossilization can occur very rapidly. Salt itself is a preserving agent. There’s no doubt her body would have become a pillar. The Hebrew word for pillar (netziv) means something stationary, i.e. a prefect, a military post, a statue:—garrison, officer, pillar. The implication here is that her body wasn’t moved, but likely remained preserved for some time after since it is unlikely her body was ever recovered for a proper burial.

It is conceivable then that over time her remains became covered by a layer of salt, just as the shores of the Dead Sea are covered with crystallized salt. Pillars of salt form this way as the water evaporates and the salt precipitates, leaving behind actual salt pillars. So yes, to the ancient’s way of thinking she would certainly have turned into a pillar of salt.
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