In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, why would God kill Lot’s wife?
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a tale of two destroyed cities in the Bible’s history of Abraham and his extended family of Lot, his wife, their two daughters and their fiancés (Genesis 18 & 19.) The well-documented account involves prayer and intercession; two angels disguised as ordinary men; a mob of homosexual rapists; and eventually fire, brimstone and destruction—a terrifying story of how God deals with deep darkness, lawlessness and perversion. While it is sobering to read any account of God’s wrath, it is also our reassurance that no evil goes unnoticed. Sin always has consequences and some are fatal.
Unfortunately, Lot’s wife does not survive the judgment. She has a particularly unusual death by turning into a pillar of salt as she disobeys an angel of the Lord. “When they had brought them outside, one [angel] said, ‘Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away’” (Genesis 19:17, NASB95.) As the cities exploded under God’s pronounced wrath, fire fell from the skies and literally ground them to powder. In the horror and tumult, Lot’s wife looked back as they escaped…and she died.
Yours is a valid question that mirrors the thought-processes of many people, including Christians: Under those terrible circumstances, why kill the woman? The best answer requires a paradigm shift for us: God didn’t kill her. She chose her fate. Please allow me to explain:
God is God and we are not. He doesn’t operate like we do (Isaiah 55:8), nor does he ever say things without meaning them. We often project our ways of thinking or our emotional responses onto the Lord as if he is a human like us; like his rationale and logic are identical to ours. While it’s true Jesus spent time with us in human form, he was also simultaneously God and the maker of everything in and on the planet (John 1:1-3.) So he is not like us, though we are made in his image. We humans may have attributes of him…but it surely does not apply in the reverse.
When we choose the Christian God to be our God, we then agree by default to allow him to rule in that position over our lives. We surrender to his authority, also by default, as subordinates or servants—we accept and enjoy our status as sons and daughters of the King. And when he sends two angels, like he did in this case, to make sure his directives are clear, the act of obedience is not optional. It must be absolute. It is not a discussion or an assumption that he’ll let it slide if we can’t help ourselves and accidentally disobey what he says. After all, it was God’s deep love for Abraham’s family that was at stake; protecting them and rescuing them out of cities slated for doom. No, honoring God means we cannot cherry-pick what we like or dislike about what he has said…we simply accept it. That is, if our relationship with God matters to us and we want to honor him by possessing a healthy fear of his power and position. In the case of Lot’s wife, her safety was dependent upon her obedience to, and in honor of, Almighty God.
“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” (Genesis 19:24-26.)
Lot’s wife chose her curiosity over the Lord’s command. It is an important lesson; an opportunity for us to acknowledge and understand the awesome, fearful, glorious power of our God who requires an appropriate response to his decisions. We must simply say, “Yes, Lord. You are God and I am not.”