Old Testament Women who appear in the New Testament - Lot's Wife
John Scarsbrook, Killamarsh, England
We do not know her name, her age, her appearance or her family background. All we know is that she passes before us briefly on the page of both Old and New Testaments as a salutary warning, simply known as Lot’s wife.
Lot’s wife does not make an Old Testament appearance until Genesis chapter 19 verse 15, when the two angels, sent by God to destroy the cities of the plain, are urging Lot to take his wife and two daughters out of Sodom, before the imminent destruction falls.
We have no clear indication to determine the place Lot’s wife knew as her home. What we do know is that Lot, the nephew of Abram, journeyed with him from Ur of the Chaldees. When Abram went down into Egypt and later returned, Lot followed. Strife then ensued between their relative herdsmen, resulting in a parting of the ways. Abram graciously offered the choice of direction to Lot, suggesting that he might consider the left hand, westward toward Bethel, ‘the house of God’. It would seem, however, from the narrative, that Lot dismissed that opportunity and ‘chose him all the plain of Jordan’, a decision which would cost him the loss of everything. In Genesis chapter 14, Lot is taken captive by a confederate army; there is no mention of his family, just ‘his goods’. Since the next mention is in chapter 19, where he is found living in Sodom with a family of at least six children, it may not be unreasonable to suggest that his wife was in fact a resident of that city. If that is so, it would, at least, provide some explanation for her reluctance to leave, bearing in mind also that most of her family were still there and perished in the overthrow.
If we had no New Testament confirmation that Abraham was a man of faith, it would not be difficult to draw that conclusion from the record of Genesis. If, however, we lacked the testimony of Peter regarding Lot, we would be left wondering if the man had any virtues at all. Peter tells us that Lot was just, or righteous, one of few so designated in scripture. Whilst ‘dwelling among’ the inhabitants of Sodom, he was offended daily by their behaviour and manner of life which he deemed to be ‘filthy’, 2 Pet. 2. 7, 8; the question must arise in any rational mind, ‘Why on earth did you stay there, Lot?’
As Abram’s nephew, Lot would no doubt have been somewhat younger than the man of faith with whom he left the idolatrous Ur of the Chaldees. Perhaps it would not be overly ungenerous to suggest that Abram provided a ‘prop’, or at least some moral and emotional support for the younger man. Sadly, the experience in Egypt left an indelible mark on Lot’s mind which determined his choice of the plain of Jordan within sight of Sodom. Before long he had abandoned his tent, the characteristic mark of a pilgrim, and was found dwelling in the corrupt city. The opening verse of chapter 19 would suggest that Lot had become involved in the administration of Sodom as he ‘sat in the gate’. It may be that he thought he could be an influence for good within the city. Such was the depth of depravity, however, that the stench had reached up to heaven and judgement must fall.
In Luke chapter 17, the Lord Jesus faced a demand by the Pharisees regarding the kingdom of God, v. 20. Knowing that it came from hearts with no genuine desire for instruction, the Lord gave them a suitably enigmatic reply. He then turned to His disciples and explained to them the circumstances which would precede and accompany his yet future return in glory. In order to emphasize that His coming would suddenly break upon an unsuspecting world, He drew, by way of illustration, upon two historical events, thus stamping His authority on the early chapters of Genesis, so disparaged by many of the world’s academics and theologians. The first was that of Noah. Those days were characterized by unbelief, in spite of the efforts of the ‘preacher of righteousness’ who, for some one hundred and twenty years, sought to warn the men of his day of coming judgement. Ignoring the overtures of mercy extended to them, they immersed themselves in the daily round of life, eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day that Noah entered into the ark and the flood came and destroyed them all.
The second example was that of Lot. Those were days of moral depravity, thinly veiled beneath a façade of normality. They ate and drank, bought and sold, planted and built. But no veneer could hide the reality from the all-seeing eye of God. It is a significant tribute to the longsuffering of a God who is ‘not willing that any should perish’, that, knowing the grievous nature of their sin, He would still say, ‘I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it . . . and if not, I will know’, Gen. 18. 21. He then commissioned two angels to take the journey to Sodom, while He lent a sympathetic ear to Abraham’s entreaty. There is no reason to believe that Abraham ever visited Sodom; he didn’t need to, in order to know its wickedness. His plea for the city is, however, a masterpiece of intercessory prayer. The question is often asked, ‘Why did Abraham stop at ten righteous, when the Lord had so graciously responded to his repeated requests?’ It may be that the man of faith considered the possibility that Lot had at least influenced his own family. We know that Lot and his wife had two unmarried daughters. He also had at least two married daughters since Lot spoke to his sons in law, plural, making a total of eight. The angel made reference to his sons, again plural, so a minimum of ten in the family overall. The tragedy is that although Lot spoke to members of his family and warned them of coming destruction, he seemed to them ‘as one that mocked’. The loss of his testimony now followed his loss of security, in leaving Abraham, and of his liberty in becoming subsumed in Sodom’s society.
Lot awoke the following morning to the insistent voices of the angels, urging the family to escape without delay. Incredible as it may seem and in spite of what he had already seen and been told by the angels, Lot lingered! With no time for delay, the angels physically removed Lot and his family from the city with instructions to ‘Escape for thy life; look not behind thee . . . lest thou be consumed’. But, even then, Lot was inclined to remonstrate with the heavenly messengers. It almost beggars belief that, faced with the certainty of judgement revealed in the scriptures, men and women today find every excuse imaginable to resist, ignore, oppose and contradict the word of God.
Utter destruction rained down upon the cities, the plain, the inhabitants and everything that grew. Then comes the ‘but’; Lot’s wife looked back, an act of disobedience to the express command of the angels. Here is a woman who stands on the page of history as a solemn warning. She was privileged to be married to the only righteous man in Sodom. She was the object of direct angelic attention. She even held an angel by the hand and experienced the mercy of God. Yet she perished because her heart remained in Sodom! Her intention to flee was overcome by her reluctance. The traditional location of the cities of the plain, at the south end of the Dead Sea, remains a desolate, uncultivated, arid land. Saline outcrops mark the shores of the lifeless water. The relentless desert sun beats down on this most inhospitable place where Lot’s wife remains entombed, a pillar of salt, a monument to all ages of the folly of disobedience to the word of God.
The closing scene of Lot in the book of Genesis records the totality of his loss. Added to the loss of his security, his liberty and his testimony, he has now lost his family and ultimately his dignity. All issued from one fateful decision when he ‘chose him all the plain of Jordan’; how careful we need to be!
It is surely significant that, in a book where genealogies and life spans are meticulously recorded, there is no record of the death of Lot. It almost seems that the Spirit of God has omitted this detail in order to emphasize that the lessons learned from the life and experiences of this man and his family are a warning to succeeding generations. There is much on the very surface of our society which is guaranteed to inflame the fleshly nature and believers are not exempt. The corruption of Sodom held Lot and his family in its depraved grip, even if only as observers. The Apostle Paul will later write, ‘have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret’, Eph. 5. 11, 12.
But the Lord Jesus must have the last word. To emphasize the need for awareness, preparedness and to hold with a light grasp the things of this world, He simply warned His hearers to ‘Remember Lot’s wife’; never forget Lot’s wife; be constantly recalling Lot’s wife – ‘Almost, but lost’!