Jesus told us to remember Lot’s wife (Luke 17:32). Genesis 19:26 says she became a pillar of salt. What should we learn about her?
Table of contents
- The Two People in Scripture to Remember
- Lot’s Wife Shows the Lord Knows How to Rescue the Godly and Punish the Unrighteous
- Lot’s Wife Disregarded God’s Grace
- Lot’s Wife Disobeyed Divine Commands
- Lot’s Wife Loved the World
- Lot’s Wife Was Close to Salvation
The Two People in Scripture to Remember
There are only two people in Scripture we are told to remember. One is Jesus Himself:
Luke 22:19 He took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
The other person is, surprisingly, Lot’s wife. If you told me there was a person in Scripture to remember, besides Jesus, I would guess someone like Abraham, David, or Daniel for two reasons:
- Their godliness – I could imagine Jesus telling us to remember one of these men, because of how godly they were and how much there is to learn from them.
- Their content – I could imagine Jesus telling us to remember one of these men, because of how much is written about them in Scripture.
Why It’s Surprising We’re Told to Remember Lot’s Wife
Lot’s wife wouldn’t even make the list for the opposite of these two reasons:
- Her ungodliness
- The lack of content about her
Aside from this verse, there is only one other verse in Scripture about her, and it’s a famous one…
Genesis 19:26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
Jesus tells us to remember Lot’s wife, but we know almost nothing about her:
- We don’t know when she was born
- We don’t know where she was born
- We don’t know who she was born to; we don’t know her parents
- We don’t even know her name
Something making this even more interesting is the verse about her is in Genesis, which is the book of origins. There are more genealogies in Genesis than any other book in Scripture. Genesis has six genealogies, while Numbers is in second place with only two. Yet in the book that is all about people’s backgrounds, there is nothing about Lot’s wife. So why did Jesus tell us to remember a woman whom we know almost nothing about?
Let’s back up to the previous verse for content:
Luke 17:31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.
This sounds strange, because we don’t spend time on roofs, but in Jesus’s day roofs were flat and people would spend time on them. There were stairways on the outside of the house leading up to the roofs. Think of the paralytic and how the four men carried him up to the roof. They would have done so using external stairs.
Don’t Look Back!
The context is the the Second Coming in Luke 17:22-30. Jesus is destroying His enemies and establishing His Kingdom on the earth. This isn’t the time to turn back because the danger will be so great. People shouldn’t be looking back longingly at their possessions. Doing so would show:
- a focus on the earthly versus the heavenly
- that this life is more important than the next life
So, this is a warning to people who
- are obsessed with the physical instead of the spiritual
- cling to their earthly lives despite all that heaven offers
- are tempted to confuse the enjoyments of the world with the eternal life that could await them
When Jesus returns, true believers will not be concerned about what is in the house. They will be concerned with what is in heaven. The end of the verse says “not [to] turn back.” Then Jesus provides the premier example of looking back and suffering as a result:
Luke 17:32 Remember Lot’s wife.
Let’s consider what we can learn from her example…
Lot’s Wife Shows the Lord Knows How to Rescue the Godly and Punish the Unrighteous
2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;
Sodom and Gomorrah are supposed to serve as “an example.” God sent an unmistakable message to all future generations, including us, that wickedness results in judgment. But I don’t think people have learned from this example.
2 Peter 2:7 and if he rescued RIGHTEOUS Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that RIGHTEOUS man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his RIGHTEOUS soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);
Three times in two verses, Lot is called righteous. Keep this in mind. Because of Lot’s behavior, we would probably think he is not righteous, but this is not about his behavior. This is about his spiritual standing. We are justified, or declared righteous by grace through faith, and Lot had faith.
2 Peter 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,
This is Peter’s point in the verses. God can rescue the godly from trials:
- That would be Noah and his family
- That would be Lot and his family
And God can keep the unrighteous under punishment:
- That would be those drowned by the flood
- That would be the inhabitants of Sodom destroyed by the fire and sulfur
Lot’s wife looked like she made it out of Sodom, but she didn’t. She died with the people of Sodom because that’s where her heart was. She was as much a citizen of Sodom as every person who died in the destruction. It looked like Lot’s wife, an unrighteous person, was escaping God’s judgment. But God was able to keep even her under judgment as the verse says.
Lot’s Wife Disregarded God’s Grace
Lot was Abraham’s nephew, but because Abraham took Lot with him, Lot was more like Abraham’s adopted son:
Genesis 12:5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan,
There’s no mention of Lot having a wife. Lot was unmarried when he left with Abraham.
Genesis 13:1 So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb.
Again, no mention of Lot having a wife.
Genesis 13:5 And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, 6 so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together,
First, there’s mention of Lot and everything he had, but again no mention of a wife. Second, Lot was very wealthy. That’s why he had to separate from Abraham: they had so many animals that they couldn’t share the same land. This is when Lot headed to Sodom:
Genesis 13:12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom.
Now Lot reached Sodom, but again no mention of a wife. We know Lot didn’t have a wife before moving to Sodom, and we know he had a wife after moving into Sodom, so it’s likely Lot’s wife was from Sodom.
Additionally, God does not slight godly women in Scripture, and in Genesis the wives’ names are frequently given. Think of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah. The fact that Lot’s wife isn’t named, or even mentioned except to describe her destruction, says something about her character. God thought nothing of describing her, her background, or how Lot married her, which are things God did with other women.
Sodom was defeated in battle. The people were captured, including Lot, and Abraham saved him:
Genesis 14:16 Then [Abraham] brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and THE WOMEN AND THE PEOPLE.
More than likely Lot’s wife, and perhaps daughters, were part of this group of women.
The Grace Lot’s Wife Received
When Abraham rescued Lot, she was one of the recipients of that deliverance. A grace of God
When Lot entertained angels, she was the hostess. This should have been a powerful witness to her. Another grace of God.
When the perverted men of the city were trying to knock down Lot’s door, she witnessed the miraculous deliverance when the angels blinded the men and saved Lot and his family, including her. Another grace of God.
When the angels dramatically delivered Lot and his family from Sodom, she was delivered as well. Another grace of God.
Finally, Lot was a flawed man, but three times he was called righteous. She was married to a righteous man, which made her the beneficiary of Lot’s righteousness and faith:
1 Corinthians 7:14 The unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband.
This doesn’t mean Lot’s wife was saved by being married to Lot, but holy means set apart. She was set apart for a special spiritual work because she was married to a believer. More than likely, she heard Lot pray, and heard stories about Lot’s uncle, Abraham, and the God of Abraham, and the way Abraham was called out of his country and brought Lot with him. If Lot was greatly distressed and tormented by Sodom’s wickedness, he probably shared that with her. It was another grace to be shown how evil these people were and how much they needed to repent.
Lot’s wife was able to become a member of Abraham’s family, which means:
- She was part of the family of the father of faith.
- She was part of the family of one of the greatest men in the Old Testament.
But she despised all these graces.
As we remember Lot’s wife, we should think about God’s graces in our lives and consider whether we despise any of them by our actions.
Lot’s Wife Disobeyed Divine Commands
Genesis 19:12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. 13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”
These men were angels. They were God’s representatives who spoke for God. They said God was going to destroy the city.
Genesis 19:15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.”
More than likely Lot’s wife heard they were to leave the city.
Genesis 19:17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. DO NOT LOOK BACK or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”
Finally, the strongest command, specifically telling them “not [to] look back.” But she had no regard for God’s commands.
As we remember Lot’s wife, are there any commands we disobey?
Lot’s Wife Loved the World
Genesis 19:16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.
[Lot] lingered, so it might not look like being in Sodom was a horrible experience for him. But he lingered because he was reluctant to leave his family behind. Lot’s wife, on the other hand, had to be drug out of the city because they were so reluctant to leave.
Why Lot’s Wife Wanted to Remain in Sodom
Genesis 19:1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.
The gate of the city is where the leaders spent their time because this is where business was conducted. Think of the description of the Virtuous Wife:
Proverbs 31:23 Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
Part of the reason she’s such a great wife is she’s able to help her husband reach such a place of prominence and respect. Godly wives probably help their husbands get positions in decent cities, but when you marry a woman in Sodom, she helps you become a respected leader in Sodom.
Also, Lot was wealthy. This probably helped contribute to Lot becoming one of the leaders of the city. More than likely Lot’ wife enjoyed being married to a wealthy, respected leader of the city and didn’t want to leave all that behind.
But the main reason Lot’s wife didn’t want to leave is she was an evil woman who loved living in an evil place.
Sodom Is a Type or Shadow of the World
Sodom is a type or shadow of the world in that:
- The world is enticing like Sodom…it drew in Lot and kept his wife from fleeing
- The world is filled with evil people like Sodom
- The world is going to be judged…like Sodom…
2 Peter 3:10 The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the [earth] will be burned up.
This is exactly what happened with Sodom, and it’s exactly what will happen with the world. To say that Lot’s wife loved Sodom is to say she loved the world. This is why Lot’s wife was not saved. She loved the world which meant the love of the Father was not in her:
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
This describes what happens to the world and those who love it. The world is passing away. Even though it doesn’t directly say everyone associated with the world is passing away too, it does say that indirectly, because it says whoever who does the will of God will abide forever…which implies those who don’t will not abide forever and will pass away with the world.
This perfectly describes Lot’s wife. She perished with Sodom, which is to say she perished with the world, because she loved the world.
As we remember Lot’s wife, let’s think about any ways we might love the world.
Lot’s Wife Was Close to Salvation
These verses describe Lot’s wife:
Hebrews 10:38 My righteous one shall live by faith, and if HE SHRINKS BACK, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
Lot’s wife [shrunk] back.
Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Lot’s wife looked back because she was not fit for the kingdom of God.
What Should We Remember About Lot’s Wife?
We shouldn’t remember that she died! That’s no big deal. Everyone dies. The Old Testament is filled with people who died. We are supposed to remember that she WAS SO CLOSE TO SALVATION. We could almost say she was saved because:
- The inhabitants of Sodom did not make it out of the city, but she did
- She had the city and judgment and destruction behind her
- She had her husband and children at her side
- She had life with a righteous man in front of her
Who wouldn’t consider her saved? But she was destroyed on the very threshold of deliverance just before reaching the place of safety. And this might be the most important reason we are supposed to remember her: she was so close to salvation, but she perished with the world. Similarly, people can be so close to salvation, but still perish with the world.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Doom befell her at the gates of Zoar. Oh, if I must be damned, let it be with the mass of the ungodly, having always been one of them; but to get up to the very gates of heaven, and to perish there, will be a most awful thing!”
Consider the following as you remember Lot’s wife:
- Lot’s wife shows we could be recipients of much of God’s grace, but not be saved.
- Lot’s wife shows we could be married to a righteous believer, but not be saved.
- Lot’s wife shows we could witness the supernatural like she did with the angels, but not be saved.
- Lot’s wife shows we could be close to salvation, even looking like we have been delivered from the wrath to come, but not be saved.
When Lot and his family were commanded to leave Sodom, the urgency of the departure was emphasized:
Genesis 19:17 [The angel] said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”
The same urgency applies to us, so let’s take advantage of this gracious opportunity God has given us to examine ourselves and be sure that we are not disregarding God’s grace and the divine command to repent and believe.