Lot’s wife garners only a single verse in all of scripture, but her actions and punishment raise some very significant questions. Did she look back longingly for what she was leaving? Or did she look back to see the punishment that was befalling those who did not escape Sodom?
Lot was the nephew of the patriarch Abraham, who accompanied him to Canaan. At some point in their time in Canaan, the two men decided to separate to avoid conflicts over land for their vast herds. Lot chose the lush valley of the Jordan River and Dead Sea, so he moved to Sodom, which was likely located along the eastern coast of the Dead Sea (Genesis 13).
Sodom was a wicked city, and eventually the Lord destroyed it by raining burning sulfur down on it. Before He did, however, He sent two angels to lead Lot’s family to safety away from the city. While they were leaving the city, Lot’s wife disobeyed the warning of the angels and looked back—and she was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:17, 26).
The Bible does not make it clear why she looked back, so we are left wondering exactly why she was punished. One thing is clear, though: When the Lord leads us away from sin and its consequences, there is nothing to be gained by looking back.
In the New Testament, Jesus tells His listeners to “remember Lot’s wife” on the day when the Lord comes for His people (Luke 17:32). In that context, He seems to suggest that Lot’s wife was looking back in longing for what she was leaving behind.