Right, so the angels, having heard enough, tell Lot to take his family and get out of Dodge, cuz they’re gonna nuke the place. Yeah, fire, brimstone, the works. It’s God’s final retaliation for all of their sins. While Abraham was wrong and there weren’t ten good people in the city, the angels aren’t about to be inhospitable and allow Lot and his family to perish. However, they do issue the warning about “do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed” (Gen 19:17).
And this is something that gets a lot of attention since “Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (Gen 19:26). This verse gets a lot of attention for two reasons. One, is looking back really that bad? Isn’t this a punishment that exceeds the crime? And B (yes, I did it on purpose) did she actually become salt? Why salt? What sense does that make?
The angels warned not just about looking back, but stopping at all. It is actually very difficult to run forward while looking backward. Owls might be able to pull it off, but not people. And, no, it’s not that egregious of a sin, but then, it’s not a punishment. This is not a situation where God is tallying up people’s infractions and is doling out punishment. I said God was going to nuke it for a reason: He did.
“then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.” (Gen 19:24-25).
God was not kidding, and the angels were not joking about not stopping. This was a kill zone. He told Lot and his family specifically to run and keep running. But she didn’t. She slowed, looked back, and even stopped. Her heart was in that city, otherwise why look back? She didn’t want to leave it, and in the end, she paid the price for staying.
This was not a case of punishing her for disobedience. Genesis doesn’t operate like that. This was a consequence of her choice. She didn’t listen. She knew that the angels were going to destroy the city, and yet she still stopped and looked back. We don’t know if Lot’s wife was a sinner. We don’t have proof that she did some egregious harm to anyone, or felt like the people in the city, not with direct proof, anyway. What we do know is that she wanted to go back to the place that was her home.
And yet, that speaks volumes, anyway. Her husband and daughters were running on ahead, but she wanted to go back to the city. Whether it was to her specific house or for the friends and neighbors, or because she really felt like she belonged to that community, she valued Sodom more than her husband and daughters. In the choice of staying with them or returning to the city; she chose the city.