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As Lot leaves Sodom the angels warn him (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." (ESV)

His wife didn't listen (Genesis 19:26):

But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (ESV)

That is an unusual punishment. She didn't get swept away like verse 17 said and she didn't get fire and sulfur like Sodom. Other times people were killed with fire (Nadab and Abihu), earthquake (Korah), swords (lots), or not specified (Able), but nobody else died by salt.

Is this just random, or did it mean something to the original readers of this book? I am asking about salt and about it being a pillar.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

She became a "signpost" for the Valley of Salt-the approximate site of Sodom and Gomorrah. When she "looked back", she betrayed her affection for that which was vile. Though she was spared the destruction by fire and brimstone, it was clear she didn't want to leave, perhaps she was the cause of Lot lingering(vs 19), so that the angels had to take both of their hands and give them the commandment "Do not look behind thee".

Lot and his daughters had some fear of God, seeing the miracle of the angels causing blindness in those who would attempt to molest them. But his wife apparently wasn't convinced of the seriousness of the judgment. So instantly she became a monument to the barren wasteland (Valley of Salt) which her former residence had become-warning future generations, "Don't look back on evil, after you've experienced deliverance from it".

In the midrash Genesis Rabbah, the explanation that R. Isaac gives is that when the angels came to Lot's residence, and Lot offered them something to eat, he told his wife to "give them some salt" with it. Her response was, 'Do you want to introduce this evil practice, too?" The consequence, as he explains, was that "she was judged by salt in that she sinned by salt". A further explanation can be found here.

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