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After Lot had been told to vacate Sodom and escape its judgement his wife is said to have looked back at the burning city and was turned into a pillar of salt

Genesis 19:23-26 NIV

23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

It seems more or less the same time that Abraham looked at Sodom whilst it was burning but nothing happens to him

27 Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

Why was Abraham not punished?

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    There seems to be no connection. Lot lived there, Lot had to flee, Lot must not go back, Lot must flee for his life. None of that applies to Abraham. I don't see a context, myself. – Nigel J Oct 8 '20 at 7:59
  • Simply because when Abraham looked down toward Sodom he did so at a great distance, while Lot's wife was quite close to Sodom when she turned and walked back a bit to get a clear view over the city. She was within the perimeter of the salt & sulfur rain, which got her. – Constantthin Oct 8 '20 at 10:34
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    I've down-voted your question for being trivial (which is a recurrent problem I have with many of your postings); but, as I look at the answers, they also seem to miss the point. In case Nigel J's comment was not clear enough: They looked back at it with regret, at the thought of losing their wealth and property (because the cities of the plain were very prosperous), despite the fact that they knew quite well the moral abominations that went on there (as obvious from the same chapter). In other words, they treasured riches more than virtue and righteousness. – Lucian Oct 8 '20 at 13:41
  • @Lucian,they looked back at it with regret,who are those you are talking about, – collen ndhlovu Oct 8 '20 at 13:50
  • @collenndhlovu: People whose attitude resembles that of Lot's wife, or of the disciple addressed in Luke 9:61-62. – Lucian Oct 8 '20 at 15:33
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In Gen 19:17 we read the angel's (Gen 19:1) final instruction to Lot and his family:

As soon as the men had brought them out, one of them said, “Run for your lives! Do not look back, and do not stop anywhere on the plain! Flee to the mountains, or you will be swept away!”

Lot's wife did not obey and was tuned into a pillar of salt (V26).

By contrast, Abraham was given no such instruction preventing him from looking at Sodom; thus there were no consequences to Abraham looking! benson comments as follows:

Genesis 19:27-29. And Abraham gat up early — To see what was become of his prayers, he went to the very place where he had stood before the Lord. And he looked toward Sodom — Not as Lot’s wife did, tacitly reflecting upon the divine severity, but humbly adoring it, and acquiescing in it. Here is God’s favourable regard to Abraham. As before, when Abraham prayed for Ishmael, God heard him for Isaac; so now, when he prayed for Sodom, he heard him for Lot. God remembered Abraham, and for his sake sent Lot out of the overthrow — God will certainly give an answer of peace to the prayer of faith in his own way and time.

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Why would he? God didn't command him not to look. He did command Lot and his family not to look back.

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It is reasonable to assume that Abraham arose and stood looking over to the area Sodom had once occupied, shortly after the fire and brimstone had rained down from heaven on it and the surrounding land. This was early in the morning, and he stood from the raised vantage point where he had earlier asked the Lord to spare the towns if but ten righteous men could be found therein. Genesis 18:21-22 indicates an elevation. The text of 19:27-28 says “he looked towards” the site, not “back” as had Lot’s wife. Therein lies a clue. Abraham saw the whole land “as of the smoke of a furnace.” There is no mention of what fell from the sky, but only of the devastating results – the smoke of judgement.

Young’s Literal Translation renders Genesis 19:17 as the angelic command to Lot being,

“Escape for thy life; look not expectingly behind thee, nor stand thou in all the circuit; to the mountain escape, lest thou be consumed.” And in verse 26 comes this same adjective attached to his wife’s looking behind her – ‘expectingly’.

The Companion Bible makes a comment that there are two different words here, verses 17 and 26 showing a looking back, but verse 28 showing a looking forward. Further, verse 17 indicates the looking back would involve ‘staying’ in the plain. Lot’s wife was still in the plain when she turned to look back, no doubt gazing – in complete disobedience to the explicit angelic command. Abraham was not in the plain but standing above it, at a distance, and he had not been commanded to avoid looking towards the cities.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary is helpful: (19:17)

“[Lot] must still apprehend himself in danger of being consumed… He must therefore mind his business with the utmost care and diligence. He must not hanker after Sodom: ‘Look not behind thee.’ He must not loiter by the way. ‘Stay not in the plain’; for it would all be made one dead sea. He must not take up short of the place of refuge appointed him.”

Then (19:26) Henry links in Jesus’ words about Lot’s wife.

“Our Saviour refers to it (Lu. 17:32) ‘Remember Lot’s wife’. As by the example of Sodom the wicked are warned to turn from their wickedness, so by the example of Lot’s wife the righteous are warned not to turn from their righteousness. See Eze. 3:18,20. We have here, The sin of Lot’s wife. ‘She looked back from behind him.’ This seemed a small thing, but we are sure, by the punishment of it, that it was a great sin, and exceedingly sinful. 1. She disobeyed an express command, and so sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, which ruined us all. 2. Unbelief was at the bottom of it; she questioned whether Sodom would be destroyed, and thought she might still have been safe I it. 3. She looked back upon her neighbours whom she had left behind with more concern than was fit, now that their day of grace was over, and divine justice was glorifying itself in their ruin, See Isa. 66:24. 4. Probably she hankered after her house and goods in Sodom, and was loath to leave them. Christ intimates this to be her sin (Lu. 17:31,32); she too much regarded her stuff. {Henry’s word, ‘stuff’!} 5. Her looking back evinced an inclination to go back; and therefore our Saviour uses it as a warning against apostasy from our Christian profession. We have all renounced the world and the flesh, and have set our faces heaven-ward; we are in the plain, upon our probation; and it is at our spiritual peril if we return into the interests we profess to have abandoned. Drawing back is to perdition, and looking back is towards it. Heb. 4:1”

We may be sure that, just as God knew Abraham’s pure motivations and unwavering faith, he knew the sinful motivations and wavering faith of Lot’s wife. Looking towards the executed judgements of God from a safe distance of obedience is the opposite of looking back with some expectation borne of lack of faith, while not yet secured in God’s saving grace. To have run away from the city of perdition but, before leaving that road to look back (as if reluctant to finally leave it) is to remain on the road to perdition.

That, I suggest, is why Abraham was not punished, while Lot’s wife was.

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God will never punish Abraham for looking at Sodom and Gomorrah. He did not receive any such instruction from God like Lot and his wife.

Here is the warning:

"It came to pass, when they had taken them out, that he said, “Escape for your life! Don’t look behind you, and don’t stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be consumed!" (WEB Genesis 19:17).

God in His wisdom would not allow disobedience to go unpunished. He knows the heart and secret motives of everyone(Jeremiah 17:9-10).

Lot's wife looked behind in disobedience to God's command because her heart was set on the material wealth being burnt down.

"But Lot’s wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt" (WEB Genesis 19:26).

The New Testament makes more clarification on that:

"In that day, he who will be on the housetop and his goods in the house, let him not go down to take them away. Let him who is in the field likewise not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever seeks to save his life loses it, but whoever loses his life preserves it" (WEB Luke 27:32-33).

"But the righteous will live by faith. If he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him" (WEB Hebrews 10:38).

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  • +1. Interesting juxtaposing and comparing Genesis 19 and Luke 27. Worth taking under consideration – Constantthin Oct 15 '20 at 14:01
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God never punished Abraham for anything. Example, Abraham lied twice. One time, because of the ‘lie’ (was partially true, but an intentional attempt to mislead), the persons he mislead, Pharaoh/Abimelech were punished! (Genesis 12/20).

The question is, why Lot’s wife? First, she deliberately disobeyed. Second, she was not ‘saved’ by her righteousness, she was saved by association.

And, even then, even with all this, she was not ‘punished’. (By God). That is a conclusion that one needs to take (eisegesis), and can not be substantiated exegetically.

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