The Fate of Mrs. Lot
You can't say she wasn't warned: "Flee for your life, do not look behind you, and do not stand in the entire plain. Flee to the mountain, lest you perish" (Bereshit 19:17). Essentially, Sedom was going to be destroyed. "Brimstone and fire" was going to rain down onto it turning into "soil devastated by sulfur and salt" (Devarim 29:22). The local bitumen pits would ignite and everything nearby would be destroyed. Therefore, the angel advised them to flee to the mountains, the high lands. There they would be safe.
The Hizkuni would give low marks for this translation. He offers an alternative interpretation. The words" "ותהי ניצב מלח" do not refer to Mrs. Lot, but to the site that she saw. "It (i.e. the city) was being turning into a block of salt."
This explanation is strange because:
- The angel warned her not turn round and she did – surely she deserves punishment.
- It implies that she survived the destruction, but she does not appear again in the story.
Indeed, it would be hard to argue that she survived, for
Nevertheless, is the legend that she was instantaneously turned into a pillar of salt correct? Well, it appears that none of the medieval exegetes actually say that.
The Rashbam explains that the reason the angel told them not to look back was because it would slow them down. You recall that Lot kept on delaying: "He tarried, so the men took hold of his hand and his wife's hand, and the hand of his two daughters, out of the Lord's pity for him, and they took him out and placed him outside the city" (ibid 16).
The angels had to physically remove
Therefore, when Lot's wife, who was already some distance behind
Her final fate therefore, was to become a pile of salt, just like everyone else in Sedom. However, it wasn't instantaneous – God rarely works like that.
Last year's Sedra Short for Parshat VaYera, entitled: "Yishmael the Impersonator” appears at http://parshablog.blogspot.com/2006_11_01_archive.htmlAnother Sedra Short for Parshat VaYera, entitled: "She's my Sister – Again!!" can be found at http://parshablog.blogspot.com/2005_11_01_parshablog_archive.html