Poisoned Bible Project Episode 6: Remember Lot’s Wife
On Pillars of Salt, Dens of Robbers, and Jesus as Chaotic Good
Perhaps one of the most bizarre stories in the Scripture (and, yes, I know that is a very high bar), is a tiny story told in just a few words of a woman turned to a pillar of salt. In the midst of a complicated and difficult story, we find another unnamed woman dying tragically with almost no commentary at the time.
Of course much has been made of it in various circles since, and once again most of what I experienced ran along the lines of “don’t be a disobedient woman.” It’s really hard to see God as loving if God runs around turning people–especially women-people like me–into salt because they glanced over their shoulder.
When I first read a draft of this essay in my writer’s group, one woman there said she’d learned the story as a little girl in Sunday school, and–with the literal mind of a child–was afraid to look behind her for a while for fear that she would somehow be disobeying God and thus be punished like Lot’s wife.
I don’t remember when I first heard this passage. My childhood fears revolved around losing my salvation or missing the rapture because I wasn’t ready for it. I remember when the sun would beam through the clouds in the afternoon and take my breath away with its beauty, I would think, maybe Jesus is coming back today. And then I would remember that he was supposed to come from the east, and I would turn away from the glories of nature in front of me to the west, and look the opposite direction lest I be tempted away from watching for his return.
These sorts of things are what happen when we try to build meaning on tiny passages without considering the context, and remembering Lot’s wife has everything to do with justice and how we treat people, and nothing to do with her being a woman.
To unpack this story, we need to start with Jesus using the phrase, “Remember Lot’s wife,” in a series of lessons for his disciples and then work backwards because like everything, we must interpret this story through Jesus as a lens. If a story about God doesn’t add up to the person we see in Jesus, then we need to shift our perspective.
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