Typically, when one thinks about this week’s parasha, Vayera, Genesis 18:1 – 22:24, one remembers Abraham meeting the three visitors while recovering from his recent circumcision. Then Abraham, while paying little attention to his pain, became the paradigm of hospitality as he provided food and comfort for his three guests. Later, when he discovers who the guests were and their mission, he immediately began to intercede on behalf of the depraved cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sadly, his intercession on behalf of the two cities did not avert HaShem’s judgment, and in the end, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters were delivered. Then we come to this short verse concerning Lot’s wife,
But his wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26)1
Skeptics often disavow this verse as mere rhetoric. The point that one should not look back on the past but move forward, specifically when it comes to obeying HaShem, is valid, but a person turning into a pillar of salt is just a fanciful embellishment. But did the event actually happen? Consider these three affirmations of the occurrence. The first is from the Wisdom of Solomon, which is a Jewish work written in Greek and most likely composed in Alexandria, Egypt, usually dated to the mid-first century BCE.
Evidence of their (Sodom and Gomorrah) wickedness still remains a continually smoking wasteland, plants bearing fruit that does not ripen, and a pillar of salt standing as a monument to an unbelieving soul.2
Then, from the Besorah of Luke as he strove to record the life and teachings of Yeshua, specifically on the coming kingdom he wrote,
Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:32-33)
Then finally, in Antiquities of the Jews 1:203, dated around 93 or 94 CE, Josephus wrote,
But Lot’s wife continually turning back to view the city as she went from it and being too nicely inquisitive about what would become of it, although God had forbidden her so to do, was changed into a pillar of salt; for I have seen it, and it remains at this day.3
So why did this seemingly isolated and somewhat fanciful event happen, and more importantly, why was it remembered? Possibly Sha’ul gives us the clearest reason
Now, these things happened to them as examples, and they were written as a warning to us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. (1 Corinthians 10:11-12)
While Yeshua referenced Lot’s wife in Luke 17, possibly he had her in mind when he affirmed
But Yeshua said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
Commenting on Luke 9:62 and becoming a follower of Yeshua, the Life Application Bible asks, “What does Yeshua want from us?” and then answers succinctly what it is that he wants.
Total dedication, not halfhearted commitment. We can’t pick and choose among Yeshua’s ideas and follow him selectively; we have to accept the cross along with the crown. We must count the cost and be willing to abandon everything else that has given us security—without looking back. With our focus on Yeshua, we should allow nothing to distract us from following him.4
This week’s Gleanings, continue the thread begun last week in Lech Lecha. One of the takeaways last week was that there are times when as followers of Yeshua, our choices to follow him will lead us contrary to the wishes, plans, at times even lifestyles of our families and friends. It is at times like these that one has to make the hard choice of Yeshua over family and friends. So maybe it was not the grandeur of house and home that caused Lot’s wife to look back, rather it was the yearning for family and friends left behind. Or maybe, it was not so much the looking back that was Lot’s wife’s error, but the desire to hold onto what she was leaving behind.
Passages like Luke 9:62 (above) and Luke 14:26 or Matthew 10:37-38 (from last week) are hard words to hear because of the commitment they entail and the life path they set forth. But Yeshua offered these words of comfort,
All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30)
As we read last week, Abraham and Sarah left everything to follow HaShem, with only HaShem’s promise to sustain them along the way. According to scripture, Yeshua too left all to obediently follow the leading of his Father. Neither path was easy, neither was without certain pitfalls and even potential detours. But just as HaShem was with Abraham and Sarah, every step of the way, so he was with Yeshua throughout his life, and ministry and so he will be with each of us as we walk out the path he has set before us.
In closing, may these words from Mishlei serve to guide our paths each and every day.
Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. Don’t turn to the right or to the left (or look back); keep your feet away from evil. (Proverbs 4:25-27)
Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!
1 Scripture passages are from Holman Christian Standard Bible® with Key Numbers (HCSBS) Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers.
2 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Wisdom 10:7.
3 Flavius Josephus and William Whiston (transl.), The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 41.
4 Life Application Study Bible Copyright ©1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.