Bible Review 16:5, October 2000


Lot’s Wife

Bible Review

The wife of Lot—never named in the Bible—is reduced to a delicate wash of colors in this 11-foot-tall print by American artist Helen Frankenthaler (1928–). The solid stroke at left may represent the salt pillar into which the wife is transformed. The pillar sways gently toward the brighter area—is this Sodom?—at right. A void separates the woman from her home. According to the Book of Genesis, when God set out to destroy Sodom for its iniquities, he allowed Lot’s family to flee to the nearby hills. But when Lot’s wife, against instructions, looked back, she turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). The Bible neglects to mention her motives—a lacuna noted by the Nobel prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska (1923–), in her poem Lot’s Wife. For the poet, the wife’s reasons move from the selfish to the uncontrollable, then from empathy to embarrassment and finally to anger, before she recognizes that she and the town will suffer the same annihilation:

I looked back, they say, out of curiosity.

But there might have been other reasons.

I looked back because I missed my silver bowl.

By mistake, tying my sandal thong.

Not to look any more at the righteous nape of my husband, Lot.

Suddenly sure that if I died, he wouldn’t even stop.

From the disobedience of the meek.

Listening for the chase.

Touched by silence, hoping God had changed his mind.

Our two daughters were disappearing behind a hill.

I felt old. Distant.

Drowsy. I thought of the futility of wandering.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.