In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the bible says that Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt. Thanks to Zecharia Sitchin, I've learned that this is very likely a mistranslation, though a very understandable mistake, as you'll see. What might actually have happened to her is far more interesting. First, here's the relevant passage.
Genesis 19:24-26 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 19:25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
The Hebrew word translated as salt
in this passage is melach
, which does indeed mean salt. However, the root of melach is malach
, which means to vanish away
, or dissipate
, as salt does when mixed into water. Given that Hebrew writing omits vowels, it's easy to see why malach
may have been mistranslated as melach
. Here's a verse from Isaiah wherein malach
(vanish away) is used.
Isaiah 51:6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away (malach) like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
While credit goes to Zecharia Sitchen for pointing out the melach/malach confusion, Zecharia didn't address the other word, pillar
. But I have a theory about that. Recall the pillar of cloud/fire
, which led the Israelites through the wilderness. What this term might be describing is a column of light which came down from heaven, perhaps looking much like this actual photo of a beam of light, And although this photo is simply an artifact the occurs when you take an iPhone picture the very second a lightning bolt strikes, it makes for great imagery for our story because it looks a "pillar of cloud by day". Now returning to the story, we can theorize with some confidence that what might actually have happened to Lot's wife is that she became enveloped in a column of light (pillar) from above, and vanished away
. One can't help but be reminded of Star Trek's transporter beam.
And it wouldn't be the first time such a thing happened in the bible. In the following passage, an unknown man who turns out to be an angel appears to Manoah and his wife, instructing them on how to raise their child. When he's ready to leave, a beam of light comes down to consume the sacrifice and the man steps into it and rises up to heaven!
17 And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour? And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret? So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.
And with that, another amazing (and emerging) truth comes to light. For an in-depth discussion of this topic see also Steven Cheairs' excellent e-book, Lot's Wife
. In that article he points out some of Jesus's words which lend additional weight to the theory that this was indeed a mistranslation, and that Jesus knew the actual meaning.
Also interesting is that the Hebrew word for angels
. It would seem to me, therefore, that they were named after their ability to vanish
into thin air.
P.S. Recently I asked an expert in Hebrew to validate this theory, and he could not . Here's what he had to say.
Note: These older, Disqus-based comments are now read-only.
Hello again Larry. Your article is well written and I enjoyed reading it. I looked at the Hebrew text and it states that she "became" or "was" a "pillar" or "garrison" or "outpost." The word "salt" modifies the word pillar/garrison/outpost (= נציב netsív). It is a noun and not a verb in this case because the subject (Lot's wife) is feminine and therefore if one were to read the word "salt" as a verb, it would read as "he vanished" which is masculine and unintelligible to the given context. Had it intended to say "she vanished" (or "dissipated" alternatively) it would have been spelled with a ה "hay" at the end of the word מלח, specifically מלחה or even as נמלחה. I hate being that guy, but this the honest assessment brother.