Lot’s wife found?

One of the strangest stories in the Bible, and there are so many truly strange ones in that book, is that of Lot. It is mostly a sordid tale of attempted rape and incest and of a father willing to hand over his daughters to a mob but one of the weirdest elements is of Lot’s wife being punished by being turned turned into a pillar of salt for what seems like an absolutely trivial offense, looking back when they were fleeing from a mob when they had been told not to by god’s angels. It is a decidedly odd punishment for any god to choose to inflict.

The story is utterly preposterous but just yesterday came a report that archaeologists in Israel had found the world’s largest salt cave near the location purported to be where Lot’s wife was turned into salt.

Israeli researchers say they have discovered the world’s longest salt cave.

The 10km (6.2 miles) of passages and chambers inside Malham Cave, overlooking the Dead Sea, were mapped out over two years.

The desert site was near where, according to the Bible, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt.

Christians seize upon any possible item that suggests that the stories in the Bible have a factual basis, so I would not be surprised to hear them saying that this vindicates the Bible and that the salt cave is what remains of Lot’s wife. Of course, there seems to be a lot more salt than one would expect from just one person but that could be another miracle, like the multiplication of loaves and fishes.

But I would advise the archaeologists to refrain from doing some of the things in the report.

During one dinner break in the cave, Boaz Langford from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem said the explorers felt their pasta lacked seasoning.

“So we just broke some salt off one of the rocks and used that,” he said.

That does not seem like a respectful way of treating the remains of Lot’s wife.


  1. Owlmirror says

    It seems bizarre to call a cave the remains of Lot’s wife, when the bible clearly states that she was turned into a pillar, not a cave.

    As noted, there’s more than one pillar formation of salt in the area that looks vaguely like a person looking somewhere, if you let your imagination look for human-like features (pareidolia).

    Linguistic note: The Hebrew term for the Dead Sea is actually the Salt Sea.

  2. says

    @Owlmirror No. 4

    Which is, of course, redundant. : )

    The Dead Sea is also rapidly disappearing, much like the Sea of Aral, because Israel is draining off much of the River Jordan for irrigation.

  3. anat says

    hyphenman @5:

    Which is, of course, redundant. : )

    No, because ‘sea’ (well, the Hebrew translation thereof) is also used for lakes such as the Kinnetert (AKA Sea of Galilee) which is a freshwater lake.

  4. says

    @Anat no. 6

    Israelis don’t call the large body of water on the Northern border the Sea of Galilee, that’s a later Roman/Christian usage. Israelis, at least the ones I’ve known, refer to it as Lake Kinnereth.

    Before the Jordan was tapped to the extent it is today, The Dead sea was also, technically, a lake because it, like the Salton Sea here in the American Southwest, fed by the Colorado River--also increasingly over-umped--flowed into an actual sea. The Gulf of Aqaba in the first case and the Gulf of California in the second.

  5. Owlmirror says

    Israelis don’t call the large body of water on the Northern border the Sea of Galilee, that’s a later Roman/Christian usage.

    This can actually be looked up in Wikipedia . . .

    All Old and New Testament writers use the term “sea” (Hebrew יָם yam, Greek θάλασσα), with the exception of Luke who calls it “the Lake of Gennesaret” (Luke 5:1), from the Greek λίμνη Γεννησαρέτ (limnē Gennēsaret)

    Interestingly, the Hebrew Wikipedia page is titled “הכנרת” (HaKinneret). For non-Hebrew speakers, that’s just “The Kinneret”, with neither “Lake” nor “Sea” specified. The article itself alternates between using “ימה” (yama) or “אגם” (agam). While both terms mean “lake”, the former is obviously derived from “yam”; sea.

  6. blf says

    Tiny pedantic peeve here: The researcher’s haven’t “discovered” the world’s largest salt cave — the cave itself was found c.30 years ago (and it’s not impossible it was known-of beforehand since it seems to have formed c.7000 years ago) — but mapped it, determining it to be the largest-known salt cave. And there’s apparently some still unaccessed / inaccessible parts, so it’s even larger than the now-mapped portion. This is a very minor point, but skimming the headlines you (or at least I) can easily get the impression the cave was newly-found. (See ‘Like another planet’: Malham salt cave is world’s longest, say researchers — “Survey says cave stretches for six miles, beating Iran’s Namakdan cave in length” — which does not imply / suggest the sort of potential confusion I’m whining about here.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *