Covenants Part II: Lot’s Wife Who Became a Pillar of Salt
What Does Lot’s Wife Tell Us about the Meaning of Covenants?
Lot’s Wife Became a Pillar of Salt. What is the Literal Meaning?
It is going to be cumbersome to continually refer to Lot’s wife as: “Lot’s wife”. So let’s make it a little more personal. According to the Hebrew Midrash, the name of Lot’s wife was either Ado or Idit (Edith). So we will refer to her as Idit in this blog. Before proceeding, let me explain the difference between literal and literalistic interpretation when reading Scripture. Let's use as an example, Deuteronomy 8:3. It reads, "one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." The literalistic interpretation would have us translate the word mouth to mean that God has an actual biological mouth. The literal interpretation would be the meaning that the Divine author actually wished to convey. In the case of this passage, mouth would be interpreted as that which sends out an expression. In the Bible, only the Son and the Holy Spirit are ever described as being sent. The Father is always described as the one who sends, but is himself, never sent. The meaning to be gleaned from that passage would vary drastically, depending upon which interpretation one uses.
In all of my writings relative to the Science & Theology of Salt in Scripture (aka STOSS), I have made the case that the words dust and stone in Scripture are direct (and intentional, on God’s part) references to man’s DNA. More specifically, in the Bible, dust refers to single molecules of man’s DNA, while stone refers to the entire body of man’s DNA, collectively. Elsewhere on this website, I have made a compelling case for this belief. Consequently, I won’t repeat that information in this particular blog series. Instead, I will provide the link to that article. It can be found at http://www.stossbooks.com/is-dna-in-the-bible.html. In it, I also discuss why differences in scientific terminology have kept hidden, up until now, the biblical hermeneutics behind the belief that DNA is both dust and salt.
Since we are going to be discussing the biblical event during which Idit became a pillar of salt, let’s look at the applicable sciences through which we can incorporate proper hermeneutical principles in order to correctly understand the meaning of that Genesis account. Scripture tells us, “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomor′rah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife behind him looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (Gen. 19: 24-26). I’m convinced that God did not turn Idit into a “different” material, i.e. geological salt, than she was prior to the event described in Genesis. Scripture was not using the word “became” as a description of a change in her substance, but to denote a change in the state/condition of her substance. The Hebrew word for became (היה) translates as: to come to pass, to occur; wording which does not seem to support a translation that indicates a substantial (in the Thomistic sense) change of being.
Consider this: every single one of us is a pillar of salt. The difference between each of us and Lot’s wife is this: the former are living and moving pillars of salt, while the latter, because of her disobedience and hesitation, became a dead and immobile pillar of salt. Let me explain.
In 1953, scientists James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins published a paper titled, “A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid.” The first sentence of the article reads, "We wish to suggest a structure for the salt [SML] of deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.)." In plain english, DNA is a biological/chemical salt. Russian scientist Maxim Frank-Kamenetskii in his book, Unraveling DNA: The Most Important Molecule of Life, tells us that DNA, despite being called an acid, is actually a salt. He further states that, while scientifically accurate, calling it an acid is an error in effective communication of the highest magnitude, comparing it to referring to ordinary table salt as hydrochloric acid. Under what circumstances does biological dust also qualify to be classified as a biological salt? It occurs when an ion of acid bonds with an ion of alkali metal. In DNA, the minerals of sodium and potassium, which are both ions of alkali metals, bond with the DNA backbone (the two sides of the double helix spiral ladder. The two sides of the biological ladder are composed of a phosphate group ... a derivative of phosphoric acid ... bonded with 5-carbon sugar). The result of this electrostatic bonding of the molecule of metal with the molecule of acid makes DNA a salt — a salt that is also classified as dust.
Is there enough salt in man to justifiably classify each of them as living pillars of salt? In every one of our cells, we have a complete copy of our salt/dust of DNA. We have trillions upon trillions of cells in our body. I have seen estimates of between 10 and 100 trillion cells in the adult human body. We have so much salt of DNA in our body that we could place every strand end-to-end, and it would extend 10 billion miles; enough to go to the planet Pluto and back. Yeah, I would say that we are all pillars of salt.
It is a fact that both dust and salt are scientifically accurate descriptions of man’s DNA. The only question remaining to examine is this: Is that the interpretation which God intended to convey in the Bible? In my book, The Science & Theology of Salt in Scripture, I tested this interpretation against approximately one thousand five hundred Scripture passages. In every instance, STOSS both reaffirmed the Church’s teachings, while also contributing to a deeper understanding of the big picture of what God is teaching us through Scripture. Never did it contradict the Church’s teachings.
To further answer the question presented in the previous paragraph, I compare several of the various possible interpretations of Genesis 19: 24-26. However, in the interest of brevity, said comparison can be found in this endnote. Presently, however, there are two points which will reinforce my contention that the answer to the above question is, yes.
1. There is no scriptural basis for believing that God would annihilate one’s nature and replace it with a lower nature. In fact there is scriptural evidence to the contrary. For us to believe that Idit became a pillar of geological salt, that is exactly what would have had to happen to her. The International Theological Commission has stated that the image and likeness of God, in which man was created, resides in the whole man, body and soul. If God had turned Idit into geological salt, the physical part of her human nature ... her body ... would be gone; not just corrupted, but annihilated. Geological salt is substantially different than biological salt. Therefore, the substance of her human nature would have been annihilated. Not even the fallen angels, whose sins were much more grievous than Idit’s, lost their angelic natures. Their angelic nature remained intact, but corrupted.Scripture and the Summa tell us that God does not annihilate anything. From the Summa we read, "Now the nature of creatures shows that none of them is annihilated … Moreover, the annihilation of things does not pertain to the manifestation of grace [SML]; since rather the power and goodness of God are manifested by the preservation of things in existence [therefore annihilation of a nature would be contrary to God’s perfect goodness — SML]. Wherefore we must conclude by denying absolutely that anything at all will be annihilated … That things are brought into existence from a state of non-existence, clearly shows the power of Him Who made them; but that they should be reduced to nothing would hinder that manifestation, since the power of God is conspicuously shown in His preserving all things in existence, according to the Apostle: ‘Upholding all things by the word of His power’ (Hebrews 1:3) … and ‘I have learned that all the works that God hath made continue forever [Eccl. 3:14]. [Summa, I, q. 104, a. 4].’”
2. Think about this, if one interprets Genesis quite literalistically, one would have to admit that only Adam may have been made from actual geological dust … dust of the earth. For all the rest of us (Eve, the exception, is talked about at http://www.stossbooks.com/creation-of-eve.html), our body was made through one event — the union of a sperm cell (with the exception of Jesus) and an egg cell, both of which contain the biological salt/dust of DNA. Everything we are, from the physical body perspective, came from the sperm and egg — and only the sperm and egg. If you’re wondering about the cell material in which the DNA resides … nope, not salt, not dust! The structural material of the cell is composed of complex chemicals called proteins. Therefore, of all the cellular materials of the cell, only DNA can be identified as dust/salt. Recall that Scripture tells us we are made from the dust of the earth (cf. Gen. 2:7, 3:19, 18:27; Tobit 3:6; Job 10:9; Eccl. 3:20; and many others) and we will return to dust.
What Does a Covenant of Salt Mean?
Scripture makes reference to covenants of salt (aka, salt covenants). What, if any, is the difference between a “covenant” and a “covenant of salt”? Nowhere in Scripture can a passage be found in which God is cited as establishing a covenant with man that is specifically referred to as a salt covenant. Yet, we know that salt covenants exist. There are three passages that refer to them (2 Chron. 13:4-5, Lev. 2:12-14, Num. 18:18-20). Why is that? There is also no specific text in Scripture directly defining a covenant of salt.
Due to their eternal nature (among other reasons, as well), all covenants are also salt covenants. In Scripture we read, “Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt” (2 Chronicles 13:5)? This generational handing down of kingship occurred through a covenant of salt. In other words, this kingship involved the salt of DNA. All generational covenants involve, by definition, the salt of DNA. Who was the final recipient of this salt covenant? Jesus, whose body (salt/stone of DNA) is the rebuilt/resurrected temple (John 2:19-21).
In Genesis we read, “You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you” (Gen. 17:11); and, “So shall my covenant be in your flesh [salt of DNA] an everlasting covenant” (Gen 17:13). In other words, circumcision was only a sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham and his people, but it was not, itself, the covenant. The covenant was ‘in the flesh,’ i.e. a covenant of salt. In the Old Covenant, purification of the heart was affected from the outside of the person, penetrating inward to the heart (cf. Rom. 7:23-24). In the New Covenant, purification/sanctification occurs from the inside of the person (the inner heart…the spirit), while simultaneously affecting the outside (the flesh). In the NC, this inner sanctification is accomplished solely through the union of our salt together with the salt of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
In all of God’s promises to man, the fulfillment of the promise is conditioned on man fulfilling his end of the bargain, so to speak. This is what constitutes the ‘salt’ component of a covenant with God. In Old Covenant days, in addition to keeping God’s Laws and Commandments, all Israelites were expected to make themselves an offering to God. What are we? We are salt and light (Mt. 5:13-16). We are also told that all of Israel’s offerings had to be salted. It is written in Leviticus 2:13, “you shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be lacking.” God’s part of any covenant could never be lacking. Only man is salt. God is never identified or characterized as salt. The Trinity is not a Covenant of Salt. Only man’s part of the covenantal ‘deal’ can be lacking. It is only man’s salt (as referred to in Leviticus 2:13) that can be lacking from a sacrificial offering to God.
How does man express the overflow of his inner heart? It is through the mouth, i.e. his body. The mouth is that through which any expression is sent out. Of what is man’s body composed? Salt/dust. All prescribed offerings to God by the Israelites had to be salted. That which was being offered (e.g. meat, cereal, and non-water drink) was a type of the suffering of the incarnate Jesus (the anti-type of the offering), who would make of himself a perfect offering to God the Father. All offerings to God had to be both unblemished, and also first fruits. Only the incarnate Son of God could ever be described as being without blemish (Mary was without blemish, but only through the offering her Son would make). Therefore, the salt that had to be added to the salt of the offerings prescribed in Scripture is our salt (of DNA). Our sufferings/offerings are ‘acceptable and pleasing’ (cf. Malachi 1:10-11, Is. 64:6, 1 Pt. 2:4-5) to the Father only when we unite them with the Son’s infinite and eternally perfect offering on the cross. This is exactly what occurs at each and every Mass. Through the Eucharist, we are made present at the crucifixion. We are united to Jesus on the cross ... uniting our imperfect offerings (but made perfect and pleasing by our union with Jesus) to our Father., This is what the wood of the cross represents – us. The salt of DNA of the wood represents our salt of DNA to which we are nailed together (joined together) with Jesus through the salt of his body, blood, and soul, hypostatically united to his Divinity in the Eucharist. We are the wood upon which Jesus is nailed (united). I will talk in more detail about this in Part IV.
Scripture is not silent about a direct link between organic substances (e.g. humans, food, juice, etc.) and the word ‘salt’. Let’s take a look at some very interesting wording that Luke used. During the resurrected Jesus’ appearance to the Apostles, Luke writes, “And eating together with them, he commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem.” (Acts 1:4: Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition). Pope Benedict XVI places great significance on the wording that Luke chose to describe Jesus’ eating with them. According to Benedict, the word that Luke used is synalizômenos. Benedict tells us this wording was very important to Luke; that he must have deliberately and purposefully chosen to use it. The literal translation of the phrase in question is “eating salt [SML] with them.” Benedict believed that purpose was to form a direct link to the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we form a sacred salt bond with Jesus. Like the Israelites, we are adding our salt to the unblemished offering of Jesus to our Father.
The New Covenant is a covenant of salt. While I am not going to be discussing it any further here, the miracle at the wedding at Cana is a foreshadowing of what the accomplishment of that covenant of salt (Jesus’ mission) would bring about. Hmm. Isn’t the Sacrament of Matrimony a covenant of salt also ... you know, that whole one flesh thing? By the way, this marital one-flesh union is not ... I repeat ... not symbolic. explaining that would require a different blog series. It will be explained in The Science & Theology of Salt in Scripture, Part II.
Interestingly, inside the Ark of the Covenant was: 1) Moses’ staff which was budding (a miracle attributable to the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit). Perhaps this was a ‘type’ of the resurrected body of Jesus, who is often represented by wooden branches, doors, and gates, and made fruitful through the power of the Holy Spirit. Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD), who was a historian and eyewitness to much of the earliest events in Church history, described Moses/Aaron’s rod as growing new branches upon which were also growing almonds; 2) the two stone tablets which were written by the finger of God, i.e. the Holy Spirit; and 3) a gold urn containing some of the manna from heaven (Heb. 9:4).
In my opinion, the two stone tablets represent the salt of DNA (the dust of the earth) of our flesh upon which the Law is written (Gen 17:13). They also represent the unchangeable Truth of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God (who took upon himself the heaviness of a mortal body). The manna represents the salt of DNA of Jesus in the Eucharist (described above as salt by Pope Benedict XVI) through whom we receive an increase of the purifying gifts of the Holy Spirit. In other words, all three items represent the coming of the newly rebuilt Temple (described in Ezekiel’s dream), which is the final and everlasting Covenant of Salt.
What Does Lot’s wife (pillar of salt) Tell us About the Big Picture?
Considering everything we have discussed so far, what does Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt tell us about covenants between God and man? While God made a covenant with Abraham, he didn’t give him a manual to describe what that means. Or did He? The events described in this multi-part blog are, I believe, an integral part of that manual.
I’m sure most people are familiar with map legends. For those who aren’t, a map legend is sort of a glossary that uses symbols instead of words. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. The symbols enable one to read a map and interpret the information it contains. For example, a typical road map might contain a picture of an airplane or a green colored road. If one looks at the map legend, next to those symbols will be the word “airport” and the words “toll road”, respectively. When map readers see an airplane on the map, they know it means there is an airport at that location. Likewise, when map readers see a green line, they know it represents a toll road.
What does this have to do with Scripture? I believe God is including Idit as a type of scriptural map legend, so to speak. He is telling us that salt in Scripture should be interpreted as directly referring to a very particular aspect of the human person, i.e. the flesh, which, together with the soul, forms the entirety of man, who is made in the image and likeness of God.
God is also using the story of Lot’s wife, not just as a symbol, but also as a sign. She is a sign of the covenant of salt, which God made with Abraham. If it was God’s intention to save mankind, she (together with other components of the event) were signs of why it was necessary for Him to enter into a covenant of salt with us. She was a sign of the seriousness and gravity inherent in being in a covenant with God. This was a covenant made with fallen man ... man who had not, as yet, been redeemed and was without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Living Water). This fact is shown to us in Scripture. Based on our reading of Genesis 19: 24-26, we can conclude that only the element brimstone (aka sulfur) is specifically mentioned as falling from the heavens. Sulfur is an element in the Periodic Table. It is not a chemical salt [...] If we assume that sulfur was somehow involved in the “encasing” process [which I believe is the likely scenario - SML], it would be germane to note that science has discovered the existence of a proportional relationship between the amounts of sulfur in the cellular environment and the degree of water loss in the cell; the higher the sulfur content, the greater is the loss of water — potentially leading to cell death. It is not coincidental that this event took place on the shores of the Dead Sea.
Is this theologically significant? In Volume II of The Science & Theology of Salt in Scripture, the role of water (I like to refer to it as bio-living water) within the cell is discussed. From a scientific standpoint, it is absolutely mind boggling. Confession: I wept in awe of our God when I learned about the function of biological water in the human body. Here is a short quote from the, as yet, unpublished book, “We are able to begin to see water as really alive and moving. Nobel Laureate Albert Szent-Gyorgyi characterizes life as ‘water dancing [SML] to the tune of macromolecules.’ ... a sort of quantum jazz which is both, always being improvised in response to its environment and is also coherent beyond our wildest imaginings. Our body is a liquid crystalline [liquid stone] organism that is, in fact, quantum coherent.”
In other words, Scripture is telling us that Lot’s wife’s death was not only physical, it was also symbolic of the following fact: By disobedience to God’s covenant, man would lose forever the Living Water of the Holy Spirit. We were being shown the drastic consequences of disobeying God and breaking the covenant. Scripture tells us, “Evidence of their 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” (Wisdom 10:7, RSVCE).
St. Clement of Rome writes:
On account of his hospitality and godliness, Lot was saved out of Sodom when all the country round was punished by means of fire and brimstone, the Lord thus making it manifest that He does not forsake those that hope in Him, but gives up such as depart from Him to punishment and torture. (Genesis xix; cf. 2 Peter 2:6-9) For Lot's wife, who went forth with him, being of a different mind from himself, and not continuing in agreement with him [as to the command which had been given them], was made an example of, so as to be a pillar of salt unto this day. This was done that all might know that those who are of a double mind, and who distrust the power of God, bring down judgment on themselves and become a sign to all succeeding generations.
In the next part of this blog series, we will be discussing how the Dead Sea and Sodom and Gomorrah contribute to a deeper understanding of the meaning of covenants in Scripture. We will learn why the usage and connotation of salt in the Old Testament/Covenant is drastically different than in the New testament/Covenant.
Part III can be found here.
 Book of Jasher, Chapter 19, #52, http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/apo/jasher/19.htm, accessed 7/6/2019
 Kadari, Tamar. "Lot's Wife: Midrash and Aggadah." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. February 27, 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (accessed July 12, 2019) https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/lots-wife-midrash-and-aggadah.
. J. D. Watson, Crick, F. H. C., with commentary by Tom Zinnen, “A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,” Nature (Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum) 171,737 1953 (April 1953)
. Maxim D. Frank-Kamenetskii, Unraveling DNA: The Most Important Molecule of Life trans. Lev Liapin, Revised ed., (Reading, MA: Perseus Publishing, 1997), 60, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=85769698
. Note: an ion is an atom or molecule that has a net electrical charge, either negative or positive.
. Yinon Bentor, “Periodic Table: Sodium”, in Chemical Element.com, http://www.chemicalelements.com/elements/na.html (accessed 10/11/2011)
. “Phosphate Group,” Biology Dictionary, https://biologydictionary.net/phosphate-group/, accessed 8/8/2019
. Weir, Kirsten. “20 Things You Didn’t Know About ... DNA.” Discover. June 13, 2011. Accessed April 8, 2017. http://discovermagazine.com/2011/apr/20-things-you-didnt-know-about-dna.
. The options are the following: A). She was encased by raining brimstone (sulfur liquefied by extreme heat), causing her to become a pillar of the salt of DNA, and the DNA was the only salt present; B). She was miraculously transformed into a geological salt, replacing her salt of DNA. I don’t view this as likely (see main text for reasons); C). A chemical reaction occurred within the falling sulfur, causing it to become a salt. Sulfur could, for example, become a sulfide salt through a change in the number of electrons in the ion. This option is not likely considering Deuteronomy 29:22-23. These passages specifically separate the presence of the chemical salt from the elemental brimstone in the writer’s description of a burnt-out wasteland (i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah, among others); and finally, D). The molten sulfur in which she was encased could have been mixed with the geological salt that was abundant in the region.
Ignoring option ‘B’, the remaining three options leave us with a critical question that needs to be answered. All three of the remaining options involve scenarios in which multiple materials are involved. With option ‘A’, there’s sulfur and salt of DNA. With option ‘C’, there’s sulfur that has become a possible sulfide, and the salt of DNA. With option ‘D’, there’s the salt of DNA, sulfur, and geological salt. So the question is this: if multiple materials were involved, why did God only mention the salt in the demise of Lot’s wife? Why focus on the salt? There must have been a theological reason for mentioning salt. I believe it was God’s intention to use Idit’s DNA as a map legend and sign.
. International Theological Commission, “Communion And Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God”, ©Libreria Editrice Vaticana, www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20040723_communion-stewardship_en.html, (accessed 2/19/2014), n. 9
. Koniuchowsky, http://www.hebroots.org/hebrootsarchive/0209/0209b.html
. Durrwell, Holy Spirit of God, 154.
. Catechism of the Catholic Church, http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm: ©Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994, n.1968
. Koniuchowsky, http://www.hebroots.org/hebrootsarchive/0209/0209b.html
. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, ©Libreria Editrice Vaticana (Third Millennium Media L.L.C., The Faith Database L.L.C., 2008), nos. 5, 8, and 11.
. Catechism of the Catholic Church, http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm: ©Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994, nos. 1323, 1353, 1364, 1366-1367, 1382
. Pope Benedict XVI, (2011-03-10). Jesus of Nazareth Part Two, Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection (Kindle Locations 3436-3437). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition)
. Josephus, The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus, Kindle Locations 3599-3600
. cf. Hildegard, Scivias, 191, 213, 333, 360
. Christine L. Haskin, Gary D. Fullerton, and Ivan L. Cameron, “Molecular Basis of Articular Disk Biomechanics: Fluid Flow and Water Content in the Temporamandibular Disk as Related to Distribution of Sulfur,” Water and the Cell, Pollack, Gerald H., Cameron, Ivan L., Wheatly, Denys N (The Netherlands: Springer, 2006), 64.
. Leininger, Stephen Michael. The Science & Theology of Salt* in Scripture, Vol. I: *Light, Water, Dust, and Stone too. STOSS Books. Kindle Edition. Location 333-338
. Gerald H. Pollack; Ivan L. Cameron; Denys N. Wheatley, Water and the Cell (The Netherlands: Springer, 2006), viii
. Mae-Wan Ho, Zhou Yu-Ming, Julian Haffegee and others, "The Liquid Cyrstalline Organism and Biological Water," Water and the Cell, eds. Gerald H. Pollack, Ivan L. Cameron, Denys N. Wheatly (The Netherlands: Springer, 2006), 220-221
. Translated by John Keith. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 9. Edited by Allan Menzies. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1896.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1010.htm