Behind the scenes - Lot's Wife
In the story of Abraham and Sarah in the Bible, Abraham's nephew Lot enters the picture, along with his wife - that woman whose claim to fame is a pillar of salt somewhere near the Dead Sea. She is one of those unnamed women of the Bible, forever known only as Lot's wife. In writing a novel, it is very hard to create an authentic character who remains nameless, so I decided to give her a name, for the story's sake. When I seek names for side characters in biblical novels, I search nationality as much as possible. In the King David series, I stayed with mostly Hebrew names (or their English equivalents). With the Patriarchs series we are in a different place and era, Ancient Mesopotamia, so I search accordingly for Mesopotamian or Persian names. In the case of Lot's wife, I stumbled upon the name Melah, which just happens to be the Hebrew name for "salt." It wasn't Mesopotamian, but it seemed rather fitting.
As for Melah's character, that took a lot more pondering, and there is very little on her in Scripture except for her look back at Sodom while brimstone rained down on it, a look that was in direct disobedience of what the angel warned her not to do. Why did she do it? Why was she reluctant to leave such a vile place? (Angels had to take Lot and his family by the hand to get them to leave.) If it were me, and I knew judgment was going to rain down on my city, I'd be high-tailing it out of here!
Ah...but maybe I wouldn't. What if I didn't believe the messengers were from God? What if I had grown super attached to my possessions? And even though I might live in evil circumstances, if things were going okay for me personally, would I be so quick to leave? I think Melah had reasons for her attitudes, as we all do, and she made some foolish choices from her misplaced loyalties.
2 Peter tells us that Lot was a righteous man living in a city that tormented his righteous soul. So why live there in the first place? I kind of doubt that Lot had good intentions of being light in a dark place. He chose the best land in the well-watered plain, where he could be sure to prosper rather than have to depend on God for rain in arid places (as his uncle Abraham did). And once he camped near the city, he was that much closer to stepping through the gates and settling there. Did Melah coax him to do so? Maybe. The Bible doesn't say, but she wouldn't be the first wife to influence her husband to do something not quite wise. (One look at Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar shows us that even the best of men can be persuaded to act rashly or unwisely.)
Was Melah self-centered and materialistic? What drew her to want to stay in such a place as Sodom? We can't know for sure, but we can imagine, if we read between the lines of what we do know. And imagine how we would react or feel in similar circumstances.
Lot's wife is an interesting character study, even with the little God gives us. I'd love to hear what you think of her.