New Defender's Study Bible Notes
19:24 brimstone and fire. The precise nature of the physical agents used by God in the destruction of the five cities of the plain is uncertain. “Brimstone” is usually associated with sulfur, but the word may be used for any inflammable substance. The word “fire” is also used here for the first time in the Bible and could be understood either as a divine fire (as in Judges 6:21; I Kings 18:38; etc.) or as gases and other combustibles ignited in a volcanic explosion falling to earth after their eruption. The entire region gives abundant evidence of tremendous volcanic activity in the past, although most of this probably antedated Abraham, occurring in the later stages of the Flood and in the early decades following the Flood. The area is still very active tectonically, lying astride the “Great Rift Valley,” extending all the way from the Jordan River Valley into southern Africa. Unless the judgment was entirely miraculous, in its physical nature as well as its timing, the most likely explanation seems to be the sudden release, by an earthquake and volcanic explosion of great quantities of gas, sulfur and bituminous materials that had accumulated from materials entrapped beneath the valley floor during the Flood. These were ignited by a simultaneous electrical storm, so that it appeared to Abraham, watching from afar, that “the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:28).
19:26 pillar of salt. This remarkable happening is stated matter-of-factly, with no suggestion that it was a special miracle or divine judgment. Lot’s wife “looked back” (the phrase might even be rendered “returned back” or “lagged back”) seeking to cling to her luxurious life in Sodom (note Christ’s reference to this in Luke 17:32-33), and was destroyed in the “overthrow” (Genesis 19:25,29) of the city. There are many great deposits of rock salt in the region, formed probably by massive precipitation from thermal brines upwelling from the earth’s deep mantle during the great Flood. Possibly the overthrow buried her in a shower of these salt deposits blown skyward by the explosions. There is also the possibility that she was buried in a shower of volcanic ash, with her body gradually being converted into “salt” over the years following through the process of petrifaction, in a manner similar to that experienced by the inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius.