We read the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, when God “rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” In verses 20-22, Lot requested to go to Zoar, calling it “a little one.” In fact, the city’s name was derived from that Hebrew word meaning “small.” The five cities that are referred to as the “cities of the plain” are Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Bela (Bela being another name for Zoar). It has long been thought that these cities were located in the plain south of the Dead Sea.
This region contains underground deposits of bitumen. Bitumen is a petroleum-based material that is highly concentrated with sulfur. The area was studied by geologist Frederick G. Clapp, who came there in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. His findings led him to the theory that tremendous pressure from an earthquake could have forced bitumen out of the ground through a fault line that has been found to exist there. Any sort of spark, surface fire, or lightning could then have ignited the gas-filled mixture, which would then fall to the earth in burning masses that would indeed cause much destruction.
In 1975, cuneiform clay tablets were found in Syria at Tell Mardikh (formerly ancient Ebla), one of which was a geographical atlas. In addition to confirming the location, at least two of the cities of the plain are mentioned by name in that atlas – Sodom and Admah. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, excavations in the area of the Dead Sea revealed much more.
Though secular cynics are naturally not in full agreement with the analysis, archaeologist Dr. Bryant G. Wood and his party located city gates, and a cemetery-like building with structures that had all been burned and destroyed. They found crushed graves, towers, a temple, the water supply, and thick city walls. Dr. Wood identified the remains as Sodom and Gomorrah. Geologist Dr. Steve Austin studied the geological evidence, including the fault zone, the burn layer, and the bitumen evidence, confirming Dr. Wood’s findings. Today, the names of the locations of the two main cities of the Bible are Bab edh-Dhra, which is believed to be Sodom, and Numeira, which is believed to be Gomorrah.
For a much better account of these findings, please see these two articles at “Associates For Biblical Research”: “Sodom and Gomorrah: Is There Evidence for Their Destruction?” and “The Discovery of the Sin Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah“.
(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.