Table of Contents
- History of Sodom & Gomorrah
- Biblical Context
- Location of Sodom & Gomorrah
- Ancient Trade Routes Discovered
- Burial Tombs
- Fire and Brimstone
- Archaeological Data Comparison
- Future Inhabitants
- Moab & Ammon
History of Sodom and Gomorrah
The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is found in Genesis 18.20 – 19.38. It describes a people so wicked, that God sent fire and brimstone from heaven upon them as judgment for their sins. Based on the descriptions in Biblical text, Archaeologists have discovered the ancient ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remains of over 1 million people along with up to 2 feet of ash have been discovered in this location that was once known as the “5-Cities Of The Plains”.
The men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly. – Gen 13:13
And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; – Gen 18:20
[Abraham proceeded to pray that God would spare the life of the righteous that lived in the city; but there was only one man that was righteous- Lot, Abrahams cousin]
Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And He overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his (Lots) wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. – Gen 19:24
Location of Sodom and Gomorrah
Sodom and Gomorrah was part of a metropolis located on the eastern bank of the Dead Sea. This metropolis consisted of five cities, ruled by five kings:
- Bera, king of Sodom
- Birsha, king of Gomorrah
- Shinab, king of Admad
- Shember, king of Zeboiim
- King of Bela, (also called Zoar in Genesis 14:8)
This thriving group of city-states is referred to in the Bible as the Cities of the Plains. All five kings were under the dominion of a coalition of eastern Mesopotamian overlords. According to the Torah, with the help of Abraham, all these cities gained their independence.
Ancient Trade Routes
In 1920 Dr Nelson Glueck discovered evidence of an ancient route between Mesopotamia and the Dead Sea. Traces of this route that were covered by centuries of debris where eventually uncovered, confirming the writings found in the cuneiform tablets in Mari and Ebla about its location.
Over the next 40 years serious excavations began to take place discovering multiple ‘shaft -tombs’ [vertical tombs up to 6 feet deep, 3 feet in diameter] current estimates a number of occupying bodies to be about 1.5 million people. 3 Million pottery vessels where found in conjunction with the burials.
Wineries where found in consistency with biblical accounts some with grapes still preserves by the dry desert air (Deut 32.32).
Fire & Brimstone
As described in Gen 19.24, God used fire and brimstone as the method for judgment upon the city.
A common expression in Hebrew called ‘gafrit’ described in the Talmud is known today as ‘hydrocarbon bitumen’, an essential ingredient in asphalt and is highly flammable. It is a natural occurring material in the Dead Sea, and in the accounts of the historian Josephus, it was the very devastation of Sodom and Gomorrah that caused the Dead Sea to form!
Asphalt and cemeteries where found in large numbers among the ruins of these 5 found cities.
There is a layer of a spongy ash 4-20 inches deep. Parallel with these cities is a fault line with two tectonic plates exerting a great amount of pressure, and to this day cause numerous earthquakes in this region. This pressure can force subterranean matter into the air and other flammable hydrocarbons.
Archaeological Data Comparison
- 1. Five Cities
- Biblical Reference – The Bible only refers to 5 cities in the Dead Sea area (Gen 14.1-3, 8-10).
- Archaeological Data – only five cities have been found in the Dead Sea area.
- 2. Mesopotamian Artifacts
- Biblical References – The Bible refers to Sodom and Gomorrah having Mesopotamian influences and dominance (rule).
- Archaeological Data – The artifacts found in the Dead Sea area show Mesopotamian influences.
- 3. City Size
- Jewish Historic Reference – The Midresh description of Sodom and Gomorrah describes it as a thriving metropolis.
- Archaeological Data – The enormous number of burials in the large cemeteries attests to a great population.
- 4. Agricultural References
- Jewish Historic Reference – The Talmud and Midresh describe Sodom and Gomorrah having a great agricultural achievement.
- Archaeological Data – The great diversity of agricultural products found in the ruins verify the lush produce enjoyed by the area’s inhabitants.
- 5. 26 Years of Independance
- Jewish Historic Reference – The Tulmud describes a 26 year span between the independence of Sodom and Gomorrah and God’s destruction on them.
- Archaeological Data – Devastation levels found in Numeira (Sodom) are consistent with the Talmud’s assertion.
- 6. Short Reign of the Kingdom
- Jewish Historic Reference – Tulmud explains that Sodom only existed for 52 years.
- Archaeological Data – The ruins in Numeira (Sodom) indicate that the city lasted less than 100 years.
- 7. Type of Destruction
- Biblical Reference – Biblical records show it was destroyed by fire and ‘brimstone’.
- Archaeological Data – Thick layers of burnt material covering the remains of the cities in spongey ash between 4 – 20 inches deep.
Moab and Ammon
Two Nations became the future inhabitants relative to the region where Sodom and Gomorrah was located:
And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us… – Gen 19:30
After Lot escaped the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with his daughters, they intoxicated him and slept with him. They became pregnant and bore him two sons:
Gen 19:37 – Moab: the father of the Moabites.
Gen 19:38 – Benammi: father of the children of Ammon (Ammonites).
R.T. Shaub, “Bab edh-Dhra” in The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, ed. E Stern (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993) 135.
D.W. McCreery, Paleobotany in Preliminary Report of the 1979 Expedition to the Dead Sea Plain, Jordan, (Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 240, 1980) 52.
Ibid. BAR, Sept/Oct 1980.
Antiquities, Book I, chapter 9.
M.D. Coogan, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), 1984, 255, p. 80.
D. Neev & K.O. Emery, The Destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, and Jericho: Geologica
Climatological, and Archaeological Background (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) 13-14, 33,37; G.M. Harris & A.P. Beardow, The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: A Geological Perspective, Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology, Vol. 28, 360.
J.M. Miller & J.H. Hayes, A History of Ancient Israel (Philadelphia ,Westminster Press, 1986) 60.
“Have Sodom and Gomorrah Been Found?” BAR, Sept/Oct 1980, H. Shanks ed.