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The Archaeology of Sodom

Updated on December 31, 2018
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Dr. David Thiessen is an educator, writer, pastor, and speaker. He has authored several books on a variety of topics including Archaeology


The exact location of Sodom has been an ongoing debate for maybe a century or two. Until very recent times, Josephus’ identification on the south east shore of the Dead Sea has been the accepted location. Ancient writers like Eusebius and Jerome and others up through the centuries to Dr. Robinson have accepted Josephus’ location (McClintock & Strong, 2000).

But this location has not gone unchallenged as Dr. Albright has excavated at another site Bab edh-Drah, now thought to be Sodom and Gomorrah, but dismissed it due to the lack of homesites in the region. He thought that the people of Sodom used Bab edh-Drah as a religious high place which they would visit at festival time. This theory explained the lack of homesite in that city (Harland, 2001).

Another explanation for the lack of homesites in the Bab edh-Drah region is that the destruction that took place was so thorough that nothing was left standing to be found by anyone even millennia later (Easton’s Bible Dictionary, 1897).

It is not till the later have of the 20th century that Bab edh-Drah was considered to be the actual location of Sodom. The desolate region doe s not have any people living there, nor is there any well-watered land. Paul Lapp started the new excavation which was carried on by Walter Rast and R. Thomas Schaub. In their work they were able to uncover a second city, Numeria, that existed in the Early Bronze Age and suffered from a destructive catastrophe (Van Hattom, BA).

The identification of Bab edh-Drah received lots of support from other scholars who have written in different archaeological journals, Have Sodom and Gomorrah Been Found? (1980). BAR, 6(5) & Dr. Bryant Wood’s article Have Sodom And Gomorrah Been Found? (BSP 3:3 (Summer 1974) p. 69).

Yet, this support and work has not deterred others from trying to find a third possible location for Sodom and the other cities of the plain. Dr. Steven Collins, who declares that his site, Tall el-Hamman, is the best candidate for Sodom (Final reports 1 to 10), is not the first to suggest that the 5 cities that were destroyed in Genesis, were located in the North-eastern area of the Dead Sea.

One Mr. Tristam explored the Dead Sea region quite thoroughly and came to the conclusion that Sodom was located in the north far from the asphalt pits that dominated the Southern Shore region. Mr. Tristam uses some of the same arguments that Dr. Collins uses today to defend his identification. He goes to one specific verse found in Genesis which he claimed states that Lot camped ‘at’ Sodom not toward it. Also, he limits the translation of the Hebrew word Ciccar to mean the local Jordan region found at the north of the Dead Sea (McClintock & Strong, 2000).

So today we have a dilemma as to which site is the actual location of the 4 cities destroyed by God. It is strange that with all the press, all the fame and all the investigations that have taken place over the centuries that these cities remain unfound (Harland, BA).

One of the purposes of this paper is to look at the archaeology of all three locations and see which one best suit the biblical description. We will also look at the evidence presented though in the case of Sodom lying under the Dead Sea, the evidence may be a little sparse. Then we will analyze some of the arguments for each pointing out why those identifications do or do not work.

Finally, we will go a step further than Mr. Harland and state that we already know the site of Sodom and Gomorrah, but archaeologists and scientists being what they are, do not stick their necks out and firmly state which location is the real Sodom.

This paper will tread where angels fear to go because we have nothing to lose by making this identification. This paper is more about truth because even in archaeology, Christians need to speak the truth and shun faulty theories.

Our credibility and reputation lie in speaking the truth even when we must go against scholars and archaeologists. How can the unchurch world trust what we say when we can’t even get the location of Sodom correct. To get the unbeliever saved, they have to know that they can trust us and Jesus.

© 2018 David Thiessen


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