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The Archaeology of Sodom, Part 3

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

III. Meeting the Scriptural & Archaeological Criteria

The identification of the city of Sodom and the other towns that were destroyed in Genesis not only have to meet archaeological criteria, they have to meet scriptural criteria as well. This section will discuss both the archaeological evidence uncovered for all sites and use 3 to 4 key scriptures to see if each site passes the biblical criteria for Sodom

A. The Dead Sea

As stated earlier, Dr. Albright is one of the leading scholars to conclude that the cities of the plain were buried under the Dead Sea. His observations were supported by the discovery of dead trees buried up to 23 feet deep (Wood, 1974, & Hattam, BA Vol. 5). These trees provide tow key archaeological points and one scriptural point. The area was well-watered, and the Dead Sea was smaller at the time.

Another archaeological discovery helps solidify that identification. The discovery of sulfur balls throughout the southern region of the Dead Sea provides more evidence that the area was destroyed by fire from heaven (Ark Discovery, 2018). The fact that a discredited unprofessional archaeologist promoted these sulfur balls as evidence does not diminish their evidentiary role.

But the presence of the sulfur balls does not provide a specific location for the destroyed area. They may indicate the length and breadth of the valley that was destroyed when God’s judgment came.

Another point against this site as Sodom is that it does not meet all the scriptural criteria needed for it to be that city. 2 Peter 2:6 says

and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter;

While water can be and is a destructive force, it covers the example that God left behind for all time. No person throughout history can see the destruction, save for a few parts, and without clear evidence people can conclude that the story is a myth.

This location does meet one important scriptural criterion though. That one is found in Jeremiah 49:18

Like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah with its neighbors,” says the Lord, “no one will live there, nor will a son of man reside in it.

The area is uninhabited due to the rise in the Dead Sea levels. It is safe to conclude that while Sodom may not be located under the Dead Sea, that area may have been part of the overall destruction that took place in Abraham’s time. This is not the location of Sodom.

B. Bab edh-Drah

Through the many different excavations that have taken place this location serves as the best one that meets all the archaeological and scripture criteria applied to the location of Sodom.

It meets the 2 vital scriptures mentioned above. The site is destroyed and serves as a reminder or example for all people throughout all eras what happens when people disobey God. In a discussion on this site with Dr. Collins and a couple of his supporters on the now defunct BAS discussion forum, Dr. Collins and his supporters asked a simple question- who would live in such a desolate area?

Their mistake was that they were looking at the area after the destruction thinking it was in this condition for all time. They did not see the area before the destruction to make their assessment of the region (BAS Discussion Forum, 2005ish).

Archaeologically we find that the region matches up with 2 destructions of the cities, one from above. We find remains of wadis and agricultural farming and we find a lack in many items. One of course, is the missing homesteads. These can be explained by the fact that they were destroyed.

It is unrealistic to think that a destruction would leave a lot of remains when modern people make evidentiary demands for proof. One cannot also expect the well-watered status to remain or regain its pre-destruction nature when God has said it will be destroyed forever and eft as an example.

This location even passes the scriptural criteria found in Genesis 13

11 So Lot chose for himself all the [g]valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward.

Bab edh-Drah is eastward of the location of Abraham and Lot when they parted ways. It may not be due east, but the Bible does not state that Sodom and cities were due east of Bethel.

It would also be a mistake to assume that Abraham and Lot stayed in the same location when the strife took place. We do not know exactly where they were standing when their observation was made.

You may think this is a stretch but when people ranch, their livestock is not always near home. Depending on how much land they owned, depends on the location of the pasture. If they were free range men, then their livestock could have been anywhere and close enough to see the whole Jordan Valley including Bab edh-Drah.

C. Tall el-Hamman

While this site produces a lot of archaeological evidence to support the claim that it is Sodom, this site fails to meet both the archaeological and scripture criteria. Yes, there may have been a destruction layer, but that layer cannot be tied to Lot or God’s judgment.

A town being fortified does not automatically qualify Tall el-Hamman as Sodom as Dr. Collins suggests (Collins, 2008). Many smaller towns have gates and walls. If one studies the ancient remains found in Korea, one would see that Seoul was walled and had a gate. Yet, many smaller fortresses exist and have walls and gates. They cannot be mistaken as Seoul. To say that Tall el-Hamman is Sodom based on a wall and a gate is presumptuous at best.

But what real makes the difference and disqualifies Tall el-Hamman is its failure to meet scriptural criteria. Despite what Dr. Collins says (Collins, 2008) this location does not meet any scriptural passage of scripture.

Dr. Collins uses Genesis 13 as his foundation for his identification, particularly verse 11 quoted above but everything he declares as evidence is read into that passage of scripture. Lot may have started out towards the east and even in a due easterly direction, but the scriptures do not say that, nor does it say he stayed in an easterly direction.

Lot owned livestock and he may have seen that the Jordan River was too strong for his animals to cross. Since livestock is sold by both weight and being alive, it would not be profitable for Lot to attempt to cross the Jordan River.

Being a good business man and since ranchers raise animals for profit, he could have easily turned south before reaching the Jordan. With the Dead Se not as large as it is today, the area in that region may have been easier to traverse than the Jordan. This keeps animals alive for sell and keeps giving them enough food to eat to maintain their weight.

Another passage that trips up the northerly location have been quoted above as well. Jeremiah states that God says no one shall live there again. Well the archaeological history of Tall el-Hamman makes God a liar. According to Dr. Collins the hiatus lasted only 500 years and people returned to live in the area.

That defies the biblical criteria. Then the site has been buried for 4000 years +/- a few generations, so it cannot serve as an example as Peter stated it was. You can’t leave an example then bury it.

Another piece of evidence that Dr. Collins uses is the couplets theory in which the importance of a town was based on where it was used in a sentence (Collins, 2008). Yet, while that is an attractive theory for many archaeologists, it fails here. Bud Abbot’s surname was not placed first because he was bigger and more important than his partner Costello.

He may have been taller, but he was not bigger than his partner. His surname was placed first because it sounded better. The name flowed, unlike Costello & Abbot. The same for Sodom & Gomorrah. It is highly unlikely that the name Sodom was placed first because it was more important than Gomorrah. It just sounded and flowed better than Gomorrah and Sodom.

In careful analysis of Dr. Collins’ evidentiary points for Tall el-Hamman, everything stated for identification is read into the passages of scripture. Not one verse states that Sodom was more important or bigger than any of the other towns.

The archaeological evidence uncovered by Dr. Collins and his workers speak not to confirm his identification but to disqualify it as Sodom. It certainly does not meet the scriptural criteria.

© 2018 David Thiessen

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