Where Is Sodom?

Genesis 13, archaeology and Biblical geography provide new answers

In the article “Where Is Sodom?”, archaeologist Steven Collins, using clues from the Biblical geography of Genesis 13 together with archaeological evidence from the site of Tall el-Hammam (pictured), argues that Biblical tradition located Sodom in a fertile area northeast of the Dead Sea.

According to the Bible, “the men of Sodom were wicked” (Genesis 13, verse 13). For its many sins, God destroyed Sodom and all the inhabitants of the “cities of the plain” in an intense conflagration, but not before allowing Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family to flee to safety.

The stories of Sodom and its destruction, whether historical or not, were clearly understood to have occurred near the Dead Sea, among the so-called “cities of the plain” mentioned in Genesis 13, verse 12. But where exactly was this plain, and was a particular site associated with Sodom? In the article Where Is Sodom? in the March/April 2013 issue of BAR, archaeologist Steven Collins combines clues from Biblical geography with archaeological evidence from the site of Tall el-Hammam in Jordan to suggest that the author of Genesis 13 located Sodom in a fertile area northeast of the Dead Sea.

So where is Sodom, according to the Biblical geography of Genesis 13? Sodom and its sister cities are located in the large oval-shaped, fertile plain just north of the Dead Sea called simply ha-kikkar, or “the Disk” (Genesis 13, verse 13). In Biblical geography, this well-watered disk-shaped plain, said to have been located east of the highland towns of Bethel and Ai, was an area “like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt” where Lot moved his family after his quarrel with Abraham (Genesis 13, verse 10). It is also the place where the Biblical writers set their dramatic tale of Sodom’s wickedness and destruction (Genesis 19).
 


 
In the new BAS DVD Discovering Genesis and the Origins of the Biblical World, the late Dr. David Neiman expertly guides you through the book’s first 11 chapters, examining how the Biblical writers grappled with the fundamental questions and mysteries of the shared human experience.
 

 
Seeking to answer the question “Where is Sodom?” and using the Biblical geography of Genesis 13 as a guide, Collins decided to excavate Tall el-Hammam, an extensive and heavily fortified site located in modern Jordan at the eastern edge of the kikkar. First inhabited during the Chalcolithic period (4600–3600 B.C.E.), the site attained its maximum size during the Middle Bronze Age (c. 2000–1600 B.C.E.) and became one of the largest cities in Canaan. But unlike other Canaanite cities that continued to flourish in the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 B.C.E.), Tall el-Hammam was destroyed by fire at the end of the Middle Bronze Age and remained uninhabited for centuries.

Across Tall el-Hammam, archaeologists found widespread evidence of an intense conflagration that left the Middle Bronze Age city in ruins. They found scorched foundations and floors buried under nearly 3 feet of dark grey ash, as well as dozens of pottery sherds covered with a frothy, “melted” surface; the glassy appearance indicates that they were briefly exposed to temperatures well in excess of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the approximate heat of volcanic magma. Such evidence suggests the city and its environs were catastrophically destroyed in a sudden and extreme conflagration.

Was it this event—which destroyed Hammam and the other cities of the kikkar—that was remembered by the Biblical writers in their telling of the story of Sodom?

 


 

BAS Library Members, read more in Steven Collins, Where Is Sodom? Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2013.

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61 Responses

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  1. Chris says

    @Krissy – to say that that Greek myth has not been disproven is strange…. it has been proven that Atlas was and is not physically holding the earth in its place and Helios does not transport the sun across the sky by chariot. There are tons of other examples. To say this inability to disprove is like any other “myth” is simply not true. Additionally, the sharing of Sodom and Gomorrah’s fate was not to breed disdain towards the LGBT “community”, it speaks to all sorts of intrinsically planted sin. We’re all a part off each other’s community and until we realize this, separation will remain. Disagreeing is not an “end all”.

  2. Nathanael says

    Dear BAS Staff and readership,

    I agree with Matt and Brian (both 02/21/13) that no one who calls themselves Biblical-anything should put “whether historical or not” in their articles. Rather it should be, “whether one believes they are historical or not”. If you are Biblical, and it is in The Holy Bible, then you should know yourself it is historical.

    I also agree with Emerson and Randy (both 02/22/13) that as Christians one should never, ever, ever use BCE and CE. We believe in Jesus, and assumedly have put our trust in Him, and try to follow God’s Pure Word. We should not compromise by removing Christ from the calendar: “Before Christ” and “In the Year of Our Lord”.

    For those who are interested, I have read and written extensively on Tall el-Hammam versus what The Sacred Scriptures detail about Sodom and the other 4 Cities of the Kikkar. Dr. Collins has never given any official answer to the evidences I present, and that can only mean the arguments are air-tight. Therefore people like Krissy and Arlan may want to take a look to see if they can dismantle them, seeing as they don’t believe Genesis really happened.

    Recommended further reading with myriads of evidences against Tall el-Hammam being Sodom:

    G. M. Grena’s detailed review for The Kikkar Dialogues (Research & Discovery Series) (Volume 2) on LMLK: A Royal Blog for all matters belonging to the King, a king, &/or kings (05/25/14). Links below:
    http://lmlk.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-kikkar-dialogues.html
    http://lmlk.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/the-kikkar-dialogues/

    G. M. Grena’s brief review Steven Collins, an Easter-Bunny Christian for The Kikkar Dialogues (Research & Discovery Series) (Volume 2) on Amazon (06/07/14). Link here:
    http://www.amazon.com/review/R35FWSUTDYE5D4/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=061590999X

    My review Not Israel’s Younger Sister for Discovering the City of Sodom: The Fascinating, True Account of the Discovery of the Old Testament’s Most Infamous City on Amazon (03/21/14). Link here:
    http://www.amazon.com/review/R3381RLNN8QGOV/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1451684304

    My review Archaeology’s War on Biblical History for The Kikkar Dialogues (Research & Discovery Series) (Volume 2) on Amazon (06/22/14). Link here:
    http://www.amazon.com/review/R3RYEFE6CD7HQA/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=061590999X

    My 11-part response to Dr. Collins’ comments on Biblical Problems with
    Locating Sodom at Tall el-Hammam
    by Dr. Todd Bolen on his blog (08/23/14). Link to first part below, scroll down to read further:
    http://blog.bibleplaces.com/2012/01/biblical-problems-with-locating-sodom.html#c5540397197379336674

    And lastly, search BiblePlaces.com Blog by Dr. Todd Bolen, keyword: “Sodom”. Be sure to also read the comment sections. Links to all the current blogposts, with a few other links, can be found here (02/26/13):
    http://blog.bibleplaces.com/2013/02/arguments-against-locating-sodom-at.html

    Thank you for reading! ~ Nathanael “AmbassadorHerald” Eisner

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Office Fracas - The Daily Slog | The Daily Slog linked to this post on February 22, 2013

    [...] Is Sodom?”–headline, BiblicalArchaeology.org, [...]

  2. Sodom, Herod the Great, New Testament documents, and the Gospel of Thomas | Near Emmaus linked to this post on February 22, 2013

    [...] First, Steve Collins’ excavations from Tall el-Hamman is being discussed in Bible History Daily because Collins thinks it may be Sodom: “Where is Sodom?” [...]

  3. The Naked Bible » Why Sodom and Gomorrah are Not Located at Tall al-Hamman linked to this post on March 4, 2013

    [...] month it will receive the widest hearing to date. I thought it might be helpful for readers of Biblical Archaeology Review to know where to go for another [...]

  4. Daily Bible Text Alerts linked to this post on April 19, 2013

    [...] sent to subscribers. Do you want to get free Bible verses delivered to your phone via SMS text . Where Is Sodom?: Genesis 13, archaeology and Biblical geography … Sign up today! Permalink: [...]

  5. Christians are bad - Page 7 linked to this post on December 7, 2013

    [...] Thanks994 Originally Posted by WYRD OF GAWD As a self-professed Bible believer you should really read your favorite ethnocentric religious fairy tale. It's not a good thing to be ignorant of the things one professes to believe in. Ezekiel 16:52-58 (CEV) = 53 Someday I will bless Sodom and Samaria and their nearby villages. I will also bless you, Jerusalem. 54 Then you will be ashamed of how you’ve acted, and Sodom and Samaria will be relieved that they weren’t as sinful as you. 55 When that day comes, you and Sodom and Samaria will once again be well-off, and all nearby villages will be restored. 56 Jerusalem, you were so arrogant that you sneered at Sodom. 57 But now everyone has learned how wicked you really are. The countries of Syria and Philistia, as well as your other neighbors, hate you and make insulting remarks. 58 You must pay for all the vulgar and disgusting things you have done. I, the Lord, have spoken. Ezekiel 16:52-58 MSG;NLT;WYC;CEV;CJB – ??And Samaria. Samaria didn?t sin – Bible Gateway Someday? Big deal. You do know there is no evidence of them yet Where Is Sodom?: Genesis 13, archaeology and Biblical geography provide new answers ? Biblical Archa… [...]

  6. Why Sodom and Gomorrah are Not Located at Tall al-Hamman | NakedBible linked to this post on February 9, 2014

    [...] month it will receive the widest hearing to date. I thought it might be helpful for readers of Biblical Archaeology Review to know where to go for another [...]

  7. Digging for Gold. Or Brimstone. | A secular Jew in Indianapolis linked to this post on February 19, 2014

    [...] Tall el-Hammam site in Jordan is the location of the biblical Sodom. Biblical Archaeology Review carried an article about this about a year back, as [...]


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