Arguments Against Locating Sodom at Tall el-Hammam

Todd Bolen responds to “Where is Sodom”

This piece was originally published by professor Todd Bolen on the BiblePlaces blog. Bolen comments on Steven Collins’s BAR article suggesting that Biblical authors located Sodom at the site of Tall el-Hammam. We invite our readers to continue the discussion in our comments section below.
All material republished with the permission of Todd Bolen.


The proposal that Sodom has been found on the northeastern side of the Dead Sea has been around for a decade or so, but with the publication of an article by Steven Collins this 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 perspective.

The proposal that Tall el-Hammam is Sodom fails on at least two counts, and these are helpfully summarized by two experts in their respective subjects.

Geography Fail: Bill Schlegel, professor in Israel for 25 years and author of the Satellite Bible Atlas, explains why the biblical text does not fit the geography of Tall el-Hammam.

Chronology Fail: Eugene Merrill, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and author of Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel, shows in a recent Artifax article that for Tall el-Hammam to be Sodom one must deny all of the biblical dates before the time of the judges.

I’ve written about the issue several times as well:

Excavator Finds Evidence of Destruction at “Sodom” (Dec 2011)

Video: Search for Sodom and Gomorrah (Aug 2009)

Tall el-Hammam: Sodom, Abel Shittim, Abila, or Livias? (Jan 2009)

Sodom Identified? (May 2006)

One final point: the excavator of Tall el-Hammam insists that by identifying the site as Sodom he is supporting the historicity of the Bible. In fact, if his theory is true, we cannot trust the Bible for accurate details about times and places. Tall el-Hammam is certainly a significant site, but Sodom is surely to be found elsewhere.

Northern end of the Dead Sea. Photo from Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, volume 4.


Other than Israel, no country has as many Biblical sites and associations as Jordan: Mount Nebo, from where Moses gazed at the Promised Land; Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John baptized Jesus; Lot’s Cave, where Lot and his daughters sought refuge after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; and many more. Travel with us on our journey into the past in our free eBook Exploring Jordan.


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Where Is Sodom?

Locating Zoar
Steven Collins responds to a letter by Bill Schlegel

Lot’s Cave Museum at Ancient Zoar (Zoora)

Abraham and Lot in the Bible


Posted in Biblical Archaeology Sites.

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4 Responses

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  • Clark says

    Lots of reasons to be skeptical about the Northern theory. But check out my Southern theory (see my comment above yours).
    – Clark

  • Clark says

    The epicenter of the ACTUAL blast that destroyed Sodom is found at the SOUTHERN end of the Dead Sea at Gawr al-Mazraah. It fits EVERY criterion. You can ALSO see the circular blast pattern in the geology there using Google Earth or Google Maps by going to Sodom Blast Site
    It is a distinct circular depression 8 miles wide.
    Check it out

    • Clark says

      Lots of reasons to be skeptical about the Northern theory. But check out my Southern theory (see my comment above yours).
      Let me know what you think.
      – Clark

  • M. says

    One would think that, OBVIOUSLY, various forms of spectroscopic and chemical analysis would be appropriate to employ here; therefore, if not, WHY not? Hmmm.

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