Todd Bolen responds to “Where is Sodom”
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.
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.
Lot’s Cave Museum at Ancient Zoar (Zoora)
The world of the Bible is knowable. We can learn about the society where the ancient Israelites, and later Jesus and the Apostles, lived through the modern discoveries that provide us clues.
Biblical Archaeology Review is the guide on that fascinating journey. Here is your ticket to join us as we discover more and more about the biblical world and its people.
Each issue of Biblical Archaeology Review features lavishly illustrated and easy-to-understand articles such as:
• Fascinating finds from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament periods
• The latest scholarship by the world's greatest archaeologists and distinguished scholars
• Stunning color photographs, informative maps, and diagrams
• BAR's unique departments
• Reviews of the latest books on biblical archaeology
The BAS Digital Library includes:
• 45+ years of Biblical Archaeology Review
• 20+ years of Bible Review online, providing critical interpretations of biblical texts
• 8 years of Archaeology Odyssey online, exploring the ancient roots of the Western world in a scholarly and entertaining way,
• The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land
• Video lectures from world-renowned experts.
• Access to 50+ curated Special Collections,
• Four highly acclaimed books, published in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution: Aspects of Monotheism, Feminist Approaches to the Bible, The Rise of Ancient Israel and The Search for Jesus.
The All-Access membership pass is the way to get to know the Bible through biblical archaeology.
This piece was originally republished with permission on BHD in 2013
Sign up to receive our email newsletter and never miss an update.
Dig into the illuminating world of the Bible with a BAS All-Access membership. Combine a one-year tablet and print subscription to BAR with membership in the BAS Library to start your journey into the ancient past today!Subscribe Today
The north Dead Sea location is pseudo archeology promulgated by a pseudo scholar with pseudo credentials who is a professor at a pseudo school. How this is still taken seriously by anyone is testimony to how the nexus of the internet and false information works.
One of the key facts that Dr. Collins ignores is found in 2 Peter 2:6. Peter records that Sodom was left barren as an example to those who choose to live ungodly lives. Dr. Collins has that example buried for 3000 years or so until he digs it up again. It can’t be an example if it lays buried for thousands of years.
The Southern location has never been buried and all can see its desolate geography no matter which era they lived in. When Dr. Collins and one of his assistants, Graves, were told this fact, their response was why would people live in such a barren land where nothing grows.
They were looking at the land AFTER it had been destroyed and assumed the area had always been that way. The pair did not realize they were looking at Sodom after God got through with it./
Surely you don’t rank the NT with the OT. And even if you do, you must take into account that 1700 years separated them – or at least from Abraham. I ahve a friend who suggested quite a while ago that this is Sodom. He wrote only in Hebrew, but I have his explanation, which uses the war there to help identify the place.
Lots of reasons to be skeptical about the Northern theory. But check out my Southern theory (see my comment above yours).
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
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.
One would think that, OBVIOUSLY, various forms of spectroscopic and chemical analysis would be appropriate to employ here; therefore, if not, WHY not? Hmmm.
The problem I see with the above article is that they assume that the Dead Sea was formed when God destroyed Sodom. However, this does not have to be. If the Dead Sea is a result of the Flood, then the reason to build a city in the area south of the Dead Sea not very worth while.
How do you deal with the lines of evidence stated here: http://geekychristian.com/evidence-sodom-is-tall-el-hammam/
I am fascinated with this site of Tel El Hammam for a different reason. I believe this region of the plain to be the burial ground of Gog from Ezekiel 39:11. “Gog” is equated with the nation of Israel in Numbers 24:5-9 in the LXX. Josephus details a major battle in AD 68 when thousands of fleeing Israelites were trapped against the Jordan and slaughtered by Placidus and his Roman troops. Many of their dead bodies were carried downstream into the Dead Sea (Wars 4.7.4-6). Presumably these thousands of Israelites were later buried there in the plain where all of the bodies and the bones of Israelite dead from the Jewish / Roman war were taken for burial in order to “cleanse the land” of Israel (Ezekiel 39:11 &16). It would be interesting if signs of a mass burial ground were to be found in this same area, dating from that AD 70 era. It would be indeed ironic if the site of the original Sodom’s destruction was also the cemetery for Jerusalem’s dead of AD 70 to be interred – the city that was “spiritually called SODOM and Egypt” in Rev. 11:8.
What makes me excited about the prospect of Tel El Hammam possibly being the authentic site is the weakness of the arguments against the site. With some of the other various biblical sites I have followed over the years, arguments against the sites have been substantial. Here and elsewhere, for Tel El Hammam, the arguments I have read have seemed rather weak.
It is possible that it may have occured there too. The actual sites of Sodom and Gommorah were revealed to Ron Wyatt, and amateur archeaologist over 25 years ago, In searching the Bible for clues to their locations, Ron and his wife Mary Nell found scripture references that mention four of the cities as forming part of the boundaries of the Canaanites:
“And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha.” ……Genesis 10:19
It would be strange for Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim to each be listed as boundary markers if they were all in the same general location, at the south end of the Dead Sea. It is logical that the cities would be located at some distance from each other in order for it to be necessary to include each of them as boundary markers.
Ron’s location of the sites he had found were, indeed, scattered over a distance of over fifty or more miles. One of them was located North of Jericho which was in perfect accord with scripture which indicates that Zeboim would be located North of the Dead Sea.
“And Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin: but the Philistines encamped in Michmash. And the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies: one company turned unto the way that leadeth to Ophrah, unto the land of Shual: And another company turned the way to Bethhoron: and another company turned to the way of the border that looketh to the valley of Zeboin toward the wilderness.”
1 Samuel 13:16-18
Later in 1989, Ron and Mary Nell Wyatt visited the site just below Masada and took samples of the whitish material which broke right off in their hands and disintegrated into particles the consistency of talcum powder. At that time, Mary Nell actually found one of the brimstone capsules imbedded in a piece of compacted ash, however, no conclusion was drawn, at that time, as to what it was.
In October of 1990, Ron Wyatt and Richard Rives returned to area. As they examined the area below Masada they discovered that it had just rained. As they wandered through the area, Richard saw what looked like an open room or cave at some distance and as they approached the vicinity of the cave they came upon a very large chunk of ash that had just recently fallen from a high section – probably because of the recent rain. As Ron stopped to view this he saw numerous yellowish balls inside this broken ash, all surrounded by a reddish-black, crusty ring. Prying one out, he recognized it as sulfur. On closer examination, now knowing what to look for, it was found that all through the ashen remains were round balls of encapsulated sulfur (brimstone).
After the discovery of the brimstone. Wyatt Archaeological Research began a study to see if brimstone was found in this form anywhere else. Ron and Mary Nell Wyatt along with Richard Rives went to the Smithsonian Institute, in Washington D.C. and examined their display of sulfur in its various forms, none being rounded balls of powdered sulfur. In addition, none of them were encapsulated. A request was granted by the Smithsonian that specimens other than those on display be examined. This collection of sulfur from around the world, consisted of over fifty specimens. None of them displayed the characteristics of the brimstone sulfur found in the vicinity of the “cities of the plain.”
Ron Wyatt was not the first person to discover brimstone near the Dead Sea. When William Albright and Melvin Kyle set out to find the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in 1924, they, too, found these pieces of brimstone at Southern end of the Dead Sea.
“…a region on which brimstone was rained will show brimstone. Well, it does; we picked up pure sulfur, in pieces as big as the end of my thumb. It is mixed with the marl of the mountains on the west side of the sea, and now is to be found scattered along the shore of the sea even on the east side, some four or five miles distant from the ledge that contains the stratum. It has somehow scattered far and wide over this plain.” “Explorations at Sodom” by Dr. Melvin Kyle, 1928, pp. 52-53.
Neither was Marvin Kyle the first to observe the ashen remains. The other record of these cities comes from Josephus in his “Wars of the Jews”, Book IV, Chapter VIII:
“Now this country is then so sadly burnt up, that nobody cares to come at it;… It was of old a most happy land, both for the fruits it bore and the riches of its cities, although it be now all burnt up. It is related how for the impiety of its inhabitants, it was burnt by lightning; in consequence of which there are still the remainders of that divine fire; and the traces (or shadows) of the five cities are still to be seen,…”
Josephus’ description perfectly describes what can be seen at these ashen sites: “…It be now all burnt up.”
The account of destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah and “all the plain” was not a fairy tale. It was an historical event that occurred exactly as the Biblical account presented it. Not only that, but the evidence remains, as Peter wrote, as an “ensample [a visual example] unto those that after should live ungodly”. They provide the entire world with the evidence of, as Jude wrote, “the vengeance of eternal fire.”
Bearing this in mind let us consider the writings of Malachi who wrote of the final reward of the wicked:
” …behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.”
” But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 4:1-3
The Bible gives a date for the exodus …
And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord. 1st Kings 6:1 (KJV)
The conventional dates for this is around 970 bc … Thiele 1983, p. 78. This gives us a date of 1450 bc for the exodus. At the time of Thutmose 3rd. Those dates can be argued by a few years.
How long were Isreal in Egypt?
The answer is given by Henry Ainsworth, a British theologian from the early 1600s:
“Ver. 13. Knowing Know,] That is, know assuredly: see Gen. ii. 17. Not Theirs,] Meaning Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Canaan itself; wherein they were but strangers, Gen. xvii. 8. Psal. cv. 11, 12. and therein afflicted. Gen. xxi. 9. xxvi. 7, 14, 15, &c. but chiefly in Egypt. Four Hundred Years,] Which began when Ishmael, son of Hagar the Egyptian, mocked and persecuted Isaac, Gen. xxi. 9. Gal. iv. 29. which fell out thirty years after the promise, Gen. xii. 3. which promise was four hundred and thirty years before the law, Gal. iii. 17. and four hundred and thirty years after that promise, came Israel out of bondage, Exod. xii. 41. 2 (emphasis added)” (Henry Ainsworth)
That means that when Lot and Abraham split up, it was already within the 430 year period of ‘Isreal in Egypt’ … this is AFTER 1880bc …(give or take a few years). (1450bc plus 430 = 1880bc).
I think that agrees with the dates that Dr Steven Collins gives for the patriarchs of between 1900 to 1550 bc ..
“As K.A. Kitchen has clearly demonstrated (On the Reliability of the Old Testament), the patriarchs belong between 1900 and 1540 BC based on historical synchronisms and elements of cultural specificity.”
I think that Dr. Steven Collins has been vindicated, by all of the evidence to date.
The bible and trowl go well; hand in hand.
I believe you are thinking of Lot’s wife being a pillar of salt. The Bible, when speaking of Sodom, says Abraham could see thick smoke, and that the cities were overthrew (burned). It also says the land was nothing more than brimstone, salt, and burning (Deut) so that nothing could grow at that time. But that does not mean there would be no evidences of the ruined burnt out cities (set as an example to those coming after Sodom of what happens under such circumstances). Josephus wrote that the burnt destruction of those cities could be seen in his time (1st century).
If something has been ‘destroyed’ why are any parts of a city being found. According to the Bible, the only thing that was left was pillars of salt. Finding ruins of Sodom would defy what the Bible says unless there was clear signs that these ruins had been previously destroyed, which would surely exist and be a good thing to look for.
Mike, it is not only trinitite, it is all of the overwhelming evidences thus far discovered. Reading the biblical text (as I have many times myself) no one could ever place these cities at the southern end of the Dead Sea. This is like the traditional placement of Mt Sinai. Anyone who has seen/visited this place knows it is not the correct location (it doesn’t fit any of the scripture). If you are not following the Biblical text in looking for Biblical places, you are traversing unknown lands without a map, compass, or even the sun to guide you. In other words, you are flying blind.
The trinitite glass found at Tel Hammam convinces me!
I am a UK citizen . I am the unpublished author of “Turtle island Is Atlantis (The Untold Story)” . It is a presentation dealing with the known facts surrounding the existence of the legendary “Atlantis” . The facts I present are the only known facts . They are extremely few and far between . As the genuine readership of Atlantis will appreciate , a recent publication of a work claiming to have found Atlantis was a publicity stunt . Nothing more !
Now then , to Sodom and Gomorrah ; The original Old Testament ; the work particularly surrounding the Biblical Flood Version is a doctored version . It is as it always was , flawed , unsafe , unsound and far , far from the truth and facts as can ever be . However , whilst academics , scholars and so-called “Professional” historians are forever laying claims , let me put a spanner in the works . Since the latter half-quarter of the 19th century not one of the published authors writing on the subject of “Ancient mysteries” , inclusive of the Biblical Flood ( Also thought to be the scientific Meltdown which science dated to 11000 BC , and which , as I have indicated in my unpublished work “The Flood Dichotomy” , may well have been what I have referred to as “Sitchin’s Flood Catastrophe” ) have ever placed their revelations/discoveries/findings/opinions in the context of the Biblical Flood Version – or any other of the flood dates which have been published . I have not the time to check my books here , but surely , it was sometime in the 1990s that it was declared that Sodom and Gomorrah were discovered beneath the ” Dead Sea” ? Of course , there will never ever be the proof , the truth will not be known nor acknowledged if ever the truth and the facts were known ! There are two megalithic structures beneath the dead Sea . If it were ever shown that they represent Sodom and Gomorrah…then Dr Collins would have to rethink . So , too , all others in his capacity . The “Christian” God did not send angels to speak with Lot . Modern science suggests one of two scenarios ; nuked cities or cities literally obliterated from the face of Earth by at least one asteroid . The date ? Dating systems are but guidelines . The date is unknown . Angels ? If you ignore asteroid impact-s entirely , then you have to decide on Gods and angels = Aliens and they set about destroying the world or WE , our very own ancestors rose to or even beyond a nuclear age into a space age . WE unleashed a nuclear and chemical war upon ourselves . Which version ?
For most recent news you have to pay a visit web
and on world-wide-web I found thijs web page as a best website for hottest updates.
Everyone has an opinion, and only one of your opinions can be correct. What Collins has found is something that was destroyed by intense heat, something the ancient world could not have produced. I am no scientist, but I doubt a volcano could have caused the destruction Collins has found at Tall El-Hammam. Too sudden, almost instant death. How does the Pompeii destruction compare? Lots of ash, but bodies well preserved. In any case, for me, it does not matter whether Sodom is found or not. There is copious evidence for the historicity of the rest of the Biblical account, and no archeological find has ever contradicted the Bible. Therefore, I think it best to ponder the meaning of Genesis 13 for today.
Comment to Dr. Collins…
I’ve found nothing about the ash layer at Tall el-Hammam (chemical composition). Since the time of destruction you dated around 1650 BCE (in the book), it is close to the Thera eruption, dated scientifically at 1628 BCE. Moreover, the ash of the Thera event is found only eastwards of Santorini Isle. The Thera eruption is thought was about 5 times that of Krakatoa and an instantaneous explosion. It’s possible that a great incandescent volcanic mass was ejected obliquely into the stratosphere and landed in the east Jordan kikkar. I cannot imagine that a meteorite impact would leave such an amount of ash.
Is an ash analysis of Tall el-Hammam and its comparison with Thera ash under way?