Russia and Jordan have signed an agreement to search the bottom of the Dead Sea for the remains of the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Arabic news media reported over the weekend. According to the report, a Russian company has agreed to conduct the search in cooperation with Jordanian authorities, picking up all costs – in exchange for exclusive rights to film a documentary of the search. The report quoted one of the Jordanian heads of the project, Zia Madani, as saying that the search would begin in late December.
According to Madani, further evidence that the cities remains are located on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea came after recent NASA photographs of the area indicated that the bottom of the sea is littered with debris and objects not found in other bodies of water. According to the Jordanian, Israel recently sent a submarine down into the Dead Sea in an attempt to explore the bottom of the sea, but discovered that the objects in the NASA photos were on the Jordanian side of the sea. Jordan prevented the Israelis from searching over the border, and now Jordan is seeking to discover what it believes are the remains of the cities by itself.
Israel National News could not confirm that an Israeli submarine had in fact searched the depths of the Dead Sea on such a mission.
The full story is here. Some archaeologists and biblical scholars have suggested that Bab edh-Dhra on the eastern side of the Dead Sea may be Sodom. A new season is beginning this week at Tall el-Hammam northeast of the Dead Sea, a site the excavator believes is Sodom (but see my objections here).
One problem with the theory that Sodom is under the Dead Sea is Zephaniah 2:9, which suggests that the area of the city was known and visible late in Judah’s history, not hidden under the waters.
Therefore, as surely as I live,”
declares the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel,
“surely Moab will become like Sodom,
the Ammonites like Gomorrah—
a place of weeds and salt pits,
a wasteland forever.
The remnant of my people will plunder them;
the survivors of my nation will inherit their land.” (Zeph 2:9)
6 thoughts on “Search for Sodom under Dead Sea”
Seems to me there may even be better reasons than Zephaniah 2:9 for questioning its location.
This particular verse seems to be referring to the lands and peoples of Moab and Ammon BECOMING a waste and the [prophetic-future?] possession of Israel. Zephaniah 2:9 doesn't seem to be speaking about the location of Sodom or Gomorrah, per se. It appears to be specifically referencing the lands of the Ammonites and Moabites, that THEY will become LIKE Sodom and LIKE Gomorrah.
Thanks for sharing the links to the Tall el-Hammam dig website. Interesting stuff. Looks like Leen Ritmeyer is an advisor to this team. Does he think it is SODOM? GOMORRAH? Interesting.
Daniel – if someone in the 6th century BC referred to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah as a wasteland, I think that indicates that it was not covered with water.
Those interested in seeing the levels of the Dead Sea through history should visit this site:
Todd, I question whether "a place of weeds and salt pits, a wasteland forever" is the best translation, particularly "wasteLAND".
The obscure word "[M]MSQ" is remarkably similar to my field of interest, [LMLK] MMST, for which there is no instance in the Bible, but it's likely related to some sort of possession (like what King Hezekiah showed to the Babylonians). Strong's translates it as "possession", though KJV is "breeding".
If the best translation of HRUL is "weeds" (or "nettles"), this would seem to conflict with the sense of wasteland/desolation. A place with weeds or bushes is not actually waste; it's a form of plant life. There are only 2 other instances of it in Job & Proverbs. In both cases, a form of "unproductive" would fit; in other words, something that produces nothing significant. Weeds produce leaves, seeds, even flowers.
There are no significant fishes or plants in the Dead Sea, so it is quite desolate, except for being a pit (singular, as in Genesis 37:24) of salt.
I'm on shaky grammatical ground, but how about "a possession of unproductivity, a salty pit, & a desolation forever"?
Todd do you know in which part of the Dead Sea (northern, southern or both) they are going to search? As I understand it the southern section (rather than the northern) is more often proposed as a possible site for the location of Sodom or Gomorrah.
Also do you know any details as to the form the search will take (similar to the underwater archaeology that was done at Ceasarea)?
Thanks for the interesting update
Bruce – I do not have any more information at this time. If I hear more, I'll note it here.
The idea of a Russian version of the Odyssey salvage team gives me great anxiety.
Not saying they don't have competent researchers and archaeologists, but I've met some astoundingly credulous Russians. It would seem that long exposure to communist government has an effect similar to long exposure to religion.