(Guest post by Bill Schlegel at The Master’s College, Israel Bible Extension)
As Todd has noted previously, there are archaeological and chronological problems with identifying Tall el-Hammam with Sodom. Here are some scriptural/textual considerations. A main reason that a northern location is sought for Sodom is the belief that Gen. 13:10-12 places Sodom in the region of the “Plain (kikkar) of the Jordan” that is, north of the Dead Sea (Gen 13:10). However, I don’t think Gen. 13:10-12 restricts Sodom to the Kikkar of the Jordan. Yes, Lot chose the Kikkar of the Jordan and travelled east from the Hill Country. However, Genesis 13:11-12 implies passage of time during which Lot moved around. That Lot “pitched his tent as far as Sodom” suggests a geographical separation from the “Kikkar of the Jordan.” Also, the word kikkar does not exclusively refer only to the area of the Rift Valley just north of the Dead Sea. “Kikkar of the Jordan” can refer to the area as far north as Sukkoth (1 Kings 7:46). The word kikkar may be used to refer to other parts of the Rift Valley in general, especially when not accompanied by the appellation “of the Jordan” (Gen. 19:17, 28; 2 Sam. 18:23). In other words, Sodom could be in the kikkar, without being in the Kikkar of the Jordan.
In favor of a southern location, Scripture associates Sodom geographically with the “Valley of Siddim, which is the Salt Sea” an area distinct from the Kikkar of the Jordan (Gen. 14:3, 8, 10). The meaning of Siddim, “lime, whitewash” (LXX “salty”) and the pits in the region suggest a more southern location for Sodom. Also, locating Sodom and Gomorrah in the south fits better the post-destruction environment described by the prophets (Deut. 29:23, Isa. 13:19-20, Jer. 49:18, 50:40; Zeph. 2:9) and a later battle between Judah and Edom at the site of Zair (from the same Hebrew word as Zoar to which Lot fled, 2 Kings 8:21).
I believe we will always have problems trying to locate Sodom and Gomorrah. Besides significant geological/geographical changes to the region associated with the divine destruction (Gen. 13:10), the divine destruction probably didn’t leave much (any?) of the cities to be found. The Hebrew for these cities’ destruction is unique (a combination of shachet “destroy” and hafach, “turn upside down”). It is unlikely that any of these tells/ruins in the Rift (north or south) are Sodom or Gomorrah. More likely is that these ruins represent peripheral cities, perhaps one was Zoar, which were spared the divine judgment.
Tall el-Hamman is an interesting dig. There’s no question that this is the region where Israel camped before striking across the Jordan. Tall el-Hamman may be Abel-Shittim (Num. 33:49). But this could be a problem for the excavators—identifying the Iron Age remains at Tall el-Hamman with another Israelite town goes against identifying Tall el-Hamman with Sodom, because it is unlikely that what once was Sodom became the Israelites’ Abel-Shittim.
28 thoughts on “Biblical Problems with Locating Sodom at Tall el-Hammam”
The archaeologist must be willing to change interpretation relative to new information. I believe that there has been enough new information, on this site alone, to show that Tall el-Hammam should not be identified with Sodom.
I agree with your article and also have my doubts about Sodom in this northern position. Not discounting the work in any way, but interpretation can be a messy business.
You did not use the term "Arabah" in your article. The Arabah runs from the Sea of Galilee all the way down inclusive of Jordan river valley and the kikkar, inclusive of the Dead Sea and continues on south to Aqaba/Eilat. The name for this long-version of the "Arabah" was more prevalent in the recent past – Ottoman times and earlier – when the area was very dry. It is seen on many 19th century maps. Today most only consider the strip SOUTH of the Dead Sea as the "Arabah" and that is simply not the case historically. Pet peeve with me.
That said, the kikkar of the Jordan is only a small circular space in this very long "Arabah" depression. Your implication that the kikkar remains green and well-planted, right where Tall el-Hammam is located, as opposed to the Siddim region down south, which remains abandoned, desolate and salted! Does create a challenge. The 'green-ness' in the kikkar and the villages and farms nearby make it hard to identify with the scriptures' descriptions of Sodom's fate. I also [obviously] agree that this east bank slope is the Moav encampment area for the Israelites. Very interesting dig site. Thanks again for adding color and light to this ongoing work.
Aside from the archaeological problem, the Bible presents a geographic challenge.
When Abram and Lot divided the land, they were between Bethel and Ai. Looking east, the ridges running to the Jordan Valley form a notch that provides a near unobstructed view to the plain of Moab and Tell el-Hammam. Tell el-Hammam is a major tell. Its position below the current dam and reservoir indicate it was a well-watered and prosperous site. It makes the area a good candidate for the "cities of the plain" in a region that was like the "garden of the Lord" – you can see why it tempted Lot. A downside is the mention of Zoar, which is generally located south-southeast of the Dead Sea. If that Zoar is meant, it can't be seen from where Lot and Abram stood. Maybe another Zoar is meant. Upside is the immediate proximity of the mountains to which Lot was told to flee. His illicit relations with his daughters produced Moab and Ammon. Tell el-Hammam sits right about where their borders would be if extended to the Jordan Valley floor. But wait …
When the strangers visited Abraham on their way to Sodom, he was at Mamre near Hebron. We're told, "When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way." It's impossible, as far as I've been able to determine, to see the plain of Moab and Tell el-Hammam from anywhere near Hebron. Later, we're told, "Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. A possible solution is that Abraham accompanied the strangers for a significant distance, and after a long time reached a point where one could accurately say they "looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah" on the plain of Moab. Given his earnest pleading, maybe so.
If Sodom was instead at the south end of the Dead Sea, the events at Mamre make more geographic sense. Additionally, you have the large salt deposit of Mt. Sedom (associated with Lot's wife) and asphalt pits (mentioned in Gen. 14) in the south. The events of Gen. 14, with mention of Seir, El Paran and Kedesh, put the setting in the south. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah only mobilize when the southern region is threatened – these clues argue for the south. Additionally, the Zared River waters the plain to the south-southeast of the Dead Sea and a Zoar was located there. One could argue this environment also fits what caught Lot's eye, but there's no way he and Abram could see it from Bethel-Ai.
Some geologic factors … While the Dead Sea's northern bay is about 1,300 feet deep, the southern bay is very shallow. The salt dome Mt. Sedom is immediately to the west. Salt domes often sit above pockets of natural gas, trapping them. I don't have the source, but I have read the Sedom dome has been forced upward (likely by gas pressure) within the last 5,000 years or so (the citation was to a John Wiley science book). My curiosity wonders if such an uplift could have been accompanied by a massive release of gas that spread across the adjacent plain, ignited and destroyed all life. Associated with the release of the underground gas could be the subsidence of the plain and the subsequentformation of the southern embayment of the Dead Sea. If so, Sodom could be beneath the waters there.
It's an interesting question and I don't know the answer. When I read Gen. 13, I picture the northern site and when I read Gen. 18-19, I picture the southern one. When I read the newspaper, I picture the one on the west end of the Bay Bridge.
Does Ezekiel 16:46 provide clues to where at this time they thought Sodom was located? Isn't Tall el-Hammam east of Jerusalem but this verse says it would be south or can we not use this verse to help locate Sodom? The verse reads:
“Your elder sister is Samaria, who dwells with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who dwells to the south of you, is Sodom and her daughters." (NKJV)
The following from Steven Collins will post in several pieces…
I realize that up until our recent excavations and publications that there was a systematic lack of data from north of the Dead Sea that could speak to the subject of Sodom’s location (although the N view was the dominant view among the 19th century explorer-scholars who examined the area). But now the evidence is quite vast regarding the northern sites such as Tall el-Hammam, Tall Nimrin, and other ancient cities NE of the Dead Sea. So some erroneous ideas about Sodom’s location may be somewhat excusable on this count. However, I find many of the comments regarding Tall el-Hammam/Sodom amusing, even comical, but some are cause for concern from a scientific point of view as they come from scholars who (perhaps) represent the state of “biblical geography” in some circles. Indeed, I find the level of textual, geographical and archaeological awareness in some of the comments to be cause for concern vis-à-vis the melding of disciplines in the service of biblical studies. A few simple examples will suffice…
First, many comments about the Kikkar are nonsensical. To suggest that the Kikkar of the Jordan might include the Dead Sea portion of the Rift Valley is categorically in error. ‘The Jordan’ (hayarden) itself means “the descent, the going down.” Of what? Of the fresh (living) water, of course. The OT tracks this Descent = Jordan “from the mountains of Lebanon, to the Kinnereth, down the Descent, and ending at the bay of the Dead Sea at the mouth of the Jordan below Pisgah (= Nebo)” (five OT passages track these details). The descent of the living water ends when the descent itself ends: at the N end of the Dead Sea. The living hayarden “dies” as soon as it enters the dead waters of the “Arabah Sea.” Thus, the Descent = Jordan cannot pass beyond the physical termination at the lowest spot on the face of the earth, the surface of the Dead Sea. The Kikkar is “of hayarden,” the living water only. The meaning is clear: The Kikkar (= circle/disk) of the Descent is the broad alluvial plain of hayarden, N of the Dead Sea, which overspread its banks each year like the Nile in Egypt (thus its comparison to the Nile in Gen 13). There is no missing this when one understands the geographical data in the text. And it is no wonder (and exactly correct) that Lot could view the “entire Kikkar of the Descent” from the area of Bethel/Ai on the highlands WNW of Jericho. Sodom and the other Cities of the Kikkar of the Descent were also visible from there, from which Lot’s eastward trek took him to Sodom on the eastern side of the Kikkar of the Descent. All of this is absolutely incontrovertible. The biblical text is clear. The geography and topography are clear. The archaeology is clear because a massive city-state from the time of Abram actually exists there: Tall el-Hammam and its satellites.
continued in another entry…
S. collins, continued…
One little postscript to this is also worth noting: If, as S Sodom advocates claim, the Kikkar seen by Lot from Bethel/Ai included the Dead Sea portion of the Rift Valley, then it also included the area of the Jordan Valley N of the Dead Sea where Tall el-Hammam is located. Because the biblical text is reasonably clear that Sodom was the largest of the Kikkar cities, then Tall el-Hammam (which has every possible occupation to coincide with the time of Abram) would still be the most logical choice because it is several orders of magnitude larger than any other Bronze Age site in the entire length of the Rift Valley. Indeed, Tall el-Hammam existed during the time of Abram and Lot because it was continuously occupied from the Chalcolithic Period through the Middle Bronze Age and every period between. Thus, if Bab edh-Dhra was Sodom (which it most certainly was not), then the Genesis 13:1-12 scenario would be reduced to an historically ridiculous story with a hopelessly convoluted geography: Lot would head eastward from Bethel/Ai, but somehow wind up going mostly S to Bab edh-Dhra, although the text says he travelled only eastward. In the process, he would have passed right through the middle of the Kikkar territory of the Tall el-Hammam city-state (the most powerful such entity in the S Levant during the entire Bronze Age!) and chosen to go to Bab edh-Dhra which died in 2350 BCE with only a small un-walled, marginal settlement there down to about 2200 BCE (with nothing thereafter). In other words, no matter how you slice the chronology, Lot chose to bypass the vast, verdant lands of the thriving Tall el-Hammam city-state (right under his nose!) in order to make a topographically difficult journey of about 50 extra kilometers down to a dried-up, dusty vestige of a community in the last throes of extinction! And then you have to explain why the Genesis writer fails to mention this massive city-state through which main trade route passes from E to W across the Jordan Valley. The Sodom/Bab edh-Dhra scenario is categorically nonsensical, even silly. In fact, the Genesis writer does write wonderfully about the Tall el-Hammam city-state: he calls it the “Cities of the Kikkar of the Descent” (Gen 13) and “the Land of the Kikkar” (Gen 19:28). The term eretz hakikkar (Land of the Kikkar) must be given the same understanding as when “eretz” is used in other people or kingdom contexts: it refers to a distinctly separable socio-political, ethno-linguistic (as in Land of Egypt, Land of the Philistines, Land of Israel, Land of the Moabites, etc., etc.) populations identified within defined geographical ‘borders’ as understood by surrounding socio-political entities. The “Cities of the Plain/Land of the Kikkar” formulaic geography (Gen 10, 13, 14, 19) is an historically correct depiction of the Tall el-Hammam city-state (and likely also the Tall Nimrin entity with its satellites 6km to the north on the Kikkar) which dominated the S Jordan Valley for over 2500 years before the entire civilization was wiped out by a cataclysmic destruction toward the end of the Middle Bronze Age. Not recognizing massive Tall el-Hammam as Sodom, and opting instead for marginal Bab edh-Dhra, makes a mockery of the historical authenticity of the Genesis text and gives minimalists a perfect reason to doubt the reality of the Sodom tales (which they do!).
Will continue in a follow-on…
S. Collins continues…
A second little point is worth mentioning: How could a small, marginally-existing EB city like Bab edh-Dhra be Sodom which is listed along with the great Mesopotamian urban centers such as Babylon, Akkad and Uruk (Erek) in Genesis 10? (Not to mention the fact that nearby Numeira went out of operation 250 years before Bab edh-Dhra!). All the southern Dead Sea sites were small (fortified Hammam proper is at least 12 times larger than Bab edh-Dhra) and hardly worthy of such a mention! The Tall el-Hammam city-state was, on the other hand, of truly Mesopotamian proportions, and held the largest center of population for the longest period of time of any city in the southern Levant. It was a veritable political and cultural powerhouse that dominated the region for nearly 3,000 years. Certainly worthy of mention in Genesis 10! Indeed, if it isn’t Sodom, then the biblical geographers managed to miss completely the region’s dominant urban culture during the entire patriarchal period! All of the southern Dead Sea sites were dried up and dead several centuries before the time of Abram. When the climate changed toward the end of EB3 they simply couldn’t survive. However, the Tall el-Hammam city-state thrived right on through the Intermediate Bronze Age and through most of the Middle Bronze Age before its violent, terminal destruction leading to a 700-year occupational hiatus on the eastern Kikkar. That Hammam (and its many satellites) is the basis of the so-called “Cities of the Plain” formulaic geographical construct of Genesis is beyond question when one correctly assesses and compares the textual, geographical and archeological facts.
A third little point: Alleged chronological difficulties with Tall el-Hammam/Sodom stem from the penchant of modern interpreters to force the Bronze Age biblical lifespan numbers (thus the patriarchal chronology) into an artificial, base-10 arithmetic mold rather than allowing them to hold the authentic, formulaic/honorific values they actually represent (ex.: Joseph is given the death age of 110 because that is the proper “honorific death age” of a noble Egyptian, well documented in Egyptian writings). When one realizes that the Bronze Age patriarchal numbers cannot be equated in any way with our modern concept of absolute dating, one then finds that using historical synchronisms is a far superior method of linking the biblical and ANE histories together. That the patriarchs all suffered famine in Canaan is a good climatological signal that they belong to the latter part of MB2, because that is the time when regional climatological changes drove vast numbers of Asiatic Semites into Egypt (which population became the Hyksos of Delta Egypt). MB1, on the other hand, was a wet period which allowed the Canaanite culture to rise to its urban height with a burgeoning population supported by a thriving agricultural economy across the southern Levant; and the patriarchs don’t belong in that picture.
These are just a few items, among dozens, that point to a northern Sodom at Tall el-Hammam. Those who beg to differ really should do themselves a favor and take several days to visit Tall el-Hammam and the Kikkar, and the southern sites, and get some firsthand experience with this whole issue. Those who have not thus studied the problem firsthand have absolutely no means of making any worthy contribution to this discussion (Bryant Wood has never been to Tall el-Hammam). To facilitate education on the issue, I suggest this blog set up a formal debate at the upcoming ASOR and/or SBL meetings in Chicago in November wherein several opposing scholars would debate me regarding Sodom’s location and identification. I will arrange the room, announce it, and have a videographer present to capture the whole thing in HD. I’ll even pay for the coffee and snacks! I guarantee the room will be full of interested scholars! So, let’s sit on an academic platform and have a real scientific debate for about three hours in Chicago next fall. I will be glad to give the southern Sodom theory such a proper and final farewell!
Steven Collins, from the Dead Sea
S. Collins responds to Bill Schlegel's comment about Sodom not necessarily being on the Kikkar…
Bill's comment is simply nonsensical. Sodom was one of the Cities of the Kikkar. Period. Lot was removed from the Kikkar because God was going to destroy "all the land of the Kikkar" and Sodom was on the Kikkar! Abram "looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the Kikkar, and saw smoke rising as if from a furnace." I think you need to read these passages in the original Hebrew and see what is, in fact, there. All the Cities of the Kikkar were on the Kikkar of the Jordan. That's what was destroyed, and even the vegetation on the Kikkar. Period. End of discussion.
S. Collins' addition to the Kikkar discussion:
Schlegel has cited 1 Kings 7:46 as evidence that the Kikkar could possibly include the southern, Dead Sea portion of the Rift Valley. But wait, that passage extends the Kikkar of hayarden northward! The passage is also from the late Iron Age, showing that the meaning of Kikkar, at that point in time, extended somewhat farther north (but not much) than the area of Kikkar in the Bronze Age scriptures. But it is north, not south. Again hayarden, the descent, ends at the north end of the Dead Sea. To suggest that the Kikkar of the Jordan, the location of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, is anywhere in the Dead Sea valley is preposterous and a misrepresentation of the text. Further, the location of the so-called "vale of Siddim, the Dead Sea" has no necessary connection to the location of Sodom. The Cities of the Plain forces obviously met the army of Kedorlaomer as they moved northward from En Gedi (Hazazon Tamar) along a wide stretch of beach created by an extremely low (MB2!) Dead Sea level, which conditions create many large sinkholes as there are today (the MB2 level of the DS was about what it is today). Thus, the Vale of Siddim and the Dead Sea are really one and the same real estate, but when the water is extremely low you have the wide beach with dangerous sink holes (mud or clay pits). This was recently pointed out to me by Dr. Ritmeyer in a long discussion of these very issues. SC
S. Collins on Schlegel's comment about Tall el-Hammam as Abel Shittim…
Obviously Schlegel has never spent much, or any time, on the eastern Kikkar or at Tall el-Hammam. Nor has he paid much attention to what the biblical text says about Abel Shittim. Called the place "where the top of Pisgah overlooks the(uninhabited) wasteland" (Num 21:20), Abel Shittim (meaning Accacias of Mourning) was a resting place for the Israelites, and nobody was home! After MB2 there were no cities or towns on the eastern Kikkar until Iron Age 2. Sodom was not rebuilt. The area was basically abandoned in the time of Moses. The Iron Age 2 locals simply built on top of the upper tall at Hammam because it's the most stragegic and protected piece of geography in that area. They probably had no clue about Sodom or what had been there in the distant past. Mostly, the locals had little or no access to the biblical text we enjoy. SC
Dr. Collins, thank you for your contributions here. I have read one interview in which your findings included skeletal remains with evident catastrophic termination of lives. Can you point me to the best source of up-to-date findings? The official website lacks any photos or reports of such findings.
Response to Tim:
Thanks for your comment. We haven't put up the info from last season's end of season report because it is being published in ADAJ (Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan) and we were waiting to put up the 'official' journal version of it. Should be out soon. By the way, we just finished an 8-week season, and now have the main gateway system of the city, and it is remarkable for its size and overall complexity. And the entire outer gateway area is covered in a half-meter of black ash directly on the MBA plaza walking surface. You'll be seeing and hearing a lot about his in the future.
Awesome work. Thank you fr weighing in Mr Collins. Look forwrd to hearing more
A response by Steven Collins:
I strongly encourage readers of this blog to investigate the following links for more detailed discussion of the geography, chronology, and archaeology of Tall el-Hammam in relationship to biblical Sodom:
Collins responds to Wood: http://tallelhammam.com/uploads/Collins_Responds_to_Wood.pdf
Collins responds to Billington: http://tallelhammam.com/uploads/Collins_Answers_Billington.pdf
Collins responds to Merrill: http://tallelhammam.com/uploads/BRB-2013-1-Collins_Answers_Merrill.pdf
My comments in response to B. Schlegel are posted already. In terms of chronology, readers should pay particular attention to Dr. Eugene Merrill’s “Artifax” article contra my identification of Tall el-Hammm as Sodom, and my response to Dr. Merrill (included in the above links). My response to Clyde Billington’s contra-Hammam article in “Artifax” is also given. I also highly recommend reading my response to Bryant Wood’s contra-Hammam article in “Bible and Spade.” It may also be interesting to readers that I recently received a copy of a paper written by a doctoral candidate at Dallas Theological Seminary who independently assesses my views with those of others, including those on this blog. He comes down decidedly on the side of Tall el-Hammam as Sodom, particularly when compared with Bab edh-Dhra. This paper will also be presented in a special OT forum at DTS in the near future. We will also publish a version of it on our excavation website and provide the link when it’s available. It seems that the main objection to Tall el-Hammam as Sodom stems from blind acceptance of the patriarchal lifespan numbers as base-10, arithmetic values among a rather small circle of evangelicals who still rely on the ‘literalistic’ methodology of Bishop Ussher. Such a method puts the Great Flood ca. 2500 BC, even later in some versions. If literalists push the Flood date earlier (say, before 6000 BC or 10,000 BC as many suggest), it is a tacit admission that the numbers are, in fact, not to be taken literally.
An answer to Dr. Collins’ responses above, by Nathanael “AmbassadorHerald” Eisner (Saturday, August 23, 2014, at 09:47:00 PM).
Dates and times will be given in bold to distinguish which post is being answered. Make use of these dates to see an alternate explanation to Dr. Collins’ opinions, if there is anything specific of interest to you. They will also be helpful for simply following along in the points.
Note that each post is designed to build on the one(s) before it, so if something seems inadequately dealt with, try looking previous for more detail. Not every single point of Dr. Collins is answered that could be, because otherwise there would just be too much to post. As it is, it is already lengthy.
It is my hope that everything major gets answered and that those who read it will find it useful. Sources are provided when needed.
3/3/12, 5:56 AM
The five passages giving the Jordan’s end are listed in Dr. Collins’ response to Dr. Billington (linked above by Dr. Collins)—Numbers 34:12; Deuteronomy 3:16-17, 27; 4:47-49; Joshua 15:5; and 18:18-19 (see page 0). No mention of any sea in Genesis 13, 14, or 19, whether it be a “Salt Sea”, “Arabah Sea”, “Sea of the Plain”, or even a “Siddim Sea”. All passages that tell where the Jordan River ends are in Moses’ day or later. These are all post-destruction passages. If there is a pre-destruction passage that listed this descent, then it is not easily locatable.
We cannot rule out G. M. Grena’s theory that “the Jordan used to flow all the way south to the Gulf” of Aqaba (page 28 of The Kikkar Dialogues). Grena adds, “Only one small section of the dried-up riverbed south of the Dead Sea presently rises ~700 ft above sea level—easily accountable for due to sandstorms over several thousand years.” We do know that all of history, in every Scientific Discipline (including Archaeology), has to fit within a circa 6,000 year timeframe.
Dr. Russell Humphreys documents that ever since 1835 AD (179 years) we have been measuring the Earth’s Electromagnetic Field. It has been steadily and reliably decaying over time ever since we began keeping track scientifically. Based on the results we know that the field loses half its strength every 1,400 years. This means that in the 600’s AD the field was twice as strong as today and in the 3,400’s AD it will be half the current strength.
At this rate of decay, the Earth can only be a maximum of 8,700 years old, or 6,700 BC. If we push the Earth to 10,000 years old—8,000 BC—the planet would have self-destructed. The Electromagnetic Field would have been so strong that the Earth’s Metallic Core would have separated from the Mantel, causing the planet to break apart and disintegrate. For more on Earth’s Electromagnetic Field, see these articles:
The Earth’s Magnetic Field and the Age of the Earth by Andrew A. Snelling (09/01/91)
Earth’s Magnetic Field by Dr. John D. Morris (2010) that appeared in the magazine Acts & Facts 39 (8):16
3/3/12, 5:58 AM
Grena did us a favor and made us a map from Bethel and Hai to Tall el-Hammam and the northernmost waters of the Dead Sea. See his full review of The Kikkar Dialogues at one of the links below:
You will notice that a strictly eastward travel would have taken Lot more north of Tall el-Hammam, and further into the extended Kikkar of 1 Kings 7:46, which includes Succoth and Zarthan. Dr. Collins is also forced into a south-east direction of travel for Lot. Genesis 13:12 is hard to translate.
KJV says, “Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.”
ASV, “and moved his tent as far as Sodom.”
Bishop, “and pitched his tent untill Sodom.”
Darby, “and pitched tents as far as Sodom.”
Geneva, “and pitched his tent even to Sodom.”
Tyndale, “and tented till he came to Sodom.”
Young, “Lot hath dwelt in the cities of the circuit, and tenteth unto Sodom;”
NIV, “and pitched his tents near Sodom.”
Vulgate, “But Lot continued in the towns which were about Jordan, and dwelt in Sodom.”
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible comments:
“And Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain; in the neighbourhood of them, or near those cities, which were built on the plain of Jordan, for he could not dwell in more than one, if in one; for it looks as if at his first settlement he did not dwell in any, but near them all, especially Sodom: since it follows:
“and pitched his tent toward Sodom, or “even unto Sodom”; and it may be rendered, as it is by some, “he pitched his tents”, for himself, his family, and his servants, his shepherds and his herdsmen, which reached unto Sodom, and where he afterwards dwelt, at least at the gate of it.”
Even the NIV pluralizes “tents” and emphasizes “near”. So Lot did not live in any one City of the Kikkar at first, but did go “as far” as the cities in general. So he could have went primarily eastward and camped in an area the cities were not actually in. Perhaps he lined the Jordan River with tents from the eastward location all the way down to where the Pentapolis was, as Archbishop James Ussher calls them. Their location is most probably where Grena’s map suggests.
Wilhelm Gesenius (1786-1842) believes the Pentapolis were located in the Valley of Siddim, which collapsed and became the Dead Sea as Genesis 14:3 indicates. Ezekiel 16:46 locates Sodom to the right-hand side of Jerusalem. Since the directions are based on an eastward gaze, this puts Sodom south of Jerusalem. While that might seem to be a contradiction of Genesis 13:1-13, all it means is Sodom must be east of Bethel and Hai but south of Jerusalem. Since Jerusalem is approximately equal with the northern shoreline of the Dead Sea, these two passages converge under the extreme northern waters of the Dead Sea.
Genesis 14:1-12 confirms this by giving three key details about the valley of Siddim: it was large enough to have a battle in, it was full of slime-pits (literally “Bitumen Wells”) that you could fall into, and it became the Salt Sea later. Strabo called the Dead Sea “Lacus Asphaltites” or Lake of Asphalt. Chunks of asphalt have been found floating in the Dead Sea numerous times in modern history, sometimes weighing more than a ton. This asphalt is 99% pure according to Dr. Arie Nissenbaum. So pure the Romans and Egyptians were known to mine or trade for it. The Asphalt Wells spoken of in Genesis are almost certainly underwater today, but were on the surface of the ground in Sodom’s time.
For more on the asphalt, see BBC’s episode Ancient Apocalypse 4: Sodom and Gommorah beginning at 29 minutes and featuring a picture at 34 minutes.
3/3/12, 5:58 AM
Further evidence was discovered by the Space-Shuttle Endeavor in 1994 when it took a photo of the Kikkar of Jericho (Deuteronomy 34:3) just north of the Dead Sea. The photo captured some of the northern seafloor as well. Michael Sanders examined the photo and found it shows an extended Jordan River Main Channel, a submerged Jordan Delta System, and eight anonymous readings. The Delta is something the Jordan River lacks today; it merely has a Floodplain. In 1998 Sanders took a submarine down to investigate the two largest anomalies and found huge mounds at the northernmost site, at least one of which had a red coloration at the top. Otherwise the Dead Seafloor is perfectly flat and everything is layered in crusted salt.
For more on the Dead Seafloor anomalies, see Michael Sander’s website:
Sodom and Gomorrah Found? (07/24/98)
Satellite spots submerged Sodom? (08/11/98)
The Dead Sea and Sodom and Gomorrah Photo Album (Nov 1999)
http://www.biblemysteries.com/expeditiontrips/sgpg5.htm (compare with pages 7-11)
Russia has since joined with Jordan to continue investigating these anomalies, and were scheduled to begin December 2010. For more on the Russian expedition, see Dr. Bolen’s blogpost Search for Sodom under Dead Sea (12/14/10):
Supplementary data was found by Dr. Steven Goldstein, a member of the Dead Sea Deep Drilling Project, in 2011. They discovered a beach of pebbles 235 meters below the current Dead Sea surface, which is roughly half of the current 400 meter depth. This indicates that in the past, at most, there existed a Siddim Lake in the Siddim Valley and not a full-fledged sea like we have today. Of course these scientists, that did the Core Drill, were not trying to confirm The Bible and were following evolutionary dating methods, so came to a date far too old for when the Dead Sea was this low. Remember the Electromagnetic Field of the Earth, detailed above.
For more on the submerged beach, see Dead Sea Sediment Core Confirms Genesis by Brian Thomas (01/04/12):
3/3/12, 5:58 AM
As for naming the area where Tall el-Hammam is “the Land of the Kikkar”, there is little reason to. As already touched on previous to now, Deuteronomy 34:3 calls this area the “Kikkar of the Valley of Jericho”. Additionally, we see in 1 Kings 7:46 that later this term moved to include more area to the north, extending to the Jabbok River. Interestingly, this is also the northern boundary of the Tribes of Reuben and Gad in Deuteronomy 3:16-17. Plus, we must not forget that this region was called the “Plains of Moab” at least 12 times between Numbers 22:1 and Joshua 13:32 (KJV). Dr. Collins identifies only 13 uses of Kikkar in a geographical context, which are nearly equal references.
Upon deeper study, though, there is a pattern we see. Only seven are in the Genesis text. Two of those tie the Kikkar to the Jordan River (Genesis 13:10-11) while also keeping the Pentapolis in context. The other five only attach the Kikkar to the Pentapolis (Genesis 13:12; 19:17, 25, 28-29)—Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, Bela/Zoar (Genesis 14:2, 8). The remaining six are all after the destruction, of which three have different qualifications. One ties the Kikkar to Jericho (Deuteronomy 34:3) with the Jordan in context, and two to the Jordan with Succoth and Zarthan/Zeredathah (1 Kings 7:46 and 2 Chronicles 4:17). The three ambiguous ones—2 Samuel 18:23; Nehemiah 3:22, 12:28—were written just before or long after the Succoth references, so chances are good those are the same region.
All the uses of Kikkar are attached to the Jordan River, but different cities depending on the time—Patriarchal Age, Mosaic Age, or Davidic Age. Things are known to change with time. Seven times is Sodom put in the Kikkar in Abraham’s day, where the Dead Sea is currently. Only one time is Jericho put in a Kikkar in Moses’ day, and 12 times in the Plains of Moab. And five times is Succoth along the Jabbok River put in a Kikkar in the days of the nation of Israel. This looks like a northward shifting of the term “Kikkar”. The only name that has not moved is “Plains of Moab”, so that should be the name attached to where Tall el-Hammam is located.
3/3/12, 6:00 AM
As already explained, Dr. Collins is operating within the grounds of what atheistic and secular scientists wish him to operate, that of an evolutionary look at human development from primitive cavemen in a “Stone Age” to a civilized mankind in an “Age of Enlightenment”. This is not The Biblical Worldview. Dr. Todd Bolen’s comment in an earlier discussion (03/08/12) with Dr. Collins on a previous blog fits well here.
It would be more accurate to say that there is one biblical chronology and there are many alternate chronologies which choose which parts of the biblical data to accept and which to reject.
“fact-based geography and archaeology must trump any of our pet chronologies, I have no choice, based on solid evidence, but to let the chronology of Tall el-Hammam provide an empirical basis for my biblical chronology”
The biblical chronology is not a “pet chronology.” But I submit that you are creating (another new) pet chronology that will not be standing when the next guy comes along with his particular hobbyhorse.
It should be observed that what you're doing here is saying that on the one hand, on the basis of the biblical account, you've determined that TeH must be Sodom. On the other hand, since TeH is Sodom, the biblical account (at least the chronology) cannot be trusted as it is but it must be reinterpreted. I do not believe that this is sound methodology.
From Excavator Finds Evidence of Destruction at “Sodom” (12/19/11)
Everyone remembers the big scare of the “End of the World” on December 21st, 2012 because the Mayan Calendar ended then. What no one was told is the date that the Mayan Calendar began. The Mayans believed the creation of the universe was at 3113 BC. That would make the Earth 5127+ years old, not that far off from Ussher’s 6018+ years, beginning at 4004 BC. That is not the only ancient record uncovered through Archaeology that comes out to around where The Biblical Genealogies indicate for the Creation, there are hundreds. Dr. Collins has been taught to ignore these evidences and has since agreed to because he needs to manipulate The Biblical Chronology to match his permutations of history.
For more on the ancient accounts of how long the Earth has existed, see Bodie Hodge’s article in The New Answers Book 2 chapter 4 How Old Is the Earth? (04/01/14)
3/3/12, 6:00 AM
As for why the occupational hiatus in the “Plains of Moab”, The Holy Bible is also clear on this count. 2 Kings 2:19-22 clearly records why the location north of the Dead Sea is fertile.
And the men of the city [of Jericho] said unto Elisha, “Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren.”
And he said, “Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein.” And they brought it to him.
And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, “Thus saith The LORD, ‘I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.’”
So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.
Biblically, there are only a few options. First, Jericho did not exist when Sodom did in order for it to not be city #6 on God’s destroy list, and now does occupy the same Kikkar. Second, Jericho did exist at the same time as Sodom, but existed outside of the Kikkar because God does not list it as city #6 and Genesis 19 is clear that 100% of the Kikkar was destroyed. Third, Jericho did not exist at the same time as Sodom and today does not occupy the same Kikkar, but the area still suffered loss from the destruction, to which Elisha restored at least part of the fertility.
Option three seems to be the most likely scenario based on the simple fact that Jericho is never mentioned in Scripture until Moses leads Israel to the Plains of Moab in Numbers 22:1. Lot would have needed to pass Jericho if it had been there to get to any of the suggested areas for Sodom, but Genesis never mentions it. Not even in the war with Chedorlaomer in Genesis 14, of which Jericho is closer to Hazezon Tamar/En Gedi than Tall el-Hammam is (Genesis 14:7 and 2 Chronicles 20:2) so they should have gotten involved in that scenario. Seeing as Jericho is the invisible entity in Genesis, they were most likely not in existence yet.
3/3/12, 6:01 AM
Dr. Collins fails to see that only under a literal “as the text reads” interpretation of The Biblical Numbers can one hope to understand anything with absolute certainty. Taking a passage literally is an anchor locking the text down so that it can be seen as trustworthy and accurate. If you detach The Sacred Scriptures from the plain reading of the text then you will have only one outcome, and that is the one described in Ephesians 4:14. We will become “children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”
That is exactly what Dr. Bolen was talking about above. Right now Dr. Collins is gaining control of the “doctrine” of Sodom’s chronology. Later Dr. Collins will be dead and gone and the next person will take over, and kick his theories out the door. The Holy Bible cannot be kept as sacred under this scenario. Jesus promised to preserve His Word by saying, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, KJV) The Bible has attended to itself for millennia without error, it will not be disproven at any future point of history.
As for the ancient peoples of Genesis not having absolute dating methods like we have today, all one must do is look at Noah’s account of The Flood.
Genesis 7:11-12, “In the six hundredth year [600th] of Noah’s life, in the second month [2nd], the seventeenth day  of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”
Genesis 8:4-5, “And the ark rested in the seventh month [7th], on the seventeenth day  of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month [10th]: in the tenth month, on the first day [1st] of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.”
Genesis 8:13-14, “And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year [601st], in the first month [1st], the first day [1st] of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. And in the second month [2nd], on the seven and twentieth day [27th] of the month, was the earth dried.
Genesis 8:20-22, “And Noah builded an altar unto The LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And The LORD smelled a sweet savour; and The LORD said in His heart, ‘I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest [agricultural cycle], and cold and heat [yearly cycle], and summer and winter [seasonal cycle], and day and night [daily cycle] shall not cease.”
Not only did Noah have a measure of time from birth to The Flood, he had and used a 12 month calendar to record the timeline of The Flood. Afterwards God uses terms that He knew Noah would understand in reference to that we have a “growing season” and “harvest season” as well to that we have four seasons in a year. This proves a deep understanding of time even 4,000 years ago.
3/3/12, 6:01 AM
Concerning whether or not Dr. Wood has been to the location of Tall el-Hammam, it is unnecessary now. Dr. Bolen said in the other discussion referenced above, “Yes, I’ve been to Tall el-Hammam. Yes, I’ve read many of the articles associated with Tall el-Hammam. Yes, I am informed of these matters.” (03/12/12) Link:
Those were in direct response to what Dr. John “Archaeo” Moore asked the previous day (03/11/12), “I would ask a few questions of you and your other respondents. Specifically, have any of you actually been to Hammam to examine what is being discovered? If not, what is the source of your information about the site? Have any of you actually read any of the articles prepared by the Hammam scholars about their findings? Are you adequately informed about the geographical and archaeological bases for selecting the site of Hammam for excavation? If the answer to any of the above is “No,” then you are in a rather weak position to debate the site or the findings with any degree of authority.”
By the standard set up here, Dr. Todd Bolen is 100% legally able to confront the issue at hand. Personally, I’ve done everything but spend thousands of dollars to go to the Middle East and see the site first-hand. Besides, by this logic, not a single person could be an expert or have authority in the areas of Astronomy or Geoscience, specifically about the internal structure of the Earth. No one can answer “yes” to having been there to observe on location, yet we have many knowledgeable people in these fields. Such is the case here, because Dr. Bolen, G. M. Grena, Dr. Merrill, Dr. Morris, Dr. Humphreys, etc. have all confirmed my findings, as I have confirmed theirs. Secular Archaeology, as well as Tall el-Hammam, will fall one day. Even if it will only happen at the return of Jesus Christ!
Dr. Collins’ final statement, “I will be glad to give the southern Sodom theory such a proper and final farewell!” reminds me of Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” I may agree that Bab edh-Dhra is not, nor could be Sodom, but that does not make Tall el-Hammam the only possible northern alternative.
3/4/12, 7:47 AM
The area indicated on the NASA photograph, roughly the location suggested on Grena’s map, is still north of Hazezon Tamar where Chedorlaomer made his last stop before meeting the Kings of the Kikkar in battle (Genesis 14:7-8). Therefore it still makes sense for the method of travel that Chedorlaomer and his allies followed before reaching Sodom.
Dr. Collins explains this part accurately, “Also recall that Kedorlaomer was moving northward from Hazazon Tamar (= En Gedi; Gen 14:7; 2 Chron 20:2) away from the southern desert [from Kadesh], homeward bound. His last stop was to plunder Sodom and Gomorrah before connecting up with the Kings Highway toward Damascus. They [the Pentapolis] knew it, and they tried to stop him before he reached their side of the Jordan”. See page 2 of Dr. Collins’ response to Dr. Billington (brackets added).
Hazezon Tamar has been located about halfway up the western side of the Dead Sea, as the geography stands today. This was likely a logical spot to stop to prepare for what Chedorlaomer knew would be a tough fight. Sodom had five kings on their side, Chedorlaomer only had four. Even today Hazezon Tamar has abundant, perennial spring waters, so was an ideal place to restock supplies, whether or not the location southward was desert like it is today. This was also likely a small outpost in comparison to the Pentapolis, so regrouping to push into the “Rebel Stronghold” is also a logical course of action (Genesis 14:4).
As for the “Bitumen Wells” being full of mud or clay, this does not follow the clear meaning of the Hebrew word, which is asphalt. The ancient Greek historian Strabo also confirms this fact.
3/4/12, 8:01 AM
Whether or not the city built on Upper Tall el-Hammam was a rebuilding of the buried city, God made it clear numerous times no one would live on top of Sodom, even if they did not rebuild it.
Jeremiah 50:38,40, “‘A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols. … As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof,’ saith The LORD; ‘so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein.’”
Isaiah 13:19-20, “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.”
Babylon is well documented in numerous places to be a ruin and uninhabited. Sodom was the first to be made in this fashion and was the example given of what Babylon would be like. Tall el-Hammam has been made obsolete by this one point alone, because it has not been uninhabited forever.
In fact, if you see page 7 of Dr. Collins’ response to Dr. Billington, Dr. Collins assumes that the “Iron Age 2” city was the capital city of Solomon’s “Gilead District”. How then does Dr. Collins explain his comment, “They probably had no clue about Sodom or what had been there in the distant past. Mostly, the locals had little or no access to the biblical text we enjoy.” How is this even relevant? Israel had The Biblical Text we enjoy by the time of David, much less Solomon, even by the liberal standards of history.
Besides, whether or not they knew what God had written, God had wrote it and it would be followed to the letter. Not a single tent would be pitched atop Sodom after its destruction. God is the one who was ensuring that His Word was fulfilled and submerging Sodom’s ruins under the northern Dead Sea might be part of His measures to safeguard it would remain dead.
Even the Genesis text proclaims that the Kikkar was made desolate by the punishment God rained on it. Genesis 13:10 says (KJV), “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before The LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of The LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.” Dr. Collins uses the NIV (see page 50 of Discovering the City of Sodom), but even it reads the same way, “This was before The Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.”
9/4/13, 2:21 PM
Dr. Collins said, “If literalists push the Flood date earlier (say, before 6000 BC or 10,000 BC as many suggest), it is a tacit admission that the numbers are, in fact, not to be taken literally.”
Simple answer: any “literalist” who believes that has by default proven themselves to be a non-literalist. Everything posted above is evidence of this fact.
Recommended further reading with myriads of additional evidences:
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:
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:
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:
My review Archaeology’s War on Biblical History for The Kikkar Dialogues (Research & Discovery Series) (Volume 2) on Amazon (06/22/14). Link here:
And lastly, search this 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):
Thank you so much for reading! ~ Nathanael “AmbassadorHerald” Eisner (Saturday, August 23, 2014, at 10:04:00 PM)
Thank you Dr Collins for your hard work, which I sincerely appreciate. I read with excitement the paper showing the forensic evidence of colossal heatflash, (3.7kyr event) at TeH.
I have a question about the location of Zoar / Bela.
"Where do you think Zoar is?"
Obviously this is a loaded question – since Lot was able to escape there from Sodom in a short time. It was evidently near Sodom.
Obviously if Zoar is drowned or located to the SE of the Dead Sea, this would tend to rule out TeH as Sodom, if not as a 'city of the plain'.
1) In support of this, I note from Isa 15:5 and Jer 48:34 that when catastrophe befell Moab, its runaways would flee to Zoar and that the cry over the nation’s devastation would be heard “from Zoar clear to Horonaim, to Eglath-shelishiyah,”. This perhaps indicated that, at the time of Isaiah and Jeremiah, Zoar was then a Moabite city.
As you well know, the Moabites were – generally – East of the Dead Sea, between the TV of Arnon and the TV of Zered. Horonaim may be el-ʽIraq (meaning “Cave”), situated below the level of the Moabite plateau and about 11 miles east of the southern end of the Dead Sea.
This argues for a southish location of Zoar, in or near Moab.
2) Also, Genesis 19:31 gives the dilemma of Lots daughters, who worry: "Our father is old, and there is not a man in the land to have relations with us according to the custom of the whole earth"
This may argue for a southern location of Zoar, separated from the north by a terrifying and perplexing desolation which they were loath to attempt. Their dilemma would make less sense if they were in the mountainous region east of the north bit, with – perhaps – a fair view of greener places such as Jericho in the distance.
3) Also, from Mount Nebo (Jebel en-Neba?) Moses was privileged to see "as far as Zoar". I understand that the Dead Sea is clearly visible from Nebo? You would know better than I would. I am of course assuming a clear day, not unreasonably in view of the context of Deut 34:1-4.
"Then Moses went up from the desert plains of Moʹab to Mount Neʹbo, to the top of Pisʹgah, which faces Jerʹi·cho. And Jehovah showed him all the land, from Gilʹe·ad to Dan, and all Naphʹta·li and the land of Eʹphra·im and Ma·nasʹseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, and the Negʹeb and the District, the valley plain of Jerʹi·cho, the city of the palm trees, as far as Zoʹar."
Moses was shown the good land – as far as his eye could see, including the Med. I don't think this scripture is drawing attention to something fairly close by when it says "as far as Zoar."
Surely this argues for a southern Zoar?
It seems to me that the geographical case is strong that Sodom was in the circular plain of the Jordan. However, there were two or three other historical destructions of the cities on the East side of that plain. The invading Israelites under Moses destroyed all the cities of Sihon East of the Jordan, a year before crossing the Jordan river to take Jericho. (Deuteronomy 2) Less than a century after Solomon, King Ahab destroyed many of the cities of Moab. The much later Assyrian conquests of the region burned and destroyed many cities as well.
I would have expected Sodom and Gomorrah to be Natufian, PPNB, Neolithic or Chalcolithic at the latest, and their destruction in 1912 BC occurred in the reign of Kufu of the 4th Dynasty of Egypt.
The sodomite kidnapping ritual he references was also seen centuries later in Gibeah of Benjamin. It seems more likely that the similar pederastic practice of Sparta and the Minoans came from the Levant rather than being ancestral to the Levant.
The secular chronology of Egypt and Babylon are off by about seven centuries. Hammurabi was more likely to have been a contemporary of Saul, David, and Solomon than of Abraham. Collin's dating of this site hinges on being contemporary with Hammurabi. If that is the case then this site was destroyed during or shortly after the reigns of David and Solomon. This best fits the time of Ahab's campaign.
I think Sodom and Gomorrah are likely to be in the place Dr. Collins has indicated, but they are much older and probably much smaller than the city that he has excavated.