The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19)

Genesis 19

According to Genesis 19:24 burning sulfur rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah, obliterating both of these cities, as well as the surrounding region (v. 25 and 29). To date, the location of Sodom is still disputed. Some people place it on the southwestern side of the Dead Sea, others on the n…orth side of this body of water near the mouth of the Jordan and still others at modern Bab edh-Dhra on the southeastern side of the Dead Sea.

Recently, archeologists have focused significant attention upon Bab edh-Dhra, where they have found evidence of several Early Bronze Age occupation levels. Although a layer of ash and burned debris has been discovered in excavations there, the most dramatic evidence that this may indeed be the site of ancient Sodom comes from a nearby cemetary. The dead had been interred in charnel houses, or mausoleums, constructed above ground. Five of these structures were ecavated and found to have been burned. A detailed examination of the largest ot these (26ft x 51ft, or 8m x 15,5m) indicated that the fire had begun on the roof. Geological investigations determined that an earthquake had added to the devastation.

Since there were several distinct occupation levels at Bab edh-Dhra (evidence of habitation at the site during various time periods), evidence had to be handled carefully. For example, there is a substantial ash layer associated with the occupation in Early Bronze I (the oldest of the Early Bronze occupation levels), but this one cannot be associated with the Biblical destruction of Sodom because its ruins point to a date far earlier than the time of Abraham. In fact, this earlier, fire-related damage appears to have been the work of invaders. The Esrly Bronze III city is more likely to be the Biblical Sodom. A much larger city, evidence points to its destruction by a combination of earthquake and fire in approximately 2350 BC. People evidently reoccupied this site in Early Bronze IV, but it appears to have been permanently abandoned for some reason around 2150 BC.


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