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Sodom & Gomorrah Research Pt. 2

What "Remains" Should be Expected?

The Biblical account tells of a conflagration in which balls of brimstone (sulfur) rained down from heaven (the atmosphere), completely burning the cities up.

    GEN 19:24-25 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

The only mention of the condition of the remains of the cities during the time of Christ was written by Peter:

    2PE 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;

This verse is full of information -- for one thing, it tells us that the cities were ASHES. That may seem like a logical conclusion since they were destroyed by fire, but the adherents to the theory that the five sites on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea (Bab edh-Dhra, Numeira, etc.) have failed to note that they are NOT ashen. They contain some burnt artifacts, but they also contain food-stuffs and other articles that are still intact. Peter said they were ashes, and he also states that the cities were an "ensample" to those "that after should live ungodly." The Greek word translated to read "ensample" is "hupodeigma" which implies something "that is shown or visible". This implies that it could literally BE SEEN. Jude also writes along those same lines, presenting these cities as proof of the reward of the wicked:

    JUD 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Again, the word he used, "deigma" signifies "a thing shown, a specimen" from the root word "deiknumi", "to show". 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 in these five ashen sites. All whitish in color, the shadows and shapes display all the visual characteristics of ancient cities and walls.

The destruction of these cities took place approximately 3,900 years ago, so it is quite amazing to find ANY remains of ashen heaps. That they were destroyed in a Divine manner is understood, but it appears that they were also preserved in a Divine manner as well. These weren't composed of the kind of ash we commonly think of, that blows away into the wind. It was compacted ash -- the material was densely-packed and crusty on the outside. But when broken open, the substance was much softer, and with continual crushing, was soon reduced to powder.

Since combustion is a chemical process, we read up on and discovered that the study by the Frenchman, Lavoissier, on the nature of oxygen and combustion came about when he discovered that substances burned with sulfur had a HEAVIER remaining ash than the original unburned substance. Further study into combustion got extremely complicated -- much too much to get into here -- but indicated that the event of the destruction of these cities was the result of a carefully controlled chemical reaction that took place VERY rapidly, yet maintained an equilibrium that didn't result in an explosion.

The rapidity of the destruction of these cities (and the entire plain) by fire is proven in the chronology of events in the Biblical account. We know that the event did not begin until Lot and his family were completely out of Sodom and IN Zoar:

    GEN 19:23-24 The SUN WAS RISEN upon the earth when LOT ENTERED INTO ZOAR. THEN the LORD RAINED upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah BRIMSTONE AND FIRE from the LORD out of heaven;

The sun had already risen when the conflagration began:

    GEN 19:27-28 And Abraham gat up EARLY IN THE MORNING to the place where he stood before the LORD: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the SMOKE OF THE COUNTRY WENT UP AS THE SMOKE OF A FURNACE.

When Abraham arose, he saw the sky filled with black smoke. With flocks to tend, Abraham most certainly got up very soon after the sun arose, and found the event already finished.

One of the interesting features of these sites is the layering present in ALL of the ashen material. Hundreds and thousands of layers are present, none very thick. In very high temperature fires, and/or in very hot flames containing alkali metals or alkaline-earth metals (for example, sodium and calcium) the positive and negative ions attract and repel, resulting in this layering effect. We know the flames had to be extremely hot in order to completely burn stone and metals; and we know there is a tremendous amount of sodium (salt) in the region -- the Dead Sea has the highest concentration of salt in any body of water on earth. And, the largest salt dome, Mt. Sodom, is also in the area.

Was ZOAR Destroyed?

One potential puzzle arose when Ron found five sites instead of four. The Biblical account tells that Lot and his daughters were allowed to flee to Zoar in order to escape the impending destruction. Yet, this fifth city was located just a few miles beyond the southernmost site, which would have been Sodom. In between this small site and Sodom was a segment of Mt. Sodom, and this fit the picture from Genesis perfectly.

When Lot's wife tarried long enough to look back, she was turned into a pillar of salt, which indicated that there was another process which also took place at that time. This process, whatever it was, converted a particular area into salt, and it appeared that Lot's wife got caught up in that. This fifth site was extremely small, compared to the other four, and it was in a perfect square. Was this Zoar? We know Zoar wasn't destroyed when Sodom and Gomorrah were!? Again, we found the answer in the Biblical account:

    GEN 19:30-32 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for HE FEARED TO DWELL IN ZOAR: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and THERE IS NOT A MAN IN THE EARTH to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.

For some reason, Lot became afraid to continue to stay in Zoar, so he and his daughters left. The next thing we read is that they dwelt in a cave and his two daughters state that there are no men left "in the earth" to "come in unto us after the manner of all the earth", or in short, to make them pregnant. This tells us that for some reason, shortly after leaving Zoar, they believe they are the only people left on earth. Why would they think this unless they had just witnessed the destruction of Zoar? The area of land that had been affected by the conflagration which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah was extremely large, and to Lot and his daughters, it probably looked as if the entire world had been destroyed, except for little Zoar.

Then, as they dwelled in Zoar and witnessed the fact that its inhabitants were just as wicked as those of Sodom, they expected its soon destruction, which is exactly what occurred. Whether this happened the next day, or week or month, we have no way of knowing. But Josephus, in our earlier quote, also states that "five cities are still to be seen".

Recognizable Structures of a City

Our next plan was to actually go into the best preserved site, which was Gomorrah, and see if we could locate the perimeters of the city walls and trace any of the streets. A tremendous amount of erosion had taken place over the last almost 3,900 years, and we didn't expect too much. But we were in for a tremendous surprise.

As we parked and followed along what looked like the northern wall, we soon saw a very interesting object sitting by itself, a few hundred yards from what we believed was a wall. As we neared it, its shape became obvious. It was shaped like a sphinx. And from this sphinx, we saw that we had arrived at a place where the "wall" had an open place exactly like an entrance- probably the main entrance. Walking down the "streets" we discovered that they truly did communicate with each other like streets. If these had only been gullies from flash floods, they would have washed down from the mountainside in a random pattern. But there was an order to all we were seeing.

Another interesting thing was that it appeared that the structures (buildings, etc) were set quite a bit higher than the level we were walking on, and that below a certain level everything looked likes heaps of white powder. Digging down, we discovered that we were walking on a level very close to the bedrock. This indicated that not only had the cities been burned, but even the ground dirt had been turned to ash right down to the bedrock. This caused the paths we were walking along to be eroded down to a much lower level than the sections that looked like structures.

The next thing we did was ride the cable-car to the top of Masada in order to view the remains of the best preserved site from an aerial point of view. The road turning off of the main road along the shore of the Dead Sea which leads to Masada cuts through the remains of the site of Gomorrah. From atop the mountain, the remains revealed features that we couldn't distinguish from ground level.

From here, we could see sections which looked exactly like artificially-raised platform areas of other ancient cities which were temple areas. These "platform areas" showed vast flat areas with ziggurat-shaped masses on them, as well as large ashen "chunks" which bore the overall resemblance of the sphinx we had first seen, only these were much larger. On areas where the ground level would rise, the ashen structures seemed to be terraced, following the lay of the land.

The walls extending around this site displayed one feature that was very exciting -- it was "double-walled", exactly like the Canaanite city walls of other excavated sites. Where the wall had an opening in it on the northern side (which we believe was where the gate was, and therefore an entrance into the city) there was a tall structure on the western edge of this opening, exactly like a gate "tower". There was no doubt that all of these features were simply beyond the realm of simple coincidence. But at this point, Ron still felt that there had to be SOMETHING which would prove these sites to be the cities, and which would prove it beyond a doubt. But what this might be, we simply didn't have a clue. Well, actually we did, but we didn't understand it.

Sodom & Gomorrah Research Pt. 3

This page and its two photos are courtesy of Anchorstone.com

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