Sodom and Gomorrah

Many people in the UK saw the episode of “The Search for Sodom” (see previous post) and it was apparently well received (in the USA it was shown on AHC). The identification of Tall el-Hammam with Sodom was made by Dr. Steve Collins.

A view of Tall el-Hammam at the south-eastern end of the Jordan Valley with the Upper Tall on the right and the Lower Tall on the left of the centre in the picture. In the foreground, dolmens can be seen that belonged to a huge megalithic field. (Clicking on all of our images takes you to our Image Library where you can download Powerpoint size copies for a small fee).

As we have shown previously, the geographical data preserved in the Scriptures, especially in Gen. 13, strongly point to the eastern side of the circular alluvial plain north of the Dead Sea for the location of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim. Archaeological excavations have shown that the site of Tall el-Hammam was terminally destroyed in the Middle Bronze Age, which was the time of Abraham.  As Tall el-Hammam is the largest site (62 acres) of the pentapolis, this makes it the best candidate for Sodom. In Gen. 14, the King of Sodom appears to be the spokesman of these cities, indicating its leading role. Additionally, Sodom is also the only kikkar city that has been mentioned in its own, for example in Ezek. 16 and in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

However, according to Gen. 19, Sodom was not the only city that was destroyed. If Tall el-Hammam is Sodom, then it is necessary to be able to identify the other cities of the Kikkar, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim (Gen. 10.19; Gen. 13, etc). Geographically these cities were named from south to north, i.e. Sodom is the southernmost and Zeboiim the northernmost of these cities. This is apparently reminiscent of ancient “Map lists”, especially those of ancient Egypt, where the direction of Transjordan routes are mentioned from south to north, i.e. viewed from Egypt. The names are also grouped in two doublets: “Sodom and Gomorrah” – “Admah and Zeboiim”.

One mile (1.6 km) northeast of Tall el-Hammam is a smaller tall,  (Tall Kafrein), which was the largest satellite city of Tall el-Hammam (there are other smaller sites in the vicinity of Tall el-Hammam, also belonging to this Canaanite city-state). Dr. Steve Collins identifies the site of Tall Kafrein with Gomorrah. This site was also destroyed in the Middle Bronze Age and has the same archaeological profile as Tall el-Hammam and Talls Nimrin, Bleibel and Mustah (see below).

The archaeological site of Tall Kafrein viewed from Tall el-Hammam. This site in the centre of the picture has been identified as Gomorrah, as it is the largest satellite city of Tall el-Hammam. The fertile area in front of the tall is part of the well-watered Plain (kikkar) of the Jordan.

Sodom and Gomorrah are usually mentioned together as, for example, Bethel and Ai are mostly mentioned together. As Bethel is larger than Ai (Joshua 7.3), it reasons that the first site mentioned should be the largest.  Tall el-Hammam is indeed much larger than Tall Kafrein.

There are three other sites a little further to the north, of which Tall Nimrin (identified by Steve Collins with Admah) is the second largest of the five cities of the kikkar and nearby are two smaller twin satellite talls, Tall Bleibel and Tall Mustah (Zeboiim). Admah was probably the capital of the second Canaanite city-state in this area. Zeboim means two gazelles and these two sites straddle a valley through which the road from the highlands to the Jordan Valley runs.

A view of the archaeological site of Tall Nimrin, which has been identified with Admah by Steve Collins. The modern road in the foreground has destroyed part of the archaeological site.

A view of the eastern part of the archaeological site of Tall Nimrin. The building of the road exposed remains of ancient walls and stratigraphic layers.

A view of Tall Mustah, the southern of the two Zeboiim sites.  It is located on the south side of  the road that descends from the highland plateau. Even today, an army post is located at the site of Tall Mustah.

The small hill in the foreground is an archaeological site that has been identified with Zeboiim north.  It is located on the north side of  the road that descends to the Jordan Valley.

8 thoughts on “Sodom and Gomorrah”

  1. Leen
    Despite the slightly over dramatic production/soundtrack which I guess targets a US audience, I really enjoyed the programme. I’m curious as to the what the archaeological community’s response is to the proposed sites. Towards the end Dr. Collins said that it was not yet generally accepted because of dating issues – the destruction of the sites in the Kikkar seems to be several hundred years later than the general dating for Abraham. He suggested that in order to accept these sites as Sodom etc we would have to treat the Biblical ages of patriarchs as non-literal ages. Do you have a view on that?
    Many thanks

  2. Paul,

    The dating of the destruction Tall el-Hammam (Sodom) actually depends on the date of the Exodus. The early dates put it in the middle of the 15th century BC (based on the 480 years in 1 Kings 6) and the late daters about 240 years later. There is more archaeological evidence for a late date than for an early date. If you take the later date then there is no problem. If you take the early date the Biblical ages need some “massaging”. Will see how all this is going to pan out.

  3. This, I think, is a great example of Leen Ritmeyer’ s opinions; he doesn’t just “massage” the biblical ages to fit his opinions, but waits until some new evidence occures. Same thing with, for example, Dr. Eilat Mazar, though there are always those who tell the datings or something else doesn’ t fit. Increasing evidenses of the digs of Mazar and all the findings of Mr. Ritmeyer are revealing all the time new things that actually are supporting their views. Still, the opposite opinions are welcomed as the discussion is always a good thing.

  4. In the bible it is said that Lot escaped to Zoar from Sodom. Some locate Zoar at the south side of the Dead Sea. How was it possible that he managed to go so fast that distance or is Zoar located to some other place? I´d like to hear your opinion about this question! (haven´t read the book “Discovering the City of Sodom” yet).

  5. Timo,
    Some locate Zoar at the south end of the Dead Sea, as that is how it appears on the Madaba Map. However, at that time the Dead Sea was much smaller with the southern basin all dried up. So, Zoar was not as far down as it appears. Personally, I think that it was not more than 10-15 miles south of Sodom.

  6. Oh now I remember your video I saw at the Youtube about Sodom and Gomorrah that considered the changes of water- level at the Dead Sea. That really showed how the level changed through the ages being very low at the time of destruction of Sodom.
    Thank you for answering!

  7. Just having destroyed cities proves nothing. They can be found in sumer as well. We need to show a natural event akin to brimstone And fire. Both now and at the time lot lived there.

  8. Archaeological evidence has shown that these cities were destroyed as a result of an airburst, that was caused by a meteor fragmentising in the atmosphere. The resulting fireball (fire from heaven) destroyed the whole area north of the Dead Sea. Recent airburst events have been witnessed in Russia as recent as in 2013.

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