Daily Archives: December 25, 2010

Searching for Sodom — in the sea and on the land

The search for the city of Sodom has become as elusive and controversial as the search for Noah’s ark. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible calls attention to the city of Sodom. It is first mentioned in Genesis 10:19; the last reference is in Revelation 11:8. The wickedness and destruction of the city became a symbol of final destruction throughout the Bible. Isaiah spoke concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:9 ESV)

The apostle Paul picks us the same theme in Romans 9:29.

The emphasis on Sodom, and the inability to visit a specific site only heightens the curiosity.

Dr. Steven Collins, Dean, College of Archaeology, Trinity Southwest University, thinks that Tall el-Hammam is the site of Sodom. Info about the excavation project may be located here. Other scholars suggest that Tall el-Hammam is the site of Abel-shittim (Numbers 33:49; Shittim, Numbers 25:1), in the plains of Moab. See Rainey and Notley, The Sacred Bridge, 125. The Israelite spies went out from here to view the promised land, especially Jericho (Joshua 2:1).

Tall el-Hammam in the Jordan Valley of Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tall el-Hammam in the Jordan Valley of Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Earlier in the month the media reported (here, for example) that a Russian team was planning to begin an underwater exploration of the northeast portion of the Dead Sea — that is, on the Jordan side of the Dead Sea.

In the past it has been common for scholars to suggest that Sodom were located in (or at) the southern end of the Dead Sea at Bab edh-Dhra.

The excavation at Tall el-Hammam is now in progress. Dr. David Graves has been working there for several years. He has also been looking for the Roman site of Livius. I wish to call attention to several things Graves has mentioned recently on his Deus Artefacta blog.

  • A video of Dr. Collins setting forth his argument for the location of Sodom and Gomorrah at Tall el-Hammam. Click here.
  • The front team for the current season of excavation. Click here.
  • Someone from the Russian team was to visit Tall el-Hammam.
  • Season Six Begins at Tall el-Hammam video. Click here.
  • Gary Byers, Assistant Dig Director, on December 23 reported more details about the Russian proposal. Read the entire report here. It appears that the Russian team is making claims greater than the reality.

The site marked Abel-Shittim on the map below is known today as Tall el-Hammam. You may see a larger map at BibleAtlas.org.

Site of Abel-Shittim in the Jordan Valley. BibleAtlas.org.

Site of Abel-Shittim in the Jordan Valley. BibleAtlas.org.

I’m not convinced yet, but I’ll continue to watch.