Sodom and Gomorrah - Modern Evidence...
- 2004 9 Jun
...for an Ancient Judgment
The greatest rift on land is appropriately called the Great Rift. There the earth's crust is torn apart, leaving a deep gash from Asia down through most of Africa. It stretches from Syria in Asia southward almost to the cape at the tip of Africa, more than 3000 miles. That would be like the Grand Canyon stretching across the United States from the Pacific all the way to the Atlantic.
Tourists go to parks along this valley to see vertical cliffs more than half a mile high and the valley sunken in between. In the valley they see some of the deepest lakes in the world, as well as salt and mineral lakes, such as the Dead Sea, which have no outlet but are captive within the valley. Tourists also see high volcanic mountains. A normal earthquake could not have formed this massive split in the earth's crust. Only a cosmic force such as a comet or meteor passing by could have that much power.
Sodom and Gomorrah
The Bible shows when this cataclysm probably happened. It seems connected with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah when the Lord rained brimstone and fire out of heaven. The next morning Abraham looked toward the cities of the plain (probably five or more) and saw smoke rising from the country as the smoke of a furnace. No lake yet. But later when Joshua led the Israelites into the land they saw the salt sea, the sea of the plain. It took a bit of time, or perhaps some aftershocks, for water to gather into lakes in the newly formed deep valley. When Abraham and Lot first arrived in Canaan, the plain was green and well-watered, but after the catastrophe it became desolate around the Dead Sea area. It still is.
Other writings besides the Bible tell of a catastrophe like the one at Sodom. An ancient poem called Lamentations over the Destruction of Ur was about the town where Abraham grew up by the Euphrates River. Some lines from the poem describe a cyclone-like storm with fires burning in front. It annihilated the land, people groaned, and bodies lay about the streets. The land trembled and quaked. The sun rose not, but shone only as much as a little star. Like the Bible story, this poem describes devastation more than earthquakes or earth cyclones could bring.
Ur was about 700 miles east of the split that tore through Sodom and Gomorrah. So this indicates that earth trembling and destruction reached far out from the Rift itself. Archeologists today dig up ruins of many Bronze Age cities that were burned and crushed as in a sudden calamity. Archeologist Kathleen Kenyon wrote that all trace of the Early Bronze Age civilization disappeared. Jericho fell and was rebuilt, then fell again in Joshua's time. A branch of the Rift extended eastward into Greece and destroyed ancient civilizations there. Lore from all over the world tells of earth "ages" coming to an end sometimes by fire and sometimes by water. A number of archeologists write that vast calamities terminated what they call the Bronze Age cultures. But historians usually try to explain that people simply migrated or were conquered by another tribe. Or famine or political troubles caused a nation's fall.
Besides Ur and Greece and Canaan, Egypt also suffered greatly. Egypt had been green and well-watered like Canaan. The Bible describes it as "the garden of the Lord." Abraham visited there and it was a flourishing kingdom that probably collected taxes from the tribes as far away as Canaan. But the catastrophe brought so much destruction that what we call the Old Kingdom of Egypt collapsed. Abraham visited it no more. But within a century or so, by the time of Joseph, Egypt pulled itself together again and formed the Middle Kingdom.
On both sides of Egypt there appears more evidence of cosmic catastrophe. To the west, stretches the greatest desert in the world, the Sahara. Humans once lived all over that area. They had cattle and tools and knew of many wild animals, including aquatic animals like the hippopotamus. Archeologists learn this from finding old tools and drawings on stone. Ancient peoples knew of a large marsh or lake that in a catastrophe emptied itself into the Atlantic. The same earth upheaval, or a later one, sealed off the underground springs so water did not return except at a few oases. Since that time, people have lived mostly around the edges of the desert. Even scientists who do not believe the Bible history of catastrophes say that this change from marsh to desert happened rather recently, in what they call historical times. Their dates place it before the Exodus, at which time there were additional calamities in Egypt.
On the other side of Egypt is Arabia, which also is mostly desert. In Arabia close to the Rift are found many large fields of stones, miles and miles of them. They are scorched black, but volcanoes could not have cast stones so widely nor spread them so evenly. The stones still have sharp edges that show they have not been worn down by ages of erosion. This indicates their recent origin, as geologists speak of recent, which was about 4000 years ago, Abraham's time. The best explanation for these stones is that they fell as meteorites which came in a train behind a comet.
In early times there were at least three large rivers flowing from west to east across the Arabian Peninsula, but when Moses and the Israelites spent forty years wandering and camping there, it was mostly desert as we find it today. The Sodom calamity caused some of the destruction, and later plagues no doubt caused more.
Catastrophes Throughout History
The Bible says God rained brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah. The Romans called this a thunderbolt. Ancients knew brimstone as heavenly fire, or sulfur, which was also the fire of Hell in their thinking. This sulfur evidently mixed with nitric acid and left along the Dead Sea a strip of nitrate. This formed one of the greatest reservoirs of nitrate in the world, and it is mined for fertilizer and other uses. There is also a huge reservoir of nitrate in Chile, South America. Ancient Incas near there told that fire came down from heaven and destroyed a great part of the people, while those who took flight turned into stones, just as Lot's wife did near Sodom. If a passing comet rained the nitrate onto Earth, it makes sense that it would fall on the other side, too, as the world rotated.
Ancient survivors of this and other catastrophes in Earth's history always feared the coming next one. They studied the skies for an approaching comet. Any unusual movement in the skies signaled doom, and they sacrificed to their sky gods, who sometimes had earthly counterparts. People lived in pagan fear. Today's scientists, many of them, say that the world and cosmic bodies have continued to move for billions of years as they move today. They erase from human memory the history of catastrophes that the Bible tells us about. Many people like to believe the scientists and forget that God sometimes has judged the world with violent upheavals. They would like to forget that there is a God they will stand before someday.
Christians do not need to forget past judgments, nor need they live in pagan fear of future judgments. King David knew the history when he wrote "85thou has destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them" (Psalm 9:6b). Yet many of his people learned to trust in God instead of to fear. Musicians sang in the temple:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof (Psalm 46:1-3, KJV).
Ideas for Student Follow-up
1. Can you think of other catastrophes in the Bible? Save your list. They might be mentioned in a follow-up article.
2. You can read the Sodom and Gomorrah story in Genesis 18-19. Some other Scriptures which are referred to but not quoted in this article are: Genesis 13:10; Numbers 34:12; Deuteronomy 3:17, 29:23; Joshua 3:16.
3. Think up a good comment or question to ask each author who wrote the lines below:
How an empire like that of the Third Dynasty of Ur could so quickly collapse is really quite puzzling.
For whatever reason the Old Kingdom ended in a period of political chaos.
The evil rulers spent so much money building pyramids, that the nation went bankrupt and collapsed.
4. Talk to your parents or your pastor and find out what your church teaches about the future of the world.
Dr. Ruth Beechick is retired from a long and varied career in education, and lives in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She now writes for homeschoolers, whom she sees as the greatest hope for the future of our society. Her books for homeschooling parents can be found at www.homeschoolingbooks.com
This article was originally published in the May/Jun '04 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.