In the Bible, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are identified with pure evil and perverted sex (Genesis 13:13). When angels come to visit Abraham’s nephew Lot, the Sodomites want to greet them by raping them. Hence the term “sodomy”. Ever the good host, Lot offers them his virgin daughters, but the Sodomites are fixated on the angels. Big mistake. The angels blind the evil people of Sodom and after giving Lot a little time to escape with his family, the entire city is utterly destroyed. Burned to a crisp. The Bible says that sulfur rained down from the skies, destroying all living creatures and the vegetation. The next morning all you could see was “smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace” (Genesis 19:23-28). The valley that had once been described as a veritable garden of Eden had now turned into a wasteland.
Scholars have long thought that this is mythology. But now archaeologist Steven Collins makes a persuasive argument that if he hasn’t found Sodom, he has at least found the general area referred to in the Bible. Collins points out that the Biblical text (Genesis 13:10) calls the area “kikkar ha-yarden”. It is well watered and fertile. He points out that the Hebrew “kikkar” refers to a “disc”. We still call a “loaf” of bread a “kikkar” of bread, because bread in Israel is usually round or oval-shaped. Collins further points out that the “kikkar of the Jordan” is a geographical area that has to be east of the Biblical Bethel, if it is to conform to the geography of Genesis (13:10-12). This leads Collins to pinpoint a geographical “disc” just north of the Dead Sea, intersected by the Jordan River and straddling modern day Israel and Jordan. In this area, Collins has been digging for 8 years at Tel el-Hammam in Jordan, the edge of the Biblical kikkar. The site reached its maximum size – 62 acres – during the Middle Bronze Age (c. 2000-1600 BCE) making it one of the largest cities in Canaan. The archaeology supports the idea that it was situated in a very lush environment, and that the city was protected by an imposing fortification system, involving large square towers that probably stood to a height of 50 ft or more. Two of these towers flanked the city’s monumental gateway which, if Collins is right, is where Lot met his angelic guests some 3600 years ago (Genesis 19:1). Then, according to Collins, “about 1600 BCE, life on the eastern kikkar, including Tel el-Hammam and its satellites, suddenly came to an end…not a single kikkar site shows occupation during the Late Bronze Age.” The city was suddenly destroyed by a fire. Collins and his team found evidence of a “violent conflagration”. The heat was so intense that it produced melted pottery, scorched foundation stones and several feet of ash and destruction debris “churned into a dark gray matrix as in a Cuisinart”. Think about it; the Bible describes fire and brimstone and absolute destruction, and the archaeology provides evidence of an annihilation that make foundation stones look as if they were mixed in a Cuisinart. More than this, the archaeological team found pottery fragments whose surfaces had been melted into glass, “with some bubbled up like ‘frothy’ magma indicating they were burned in a flash heat event far exceeding two thousand degree Fahrenheit”. What could have caused such a “flash heat event”? The destruction was so complete that the city lay in ruins for 600 or 700 years before anyone dared set up shop in it again.
There are no volcanoes in the area. So what happened? Did this fiery catastrophe come “out of the heavens” (Genesis 19:24)? Did divine punishment come through the use of, perhaps, gas leaks? There are no answers as yet, but Collins has made a compelling argument that there is synchronicity between the Biblical text and the archaeology. It’s time we stop treating the text as myth, and try to get to the science behind the narrative.