SLIME (Heb. hēmār, boiling up, zepheth, flowing). Where KJV has slime (Gen.11.3; Exod.2.3; slimepits, Gen.14.10), NIV has tar. Probably it resembled asphalt, and perhaps it was used most often in waterproofing and as a cement for bricks. It may be derived of oxidation from natural gas and petroleum. In early biblical history it seems to have been plentiful in the area around the Dead Sea.

SLIME, Heb. חֵמָר, H2819, appears in Genesis 11:3; 14:10 and Exodus 2:3, and is cognate to Egyptian and Coptic terms, meaning “pitch,” “bitumen.” It was a trade item in the Near E from 2500 b.c. onward. Naturally occurrences of this bituminous native asphalt in and around the area of Syria-Pal. were utilized for calking and mastic. The Gr. tr. in the LXX is ἄσφαλτος. This substance was considered in the destruction of Sodom. Greek authors frequently describe the Dead Sea as, “λιμνή ἀσφάλτιτις,” esp. Diodorus Siculus 19, 98; and Strabo 7, 5, 8. See Bitumen; Pitch.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

slim, slim’-pits (chemar; Septuagint asphaltos; Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) bitumen; the Revised Version margin "bitumen"; compare Arabic chummar, "bitumen"; and compare chomer, "clay," "mortar"): In the account of the ark in Ge 6:14, kopher Septuagint asphaltos; Vulgate: bitumen; compare Arabic kufr, "pitch") does not necessarily denote vegetable pitch, but may well mean bitumen. The same may be said of zepheth, "pitch" (compare Arabic zift, "pitch"), in Ex 2:3 and Isa 34:9. The word "slime" occurs in the following passages: "And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar" (Ge 11:3); "Now the vale of Siddim was full of slime pits" (Ge 14:10, margin "bitumen pits"); "She took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch" (Ex 2:3).

Bitumen is a hydrocarbon allied to petroleum and natural gas. It is a lustrous black solid, breaking with a conchoidal fracture, burning with a yellow flame, and melting when ignited. It is probably derived from natural gas and petroleum by a process of oxidation and evaporation, and its occurrence may be taken as a sign that other hydrocarbons are or have been present in the strata. It is found in small lumps and larger masses in the cretaceous limestone on the west side of the Dead Sea, and there is reason to believe that considerable quantities of it rise to the surface of the Dead Sea during earthquakes. In ancient times it was exported to Egypt to be used in embalming mummies. Important mines of it exist at Chasbeiya near Mt. Hermon and in North Syria. Springs of liquid bituminous matter exist in Mesopotamia, where according to Herodotus and other classical writers it was used as mortar with sun-dried bricks. Various conjectures have been made as to the part played by bitumen in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Diodorus Siculus calls the Dead Sea limne asphalstitis, "lake of asphalt."