SODOM, SODOMA (sŏd'ŭm, sŏ-dō'ma, Heb. sedhōm, Gr. Sodoma). One of the so-called “,” along with Admah, Gomorrah, Zeboiim, and Zoar. The site of “the Plain” has been variously conjectured. pointed out that “no authentic trace” remains, but recently the suggestion has been revived that “the Plain” is the shallow southern end of the Dead Sea, and that the waters cover the remains. Underwater archaeology may or may not confirm this assertion, which appears first to have been made by Thomson in his nineteenth-century classic, The Land and the Book.
SODOM sŏd’ əm (סְדֹ֔ם; LXX Σόδομα, G5047, meaning uncertain). One of the five cities of the plain where Lot lived and which was spectacularly destroyed because of its sin.
The Biblical record.
Sodom first occurs in the
When strife arose between the herdsmen of Lot and those of his uncle Abraham, Abraham offered Lot the choice of the land. Standing on the spine of Pal. at Bethel, Lot looked eastward and, seeing that the Jordan valley was well watered, chose that part of the country (
The fourteenth ch. of Genesis then records the battle of the “four kings against five.” The record seems to indicate that the five cities of the plain, or valley, were vassals to Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam. After twelve years of such servitude they rebelled and hence invited the wrath of the suzerain (
Sodom never occurs again in the Bible as a living city, but the memory of its sin and consequent destruction was kept alive by Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and the authors of the NT. Sodom and Gomorrah have become bywords and tokens of God’s wrath on sin (e.g.,
The most probable location of the five cities of the plain, including Sodom, is beneath the waters of the S end of the Dead Sea. South of the Lisan (tongue) peninsula the waters are very shallow, with an average depth of ten ft. Until recent years the sea was growing larger because the intake exceeded the rate of evaporation. It is very likely that at one time the S part was not only dry, but occupied and fertile. The “bitumen pits” of
There is a five m. long mountain range W of the S end of the Dead Sea made up largely of crystalline salt. It is called Jebel Usdum (Mt. Sodom). Many free-standing pinnacles are there and one is appropriately named “Lot’s wife.” The name of the range may antedate the destruction of the cities.
Another reason for believing that these cities now lie buried under the Sea is the presence of a religious shrine at Bab edh-Dhra. This site is five m. SE of the Lisan and is thought to have served worshipers from the valley cities. Its pottery evidence ranges from 2300 to 1900 b.c., which fits well with the date of Abraham.
The strongest argument against this location is the use of the word “plain,” or “valley” (Heb. circle) of the Jordan (
There is a modern town called Sodom founded in 1953 on the W bank of the Dead Sea just N of Jebel Usdum.
W. F. Albright, BASOR, XIV (1924), 5-7; AASOR, VI (1924-1925), 58-62; M. G. Kyle, Explorations in Sodom (1928); J. P. Harland, “Sodom and Gomorrah” BA, V (1942), 17-32; VI (1943), 41-54.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(cedhom; Sodoma) One of the 5 CITIES OF THE PLAIN (which see), destroyed by fire from heaven in the time of Abraham and Lot (
Dillmann. Genesis, 111 f; Robinson, BR, II, 187 ff; G. A. Smith, HGHL, 505 ff; Blanckenhorn, ZDPV, XIX, 1896, 53 ff; Baedeker-Socin, Palestine, 143; Buhl, GAP, 117, 271, 274.