Recent Explorations Of The Dead Sea -- By: Joseph P. Thompson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 012:47 (Jul 1855)
Article: Recent Explorations Of The Dead Sea
Author: Joseph P. Thompson


Recent Explorations Of The Dead Sea1

Joseph P. Thompson

Some three years ago, the religious world was electrified by the announcement that a French traveller had discovered the ruins of the Pentapolis on the shores of the Dead Sea. Sodom, Gomorrah, Zeboiim, Admah, and Bela or Zoar, were severally identified; not by conjectural sites approximated from the testimony of ancient writers, and from the geographical features of the country, but by visible ruins of unmistakable antiquity, marked by tradition and by names preserved through all the changes of language, as the very site of the catastrophe of Siddim. Startling as was this announcement, the recent discoveries of Layard and Botta at Nineveh and Babylon, and the continued success of explorers in Egypt, had prepared the public mind to credit it. The religious press generally accepted it as a most valuable contribution to Biblical geography and archaeology. An English journalist, in an almost ecstatic frame of credulity, exclaimed: “There is something strangely awful in the idea of these living monuments of Divine vengeance, yet remaining after six and thirty centuries, with the actual marks of the instrument of their overthrow still visible upon their blasted ruins.” Ah American geographer placed the Pentapolis upon his map of Palestine in accordance with these discoveries, and expressed his own enthusiasm in the remark that “the disinterment of Nineveh may be of more importance in its results to the historian and the antiquary, but as a matter of feeling, it is of small moment compared with the discovery of Sodom and Gomorrah.”2

“While this general credence was given to the discoveries of Mons. De Saulcy, the voice of scepticism was also heard in various quarters, questioning his assertions upon different grounds, according to the temperament and education of the objector.

1. An objection to the reality of these discoveries was found in the popular belief that the cities of the plain were submerged at the time of their catastrophe. So general is this belief, that most persons would be surprised, on reading critically the narrative in Gen. 19:24-25, to find that it gives no intimation of the swallowing of the guilty cities by the sea after they had been destroyed by fire. Maundeville expresses the current belief of his age upon this point, when he says: “Into that sea [the Lake Dasfetidee or the Dead Sea], by the wrath of God, sunk the five cities, Sodom, Gomorrah, Aldama, Seboym, and Segor, for the abominable sin, that reigned in them. But Segor, by the prayer of Lot, was...

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