Sodom: The Discovery of a Lost City -- By: Steven Collins

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 20:3 (Summer 2007)
Article: Sodom: The Discovery of a Lost City
Author: Steven Collins

Sodom: The Discovery of a Lost City

Steven Collins

Michael Luddeni

Panoramic view of Tall el-Hammam on the eastern edge of the Jordan Disk (Heb. kikkar), showing the well-watered plain of the Jordan and the Jordan River. The mountains beyond are the present-day ‘Promised Land”—Israel

Visiting Biblical sites is exciting! I love taking people to the places where famous characters like Abraham. Moses and Jesus walked. And I really like going to sites that are the real deal. Some “Bible places” are questionable, while others are identified based on a reasonable level of evidence. As an archaeologist and Biblical scholar. I’m well aware of the diffference. That’s what this story is all about—discovering the actual location of a famous city, long lost to history.

Before 1996 I never really paid much attention to the fact that Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim almost never appear on Bible maps. These arc the infamous Cities of the Plain of Genesis, destroyed by God for their wickedness. Why don’t mapmakers include them? Simple: scholars can’t agree on their location. That fact would soon come to haunt me.

In the spring of 1996 1 was leading a study tour of Israel and Jordan, and was one day away from taking my group to Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira near the southeastern shore of the Dead Sea. Not a few scholars, including many of my friends, had identified these sites as Sodom and Gomorrah. And who was I to disagree with them! What I’d read about these sites seemed to fit pretty well with the Biblical text. At least, that’s what I thought up to that point.

That evening, before our trek to the “popular” Sodom and Gomorrah. I decided to read through Genesis 13–19 just to brush up on the Sodom story. After f read it, I was puzzled. “I don’t see anything in this that would locate Sodom near the southeast shore of the Dead Sea,” I thought to myself. I read it again. Then again. After scouring through it for the fourth time. I concluded. “Not only is there nothing here to support a southern location, but everything seems to point to a location north of the Dead

Sea on the cast side of the Jordan River.” Now my curiosity was on red alert! My group enjoyed Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira, but now I had big question marks drawn all over “Sodom and Gomorrah” on my itinerary.

I just had to solve this puzzle. It was really b...

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