Sodom and Gomorrah — It’s Almost True

Everyone knows the biblical tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. In his righteous anger caused by their depravity, Yahweh destroyed the cities utterly. No one was spared — well, no one but Lot, his wife (who didn’t last long), and their two darling daughters.

You may be surprised to learn that there’s scientific evidence for a disaster in that area. We found this at PhysOrg: A meteor may have exploded in the air 3,700 years ago, obliterating communities near the Dead Sea. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

A meteor that exploded in the air near the Dead Sea 3,700 years ago may have wiped out communities, killed tens of thousands of people, and provided the kernel of truth to an old Bible story. The area is in modern-day Jordan, in a 25 km wide circular plain called Middle Ghor. Most of the evidence for this event comes from archaeological evidence excavated at the Bronze Age city of Tall el-Hammam located in that area, which some scholars say is the city of Sodom from the Bible.

Archaeologists have been digging at the Tall el-Hamman site for 13 years, and have unearthed some pretty convincing evidence supporting the air-burst idea. The findings were presented on November 15th at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research, by archaeologist Phillip Silvia of Trinity Southwest University. They were also published in a paper by Silvia and co-author and archaeologist Steven Collins called “The Civilization-Ending 3.7KYrBP Event: Archaeological Data, Sample Analyses, and Biblical Implications”.

Here’s the paper. You can read it on-line without a subscription. PhysOrg says:

Evidence gathered at the Tall el-Hammam site tells the story of the event. When the meteor air-burst occurred, there was an intensely hot and powerful shock wave. The shock wave wiped out all settlements in the area and destroyed an area of 500 sq. km. And the area remained uninhabited for a remarkable 700 years after the event. Several lines of evidence support the likelihood of this event.

After skipping a few paragraphs, PhysOrg tells us:

The two scientists say that the massive shockwave and heat wave not only destroyed the settlements, but the shock wave deposited a layer of salts onto the top soil, destroying it and making it unable to support agriculture for hundreds of years. It only takes a salt content of 12,800 ppm to prevent wheat from germinating, and a salt content of 17,900 ppm to prevent barley from growing. Those thresholds were easily exceeded.

Here’s more:

There is other evidence that supports the air burst theory behind Tall el-Hammam. Meteor air burst sites like Chelyabinsk and Tunguska have the same signatures of meteor air burst that Tall el-Hammam has. These include high levels of platinum, a high incidence of magnetic spherules, and also a high incidence of what are known as scoria-like objects (SLOs). The researchers concluded that an airburst with a yield equivalent to a 10 mt nuclear warhead occurred about 1 km above northeast corner of the Dead Sea. They say this adequately explains all of the evidence gathered at Tall el-Hammam.

Then they quote the bible — something we haven’t seen before at PhysOrg, but the published paper has the same quote:

“Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah — from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities — and also the vegetation in the land.” – Genesis 19:24-25

Amazing, huh? Let’s read on:

Some scholars think that Tall el-Hamman is the city of Sodom from the Bible. That idea has been around for a long time. It’s in the right place, and a meteor air burst would certainly explain the Genesis quote. It’s interesting that the Genesis quote mentions sulfur specifically, since a layer of sulfates and salt was deposited on the area by the event, destroying “the vegetation in the land.” But not all agree. Some scholars think that the geography is not correct. Others think the timeline is wrong. But with this new study, both sides will have to reconsider the whole issue.

At the end, things get back on track:

The Bible is interesting from a historical perspective, because it sometimes interweaves actual events from history with the Christian mythology. Now that it seems reasonable that a meteor airburst did destroy the area that may have contained Sodom, we can lay to rest the idea that the Christian God sent down fireballs to punish homosexuality. It looks like once again, it was a perfectly natural event that led to an apocalyptic, mythological story, and that what people once attributed to Gods and Goddesses is just nature.

Creationists will disagree, of course. For them, this latest research confirms that scripture is The Truth. What do you think, dear reader?

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21 responses to “Sodom and Gomorrah — It’s Almost True

  1. ” Sodom and Gomorrah have been used historically and today as metaphors for vice and homosexuality, although a close reading of the text and other Ancient Near Eastern sources suggest that this association may be incorrect.”
    From the Wikipedia article “Sodom and Gemorrah”

  2. That’s absurd, TomS. They were Sodomites!

  3. And reading the buyBull completely shows that homosexuality had nothing to do with Sodom or Gomorrah…they were destroyed for being mean to poor people.

  4. L.Long says: “And reading the buyBull completely shows that homosexuality had nothing to do with Sodom or Gomorrah”

    Check out Genesis 19:5, which says: “And they called unto Lot, and said unto him: ‘Where are the men that came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.'”

  5. Dave Luckett

    Isaiah 1:10-16 gives the reason the God of Israel had for destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. The money quote: “Though you offer countless prayers, I shall not listen; there is blood on your hands. Wash and be clean; put away your evil deeds… cease to do evil, learn to do good. Pursue justice, guide the oppressed, uphold the rights of the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause”

    Not a word about gay sex. In Genesis it’s clear enough – the cities were destroyed for their treatment of strangers. Isaiah says bloody hands, injustice, oppression of the poor. And he says it doesn’t matter a fig to God how much you pray or what sacrifices you offer if you do evil, or fail to do good – which is defined as justice, mercy and charity. Jesus made much the same point.

    See, this and other passages are a reason I have for a lingering respect for some of scripture. Some. You read the exhortations to bloody slaughter of animals and people in Deuteronomy or Leviticus or Joshua or Samuel, or even the windy boasting in Kings about the brass fittings on Solomon’s Temple, and you find yourself viscerally rejecting with abhorrence this cosmic psychopath. But then you read other bits.

    Well, suppose the Cities of the Plain were destroyed by airburst from a meteor. As the paper says, this is consistent with the Biblical description. Did God send the meteor? Meteors are natural events. Nothing supernatural about them. But who’s to say God didn’t send that one? How do you prove that God didn’t do something?

    Same argument as the one about theistic evolution. Anyone who says God guided the course of natural events to create human beings and all life – and the Earth and the Universe – can’t be proven wrong.

    The island of Thera, in the Aegean, blew up around 1570 BCE – a volcanic explosion. It wiped out the city on the island, of course, but the shock waves seriously damaged Minoan and other civilizations as well, and may have contributed substantially to the Bronze Age collapse. Did God do that? Prove He didn’t.

    We have an eyewitness account of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. That destroyed a couple of cities, too. Pretty wicked places, if the pictures on some of the walls are anything to go by – although nothing to Rome itself. God, again? Yes? No?

    On the Feast of All Saints, 1755, Lisbon was struck by a mighty earthquake. It happened just before 10 AM, as most of the population was in the churches, which fell, multiplying the death toll. God, telling them He rejected their prayers?

    Wearisome as it is, the same tired old point has to be made again: nobody can demonstrate that God didn’t cause those events. So if you postulate some other cause than the natural, you have to do what anybody must who asserts anything – show evidence for the assertion.

    At which the fundamentalists will say that Genesis is their evidence. And back we go to defining what “evidence” is. Long before we reach the end of that argument, nearly everyone has tuned out. As I imagine nearly everyone has tuned out of this rant.

    Sorry. I get carried away.

  6. Michael Fugate

    Which reminds me that sexual abuse is about abuse of power/authority not sex – this is where most people go wrong.

  7. My guess is that creationists will welcome the finding as another ‘secular’ confirmation of a Bible story. God is regarded as working through the laws of nature, mostly. That’s why they are desperately trying to find a natural explanation from where the waters for the Flood came from, how the animals dispersed afterwards etc.
    Creationists will disagree with the last paragraph around the “we can lay to rest the idea that the Christian God sent down fireballs to punish homosexuality”. That’s exactly why God sent the meteor to that place.

  8. And why did God make the world to look like it were millions of years old; and the Bible were the product of an Ancient Near Eastern culture; and life as if it were physically related by common descent with modification?

  9. To test your faith – a test you keep on failing. Duh.

  10. God sent a meteor to Tunguska in 1908, too, just to make sure all those homosexual reindeer got the message.

  11. And of course, the Bible only mentions then-relatively-recent events in a small area in the Middle East. No mention of the Chixculub impact, the Ice Ages and so on. Yahweh totally forgot to tell the scribes about that.

  12. @FrankB
    If a human did that, it would be called deceiving.
    But, because humans are totally depraved, they don’t deserve anything.
    (If a person bent on murder were to ask where his victim was, it’s OK to deceive him.)
    Besides, God is not subject to human standards.

  13. @Draken
    When the Bible mentions things not in the experience of the people of that time and place, they are described by language common to that culture. For example, the firmament.
    When God dictated the Pentateuch to Moses, it was designed to have the appearance of having been written centuries later.

  14. OH! Wait! The twin towers were shown in a spiderman comic…spiderman MUST be true!

  15. Makes one wonder just how common meteor/comet airbursts are. Let’s hope our world leaders are attuned so no one starts WW III when the next one occurs.

  16. Holding The Line In Florida

    I seem to remember this event being theorized years back. Made sense then does now. How else would primitive people understand such an event? Think about what the people thought about the Black Death in the 1300’s.

  17. The paper is 3 years old. Both authors are associated with Trinity Southwest College, whose web site says “FLEXIBLE ADULT HIGHER EDUCATION UPHOLDING BIBLICAL AUTHORITY”. Creationists would use this paper as evidence the Bible is true.

  18. Retired Prof

    Michael Fugate is reminded: “that sexual abuse is about abuse of power/authority not sex – this is where most people go wrong.”

    Exactly. The narrative makes it clear that the mob in front of Lot’s house is bent on humiliating his guests because they are outsiders. Anal rape expresses savage dominance, not affectionate coupling. The scene distills into one shocking instance the pervasive oppression of outsiders and their own poor the Sodomites were guilty of.

  19. The Bible is interesting from a historical perspective, because it sometimes interweaves actual events from history with the Christian mythology. Now that it seems reasonable that a meteor airburst did destroy the area that may have contained Sodom, we can lay to rest the idea that the Christian God sent down fireballs to punish homosexuality. It looks like once again, it was a perfectly natural event that led to an apocalyptic, mythological story, and that what people once attributed to Gods and Goddesses is just nature.

    Except that the fundies will say that this meteor was God’s chosen instrument for destroying those wicked cities, so once again science is proving the lBible true.

  20. Michael Fugate

    If a meteor falls in a forest and no one is around to die from it, does it come from God?

  21. Michael Fugate

    And why does no one discuss Gomorrahy?