One of the greatest mass destructions is the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, but was it really caused by God, or was it a freak act of nature?
For those unfamiliar, here is a brief recap of the story:
The Book of Genesis contains many dramatic stories, including the perils of wickedness known as the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Per the story, the men of Sodom were wicked sinners against God, so He decided to destroy them.'
According to the Bible, Sodom and Gomorrah were in the region of the Dead Sea. In today's terms, that is somewhere in the Middle East between Israel and Jordan.
Yet, before God showed his displeasure and reigned down destruction on the cities to destroy all the sinners, God allowed one lucky man named Lot (Abraham's nephew) to escape with his family. However, Lot's luck soon ended when Lot's wife disobeyed God's warning not to look back. As a result, God turned her into a pillar of salt. Why would God care if she looked back?
While it is not clear what the sins being practiced by the inhabitants of these two cities were, Biblical scholars believe it was h*mos*xuality because of the use of specific terms related to such. However, other parts of the Bible mention arrogance, apathy, and gluttony. In summary, the Bible makes it obvious that not following God’s commands and worshipping Him were the real sins he was upset about. Either way, after turning Lot’s wife into salt, a burning rain of sulfur was said to fall from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah, thereby completely destroying the two cities and all living things in them.
Therefore, to form a conclusion as to the validity of the story per the Book of Genesis, we need to briefly analyze the story from both a biblical perspective and a scientific one.
Although there is no unilateral agreement among archaeologists, scientists, and Biblical scholars that Sodom and Gomorrah ever existed at all, Biblical Archaeologists state they did, and claim the story to be true. In fact, geologist Graham Harris is so convinced that Sodom and Gomorrah is a true story that he spent 10 years there because he has a passion for ancient times, related mysteries, and clues.
BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE & ANALYSIS
According to the Bible, Sodom and Gomorrah were in the region of the Dead Sea. In today's terms, that is somewhere in the Middle East between Israel and Jordan. A researcher named Jonathan Tubb stated, “the entire area around the Dead Sea is parched and barren but way back when in historical times, the climate was wet and therefore could have thrived in the early Bronze Age (1800-2300 BC).”
Archaeologists discovered that the buildings used to bury the deceased were actually set on fire starting at the roof. The Bible states, “Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens” (Genesis 19:24).”
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah became an example in the Bible of how God judges sin. “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before Me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49-50).
But how could burning debris fall from the sky?
For this, we have to turn to the…
SCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVE & ANALYSIS
The only plausible explanation for this lies in the significant evidence of subterranean petroleum-based asphalt-type substances known as bitumen deposits. Because both bitumen and asphalt contain high amounts of sulfur, many archaeologists agree that the ruins of Sodom (today’s Babeth-Dhra) and Gomorrah (today’s Numeira) show evidence that both cities were destroyed by an enormous fire leaving debris more than three feet thick.
Yet, the scientific explanation for this destruction comes from geologist Frederick Clapp. Clapp states an earthquake caused deposits of bitumen to come out of the earth and ignite, thereby burning the cities. He confirmed that pressure from an earthquake caused the bitumen deposits to be forced out of the earth. Using a fault line, as bitumen gushed out of the earth, it was ignited by a spark or surface fire and therefore fell onto the land as a fiery mass igniting everything in its path.
As it turns out, both the locations of Sodom and Gomorrah were located exactly on a fault line along the eastern side of a south plain of the Dead Sea.
Reflecting back on the Biblical perspective and analysis, there is evidence of this very scenario in the Bible itself.
Abraham viewed the destruction from a vantage point west of the Dead Sea and stated, “[Abraham] looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land, and saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace” (Genesis 19:28).
- Dense smoke is what petroleum-based fires reveal.
- Smoke rising from a furnace (comparatively) would indicate a forced draft just as one would expect from subterranean deposits being forced under pressure to rise above the ground.
With that in mind, Tubb excavated a site called Tell es-Sa'idiyeh. This site was in the area just north of the Dead Sea where he found evidence of an olive oil factory during the early Bronze Age. He found that this time of history was the only time that cities like Sodom and Gomorrah could have existed at all.
During Harris' 10 years working in that area of the Middle East, he stated "the conditions were perfect for a huge earthquake to have triggered a massive landslide." In contrast, other archaeologists stated that the fire of the sister cities was caused by an asteroid impact or internal gas from the earth. In order to rule out Harris's earthquake theory, we have to know if an earthquake was even possible.
Did earthquakes exist in the early Bronze Age?
According to American forensic anthropologist Professor Mike Finnegan… YES!
Finnegan examined several skeletons discovered at the Numeira site near the Dead Sea. Evidence from the way their bones were broken and how they were crushed to death was due to an earthquake that toppled a stone tower onto the individuals. Carbon dating put the time of the tower’s architectural remains at 2350 BC, which was in the early Bronze Age.
When the Israeli geologist Shmuel Marco was asked about the magnitudes of earthquakes from that era, Marco presented a rock face containing layers of chalk. He explained that, by measuring how far an individual layer slipped, the size of the earthquake could be calculated. According to the Sodom and Gomorrah times, and the carbon dating of the tower, along with the slippage depth, it showed an earthquake that, by today’s terms, would have registered at the minimum a 6 on the Richter scale.
From the architectural standpoint, a “6” earthquake at that time would have definitely destroyed Bronze Age buildings. However, there would have been ruins, not 100% destruction as stated in the Bible. But, to help prove or disprove Harris' theory, Professor Lynne Frostick, a geologist from Hull University in England, along with Jonathan Tubb, conducted an investigation.
Both Frostick and Tubb traveled to the same area of the Middle East with the support of Dr. Gopal Madabhushi of Cambridge University Centrifuge Laboratory in England. Together, they built an accurately scaled-down model of the buildings in Sodom at the time on the ground in which they stood. Dr. Madabhushi conducted an earthquake simulation. The data proved that the whole town - actually, both towns - could have been destroyed.
For Harris's idea to be true, however, it would be required that the earthquake caused a landslide. Given that at the time the area of these sister cities was a moist, wet climate, it is possible that the loosely packed ground contained lots of water. Shaken up by an earthquake, the water would have rushed to the surface while turning the ground into mud (liquefaction). Using a slope for gravity, this process would have become a landslide.
Professor Frostick discovered that the ground around the Dead Sea area was one capable of liquefying and that the sister towns were built right on the water’s edge.
Why would these two cities be built on the unsteady water’s edge?
Harris believes it was to be as close as possible to bitumen and asphalt, which were naturally occurring substances. These were invaluable because the Egyptians used them for embalming their loved ones (mummifying).
According to organic chemist Arie Niessenbaum, pure blocks of asphalt were on formed on the Dead Sea floor and floated to the surface. Today’s version of the Dead Sea's floating asphalt was chemically analyzed and compared to the asphalt contained in early Bronze Age artifacts. They matched. So, it is agreed that the two towns were built on the water’s edge to help the traders more efficiently do business with Egypt.
Using the Cambridge Centrifuge experiment, Dr. Gopal Madabhushi and his fellow researchers built an exact replica of conditions in the Dead Sea as dictated in the early Bronze Age. They then put town models on the replicated land and used a centrifuge to spin it. This created 50 times the force of gravity on their model, which was made exactly the same way as if it were full-size. The Cambridge team simul-fired a “6” magnitude earthquake at it. The results showed exactly what would have happened to full-size buildings.
In analyzing the results of the built-in model and replica sensors, the ground would have turned to quicksand and structures would have slid inside the ‘mud’ until they landed at the very bottom of the Dead Sea.
The Cambridge experiment confirmed Harris’s hypothesis that Sodom and Gomorrah were built on the water’s edge and then destroyed by an earthquake and related landslide.
Now, you can see that because of these findings, geologists and archaeologists went underwater in search of Sodom and Gomorrah ruins.
What do you think?
- Is there scientific evidence enough to show Sodom and Gomorrah’s story was real as stated in the Bible?
- Could both cities have been destroyed by wetness and fire?
- Do we currently sin so much that God could cause mass destruction for us to witness as well?
- Could the destruction have been a freak of nature like the hurricane, earthquakes, fires, and tornadoes of today, OR was it really an act of God's retribution?