Sodom and Gemorrah by Nahum Sarna

If Sodom and Gemorrah are ever to yield their secrets to the spade of the excavator they have to be pinpointed on the map. But, despite the unenviable notoriety achieved by the "cities of the Plain," their exact location has never been discovered. They seem to have vanished irretrievably without leaving behind so much as rubbish heap to tease the eager archaeologist. The most that we can hope for is to put together the scattered bits of data available so that we may be able to declare, with some degree of assurance, that Sodom and Gemorrah lay in this or that general direction…

Valley Salt

Lot's wife is said to have turned into a "pillar of salt" (19:26), suggesting some grotesque salt-rock formation in the region. Salt is also mentioned in connection with Sodom and Gemorrah in another context. In Moses' farewell speech he warns that a breach of the Covenant with God would bring ruin to the land, and he describes the state of affairs that would arise as follows:

All its soil devastated by sulfur and salt, beyond sowing and producing, no grass growing in it, just like the upheaval of Sodom and Gemorrah… (Deut. 29:22)

The prophet Zephaniah who prophesied concerning the lands of Moab and Ammon, says they will be like Sodom and Gemorrah, "a land possessed by nettles and salt pits and a waste forever" (Zeph. 2:9). In the entire Jordan-Dead Sea valley area there is only one region to which the mention of salt would be appropriate, and that is a salt mountain known to this day as "Mount Sodom," nearly six miles long and about six hundred and fifty feet in height, lying on the southwest shore of the Dead Sea. Here, again, the data confirms a location for the lost cities in the area of the southern embankment of the Dead Sea. [More on Salt Production at the Dead Sea.]

Sodom and Gemorrah are usually assumed to be beneath the southern part of the Dead Sea, south of the lisan, the peninsula jutting into the sea, which is shallow and more recent than the rest of the depression. Local tradition, as represented in the Arabic name of the salt mountain, Jebel al-Sadum or Mountain of Sodom, favors the southern site. Some scholars, however, have looked for the two cities at the northern end of the Dead Sea or near Bab al-Shra, east of the lisan….

In the 20th century, the name Sodom was given to the site at the northwestern corner of the Dead Sea and at the foot of the huge salt plug of Mount Sodom, where the Palestine Potash Company's Sodom branch was set up in 1934[*].

Poems about Lot's Wife in Sodom

* Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 15, Sodom and Gemorrah [back]

Barnes & noble linkFrom: Nahum M. Sarna. Understanding Genesis copyright. 1966 by Melton Research Center of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America; paperback edition (New York: Schocken), pp. 138-141

The Salt of My Bones. Poem: Asher Reich / Commentary: David C. Jacobson



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