Sodom and Gomorrah have been described as two great cities in the Book of Genesis and other religious texts such as the New Testament. According to the Biblical sources God destroyed these two cities as there were too few righteous men in the cities and it had become a hub for evil or irreligious activities. Thus the cities were destroyed by the wrath of God. Sodom is a word that you find in the modern dictionary and it means unnatural sexual acts. So they have been cursed places even after so many years. What we known about these cities is that they were a part of the Cities of Plain. There were five cities that comprised the Cities of Plain such as Gomorrah, Sodom, Admah, Zoar and Zeboim.
Early research into the location of these two cities made the scholars believe that there was no route to the East of Jordan River as described in the Biblical accounts. But the discovery of clay tablets from Babylonia near the edge of present day Syria near the edge of Mari has strengthened the claims of Bible. On this Babylonia tablet there is a contract inscribed stating the commutation of items to East of River Jordan. Some of the researchers such as W.F. Albright had concluded from his research that the Cities of Plain were swallowed up by the Dead Sea which rose above its natural levels. This theory was supported Ralph E. Barney who discovered a small tree beneath the southern basin of Dead Sea. Soon researchers discovered the ruins of a great fortress named Babe dh-Dhra which was built of stones and overlooked the deep ravines known as Wadi Kerak. There were seven other monoliths found at a short distance from east of Bab edh-Dhra. Researchers claimed that Bab edh-dhra was the place of pilgrimage where annual feasts were held and that the fortress was directly related to Cities of Plains.
Later research into Babe dh-Dhra revealed stark similarities in the style of pottery with Safi and Feifa. Feifa and Safi had stark similarities with Babe edh-Dhra. When further excavations were done near Bab edh-Dhra another ancient settlement known as Numeira (located south of the spring) was discovered. Another Early Bronze Age site Khanazir was also excavated. Tall el-Hammam was a site that had been discovered at a prior time. Some scholars believed this was the site of Sodom, but the dates of destruction and other artefacts do not match the claims. So let us try to identify the location of true Sodom.
In the Book of Genesis it has been described that Sodom was located between Ai and Bethel. Sodom was described as being situated on the plain of Jericho which was visible from a mountainous location. It was situated along the Plain of Jordan River and was well watered by the river. The account of destruction of all the Cities of Plains is provided in the Genesis “By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 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, including all those living in the cities– and also the vegetation in the land” (Gen 19:23-25). Excavations in the region showed an abundance of asphalt and petroleum in the region. These places are full of tar pits and Bryant Woods feels that the combustible materials were forced onto the surface due to a strong earthquake. He further feels that if there was an earthquake that would definitely give rise to a holocaust as mentioned in the Bible. At Numeira a seven foot thick layer of dark ash was found from a pit, similar evidences were found at Feifa too.
Reference to Zoar has been found in many Biblical texts as a site on the Wadi Hesa near the church in Madaba, Jordan. So the other Cities of Plains could be identified as:
- Bab edh-Dhra = Sodom
- Numeira = Gomorrah
- Feifa = Admah
- Khanazir = Zeboiim