Traces of the catastrophe recorded in Genesis 19 are visible in the whole region about the Dead, or as Scripture calls it, the Salt Sea. frontSALT SEA.) . Volcanic agency and earthquake, accompanying the fire shower, may have produced the deep depression of the sea, and so arrested the Jordan's original onward course through the Arabah into the gulf of Akabah. The northern end of the lake is 1,300 ft. deep, the southern only 13 ft. below the surface. The southern division or bay of the sea most probably was formed at a late date. It abounds with salt, throws up bitumen, sulphur, and nitre on its shores. This answers to the vale of Siddim, "full of slime pits" (Genesis 14:10); and it accords with the destruction of the four cities of the plain by fire and brimstone, and with the turning of Lot's wife into a pillar of salt.
Scripture does not say the cities were immersed in the sea, but that they were destroyed by fire from heaven (Deuteronomy 29:23; Jeremiah 49:18; Jeremiah 50:40; Zephaniah 2:9; 2 Peter 2:6; Judges 1:4-7, "an example unto those that after should live ungodly"; Amos 4:11). So Josephus, B. J., 4:8, section 4. The traditional names of Usdum, and site of Zoar, the hill of salt, said to have been Lot's wife, favor the view that the cities lay either in or around the present southern bay. Grove argues for the northern site that Abram and Lot near Bethel could not have seen the southern valleys (Genesis 13:10) but could see the northern, and that what they saw was "the Ciccar of the Jordan," whereas Jordan flowed into the northern end of the Dead Sea but not into the southern.
But Genesis 13 probably means only that Lot, seeing the Jordan N. of the Dead Sea, and knowing the whole valley N. and S. to be well watered, chose it. Moreover, the catastrophes palpable to sight all round the southern end imply that the Jordan once flowed to the S. of that sea. Gomorrah means submersion; Arabic ghamara, to "overwhelm with water." Gomorrah was one of the five cities of the vale of Siddim whose forces were routed by Chedorlaomer, until Abram helped them. Zoar or Bela alone of the five, at Lot's request, escaped destruction by the fire from the Lord. Jerusalem when corrupted (for "the corruption of the best is the worst of all corruptions") is termed Sodom and her people Gomer (Isaiah 1:9-10); as the church apostate corrupted is termed "Babylon" (Revelation 17).
Worse still are they who see Christ's "mighty works" yet "repent not," and who receive not the apostles' teaching (Matthew 10:15; Mark 6:11). The profound depression of the plain of Gomorrah, the deepest on the earth, and its stagnant tropical air, answered to its sunken morals. DeSaulcy thinks that in Usdum and Um Zoghal traces of Sodom exist; and in Ain Feshkah (Goumran, Arabic) on the N.W. traces of Gomorrah. Rather in wady Amrah is to be sought a connection with Gomorrah. Tristram objects to the southern site for Sodom and Gomorrah that Chedorlaomer marching from mount Seir to Hazezon Tamar (Engedi) afterward meets the king of Sodom in the vale of Siddim, which therefore in the order ought to be rather at the northern end of the Dead Sea.
Also Moses saw Zoar from mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:3), which he could not had it been at the S.E. of Dead Sea. He thinks that the southern bed of the sea was formerly deeper than now, and that it was raised by deposits brought from the Arabah. Lightning probably kindled the masses of sulphurous bitumen abounding around. Combining with an earthquake, the storm cast showers of ignited bitumen on the cities, so that "the smoke of the country" was "as the smoke of a furnace," as beheld by Abraham. God often uses natural means in His most supernatural interventions.
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