Ark of the Covenant - Bible History Online
Bible History Online

Naves Topical Bible Dictionary

sodom Summary and Overview

Bible Dictionaries at a GlanceBible Dictionaries at a Glance

sodom in Easton's Bible Dictionary

burning; the walled, a city in the vale of Siddim (Gen. 13:10; 14:1-16). The wickedness of its inhabitants brought down upon it fire from heaven, by which it was destroyed (18:16-33; 19:1-29; Deut. 23:17). This city and its awful destruction are frequently alluded to in Scripture (Deut. 29:23; 32:32; Isa. 1:9, 10; 3:9; 13:19; Jer. 23:14; Ezek. 16:46-56; Zeph. 2:9; Matt. 10:15; Rom. 9:29; 2 Pet. 2:6, etc.). No trace of it or of the other cities of the plain has been discovered, so complete was their destruction. Just opposite the site of Zoar, on the south-west coast of the Dead Sea, is a range of low hills, forming a mass of mineral salt called Jebel Usdum, "the hill of Sodom." It has been concluded, from this and from other considerations, that the cities of the plain stood at the southern end of the Dead Sea. Others, however, with much greater probability, contend that they stood at the northern end of the sea. [in 1897].

sodom in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(burning), one of the most ancient cities of Syria. It is commonly mentioned in connection with Gomorrah, but also with Admah and Zeboim, and on one occasion -- #Ge 14:1| ... --with Bela or Zoar. Sodom was evidently the chief town in the settlement. The four are first named in the ethnological records of #Ge 10:19| as belonging to the Canaanites. The next mention of the name of Sodom, #Ge 13:10-13| gives more certain indication of the position of the city. Abram and Lot are standing together between Bethel and Ai, ver. 3, taking a survey of the land around and below them. Eastward of them, and absolutely at their feet, lay the "circle of Jordan." The whole circle was one great oasis --"a garden of Jehovah." ver. 10. In the midst of the garden the four cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim appear to have been situated. It is necessary to notice how absolutely the cities are identified with the district. In the subsequent account of their destruction, #Ge 19:1| ... the topographical terms are employed with all the precision which is characteristic of such early times. The mention of the Jordan is conclusive as to the situation of the district, for the Jordan ceases where it enters the Dead Sea, and can have no existence south of that point. The catastrophe by which they were destroyed is described in #Ge 19:1| ... as a shower of brimstone and fire from Jehovah. However we may interpret the words of the earliest narrative, one thing is certain --that the lake was not one of the agents in the catastrophe. From all these passages, though much is obscure, two things seem clear: 1. That Sodom and the rest of the cities of the plain of Jordan stood on the north of the Dead Sea; 2. That neither the cities nor the district were submerged by the lake, but that the cities were overthrown and the land spoiled, and that it may still be seen in its desolate condition. When, however, we turn to more modern views, we discover a remarkable variance from these conclusions. 1. The opinion long current that the five cities were submerged in the lake, and that their remains--walls, columns and capitals--might he still discerned below the water, hardly needs refutation after the distinct statement and the constant implication of Scripture. But, 2. A more serious departure from the terms of the ancient history is exhibited in the prevalent opinion that the cities stood at the south end of the lake. This appears to, have been the belief of Josephus and Jerome. It seems to have been universally held by the medieval historians and pilgrims, and it is adopted by modern topographers probably without exception. There are several grounds for this belief; but the main point on which Dr. Robinson rests his argument is the situation of Zoar. (a) "Lot," says he, "fled to Zoar, which was near to Sodom; and Zoar lay almost at the southern end of the present sea, probably in the month of Wady Kerak." (b) Another consideration in favor of placing the cities at the southern end of the lake is the existence of similar names in that direction. (c) A third argument, and perhaps the weightiest of the three, is the existence of the salt mountain at the south of the lake, and its tendency to split off in columnar masses presenting a rude resemblance to the human form. But it is by no means certain that salt does not exist at other spots round the lake. (d) (A fourth and yet stronger argument is drawn from the fact that Abraham saw the smoke of the burning cities from Hebron. (e) A fifth argument is found in the numerous lime-pits found at that southern end of the Dead Sea. Robinson, Schaff, Baedeker, Lieutenant Lynch and others favor this view. --ED.) It thus appears that on the situation of Sodom no satisfactory conclusion can at present be readied: On the one hand, the narrative of Genesis seems to state positively that it lay at the northern end of the Dead Sea. On the other hand, long-continued tradition and the names of the existing spots seem to pronounce with almost equal positiveness that it was at its southern end. Of the catastrophe which destroyed the city and the district of Sodom we can hardly hope ever to form a satisfactory conception. Some catastrophe there undoubtedly was but what secondary agencies, besides fire, were employed in the accomplishment of the punishment cannot be safely determined in the almost total absence of exact scientific description of the natural features of the ground round the lake. We may suppose, however, that the actual agent in the ignition and destruction of the cities had been of the nature of a tremendous thunder-storm accompanied by a discharge of meteoric stones, (and that these set on fire the bitumen with which the soil was saturated, and which was used in building the city. And it may be that this burning out of the soil caused the plain to sink below the level of the Dead Sea, and the waters to flow over it--if indeed Sodom and its sister cities are really under the water.--ED.) The miserable fate of Sodom and Gomorrah is held up as a warning in numerous passages of the Old and New Testaments. #Mr 8:11; 2Pe 2:6; Jude 1:4-7|

sodom in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

SOD'OM (burning?), the principal city in a group of cities in the vale of Siddim, which were destroyed on account of the great wickedness of their inhabitants. Gen 10:19; Gen 13:3, Gen 13:10-13; Gen 19:1-29. Sodom is first mentioned in describing the Canaanitish border; it was afterward chosen by Lot as his home, the country around it being fertile, well watered everywhere, "even as the garden of the Lord." It was plundered by Chedorlaomer and his allies, but the captives and booty were recovered by Abraham. The history of its great wickedness and its terrible punishment is given in Gen 18:16-33; Gen 19:1-29. Sodom is often held up as a warning to sinners to escape the terrible vengeance of God. Deut 29:23; Isa 1:9-10. Lev 3:9; Isa 13:19; Jer 23:14; Jeremiah 49:18; Eze 16:49-50; Am 4:11; Zeph 2:9; Matt 10:15; Matt 11:23-24; 2 Pet 2:6-8; Rev 11:8. Situation. - The overthrow of the cities of the plain, including Sodom, was so complete that their sites have never been certainly determined. It was formerly a common opinion that the Dead Sea covered the place occupied by these cities, and early travellers fancied that they could discern broken columns and other relics of the doomed cities in the waters of the lake. The southern part of the Dead Sea, below the "tongue," or Lisan Peninsula, is very shallow, having an average depth of not more than 13 feet, and here some would place the sites of the lost cities. There is no scriptural evidence, however, that the cities were submerged, but the whole drift of the history, as well as the geological character of the region, is directly opposed to such a theory. There are only two possible localities for these cities - the lower end of the lake, or the upper end of the same. Tradition, from the time of Josephus and Jerome, has pointed to the southern site. This view has been further urged from the name Jebel Usdum, the latter word having a supposed resemblance to Sodom, and Usdum being at the south end of the lake. Some also have believed that it was favored by the fact that pillars of salt, detached from the great salt cliffs at the southern end, have borne the name of "Lot's Wife." A stronger argument in favor of the southern site is drawn from the fact that Abraham, standing near Hebron, beheld the smoke of the country. Gen 19:27-28. Another argument is found in the numerous "slime-pits," or wells of bitumen or asphaltum, found in great masses on the southern shore. Gen 14:10. This view has been advocated by Robinson, Woolcott, and Lynch, and favored by Porter. Baedeker, Schaff, and others. The arguments in favor of the northern site are: that Lot chose the "plain of Jordan," which must have been at the north end of the Dead Sea. Gen 13:11-12. This plain of Jordan would be visible to Abraham and Lot standing at Bethel, while they would not be able to see the south end of the lake from that point. It is also argued that the hill near Hebron from whence Abraham beheld the burning cities, being about midway between the north end and the south end of the lake, would enable him to see the smoke arising from the northern end quite as clearly as from the southern end of the sea. It is also claimed that the northern site better suits the details in the account of the attack of Chedorlaomer. Dr. Merrill further asserts that there are numerous slime-pits in the vale of Shittim at the northern end of the lake, and that there are several sites upon the plain which might harmonize with those of the lost cities. Tristram proposed a site for Zoar at the northern end of the sea but this has not been satisfactorily established. The argument against the northern site, based on the fact that pillars of salt have been found at the south end named "Lot's Wife," is of little value, since these pillars are constantly changing by the action of the weather, and to suppose that a pillar of salt of the size of a person would stand for four thousand years is simply absurd. The northern site has been strongly advocated by , Grove, Tristram, Thomson, and others, but the question is one which is undecided, since able scholars strongly advocate each of the locations. See Salt Sea and Gomorrah.

sodom in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Chief of the group Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Bela or Zoar (Genesis 10:19; Genesis 13:3; Genesis 13:10-13; Genesis 13:19; Luke 17:29; 2 Peter 2:6; Judges 1:4-7; Mark 6:11; Matthew 10:15; Deuteronomy 29:23). (See GOMORRAH.) Palmer and Drake traversing the Negeb in a S.E. direction, as far as Mount Hor, made a detour to jebel ("mount") Madherah. At its summit and base are blocks of stone, of which the Arabs say: "a people once dwelt there, to whom travelers came seeking hospitality; but the people did to them a horrible deed, wherefore the Almighty in anger rained down stones, and destroyed them from off the face of the earth." Sodom is interpreted "burning" or else "vineyard" (Gesenius), "fortification" (Furst). Abraham could see the smoke of the burning cities from near Hebron. The Lord over night announced to him Sodom's doom, at some spot on the way from Mamre or Hebron toward Sodom, to which he had accompanied the angels (Genesis 18:16). Tradition says the spot was Caphar Berucha, from which the Dead Sea is visible through a ravine. Long ranges of hills intervene between Hebron and Sodom, but from the hill over Hebron or Mamre through a gap in the chain the whole district of the Jordan valley is visible. Lot at first pitched only towards Sodom, not until afterward did he go further south to Sodom itself (Genesis 13:12; Genesis 14:12; and Genesis 14:3 says expressly the vale of Siddim is the Salt Sea). This favors the S. of the Dead Sea site for Sodom, etc., which the traditional names confirm.