What is Sodom?
(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.