Where was Sodom & Gomorrah?
I am back from a fantastic trip to Jordan. My wife Tabatha and I had the great privilege of guiding members of our Gateway pastoral staff on a ten-day study trip of the Bible lands on the east side of the Jordan River. I’m so thankful to our great Center for Israel team for helping with our weekly e-blast while I was out!
Gateway Center For Israel was started to guide pastors to a biblical, sincere love for Israel & the Jewish people. One of the best places to impart this is IN the Land of the Bible.
There are so many places in the modern country of Jordan that most pastors will never visit, yet these sites are where so many popular Bible stories took place. One great example of this is the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah. This event interests nearly every Christian and church leader, so getting to visit a possible site of this destroyed city was exciting.
So where was it?!
Almost all serious Bible scholars place it on the east side of the Jordan River, in the modern day Kingdom of Jordan. The Bible notes five “cities of the plain,” and Sodom & Gomorrah were two of these cities.
In Genesis 13, we read the story about Abraham and his nephew, Lot, after they returned to the land of Israel from Egypt. Both of their flocks had become extremely large, and they decided to peacefully separate after their herdsmen kept getting into fights over the grazing lands. The Bible says Lot looked down into the fertile Jordan Valley and settled among the Cities of the Plain.
Scholars believe the location of the Cities of the Plain fall into one of three groups geographically:
1. All five cities are south of the northern tip (top) of the Dead Sea
2. All five cities are north of the top of the Dead Sea
3. The cities are spread between the north and south of the top of the Dead Sea
In Genesis 18 & 19, we read about the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah “reaching God.” Abraham pleads with the Lord to spare as many as possible. Eventually, two angels of the Lord go down and tell Lot to flee. He does so as the cities are completely destroyed behind him.
A recent archaeological study at a northern site for Sodom & Gomorrah – on a location in Jordan called Tel el-Hammam – concludes that it is possible this was the famous city in Genesis 19. Further, these scholars are suggesting that it is possible Tel el-Hammam was destroyed by a large-scale mid-air meteor explosion that could have been 1000 times more powerful than the horrific nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in World War II!
We visited Tel el-Hammam on the very first day we toured in Jordan. It’s quite stunning to re-read the Biblical account while you’re on top of this ruined city, and consider that it very well could be the spot from where Lot fled. You can view a map of the location in this great article from the Times of Israel.
As with many ancient biblical locations, we cannot claim for certain this site was Sodom & Gomorrah. But there are many compelling arguments that it could have been.
The most important part is not so much finding the exact location, but the understanding that unfolds when you put your feet on the ground in these places. When you orient yourself geographically, you can begin to comprehend how this biblical story really did happen in a particular place, amongst a particular people, and at a particular time.
As I’ve said many times before, the Bible is full of people we know, but places we don’t. It’s so important for Bible teachers, pastors and leaders to take trips to the Land of the Bible to see these places for themselves. As they become more familiar with these locations, they will then be able to teach about them with assurance and accuracy.
Thank you for being one who similarly cares about understanding the Word of God in its proper historical context, which is largely Hebraic and Jewish. As our love for the people and land of Israel grows, our understanding of God and His Word will grow along with it.