Sodom and Gomorrah—two cities that became infamous for the greatness of the sins of the people that once lived there and the tragic destruction that followed. The search for the location of the doomed sister cities continues to fascinate many scholars, historians, and Bible readers. The story of these sister cities served as a cautionary tale (Jude 1:7) against sexual immorality, as well as other sins such as “pride, gluttony, and laziness” (Ezekiel 18:48-50). (For a better picture of Bible events and location, refer to the Holy Land Map in conjunction with this article.)
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Some clues that aid in the search: Sodom and Gomorrah formed the Pentapolis of the Cities of the Plain (Genesis 14:2) of the Jordan Valley which included Admah, Zeboim, and Zoar (Bela). It was there that Lot decided to settle with his family after a dispute between his herdsmen and Abraham’s over the land on which their herds and flocks grazed; meanwhile, Abraham remained and settled in the territory of Canaan
Sodom and Gomorrah were famous for the wickedness of its people as shown in Genesis 13:13 and by Genesis 19, it was doomed by God to be completely destroyed. Lot was warned about this destruction by the two angels he protected from the men of the city. He was told to take his family and find refuge in the mountains.
Another clue: Lot pleaded for the angels to spare a little village called Zoar so they could find shelter there. This was granted and according to Genesis 19:24-25, the Lord “rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain, wiping out all the people and every bit of vegetation.” The destruction was so great that Abraham saw it as he stood in Mamre (modern Hebron), far off west of the Jordan Valley. Lot and his daughters left Zoar later and temporarily lived in a cave in the mountains.
Zoar: The Key to Sodom and Gomorrah
For creation geologist Dr. Steve Austin, Biblical archaeologist Dr. Bryant G. Wood, and other scholars, Zoar was the key to finding the doomed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. To pinpoint Zoar (and possibly Sodom and Gomorrah), they first needed to locate the region where the cities were built. The search for Zoar took them to the southern region of the Dead Sea where the Jordan Valley is located, near the modern city of Safi in Jordan. They looked for the cave where Lot and his daughters supposedly lived in when they escaped Zoar and found the remains of an ancient church named the Sanctuary of St. Lot with a cave near it. It overlooked the modern town of Safi, which made it possible that the town once known as Zoar is now named as-Safi.
Zoar (Safi) is the only town that is still in existence after thousands of years since the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Historical records show that it was involved in commercial trade as recently as the 10th century AD. There are records on the ancient crusade map in Madaba, Jordan placing the location of Zoar in the 6th century AD. According to
According to Isaiah and Jeremiah (15:5 and 48:34-35 respectively), Zoar was located in Moab. The Jewish historian Josephus stated that Zoar was located south of the Dead Sea. Zoar was also described by the Arab tribes that lived there as “As-Safiyah”. These point to the location of Safi as former Zoar making it was the perfect jump-off point for finding the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira: Ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah?
The angels of the Lord gave Lot and his family enough time to escape the destruction. According to Dr. Steve Austin, they probably traveled for six hours to Zoar by foot. He and other Biblical scholars that support this theory retraced the steps of Lot and came to the conclusion that the ruins of Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira in Jordan are the possible candidates for the sites of ancient Sodom and Gomorrah. Safi could be reached within six hours from Bab edh-Dhra by foot, and it was one of the biggest sites in the area that was settled by the time of Abraham (Early Bronze Age). The destruction that happened at the site was perhaps visible from Mamre (modern Hebron) in Canaan, and its location was an excellent sister city site.
The remains of Bab edh-Dhra is now just a mound (tell) with a cemetery right beside it. Geologists discovered that Bab edh-Dhra is located near an enormous fault zone, and the site experienced massive changes in geology over the years. It was once a fortified city with a 21-ft wide defensive wall (now collapsed) and contained a temple of an unknown god. Wadi Numeira, the remains of an ancient city near the ruins of Bab edh-Dhar, is said to be the city of Gomorrah. Numeira, just like Bab edh-Dhra, had a collapsed fortification, border fault, and evidence of widespread destruction caused by fire (burn deposits). Pieces of charcoal (from burned timber, possibly house beams) were found when the sites were excavated and in Numeira itself. Two human skeletons who died from trauma (burns and collapse of a structure) were found buried on site.
Both places were destroyed during the Early Bronze Age by ignition and collapse of structures, consistent with the “fire and burning sulfur” destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In addition, both sites were located near enormous border fault lines which contained a combination of combustible bitumen, petroleum, and natural gas. It is possible that what destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah was a super-earthquake that spewed these destructive materials forced up by earth’s movement.
Evidence Against This Being the Site of Sodom and Gomorrah
Most archaeologists place the destruction of the two proposed cities during Early Bronze Age III which puts them about 400 years before the Biblical dates for their destruction. So does this mean these aren’t the infamous Biblical cities?
Dr. Bryant Wood of the Biblical Archaeological Society writes “In reality, the archaeological date for the end of the EB III period cannot be determined with any degree of certainty. Dating for the Bronze Age in Palestine is dependent upon synchronisms with the known history of Egypt. To date, we have no such synchronisms for the EB III (Early Bronze Age III) period. To date, we have no such synchronisms for the EB III period. There are a few correlations for the previous EB II period, suggesting that it was approximately contemporary with the Archaic Period (First and Second Dynasties) in Egypt, ca. 3100–2700 BC“
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Picture By Peter Paul Rubens – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=158561