“All these [armies] were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea. And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits” (Genesis 14:3, 10).
One of the most interesting geologic events of history is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone (Gen. 19:24-28). The area around the south end of the Dead Sea is still a barren plain of salt, sulfur, and bitumen (asphalt) deposits.
In recent years the level of the Dead Sea is falling because Israel and Jordan are irrigating from the Jordan River. The southern part would be dry again if it were not for a canal that Israel has cut to let water flow through. Israel maintains a shallow lake for the large motels and health resorts in the area.
In a tour of Israel in April, 2007, a group of us spent the first night at a motel on the west shore of the Dead Sea. After dusk some of us men went out for a swim. One of the young men swam a long way out and could touch bottom the whole way. The density of the water has risen to 30% solids and has an oily consistency. We could not sink in the water. When I pulled myself down to my ears I would bob up nearly to my waistline.
The Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea are part of what is called the Great Syria-African Rift. This break in the earth’s crust extends 4,500 miles from the Lebanon Mountains to Mozambique in southeast Africa. The walls along this crack are 6,600 feet high in some places. Lake Tanganyika lies along this rift and is the world’s longest lake at 420 miles and also the second deepest at 4,708 feet deep. Lake Superior, the world’s largest fresh water lake is only 1,330 feet deep in comparison. This matches the Dead Sea, also part of this rift, at 1,312 feet deep. However, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on the earth’s surface at 1,310 feet below sea level, making the bottom 2,622 feet below sea level. Even the Sea of Galilee is 630 feet below the Mediterranean Sea. The Jordan River drops 680 feet running 67 miles down to the Dead Sea.
Formation of the Rift
There are many evidences of great geologic events found in the earth’s surface. Features such as the Grand Canyon show colossal erosion as the continents rose above the waters sometime after the worldwide flood described in Genesis 7. Creation scientists have shown where earthen barriers were breached and large lakes of water, as much as 3,000 cubic miles, were released above the Grand Canyon.
The Great Rift, in contrast, shows a rending of the earth’s crust with features such as volcanoes, lava flows, and hot springs along the rift. The extinct volcano Mt. Kilimanjaro at 19,331 feet is the highest mountain in Africa. In Israel there are hot springs along the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee. The houses in Capernaum and around the Sea of Galilee are built of black volcanic rock.
It appears that the Great Rift occurred some years after the Genesis Flood at the event briefly touched on in Genesis 10:25: “In his days [Peleg’s] was the earth divided.” The division in Peleg’s day does refer to the physical earth. The Hebrew word for divide means “to split.” An associated meaning is “a channel of water.” Peleg’s name means “earthquake.” Even secular scientists attribute the Great Rift to a time when the continental plates separated. They now speak of one original continent called Pangaea from which the present hemispheres drifted apart.
The name Josephus, a Jewish historian, used for the Dead Sea in his day was Lake Asphaltitis. Bitumen, which is found around the Dead Sea, is asphalt in its natural state. These are called fossil fuels because they are formed from buried vegetation from the first world that perished (Genesis 7). Bitumen and gas that bubbles up in the Dead Sea are evidence of petroleum deposits under the Dead Sea area that must have served as fuel in God’s judgment at Sodom.
The Cataclysm at Sodom
In Genesis 18:16-33 God came to Abraham and told him He was going to destroy Sodom for its great sins. After Abraham pled with God to spare the city, even for just ten righteous people, God went His way. After taking Lot, his wife, and two daughters out of Sodom, God rained brimstone and fire down on Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain (Genesis 19:24). Israeli geologists have proposed how oil, gas, sulfur, salt, and bitumen could have been forced up through fault lines that run along each side of the valley. The flammable substance ignited and produced an inferno that destroyed the valley, the cities, and that which grew on the ground (Genesis 19:25). Abraham gives us an eyewitness account from Hebron. When he arose, in the morning, and looked over the mountains, he saw that “the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (verse 28).
Sometime after Moses assembled the first five books of the Bible, the vale of Siddim was spoken of with the editorial note “which is the salt sea” (Genesis 14:3). The southern end of the Dead Sea valley is a shallow overflow area that is drying up and returning to its former state, although barren. Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain were in this area. Along the east (Jordan side) there are remains of small cities. The Wall Street Journal carried an article recently about archaeologists who were excavating sites to find Sodom. There are also salt deposits in the surrounding hills and many caves. This is the area where Lot fled from the coming holocaust on Sodom (Genesis 19:18-22). He first went to Zoar (today there is a place called Neve Zohar) then to a cave in the mountains. Visitors can see pillars of mineral salts called “Lot’s wife” in the area (Genesis 19:26).
God the Creator, Sustainer, and Judge
Sodom’s civil affairs were similar to ours today. They venerated nature, putting animals above man and God. They were violent. Children and women ruling over them (Isaiah 3:12) and an infamous list of abominations abounded (Romans 1:23-32). They changed the natural use of the body burning in their lusts one to another, women with women and men with men (Romans 1:26, 27) (sodomy—Genesis 19:5). In the midst of these sins, comes the suffering of the children, aged, and disadvantaged. Does God care? God said of Sodom, “I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me” (Gen. 18:20, 21). The judgment God brought was an act of mercy bringing the tyranny, fear, and suffering to an end.
In our day of evolutionary deception, these physical evidences are tangible evidence of God’s work in His world. The greatest physical evidence, of course, of God to whom man will give account is the 2J/2 miles (average) of fossil rock layers around the earth. Countless plant and animal life forms record the first world that perished. “The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:3-7).
God does cares and intervenes in the affairs of men. There is a place in man’s being that cannot be filled until he makes peace with his God. Few find this rest with the personal God of the Bible. The revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures, the conscience God has put into man, and the evidences in our world of the things God has made (Romans 1:20) are influences that God has given man to call him to repent and be saved. “God that made the world and all things therein . . . hath made of one blood all nations of men . . . that they should seek the Lord . . . and find him, though he be not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:24-27).
Truly God has been gracious in reaching out to reveal Himself to humankind. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
- The Bible Comes Alive – Clifford & Barbara Wilson
- World Book Encyclopedia
- Grand Canyon – Steven Austin
-by Elvin Stauffer