Sodom and Gomorrah: Is There Evidence for Their Destruction?

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Excerpt The ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah have been discovered southeast of the Dead Sea. The modern names are Bab edh-Dhra, thought to be Sodom, and Numeira, thought to be Gomorrah. Both places were destroyed at the same time by an enormous conflagration... Continue reading

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The ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah have been discovered southeast of the Dead Sea. The modern names are Bab edh-Dhra, thought to be Sodom, and Numeira, thought to be Gomorrah. Both places were destroyed at the same time by an enormous conflagration. The destruction debris was about three feet thick. What brought about this awful calamity? Startling discoveries in the cemetery at Bab edh-Dhra revealed the cause. Archaeologists found that buildings used to bury the dead were burned by a fire that started on the roof.

What would cause every structure in the cemetery to be destroyed in this way? The answer to the mystery is found in the Bible. “Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens” (Genesis 19:24). The only conceivable explanation for this unique discovery in the annals of archaeology is that burning debris fell on the buildings from the air. But how could such a thing happen?

There is ample evidence of subterranean deposits of a petroleum-based substance called bitumen, similar to asphalt, in the region south of the Dead Sea. Such material normally contains a high percentage of sulfur. It has been postulated by geologist Frederick Clapp that pressure from an earthquake could have caused the bitumen deposits to be forced out of the earth through a fault line. As it gushed out of the earth it could have been ignited by a spark or surface fire. It would then fall to earth as a burning, fiery mass.

It was only after Clapp formulated this theory that Sodom and Gomorrah were found. It turns out that the sites are located exactly on a fault line along the eastern side of a plain south of the Dead Sea, so Clapp's theory is entirely plausible. There is some evidence for this scenario from the Bible itself. Abraham viewed the destruction from a vantage point west of the Dead Sea. The Bible records what Abraham saw: “He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace” (Genesis 19:28). Dense smoke suggests smoke from a petroleum-based fire. Smoke rising like smoke from a furnace indicates a forced draft, such as would be expected from subterranean deposits being forced out of the ground under pressure.

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah became an example in the Bible of how God judges sin. “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before Me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49-50).

Recommended Resources for Further Study

Bible and Spade
Archaeology and
the Old Testament

Bible and Spade
Summer 1999


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12/30/2009 6:31 AM #

The only thing plausible here, is that God was fed up with Sodom and Gomorrah, and rained down  fire and brimstone...I will tell you this, I believe, whether anyone else does or not...The account of Sodom and Gomorrah is in Genesis 19: 1 - 29 But before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, in Genesis 18:23-33 Gods servant Abraham was trying to get God to change his mind, if he could find 50 righteous, or 45 righteous, or 40 righteous, or 30 righteous, or 20 righteous, or even 10 righteous... But not even 10 righteous were found.. This city was wicked in the sight of God, and that is why it was destroyed.. Anyone can suggest why, but the truth is found in the bible..I encourage all who read this, to find a good church and ask God to reveal himself to you...There is a heaven and hell, and Jesus died on the cross to save us from hell...I hope you will believe in God..

Ray - 12/30/2009 6:31:48 AM

4/18/2013 4:47 PM #

Well said Ray.

Shawn - 4/18/2013 4:47:29 PM

11/24/2013 12:55 PM #

The only plausible cause is a natural disaster. Biblical writers defined it as an act of God because of it was something not seen before. They also contrived the reason why it happened, homosexuality and complete unrighteousness. It was God's wrath! Let's apply that today. Why did God ravish the Philipines with a typhoon? What was he mad at them for?

Daryl - 11/24/2013 12:55:35 PM

11/25/2013 2:20 PM #

Dear Daryl, (re: 11/24 post)

Thanks for commenting on the ABR website.

How do you know what the "only plausible cause" is? How did you obtain such knowledge? Were you present 3900 years ago? Why should we believe your dogmatic, bald assertions that offer no proof?

I deal with the principles and issues with your question in this article about the earthquake in Haiti:

Please read the article and other articles referenced there to understand evil, suffering and the wrath of God.


Henry Smith
ABR Staff

ABR - 11/25/2013 2:20:37 PM

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