Various locations for the biblical cities of the land of Sodom have been claimed over the years, but there
has been no consensus of opinion on any given site. In this
paper we will examine Scripture1 and other evidence, and
will propose a new site for the land of Sodom.
When Lot looked eastward, what did he see?
In our search, we will start with Abraham and Lot, whose
large herds of animals were causing friction between their
respective herdsmen (Genesis 13: 7). Abraham proposed a
solution: they would separate. Lot would go in one direction
and Abraham would go in the other. Generously, Abraham
gave Lot first choice. According to Genesis 13: 10–12, Lot
“lifted up his eyes” 2 and chose the well-watered Jordan plain
where the cities lay. To get there he journeyed eastward.
Abraham and Lot would have been standing not far
from where their tents were pitched between Bethel and
Ai3 (Genesis 13: 3), as there is no indication in Scripture
that they had travelled elsewhere. (Genesis 13: 18 tells us
that Abraham moved south to Mamre some time after this.)
Those who have gone to that area and stood on all the hills
around are in agreement that the maximum window of
visibility that Lot and Abraham had, if they were on the
highest mountain with an eastern view, was that shown in
figure 1. Hills limited Lot’s view to the north and south
along the Jordan when he looked eastward and saw the
cities of the plain spread out below him.
We quote Collins4 on this window of visibility:
“I am intimately familiar with what can and cannot
be seen from practically every vantage point between
Ai and the edge of the Jordan Valley to the east. The
southern Jordan Valley north of the Dead Sea and the
foothills on the eastern edge of the Jordan Valley are
easily visible from that area. On a clear day, you can
even see a portion of the northern end of the Dead Sea
itself. But under no circumstances or by any stretch
of the imagination can you see with the naked eye
beyond that point to the middle (Lisan) regions or
the southern end of the Dead Sea. The vantage point
of the area of Bethel and Ai is a bit of evidence that
should not be passed over lightly.”
Harper5 also describes what Lot might have been able
to see from his vantage point (italics are Harper’s):
“Lot, standing on the Bethel hill, ‘saw’ the Valley
of the Jordan. From no hill there, except one called
by the Arabs ‘the Hill of Stones,’ can any view of
the Jordan Valley or Dead Sea be seen; and what can
there be seen is the northern end of the Dead Sea,
the Jordan Valley, and the river running like a blue
thread through the green plain. The hills of Engedi
shut out completely all view of the southern end of
the sea; but, as I before said, the northern end, where
the Jordan runs in, and about two or three miles of the
sea, can be seen. I have wandered over all the Bethel
hills and tested this question.”
We also have testimony from Ben-Artzi6 that the hills
around Bethel are the highest in the centre of the land. These
would offer the maximum view to the east, north, and south.
Clearly the cities of the plain of Jordan must have been
at the north end of the Dead Sea, because most of the
Dead Sea was not visible from where Lot stood. Also, the
environs of the Dead Sea do not qualify as the plain of
Jordan (see this expression in Genesis 13: 10–11), in spite
of special pleading from those who try to show otherwise.
For example, Khouri7 speaks of “the cities of the plain”
and “the Dead Sea plain” in order to support his belief that
the cities were at the south-east end of the Dead Sea. This
constitutes changing what Scripture explicitly says, which
is that what Lot saw was the plain of the Jordan.
It cannot be emphasized too strongly how important this
window of visibility is to our search for the cities.
The boundaries of the land of Canaan
The cities of the plain of Jordan are listed as part of the
boundaries of Canaan in Genesis 10: 19 (NIV): “and the
borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far
as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and
Zeboiim, as far as Lasha”.
From the context of this chapter on how the people of
the earth spread out, we see that ‘borders of Canaan’ is an
An unresolved question has been where the biblical cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar were located.
Arguments from the Bible and geography show that these cities had to have lain along the west side of the Jordan River,
north of the Dead Sea. This strip of land is shown by Google Maps to be a desolate wasteland even today, as predicted
by Scripture. Arguments for other advocated locations can be shown to be flawed.