Other claimed locations
for the cities
A search for information
on the cities of the Jordan
plain retrieves many people
who have made claims about
various locations over the
years. We will touch on only
a few here; anyone interested can easily find others.
Application of the criteria
listed above will show
why none of these other
suggested locations could
be seriously considered.
The famed W.F. Albright
theorized in the 1920s that
the cities must be under the
south end of the Dead Sea. 31
This belief was widespread
for many years, and I grew
up believing that if only the
Dead Sea would go down
far enough, the missing
cities would certainly be
found. Although the Dead
Sea has now lowered to its
minimum level in history,
and the section south of the
Lisan Peninsula is nothing
but evaporation pools, the
cities have not appeared.
Unger41 was quite certain
that the cities were in the
Vale of Siddim under water
at the southern end of the Dead Sea. Sarna42 shows just three
of the cities (Sodom, Gomorrah, and Zoar) under water south
of the Lisan peninsula, on the eastern side. (Where Admah
and Zeboiim were is a question that he leaves up in the air.)
The Sodom-underwater belief lost popularity when, in
the mid-70s, Rast and Schaub43 (1974) proposed that the
cities were actually on land along the south-eastern side
of the Dead Sea. These sites are called Bab Edh-Dhra,
Numeira, Safi, Feifa, and Khanazir today, and are the same
ones that Austin and Wood are currently promoting, as
The geologists Neev and Emery44 believed that the cities
were located around the edge of the south end of the Dead
Sea, but had their own take on the subject. First, they said
it was a mistaken belief that ;oar/;oora was es-Safi, and
instead they placed biblical Zoar at Bab ed-Dhra (!). They
put the city of Sodom near Sedom at the south-west corner of
the Dead Sea. This meant that Lot and his family had to rush
25 km across the south end of the Dead Sea flats, a feat that
Neev and Emery deemed possible because they believed that
the south end of the Dead Sea was dried up at that time. Their
chart of historical fluctuations of Dead Sea levels shows a
couple of minimums that could have produced this dry land. 45
This chart, however, does not account for timeline revision,
a subject that will be discussed in part 2.
Ron Wyatt, who found vast hills of sulphur west of the
Dead Sea, claimed that these were the destroyed cities. 46 He
had the right idea: he lined them up correctly from south
to north, and showed them as a border of Canaan. He also
showed Zoar close to Sodom. But he forgot that Lot could
only see the most northern one, Zeboiim, and possibly
Admah, and that the cities should all be spread out along
the Jordan River, and not along the Dead Sea.
It is most likely that the ruins of the cities of the plain
are located along a narrow strip of wasteland on the west
side of the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea. This
conclusion is arrived at mainly from the various mentions
of the cities from Scripture. It is shown that other claimed
locations around the Dead Sea cannot be Sodom.
1. A straightforward interpretation will be taken of Scripture, according to the
principles laid out in Habermehl, H.A., God Has Spoken But What Has He
Said? A coherent guide to interpreting the Bible for yourself, Antiphon Books,
Cortland, New York, 1995.
2. All biblical references are from the KJV unless otherwise stated.
3. There is debate about the locations of Bethel and Ai. However, the various
places under consideration lie within a very small area, and do not affect Lot’s
window of visibility. See for example, Livingston, D., Location of biblical
Bethel and Ai reconsidered, Westminster Theological J. 33( 1): 20 – 44, 1970;
and Wood, B.G., The Search for Joshua’s Ai; in: Hess, R.S., Klingbeil, G.A.,
and Ray, P. J., Jr. (Eds.), Critical Issues in Early Israelite History, Eisenbrauns,
Inc., Winona Lake, IN, pp. 205–240, 2008.
4. Collins, S., The geography of the cities of the plain, Biblical Research Bulletin
of The Academic J. Trinity Southwest University 2( 1): 1–17, 2002.
5. Harper, H.A., The Bible and Modern Discoveries, 4th edn, Committee of the
Palestine Exploration Fund, London, UK, pp. 16–17, 1891.
6. Ben-Artzi, H., “He named that site Bethel,” Center for Basic Jewish Studies,
Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel, 2009, www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/eng/
vayetze/ hagg.html;;ftn3, accessed 19 April 2017.
7. Khouri, R.G., The Antiquities of the Jordan Rift Valley, Al Kutba, Amman,
Jordan, pp. 114–118, 1988.
8. Wellhausen, J., Die Composition des Hexateuchs und der Historischen Bücher
des Alten Testaments, 3rd edn, Georg Reimer, Berlin, Germany, p. 13, 1899.
9. La Trobe, J. A., Scripture Illustrations: Being a series of engravings on steel
and wood, illustrative of the geography and topography of the Bible, L. and
G. Seeley, London, UK, p. 11, 1838.
10. MacDonald, B., East of the Jordan: Territories and sites of the Hebrew
Scriptures, ASOR books vol. 6, Matthews, V. (Ed.), The American Schools
of Oriental Research, Boston, MA, p. 59, 2000.
11. Dvorjetski, E., Leisure, Pleasure and Healing: Spa culture and medicine in
ancient eastern Mediterranean, Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands, p. 170, 2007.
12. Howard, D.M., Sodom and Gomorrah revisited, J. Evangelical Theological
Society 27( 4):385–400, 1984.
Figure 6. The five locations of
ancient ruins at the south-east
end of the Dead Sea are identified
as the cities of the plain by
Austin and Wood. North of the
Dead Sea, opposite Jericho,
is el-;ammam, identified as
Sodom by Collins and Byers,
to be discussed in part 2. (A.