of people for labour was important in these early city states.
In this the king of Sodom was consistent, because he wanted
his people back, and never mind the loot.
There are indicators that the cities of the plain must
have existed for an unknown period of time before
their destruction. For one thing, there is the developed
cohesive governing unit of the land of Sodom. Also the
wickedness of the cities had clearly gone on for some time
to have developed to a point that they were singled out for
destruction by the Lord. The country of Sodom may well
have existed even earlier than the Early Bronze Age, in
what is called the Chalcolithic era. 10
Historical level of the Dead Sea
If we put the time of the cities’ destruction at around
3000 BC (secular) or earlier, the elevation of the Dead Sea was
about 370 m below sea level, 55 m higher than it is today
(see figure 1 for historical variations in the level of the Dead
Sea on the secular timeline). The Dead Sea stayed high for
over a thousand years on this timeline. After its level fell
around 2000 BC (secular), it did not rise that high again. For
those who apply the biblical timeline date of 1900 BC for the
destruction of Sodom, the graph in figure 1 shows that the
Dead Sea level was still as high as at any later time.
This high level of the Dead Sea at the time of the cities’
Sodom and the Vale of Siddim
destruction has obvious implications for claims by some
that the remains of the cities were under the southern end
of the Dead Sea (as discussed in part 1). The cities cannot
have ever been under water because at the time of the
cities’ destruction, the Dead Sea was at its highest level in
historical times. This high level is also implicated in the
next section on the Vale of Siddim.
In an earlier incident, before the destruction of the cities,
the united kings of northern Mesopotamia12 defeated the
Amorites13 in the hills of En Gedi, and then appeared to be
headed for Sodom next (Genesis 14: 5–8). Certainly the five
kings of the country of Sodom thought so, because they
went out to meet their enemy, and joined battle in the Vale of
Siddim, the same place where they had made an agreement
14 years earlier (Genesis 14: 3–8). This means that Sodom
was not located in this Vale of Siddim, as some sources state;
for example, Easton14 incorrectly defines Sodom as “a city
in the Vale of Siddim” in his well-known dictionary. The
progression of the Mesopotamian army campaign would
seem to indicate that this valley was located somewhere
between the En Gedi hills area on the west of the Dead Sea
and Sodom at the north end of the Dead Sea.
The Vale (or Valley) of Siddim is called the Salt Sea in
the KJV and NIV (Genesis 14: 3). This has rather confused
the issue, because the Dead Sea is also called the Salt Sea
(for example, later on in Joshua 15: 5). However Genesis
14: 8 says that this battle was fought in this Vale of Siddim,
and obviously nobody is claiming that the armies fought
under water. An explanation often offered is that this
valley was later filled in by the Dead Sea, which rose over
time. 15, 16 The problem with this explanation is that the Dead
Sea was quite a bit higher back then (on either timeline),
as we have shown above. We note that in addition to its
usual meaning as a body of water, the
Hebrew word ‘sea’ can have varied
meanings, including ‘basin’, according
to Strong. 17 Therefore it is possible
that the meaning of ‘basin of salt’ is
intended for the Valley of Siddim.
Some would look for tar to locate
this Vale of Siddim, because the kings
of Sodom and Gomorrah fell into slime
pits there (Genesis 14: 10). However,
there is oil shale throughout Israel,
as shown in a US Geological Survey
Scientific Investigations Report. 18 Four
thousand years ago there could have
been oil seeps in many places.
What about Jericho?
A tale of power politics
As we have seen, Jericho would
have been only a couple of miles from
Figure 1. Graph of historical levels of the Dead Sea. In 3000 ;; (secular timeline), at the time of the
destruction of the land of Sodom, the level of the Dead Sea was about 55 m higher than it is today.
(After Enzel et al. 11).
-3000 -2000 -1000
Dead Sea Levels
0 1000 2000