MYTH GOD DESTROYED SODOM AND GOMORRAH The Myth: And the lord said, because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me ; and if not, I will know…Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. (Gen 18:20-21, 19:24-25). The Reality: Sodom and Gomorrah were mythical cities that never existed. When Abraham and Lot left Egypt, the Bible says they went up to Beth-el, which is located in the middle of the hill country of central Canaan, north of Jerusalem and northwest of the Dead Sea. He and Lot were so rich in cattle that the land could not support both of them and the native population. Being a generous man, Abraham gave Lot first choice of a territory and offered to move somewhere else if need be. Lot looked east towards Jordan and from the middle of this hilly territory somehow managed to see the fertile plain on the other side of the Jordan river. The topography of that territory, however, appeared to be somewhat different than indicated by the geological record for that time. And lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. (Gen 13:10-12) The picture presented here is of a lush fertile plain extending from the Jordan Valley to the area where Sodom and Gomorrah were located, a well-watered region that Genesis compares to the Garden of Eden. Nobody knows where Sodom and Gomorrah actually were located, but the Bible locates them somewhere near the southern part of the Dead sea, in a region known as the Vale of Siddim, which, according to Genesis 14:3, “is the salt sea” ) which is the saltwater Dead sea. This indicates that at some point in time the salt sea covered over the Vale of Siddim. In other words, Sodom and Gomorrah were located in a well watered fertile plain that existed in the location now covered by the southern tip of the dead sea. However, Genesis also says that Lot drove his herd from that part of the plain closet to Beth-el, north of the Dead Sea, to the southern tip of the Jordan Valley at the south end of the Dead Sea. Implicit in this claim is that the entire area where the Dead Sea exists was all arable farmland and well-watered pastures, a fact completely at odds with the geological record, which indicates that the Dead Sea is, in fact, millions of years old. After settling at Sodom, the Bible tells us that four powerful Mesopotamian kings united together for an invasion of Sodom and Gomorrah and some local allies. The Mesopotamian coalition ruled the cities for fourteen years, using them as a base for further conquests. In the fourteenth year, the cities revolted, but the Mesopotamians sacked the rebellious communities and took lot prisoner, presumably because he was an important figure in the region. The biblical authors, apparently forgetting how lovely the region was supposed to be before Sodom’s destruction, describe the territory around Sodom as “full of slime pits” (Gen 14:10), an editorial lapse describing the actual geological condition of the region. When Abraham learned of Lots capture, he raised an army of 318 soldiers from among his many servants and chased the Mesopotamian army “unto Dan” (Gen 14:14). The expression “unto Dan” would be an idiomatic way of saying “to the northern part of Israel”, which is where Dan was located. But Dan wasn’t located there in the time of Abraham. That region didn’t become Dan, according to the bible, until after the Exodus when the tribe of Dan moved into that territory. After Abraham rescued his nephew, Lot returned to Sodom. At this time, Abraham had no sons to whom he could pass on his covenant with God, the promise that Canaan would Belong to Abraham and his heirs. As Abraham’s nephew, lot was obviously a close relative who traveled with him over long distances from Mesopotamia to Egypt and back to Canaan; Lot looked like the heir apparent. Twenty five years later, God told Abraham that he would have a son named Isaac (Abraham was 100 years old when he got the news) and his son would be the heir to the covenant. Coincidentally, following this announcement, God determined that the wickedness of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah required that he destroy the two cities. When Abraham learned of God’s plan, which would exterminate even the good and pious lot, he negotiated: “And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked” (Gen. 18:23). Eventually, they made a deal. If God found ten righteous men in Sodom he would not destroy the city. Two angels were thus sent on a scouting mission. At Sodom they met Lot, apparently, an important town official who sat in judgment by the city gate, and he offered them the hospitality of his home. While Lot shared his meal with the angels, several Sodomites came to Lot’s door and demanded that he turn his guests over to them “That we may know them”, a euphemism for carnal knowledge (Gen 19:5). Lot begged them to withdraw and offered the crowd his two virgin daughters as a substitute. This offer did not satisfy the Sodomites and they threatened harm against both the guests and Lot. Lest we think this story involves some claim that Homosexuality was a sinful act even greater than rape, we should understand that the crime of the Sodomites was not homosexuality or rape but lack of hospitality. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing, for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. (Gen 19:8). In much of that region in ancient times, hospitality towards travelers and guests played an important role bordering on obligation. The biblical narratives portray many such accounts, as do myths from other cultures in the Mediterranean and near Eastern cultures. In one story, for example, Abraham: Lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, my LORD, if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. (Gen 18:2-5). And in another instance, when Abraham sends a servant to fetch a wife for Isaac, the servant remarks: Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast showed kindness unto my master. (Gen 24:13-14). The two angels in lot’s house pulled their host inside and struck the intruders blind. They then warned Lot that God planned to destroy the town and that he and his family should flee. When Lot informed his relatives, they thought he was joking and ignored him. Only his wife and two daughters joined him in attempting to escape the city unharmed. The story continues once Lot and his family leave town: Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of Heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. (Gen 19:24-25). Subsequently, Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt and died when she looked back at the destruction and lot fathered upon his daughters two nations, Ammon and Moab. At the final moments in Sodom’s destruction, Abraham witnesses the fate of the two cities: “And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (Gen 19:28). The story of Lot contains several anachronisms. For example: 1. Several members of Abraham’s family have names associated with territories that didn’t come into existence until hundreds of years after the time of Abraham. 2. Abraham and Lot moved to Beth-el which, according to the bible, didn’t have that name until the time of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson; and 3. Abraham rescued Lot from the territory of Dan, which didn’t have that name until long after the Exodus from Egypt. 4. Other anachronisms which profiles Lot’s two sons, who are identified as the founders of the nations of Moab and Ammon. No historical records provide evidence for the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah. The name “Sodom” comes from a root word meaning “scorched”, a name that would have arisen only after its alleged destruction, not before. That fact, together with the many anachronisms associated with events in Lot’s life, shows that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah achieved its present written form late in the first millennium BC., based on legends about earlier times. In addition, the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah bears a suspicious parallel to another legendary story in the book of Judges, concerning the destruction of the tribe of Benjamin (see Judg. 19-21). That story concerns a Levite priest traveling with his concubine who passed through Gibeah, where an elderly Ephraim came out of the fields and saw him. The Ephraim offered the priest the hospipitality of his home. While entertaining his guests and offering them some bread and wine, some citizens of the town approached the Permits house demanded that the guest come out so that the men “may know him”. The host pointed out that the man was his guest and offered up his own daughter and the priest’s concubine as an alternative. The townsfolk took the concubine and abused her to death. The priest took her body, cut it into 12 pieces and sent one part to each of the Israelite tribes, demanding revenge on the city. With god’s help, the city, belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, was destroyed and , “with the flame began to arise up out of the city with a pillar of smoke, the Bengalines looked behind them, and, behold, the flame of the city ascended up to heaven” (Judg. 20:40). This is the same scene witnessed by Abraham after the destruction of Sodom. Subsequently, the Israelites wiped out almost the entire tribe of Benjamin, with but a handful of men escaping. Later, the Israelites agreed to allow the remaining Benjamites to take wives among some non-Hebrew women so that they might preserve their line. Substituting the priest, a religious figure, for the angels, we find the two stories offer almost identical plot lines and on some occasions share almost identical phrases and ideas. In both stories, for instance, the men of the town want to “know” the male religious figure. And in offering up the two women inside the house as substitutes, the two stories use similar phrases. In the story of Lot, the host says, “do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these me do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof” (Gen 19:8). And in this later story the host says, “do with them what seemed good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing” (Judg. 19:24). Both stories feature a phrase telling the sinful men to do what is “good” with the woman. This phrase is also linked to a request that the men not violate the principle of Hospitality. Consider how many touch points the two stories have: 1. A religious figure (angel/priest) approaches an evil city; 2. A townsman offers the guest his hospitality and gives him a meal of bread; 3. While in the host’s residence, men of the town demand that the religious figure come out so that they can “know him” that is sexually force themselves upon him; 4. The host pleads that the townspeople should respect the right of hospitality and offers up two women as an alternative, telling the intruders to do what seems “good” with them; 5. A female companion dies; 6. A city is destroyed, with smoke rising high into the sky; 7. The act of destruction nearly wipes out the entire population of the city, with only a handful of inhabitants escaping; and 8. At the conclusion of the stories, a special sexual arrangement with women other than wives enables the escapees to preserve their line. Such a close parallel between the two stories, including the occasional use of almost identical phrases or story elements, indicates that both follow from a single legendary tale about the destruction of an evil city that abused the right of hospitality. We can conclude that Sodom and Gomorrah were mythological cities that existed only as regional folktales based on the following: the lack of archaeological evidence for the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah, the alleged location of those cities under a salt sea that had existed there for millions of years, the many anachronistic elements in the story, the name Sodom meaning “scorched” not ****** and the later duplication of the story elements and phrases from an earlier story with a different locale. .