SPACEWATCH, SPACEGUARD and the BIBLE Part 3
The Sodom and Gomorrah Connection
"Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur 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 what grew on the ground." (Genesis 19:24-25)
(Investigator Magazine 185, 2019, March)
Sodom and Gomorrah and their destruction by "fire and brimstone", long
criticized as myth by skeptics and atheists, look close to being
Attention-grabbing headlines in 2018 included:
Biblical City Of Sodom Was Blasted To Smithereens By A Massive Asteroid
Explosion (K. Hignett, Newsweek 11/22/18)
• An exploding meteor may have wiped
out ancient Dead Sea Communities (The Spaceguard Centre, 22 November
• Biblical cities were destroyed by
mid-air asteroid explosion 500 times bigger than Hiroshima 3,700 years
ago, archaeologists claim (J. Brophy, The Sun 23 November, 2018)
• Evidence suggests enormous blast of heat wiped out Sodom and Gomorrah (P. Farquhar, Business Insider)
Part I of "Spacewatch, Spaceguard and the Bible" in Investigator #171:
a. Introduced various official Spacewatch and Spaceguard programs;
b. Pointed out that 1700 "potentially hazardous Near Earth Objects" were known by 2016;
c. Described the worldwide reaction
if an unstoppable, large asteroid on a collision course with Earth is
Part 2 (Investigator #176) examined biblical passages that apparently
predict the "the end of the world" by an impact from Space.
Now in Part 3 we investigate the historicity of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The New Testament says
their destruction foreshadowed what will happen wordwide, but this
prediction is undermined by critics claiming that the cities and their
destruction are myth. If all the critics are wrong, however, then the
prediction is backed up not only by modern discoveries about asteroids
but also by the historicity of the cities, and therefore deserves
everyone's full attention and appropriate action.
The Tall El-Hammam Excavation Project at the northern tip of the Dead Sea has proceeded for thirteen seasons.
It is the joint project of the archaeology departments of two American
universities and the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom
A Conference Paper titled "The 3.7kaBP Middle Ghor Event: Catastrophic
Termination of a Bronze Age Civilization" presented the
Project's preliminary findings and says:
This paper overviews
the multiple lines of evidence that collectively suggest a
Tunguska-like, cosmic airburst event that obliterated
civilization—including the Middle Bronze Age (MBA) city-state
anchored by Tall el-Hammam—in the Middle Ghor (the 25 km diameter
circular plain immediately north of the Dead Sea) ca. 1700 BCE [which]
devastated approximately 500km2 immediately north of the
Dead Sea, not only wiping out 100% of the MBA cities and towns, but
also stripping agricultural soils from once-fertile fields and covering
the eastern Middle Ghor with a super-heated brine of Dead Sea anhydride
salts pushed over the landscape by the Event's frontal shockwaves.
(Phillip J. Silvia and co-authors, November 2018)
Civilization in the region now known as the Middle Ghor started before
4000 BCE and consisted of agricultural communities with mud-brick
If the Bronze Age town of Tall el-Hammam is the Sodom of the Bible as
its archaeologists suggest, then the region around it was unusually
Lot looked about him,
and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well-watered everywhere like
the garden of the LORD … before the LORD had destroyed Sodom and
Gomorrah. (Genesis 13:10)
The prosperity lasted about 2500 years followed by sudden destruction, dated by carbon-dating to around 1700 BCE.
The fiery explosion in the sky was almost as hot as the surface of the
Sun, and blasted a circle of devastation 25 km across, flattened the
mud-brick walls of over 100 small settlements leaving only stone
foundations, melted the surface of pottery turning it to glass,
stripped away the once fertile soil, instantly killed an estimated
50,000 people, sent a tsunami of super-heated Dead Sea brine over the
region, and ended civilization in the area for over 600 years.
Communities to the west in what later became known as Judah and Israel apparently continued without interruption.
The Middle Ghor explosion is estimated at 10 megatons. This makes it
500 times bigger than the atomic bomb blasts that destroyed Hiroshima
and Nagasaki in 1945, and 20 times bigger than the airburst above
Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 which damaged 6000 buildings in six cities
and injured 1500 people.
The Middle Ghor explosion was, however, smaller than the explosion over
the Tunguska River region of Siberia in 1908 when a 50-100 meter
asteroid disintegrated in the sky with a 15-megaton blast that
devastated 2000 square kilometres and pushed over 80 million trees.
Convention has long situated Sodom and Gomorrah east or south of the
Dead Sea. The Tall El-Hammam Excavation Project in contrast situates
the cities north of the Dead Sea.
Bible dictionaries and atlases have generally been non-specific on
their location and often added question marks when showing them on
maps. Cases in point are Atlas of the Bible Lands (1984) and Bible Atlas (2008).
The Bible locates Sodom and Gomorrah on a large plain and says that
everything on the Plain would be "consumed" — safety lay beyond the
Plain in the hills. (Genesis 13:10; 19:17) After the destruction:
Abraham … looked down
toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the Plain and saw
the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace. (19:27-28)
Sodom's and Gomorrah's unknown location and the seeming absurdity of
fire and rocks falling from the sky are why skeptics and critics long
regarded the Bible's report as myth.
Today's worldwide consciousness of asteroids started only recently, in
1980, with the discovery that a 10-km-wide asteroid impacted and caused
mega-tsunamis, set sky and continents on fire, and wiped out the
dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Occasional reports of stones falling
from the sky in the 19th century were considered nonsense by scientists.
Walter Rast (1930- ) was an archaeologist, a university professor of Theology, and author of Tradition, History and the Old Testament (1972) and Through The Ages In Palestinian Archaeology (1992). Collins (2007) presents Rast's view as follows:
Rast did not believe in
the historicity of Abraham and Lot, nor in the literal story of the
divine destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah... Rast believed that the
biblical story of Sodom was an etiological legend that the Israelites
likely picked up from local Canaanite lore, later spliced into the
patriarchal narratives of Genesis by a Judahite priest during the late
Australian atheist Brian de Kretser, writing on "The Bible A Fairy Storybook", claimed:
But historians and
scientific research show that it's nothing but myths, fairy tales and
outright lies written by ignorant men… The Sodom and Gomorrah
myth recycled from the Epic of Gilgamesh… (Investigator #123)
Google's search results for Sodom and Gomorrah bring up many pages where the cities and their destruction are called "myth".
The evidence for Tall El-Hammam and Middle Ghor looks convincing,
stronger than other interpretations that also seemed convincing to some
people but were wrong.
Bab edh-Dhra on the east side of the Dead Sea has often been suggested as the site of Sodom, and Numeira 16km south as Gomorrah:
conjectured that Bab edh-Dhra' was a ceremonial site for these cities
and that the ruins of the cities were probably located under the
shallow waters of the southern basin of the Dead Sea. Lapp (1968a)
interpreted Bab edh-Dhra' as a cultic burial ground for the cities. The
discovery of four other sites with Early Bronze cultural materials
during a survey of the southern Ghor region in 1973 led Rast and Schaub
(1974) to suggest a possible linkage to the biblical cities. Van Hattem
(1981) carried this suggestion further by identifying Bab edh-Dhra' as
Archaeologist P.W. Lapp (1930-1970) excavated at Bab
edh-Dhra in 1965-1967 and estimated that the cemetery there had the
remains of 500,000 people. However, Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira cannot be
Sodom and Gomorrah because both were abandoned centuries before Abraham
and Lot lived!
The traditional view of Sodom and Gomorrah situated south of the Dead
Sea was defended in 2007 by biblical archaeologist Bryant G. Wood.
Steven Collins (2007), Director of the Tall El-Hammam Excavation
Project, responded advocating the northern location.
In 1989 Y.K. Bentor argued an earthquake destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah
but he could not explain the fire from heaven, therefore suggested it
was a flood which the Bible writer changed to fire for greater dramatic
Others noted the presence of "bitumen pits" (Genesis 14:10) and
suggested destruction of the cities by the explosion of underground
petroleum or gases. Another group believed an earthquake and/or
landslide slid the cities into the Dead Sea and left their remains
A scientifically argued explanation is by Gilat and Vol (2015). Their Abstract says in part:
It is thought that not
only Sodom and Gomorrah, but also other historical conflagrations
devastating cities immediately after earthquake may have been caused by
natural ignition of earthquake-expelled combustible gases. In case of
very large volume of expelled gases the fire will appear high above the
ground, on the uplifted by its intrusion contact-zone with the
atmospheric oxygen; the fire will go down when the gas-stream lessens.
In 2008 two British aerospace engineers, Alan Bond and Mark Hempsell
suggested in a self-published book that an asteroid destroyed Sodom and
Gomorrah in 3123 BCE besides causing a giant landslide in the Austrian
The Australian reported in
2008: "Mark Hempsell, one of the researchers … said the size and route
of the asteroid meant it was likely to have crashed into the Austrian
Alps at Kofels [where] there is evidence of an ancient landslide 5km
wide and 500m thick."
Of course 3123 BCE is way off the usual biblical calculations for Sodom
and Gomorrah of about 1900 BCE. Furthermore, RationalWiki points out
that the Köfels landslide in the Austrian Alps was not caused by
an asteroid, and did not occur in 3123 BCE but over 4500 years earlier:
"The Köfels site has been dated with radiocarbon dating of wood
buried by the landslide to about 9800±100 BP (Before Present)..."
The date of 1700 BCE by the Tall El-Hammam archaeologists differs too
from biblical chronology. But here the difference is only 200 years —
therefore perhaps reconcilable.
II PETER 2 & 3
As a Bible-investigating young person in 1970 I noted in II Peter 3 the
description of the end of the world by fire which is preceded by a
"loud noise". The previous chapter (II Peter 2) says Sodom and Gomorrah
were "turned to ashes" and calls this "an example of what is coming to
I concluded that the Bible's description agrees with what the impacts of asteroids or comets would do. I argued this in Investigator Magazine in the article "Earth And Sky On Fire At Christ's Return — How?" (#43, July 1995)
Then again in #62; #64; #81; #132; #159; and #176:
Sodom and Gomorrah,
according to the Bible, were destroyed by "brimstone and fire … out of
heaven" and turned "to ashes". (Genesis 19:24-28; 2 Peter 2:6) Since
"heaven" usually means the sky we can speculate that a small asteroid
exploded above the cities. (#62)
The Sodom and Gomorrah account associates brimstone
with fire and says it came from "heaven" i.e. the sky. (Genesis
19) It's also something that is "scattered" (Job 18:15) and
"rains" down and is associated with a "scorching wind". (Psalm 11:6;
Ezekiel 38:22) These clues fit the description of an asteroid breaking
up in the sky. (#64)
More troubling is the Bible teaching that "fire and
brimstone" (burning stone) from the sky destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah
and likewise human rebellion against God will culminate in the entire
world—earth and sky—on fire. (2 Peter 3) Many scientists now state this
is inevitable by impact of asteroids as occurred on Jupiter in
1994—only they don't know when. (#81)
The "fire and burning stone" that destroyed Sodom and
Gomorrah can be explained as a small comet (similar to Tunguska, 1908).
The New Testament says this was an "example of what is coming" upon the
whole world. (2 Peter 2:6; 3:10-12) By about 1990 some astronomers even
declared it inevitable. (#132)
The Apostle Peter compares the destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-28) by "fire and brimstone" falling from the
sky, to a worldwide fire that starts with a "loud noise". (II Peter
2:6; 3:10-13) These verses suggest the impact of a big asteroid, at
Christ's return, throwing up molten debris that burns everything. (#159)
What is brimstone? Scholars disagree. Young's Analytical Concordance says bitumen and pitch. Unger's Bible Dictionary says the gum of a tree and "It was thence transferred to all flammable substances, especially sulphur." The New Bible Dictionary (1982) says: "a yellow crystalline solid … in regions of volcanic activity…"
Genesis associates brimstone with fire and says brimstone came from
“heaven” i.e. the sky. Brimstone is something that is "scattered" (Job
18:15) and “rains” down with a “scorching wind”. (Psalm 11:6; Ezekiel
38:22) These clues fit the description of an asteroid breaking up in
the atmosphere like the one in 1908. (#176)
Modern governments now consider the asteroid threat seriously and spend
vast sums on Spaceguard and Spacewatch projects. Just recently one
source reported "Asteroid Bennu is a threat to life on Earth" and
another suggested that a large crater discovered under Greenland's
ice-cap represents an asteroid impact that produced a "mini ice age"
13,000 years ago.
In recent centuries the arrival of modern science has allowed hundreds of biblical claims to be scientifically confirmed.
Even Sodom and Gomorrah and the fire from "heaven", which skeptics called myths, now look like scientific facts.
For 2000 years the Bible has called attention to the threat of global
destruction from the sky, but people everywhere didn't believe,
remained deluded, and failed to respond appropriately.
Bentor, Y.K. 1989 Geological events in the bible, Terra Nova 1: 326-338
Berkowitz, A.E. November 23, 2018
Bond, A. & Hempsell, M. 2008 A Sumerian Observation of the Köfels' Impact Event, Writers printshop
Brophy, J. Biblical cities were destroyed by mid-air asteroid explosion
500 times bigger than Hiroshima 3,700 years ago, archaeologists claim, The Sun 23 November, 2018
Collins, S. A Response to Bryant G. Wood's Critique of Collins' Northern Sodom Theory, Biblical Research Bulletin, 2007, Volume VII, Number 7
Frank, H.T. (Editor) 1984 Atlas of the Bible Lands, page B8, Hammond Incorporated
Gilat, A. & Vol, A. Sodom and Gomorrah: Fires Created by Ignition
of Combustible Gases by Earthquake-Impelled Thermobaric-Hydrothermal
Explosions, Journal of Geology & Geophysics, April 28, 2015
Haines, L. Assyrian clay tablet points to 'Sodom and Gomorrah' asteroid,
The Register, 31 Mar 2008
Biblical City Of Sodom Was Blasted To Smithereens By A Massive Asteroid Explosion, Newsweek 11/22/18
Hudson, C.D. (General Editor) 2008 Bible Atlas, Barbour
New Scientist, Ice grave of huge meteorite discovered, 24 November, 2018, p. 19
Rational Wiki: Köfels impact event
Seidel, J. Asteroid Bennu is a threat to life on Earth…
Silvia, P.J. and co-authors, November 2018
Warren, S. 'Temps as hot as the Surface of the Sun':
Wood, B.G. Locating Sodom: A Critique of the Northern Proposal, Bible and Spade 23.3, 2007, 78-84
Bab edh-Dhra' excavations and discoveries
http://expeditiondeadseaplain.org/?page_id=27Dead Sea Plain.htm
Tall El-Hammam Excavation Project
"Anonymous" relies on scientific discoveries and inductive reasoning to prove the Bible on these websites: