SPACEWATCH, SPACEGUARD and the BIBLE Part 3
The Sodom and Gomorrah Connection

Anonymous

"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)



HEADLINES

Sodom and Gomorrah and their destruction by "fire and brimstone", long criticized as myth by skeptics and atheists, look close to being confirmed.

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 2018)

•    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 discovered.

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.



EXCAVATION PROJECT

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 of Jordan.

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)


COMPARISONS

Civilization in the region now known as the Middle Ghor started before 4000 BCE and consisted of agricultural communities with mud-brick buildings.

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 prosperous:

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.


LOCATION

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)


CRITICISM

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 Iron Age.

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".


MISTAKEN IDEAS

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:

Albright (1926) 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 Sodom.
http:expeditiondeadseaplain.org/?page_id=27Dead SeaPlain.htm

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 effect.

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 submerged.

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 Alps. 

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 the ungodly".

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.


CONCLUSION

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.


REFERENCES:

Bentor, Y.K. 1989 Geological events in the bible, Terra Nova 1: 326-338

Berkowitz, A.E. November 23, 2018
https://www.breakingisraelnews.com/117449/scientists-confirm-sodom-gomorrah/

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
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7813133/biblical-cities-sodom-gomorrah-destroyed-asteroid-explosion/

Collins, S. A Response to Bryant G. Wood's Critique of Collins' Northern Sodom Theory, Biblical Research Bulletin, 2007,  Volume VII, Number 7

Farquhar, P.
https://www.businessinsider.com.au/evidence-suggests-enormous-blast-of-heat-wiped-out-sodom-and-gomorrah-2018-11

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
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/31/kofels_asteroid/

Hignett, K.
Biblical City Of Sodom Was Blasted To Smithereens By A Massive Asteroid Explosion, Newsweek 11/22/18
https://www.newsweek.com/biblical-city-sodom-was-blasted-smithereens-massive-asteroid-explosion-1227339

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
https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Köfels_impact_event

Seidel, J. Asteroid Bennu is a threat to life on Earth…
https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/special-features/in-depth/asteroid -bennu-is-one-of-many-potential-threats-to-life-on-earth-now-nasa-has-a-plan-to-destroy-it/

Spaceguard Centre
https://spaceguardcentre.com/an-exploding-meteor-may-have-wiped-out-ancient-dead-sea-communities/

Silvia, P.J. and co-authors, November 2018
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329755765_The_37kaBP_Middle_Ghor_Event_Catastrophic_Termination_of_a_Bronze_Age_Civilization

Warren, S.  'Temps as hot as the Surface of the Sun':
http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2018/november/did-scientists-find-evidence-of-the-destruction-of-biblical-sodom-exploding-meteor-may-be-to-blame

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
https://tallelhammam.com/discoveries
https//mysteriousuniverse.org/2018/11/Sodom-and-gomorrah-may-have-been-destroyed-by-a-meteor/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/sodom-and-gomorrah-destroyed-by-a-comet-say-astronomers-1275763


"Anonymous" relies on scientific discoveries and inductive reasoning to prove the Bible on these websites:

http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/

http://ed5015.tripod.com/