[b-hebrew] Sodom's Historical Sin: Etymology and Geography
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Sat Jan 30 15:19:24 EST 2010
The Historical Sin of Sodom: Etymology and Geography
Scholars have failed to connect the historical sin of Sodom to the Hittites
primarily because of a total misunderstanding as to geography.
Interestingly enough, that geographical misunderstanding may in large part be able to
be cleared up by an analysis that deals with one of the long suits of the
b-hebrew list: etymology.
The names of the five cities, including Sodom and Gomorrah, of the 5
rebellious princelings listed at Genesis 14: 2 are brilliantly designed to operate
on three different levels. This post will focus on the first two levels,
based on etymology. I realize that if one looks at any of the following 7
etymologies out of context, one can easily suggest an alternative etymology.
In fact, few of my proposed etymologies are the majority view. Yet if one
looks at all 7 of my proposed etymologies as a package, one may begin to
glimpse that Sodom was located up north, in the eye of the Hittite storm, being
located nowhere in the general vicinity of the Dead Sea, the Negev, or the
So consider the following 7 proposed etymologies for the cities of the 5
rebellious princelings at Genesis 14: 2: Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and
1. Level #1: “Small Agricultural City”
All five city names are nicknames, which on one level have the generic
meaning of “small agricultural city”. That is one key clue as to where in
greater Canaan these 5 cities were located.
(i) Sodom/SDM is in part a play on siddim/%DYM, meaning “fields”. (Most
scholars see %DYM as an archaic plural of %DH/field. The only Biblical uses
of %DYM are the three references in chapter 14 of Genesis at Genesis 14: 3,
8, 10 to the “Valley of Fields”.) A name that is a play on “fields”
indicates that Sodom is a small agricultural city. Moreover, Sodom and the
other 4 cities of the 5 rebellious princelings must have been located in, or
close to, one of the two super-famous Valleys of Fields in greater Canaan: the
Beqa Valley and the Jezreel Valley. By sharp contrast, there is no Valley
of Fields at, in, or near the Dead Sea, the Negev, or the Sinai Peninsula.
Yes, I know that different letters are used for the S-type sound in SDM vs.
%DYM. That is part and parcel of clever Hebrew wordplay. Samekh/S and
sin/% likely had similar, though not identical, sounds in old Biblical Hebrew,
and so they make a natural pun.
(ii) Gomorrah/(MRH means either “to bind sheaves” or “to heap up”: (MR.
Note that a final he/H is the most common suffix for a city name in Hebrew.
On one level, (MR-H means “city of binding sheaves”, that is, a small
Note also that the root of Gomorrah -- (MR -- constitutes the last 3
letters of the name Chedorlaomer, which are (MR. We also know from the Septuagint
that in both cases, that ayin is in fact an archaic ghayin, sounding almost
like a G.
(iii) Zeboiim/CB)YM means “glorious, beautiful land”. This is a plural
form of CBY, which means “splendor, glorious, beautiful”. (For example, at
Isaiah 28: 4 CBY is a reference to splendid, glorious beautiful land.) [In
context, this is not a play on the word for “gazelles”, as often thought,
even though linguistically gazelles would fit perfectly.] A name referring
to glorious, beautiful, splendid land is a perfect name for a small
agricultural city. The Valley of Fields, referenced at Genesis 14: 3, 8, 10, was
world famous for its glorious, beautiful, splendid land. There was nothing
like that at, in, or near the Dead Sea, the Negev, or the Sinai Peninsula. The
geographical clues are actually pretty obvious here, if we will only heed
(iv) Admah/)DMH means “land”/)DMH. (For example, Genesis 28: 15.) The
normal implication of this word is “good land”. That’s an ideal name for a
small agricultural city that is near good agricultural land in a fertile,
well-tended Valley of Fields.
(v) Zoar/C(R means “small”. We know that the implication here is “small
city”, because Genesis 19: 20 explicitly makes that pun, comparing the city
name Zoar/C(R to “a little one”/MC(R, which is M prefix + C(R = “a little
We see that on Level #1, all 5 names of the cities of the 5 rebellious
princelings are apt Patriarchal nicknames for 5 small agricultural cities, that
were next to good agricultural land in the well-tended fields of a fertile
Valley of Fields. If we pay attention to the etymological utter brilliance
of this clever Hebrew wordplay, we will soon catch on to the geographical
locales that are implied for these 5 cities.
2. Level #2: Cities that Will Be Destroyed
Sodom and Gomorrah are famously destroyed by YHWH’s wrath. Interestingly,
the Hebrew text seems ambiguous as to whether or not Zeboiim and Admah were
likewise destroyed. Genesis 19: 21 explicitly states that YHWH agreed to
spare the 5th city, Zoar, from destruction.
As to the two cities that are clearly and explicitly stated in the text to
have been righteously destroyed by YHWH’s divine wrath, a second level of
the meanings of the nicknames of those 2 cities refers to their awful fate.
(i) Sodom/SDM is in part a play on $DP, meaning “scorched” or “blasted”.
All three Biblical uses of $DP are, like all three Biblical uses of %DYM,
found exclusively in the Patriarchal narratives. See Genesis 41: 6, 23, 27.
(ii) Although the root of (MRH/Gomorrah, which is (MR, normally has the
positive meaning of “a heap of grain”, it can also have the negative meaning
of “a wasted heap of grain”. Indeed, the nickname Chedorlaomer, ending in
(MR, plays off of that negative meaning, indicating that Chedorlaomer’s
shocking gambit of calling the dreaded Hittites into central Syria might cause
not only Syria, but also possibly the cities of Lebanon and Canaan south of
Lebanon as well, to become (MR -- “a wasted heap of grain”. A prime example
of that is, of course, Gomorrah, whose name means, on Level #2: “the
wasted heap”/(MR “city”/-H.
* * *
How can people on the b-hebrew list miss the brilliant Hebrew wordplay
here? These 5 city names are nicknames, not formal, historical names. These
nicknames indicate that all 5 cities were located in or near one of the two
world-famous Valleys of Fields in greater Canaan -- the Beqa Valley in eastern
Lebanon, or the Jezreel Valley in north-central Canaan.
In a later post, we can determine the three groups of 5 city-states to
which these 5 nicknames are simultaneously referring. We can also figure out
why the Hebrew author of Genesis 14: 1-11 is using nicknames to refer,
simultaneously, to three different groups of 5 city-states, the first two of which
groups were attacked by the Hittites in Year 14, and the third group of
which seemed vulnerable to a possible Hittite attack in Year 16, which was the
Hebrew author’s greatest fear. (That’s why the Hebrew author composed the
Patriarchal narratives in the first place.)
We can figure out all sorts of things like this, if we recognize that the
names and titles of the 4 attacking rulers at Genesis 14: 1 are apt
Patriarchal nicknames of 4 historical attacking rulers, and the names of the cities
of the 5 rebellious princelings at Genesis 14: 2 are apt Patriarchal
nicknames for three different sets of 5 cities that were threatened, and in 2 of the
3 cases actually attacked, by the mighty, expansionist-minded Hittites in
Year 14. (Genesis 14: 5 outright refers to “Year 14”, so that is a huge
clue as to precisely what particular year in secular history is being
referenced in Genesis 14: 1-11.)
Please consider as a package the 7 foregoing proposed etymologies of the
names of the cities of the 5 rebellious princelings at Genesis 14: 2. Notice
that none of those cities could be located at, in, or near the Dead Sea, the
Negev, or the Sinai Peninsula, as scholars have erroneously thought.
How can scholars possibly tell us whether chapter 19 of Genesis is
historical, if they don’t even know where Sodom is portrayed in the text as being
located? If we can get the geography right, the pinpoint historical accuracy
of the Patriarchal narratives will come shining through, based on the
well-documented secular history of the Bronze Age. Don’t let scholars tell you
that the text portrays “all the people from every quarter” in Sodom as having
become raving homosexual male gang rapists. If we can help scholars figure
out where Sodom is portrayed as being located, geographically, then
scholars will soon realize that the historical sin of Sodom was iniquitously
selling out to the dreaded Hittites, being essentially the identical sin as the
historical “iniquity of the Amorites” referenced at Genesis 15: 13, which
happened during the same historical time period.
The Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives keeps going over and over
and over and over the same themes, over and over and over again. The fear
that Canaan would sell out to the Hittites in, or shortly after, Year 14 was
his #1 fear in life. He lets us know that over and over and over again. That
’s the historical sin of Sodom.
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