[b-hebrew] Sodom's Historical Sin: Etymology and Geography
leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sat Jan 30 17:56:49 EST 2010
I must admit that I actually like your "first level" of etymologies for the
five cities. Connecting all five names to agriculture could be the author's
way of reminding us what a fertile place the "Kikar" was before it was
overturned. The problem with that is that the more such names can be shown
to be literary devices on the part of the author, the less "historical" the
whole story is likely to be.
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JimStinehart at aol.com
Sent: Saturday, January 30, 2010 10:19 PM
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Subject: [b-hebrew] Sodom's Historical Sin: Etymology and Geography
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
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,
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
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:
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
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
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,
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.
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,
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.
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