[b-hebrew] Sodom

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Jun 3 09:59:27 EDT 2008


“All these came as allies unto the vale of Siddim [Valley of Fields] -- the 
same is [that extends to?] the Salt Sea.  …Now the vale of Siddim [Valley of 
Fields] was full of slime pits;  and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and 
they fell there, and they that remained fled to the mountain [or hill country].”
  Genesis 14: 3, 10
 
1.  The phrase “the Valley of Fields” at Genesis 14: 3 fits the fertile 
Jezreel Valley perfectly, with its mile after mile of luxurious fields.  Such 
phrase does not fit the Dead Sea at all, or any area near the Dead Sea, since the 
Dead Sea area never had any substantial number of fertile fields. 
 
2.  The reference to “the Salt Sea” [sea the salt] is ambiguous.  There are 
two Salt Seas bordering Canaan:  the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and the 
Dead Sea on the east.  Because of such ambiguity, the Dead Sea is frequently 
referenced in the Bible as being “the Eastern Sea”, that is, the eastern Salt 
Sea.  Ezekiel 47: 18;  Joel 2: 20;  Zechariah 14: 8.  Thus whether “the Salt Sea”
 at Genesis 14: 3 means the Mediterranean Sea, as opposed to the Dead Sea, 
must depend on the context (discussed below).
 
3.  The phrase “slime pits” at Genesis 14: 10 is probably as ambiguous in 
Hebrew [bet-aleph-resh-tav bet-aleph-resh-tav het-mem-resh] as it is in this 
translation.  Note that it would be easy for a fleeing ruler to get bogged down, 
literally, in the Jezreel Valley:
 
“The Jezreel Valley…is an area rich in natural springs.  … Until the early 
1920s…, the Jezreel Valley had many swamps.”   “Gems in Israel” at: 
_http://www.gemsinisrael.com/e_article000002629.htm_ 
(http://www.gemsinisrael.com/e_article000002629.htm) 
 
4.  Sodom most likely is referring to Beth Shan, which simultaneously (a) is 
located in the flatland (KKR) of the Jordan River Valley, and (b) is also 
located in the flatland (KKR) of the Jezreel Valley (including the Plain of 
Megiddo).
 
(i)  KKR, which is referenced three times at Genesis 13: 10-12, suggests “
flatland”.  KKR (which can also, in later books of the Bible, apply to a coin or 
a flap of bread) means something that is either “flat” or “round”.  There is 
nothing “round” about the long, narrow Jordan River or Jordan River Valley.  
But the bottom of the Jordan River Valley is very “flat”, especially 
compared to the surrounding hill country.  Beth Shan is one of only two famous cities 
that is located at the bottom of the “flatland” of the Jordan River Valley.  
Moreover, extending the “flatland” analysis, of all the cities in the Jordan 
River Valley, only Beth Shan is not surrounded by hill country.  To the west 
of Beth Shan is the flatland (KKR) of the Jezreel Valley and the Megiddo 
Plain.  So Beth Shan is the flatland (KKR) city of Canaan par excellence.
 
(ii)  Although Sodom is located along the Jordan River, it is not clear that 
the other “cities of the plain” are located along the Jordan River.  In fact, 
Beth Shan and Jericho are the only two prominent cities that are located in 
the flatland at the bottom of the Jordan River Valley.  If Sodom is Beth Shan, 
then the “cities of the plain” may be the cities from Beth Shan straight west 
to Megiddo:  on the Megiddo Plain (in the Jezreel Valley). 
 
(iii)  Sodom has a gate.  Genesis 19: 1  Beth Shan was one of only a handful 
of walled cities in the Late Bronze Age.  The walls of Jericho had been 
destroyed in the mid-16th century BCE.  No city in the flatland (KKR) of the Jordan 
River Valley had a gate in the Late Bronze Age except Beth Shan.
 
(iv)  The beginning of the words “Bera…of Sodom” at Genesis 14: 2 features a 
B (Bera) + an S-type sound (Sodom), which may imply Beth (B) Shan (S-type 
sound).
 
5.  For attacking rulers coming from the north, the logical place to attack 
would be the rich, fertile Jezreel Valley, from Megiddo to Beth Shan.  No 
rational attacking rulers from the north would waste their time at the desolate 
Dead Sea.
 
6.  The “cities of the plain” may mean Beth Shan, Megiddo, Afula, Jezreel, 
and one small town in the Jezreel Valley.  Although the names are not close 
matches, nevertheless there is some vague similarity in the (disguised) names:  
(i) B + S-type sound = Beth Shan = Bera of Sodom;  (ii) “Birsha” of Gomorrah 
recalls historical “Biridiya”, the historical leader of Megiddo in the Amarna 
Letters;  (iii) “Admah” is a little like “Afula”;  (iv) the most prominent 
sound in “Zeboiim” and “Jezreel” is somewhat similar (though one is a ssade 
and the other is a zayin);  and (v) “Zoar” just means a “small” village (per 
the explicit pun at Genesis 19: 20, 22).  
 
We know that Sodom is located along the Jordan River, as Lot is mesmerized by 
the Jordan River Valley (Genesis 13: 10), Lot goes east from Beth-el to get 
to the Jordan River Valley (Genesis 13: 11), and then Lot encamps near Sodom 
(Genesis 13: 12).  But it is not clear that Gomorrah is located along the Jordan 
River.  Nor is it clear that the other cities of the plain are located along 
the Jordan River.  The word KKR naturally implies two places in the interior 
of Canaan that are not hill country:  the “flatland” along the Jordan River, 
and the “flatland” of the Jezreel Valley between Beth Shan and Megiddo.  Thus 
the cities of the plain/KKR may be the cities of the “flatland”/KKR of the 
Jezreel Valley, with only Sodom/Beth Shan also being located in the “flatland” 
at the bottom of the Jordan River Valley.
 
7.  Chapter 14 of Genesis makes logical sense if (i) the “Valley of 
Fields/Valley of Siddim” is the Jezreel Valley, (ii) the “slime pits” in the Valley of 
Fields are the swamps of the Jezreel Valley, (iii) the “Salt Sea” is the 
Mediterranean Sea (not the Dead Sea), (iv) “Sodom” is Beth Shan, and (v) the “
cities of the plain”/“cities of the KKR” are the cities in the flatland (KKR) 
of the Jezreel Valley/Megiddo Plain, with only Sodom/Beth Shan also being 
located in the flatland (KKR) of the Jordan River Valley.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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