[b-hebrew] What Does "Sodom" Mean?

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Nov 25 14:53:11 EST 2008


Karl:
 
1.  You wrote:  “First of all, I have found Gesenius an untrustworthy source 
of knowledge of word meanings. The reason I went into lexicography was because 
of trying to use his dictionary while reading Tanakh. Too many times his 
glosses didn't
 fit the context. It's been a couple of decades since I last looked at his 
dictionary, so I don't recall specific examples, but for you to base your 
argument on his work puts up a red flag that you don't know what you're talking 
about.”
 
I do not base my argument on Gesenius’ work.  I specifically said that 
whereas Gesenius sees “Sodom” as meaning “scorched”, no historical city would have 
a name meaning “scorched”.  Gesenius has missed the two more important puns 
here, which tell us that rather than being a fictional city, Sodom for the 
most part represents historical Beth Shan.
 
2.  You wrote:  “[A]rcheologists are coming to the conclusion that the ruins 
of Sodom can be identified with those of a certain early bronze age site south 
of the Dead Sea.”
 
There were never five rich cities south of the Dead Sea.  Lot and Abraham had 
come from the northeast, so they knew there were five rich cities in the 
Jezreel Valley.  If Lot wanted to choose soft city life, Lot would naturally 
choose the sure thing:  sell his flock and take early retirement in Beth Shan.  It 
makes no sense to think of Lot bravely and audaciously going to a place where 
no one (that Lot knew) had gone before, southeast of the Dead Sea.  Nor would 
any invader of Canaan have the slightest interest in that area either.  There 
are some nice oases down there, with plenty of foliage, but there has never 
been any real wealth in that part of the world.  No individual seeking the soft 
city life like Lot, and no invaders looking for loot and plunder like the four 
attacking rulers in the “four rulers against the five” referenced at Genesis 
14: 9, would have the slightest interest in a handful of oases southeast of 
the Dead Sea.  Rather, both Lot and those invaders would instead make a beeline 
for the wealthy city of Beth Shan (that is, “Sodom”).
 
3.  You wrote:  “[G]rain can be grown where ever there is well watered good 
soil. I've
 seen wheat growing wild on hillsides. For you to claim that the Jesreel 
valley was the only place where grain was grown is therefore patently ludicrous. 
For you, coming from grain growing area, to make such an elementary error ....”
 
Yes, wheat and barley were at times grown in many different parts of Canaan.  
But the one and only place where fields of grain were commonplace every year 
in Canaan was the wondrous Jezreel Valley.  The only place in Canaan where a 
tent-dwelling pastoralist like Abraham would never be welcome is the Jezreel 
Valley, which was given over to growing grain in fields, not to subsistence 
living tending sheep and goats.  The only cities in Canaan that were rich based on 
fields of grain were the five cities of the Jezreel Valley:  Sodom, Afula the 
Small, Jezreel, Afula the Great, and Megiddo.  Those are the five historical “
cities of the Plain”/KKR/valley.  All five of those cities, and the Jezreel 
Valley itself, are attested on the Thutmosis III list from the Late Bronze Age. 
 Everyone in greater Canaan -- including Abraham, Lot, and any potential 
invader of Canaan -- knew that the finest land in all of Canaan was the Jezreel 
Valley, where there were five cities that were wealthy because of all those 
wondrous grain-growing fields.
 
“Sodom”/SDM and “fields”/&DYM sound very much alike.  This close pun on the 
word “fields” is letting us know that “Sodom” means Beth Shan, which the 
Egyptians used to guard the valuable “fields” of grain in the immensely fertile 
Jezreel Valley.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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