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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Nov 26 11:01:58 EST 2008

1.  In response to my statement that “There were never five rich cities south 
of the Dead Sea”, you wrote:
“Sez you! Why should I trust you? What are your credentials? Your postings
 indicate great ignorance.”
If there had been 5 such rich cities on the southeast coast of the Dead Sea, 
the Egyptians would have tried to conquer such cities, and we would have 
historical records concerning such.  In fact, the Egyptians paid no attention 
whatsoever to the southeast coast of the Dead Sea, because there’s no there there.  
By sharp contrast, Egypt controlled the valuable fertile fields of the 
Jezreel Valley for several centuries, with Egypt’s only permanent inland garrison 
being at Beth Shan.  Everyone in the ancient Near East (including Abraham, Lot, 
the author of the Patriarchal narratives, and the Hebrew and Jewish audience 
for the Patriarchal narratives) knew that the best agricultural area in Canaan 
was the luxuriant Jezreel Valley, and that there was no there there on the 
southeast coast of the Dead Sea.
2.  In response to my statement that “Lot and Abraham had come from the 
northeast, so they knew there were five rich cities in the Jezreel Valley”, you 
made the following strange comment:
 ”Sorry, the narrative states that the break up between Abram and Lot happened
 after they sojourned in Egypt, so they would have come from the south to
 that point.”
Egypt is southwest of Beth-el.  Abraham and Lot went nowhere near the Dead 
Sea in going to and from Egypt.  By contrast, Abraham and Lot had gone right by 
Beth Shan in traveling from Harran, located just east of the upper Euphrates 
River, to Shechem in central Canaan.  If Lot wanted to live the soft city life, 
the most logical and obvious place to do that was in the wealthy city of Beth 
Shan, in the fertile Jezreel Valley.  Lot, Abraham, the author of the 
Patriarchal narratives, and the Hebrew and Jewish audience for the Patriarchal 
narratives all knew that basic knowledge.
3.  You wrote:  “You are making the assumption that the climate and other 
situations have not changed in over three millennia. As has been repeatedly 
stated in the past,
 that assumption, apart from actual historical records (which, incidentally,
 apart from Genesis, are lacking) is an invalid assumption.”
According to one standard source, the International Standard Bible 
Encyclopedia, the geology and climate of Canaan have not changed much since the 
Patriarchal Age:
“3.  Geological Conditions [of Palestine]:  The fertility and cultivation of 
any country depends mainly on its geological conditions. These are 
comparatively simple in Palestine, and have undergone no change since the age when man 
first appeared, or since the days of the Hebrew patriarchs.  …6. Rainfall:  The 
rainfall of Palestine [excluding the Negev Desert] is between 20 and 30 inches 
annually.  …The water-supply of Palestine is abundant, except in the desert 
regions above noticed [the Negev Desert], which include only a small part of 
its area. ….In most years the [water] supply is quite sufficient [except in the 
desert regions] for purposes of cultivation.  …There appears to be no reason 
to suppose that climate or rainfall have undergone any change since the times 
of the Bible;  and a consideration of Bible allusions confirms this view.” 
(http://www.internationalstandardbible.com/P/) palestine-1.html

4.  You wrote:  “Until the advent of cheap, overland bulk cargo transport, it 
was rare for grains to be shipped long distances, and then mostly by sea, 
river or canal.
 As a result, most if not all of the grain eaten in a town was grown in the
 fields around the town. If a town became wealthy, it was usually because it
 had a high value export other than grain. Therefore, grain was grown around
 almost every town in Canaan, consistently, every year.”
That is true for all of Canaan except the Jezreel Valley.  The Jezreel Valley 
was the only place in Canaan that routinely produced far more grain than the 
inhabitants of the Jezreel Valley could consume.  For several centuries Egypt 
controlled the Jezreel Valley, and shipped grains from there that did not grow 
along the Nile River back to Egypt.  That is precisely why Egypt maintained 
its only permanent garrison in inland Canaan at Beth Shan.
5.  Note that my view of the case does not involve any need to change the 
climate of Canaan.  Nor does my view require archaeologists to dig up five cities 
on the southeast coast of Canaan that have escaped the historical record.  
Not only do we know historically the five great cities in the Jezreel Valley in 
the Late Bronze Age, but we have nice puns on the names of all five cities 
right there at Genesis 14: 2.  “Sodom” is Beth Shan, “Bela, it is Zoar” is 
Afula the Small, etc.  I am just applying the well-documented secular history of 
Late Bronze Age Canaan to the text, and finding that everything fits perfectly. 
 It’s not fictional.  Rather, it’s all very closely based on well-documented 
secular history.
 Jim Stinehart
 Evanston, Illinois

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