The Bible describes why God unleashed his wrath on the ancient cities Sodom and Gomorrah, but archaeologists have explained, in a 2018 study, how they think it happened, which may offer unique, relevant insight into the ways of the Creator.
Abraham tried to intercede on their behalf, pleading for God to spare them even if there were only 10 good people left in Sodom. God agreed, and sent two angels to meet Abraham’s nephew Lot there.
Lot took the angels into his home, where the wicked men in Sodom came after them, wanting to “know” the angels (largely understood as wanting to have sexual relations with them), proving their sinfulness and justifying God to go ahead with the destruction, but not before warning Lot to flee the city with his wife and daughters.
“Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”
“And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.” (Genesis 19:24-28)
The sudden cataclysmic event the Bible recounts seems to be supported by findings from the Tall el-Hammam Excavation archaeological site in Jordan, believed to be where ancient Sodom and Gomorrah stood.
Phillip J. Silvia, an archeologist from Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who is the site’s field supervisor and director of scientific analysis, presented findings from the team’s 13 years excavating the site at the American Schools of Oriental Research 2018 annual meeting.
What the team discovered was that a “cosmic airburst event” in the area of where the city is thought to have stood occurred some 3,700 years ago, according to their paper “The 3.7kaBP Middle Ghor Event: Catastrophic Termination of a Bronze Age Civilization.”
The researchers found that the Middle Bronze Age towns and cities that stood north of the Dead Sea in an area known as Middle Ghor, included what are thought to be the biblical cities, were obliterated “in an instant,” the topsoil stripped bare with “a super-heated brine of Dead Sea anhydride salts pushed over the landscape by the Event’s frontal shockwave(s).”
They found that the heat was so intense, clay and rock melted into glass, which researchers concluded meant debris was exposed to “between 8,000°C and 12,000°C for less than a few milliseconds.”
The area was so decimated, the paper said, it would be more than half a millennium before civilization could once again inhabit the area.
Science has a precedent for this sort of event as recently as 1908 when the Podkamennaya Tunguska River area of Siberia experienced a similar cosmic airburst, which happens when a meteorite explodes upon entering Earth’s atmosphere, according to NASA Science.
The Tunguska event stripped vegetation from 800 miles of forest, and eyewitnesses reported that it rained fire from the sky.
Although these are both natural phenomena, that fact does not disprove God’s hand in the events that destroyed the ancient cities, but actually hints at the way he can use natural phenomena for his own purposes or simply leave nature to its own devices.
During times of plague or pandemic, folks who fall on either side of theistic belief will use it as evidence for or against God, but the natural world shows us it is a both-and situation.
Natural disasters were sometimes used as punishment in the Old Testament, but they also fall randomly upon mankind as a consequence of the brokenness ushered in by man’s first ancestors.
Conversely, the cures that science has brought to humanity are sometimes enough, although occasionally miracles cure disease with seemingly no rational explanation.
God is personally interested in everyone’s lives but seldom cuts sinful folks down with a zap from heaven. Instead, the Bible and science tell humanity that it is mainly within the confines of nature that God’s work is done.
Whatever events transpired leading up to their destruction, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were lustful, sinful and prideful.
God could have spared the city, but he perhaps permitted the exploding meteor since the citizens had turned away from all that was good.
Whatever the reason the city was destroyed, the lesson conveyed therein is that where only 10 good people are left, God can settle his favor upon the whole city.
Americans should take heed.
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