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SODOM (τὰ Σόδομα, Strab. xv. p.764; Steph. B. sub voce [p. 2.1018]s. v.; Sodoma,--orum, Tertul. Apolog. 40; Sodoma,--ae, Sever. Sulp. 1.6; Sedul. Carm. 1.105; Solomum, Solin. 45.8; Sodomi, Tertull. Carm. de Sodom. 4, Eth. Σοδομίτης), the infamous city of Canaan situated near the Dead Sea in an exceedingly rich and fruitful country, called in its early history “the plain of Jordan” and described as “well watered everywhere, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest to Zoar.” (Gen. 13.10--12.) It is also reckoned one of “the cities of the plain” (13.12. 19.29), and was probably the capital of the Pentapolis, which consisted of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela, afterwards Zoar (Deut. 29.23; Gen. 14.8, 19.22), all of which towns, however, had their several petty kings, who were confederate together against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and his three allies, Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, and Tidal king of nations. After Chedorlaomer had succeeded in reducing these sovereigns to subjection, they served him twelve years; in the thirteenth year they revolted, and in the fourteenth year were again vanquished by their northern enemies, when the conquerors were in their turn defeated by Abraham, whose nephew Lot had been carried captive with all his property. The sacred historian has preserved the names of four of the petty kings who at this time ruled the cities of the plain, viz. Bera of Sodom, Birsha of Gomorrah, Shinab of Admah, and Shemeber of Zeboiim; and the scene of the engagement was “the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea” (Gen. xiv.), an expression which seems clearly to imply that the battle-field, at least, was subsequently submerged; the admission of which fact, however, would not involve the consequence that no lake had previously existed in the plain; although this too may be probably inferred from the earlier passage already cited, which seems to describe a wide plain watered by the river Jordan, as the plain of Egypt is irrigated by the Nile: and as this vale of Siddim was full of slime-pits (beds of bitumen), its subsidence naturally formed the Asphalt Lake. The catastrophe of the cities, as described in the sacred narrative, does not certainly convey the idea that they were submerged, for fire and not water was the instrument of their destruction (Gen. xix.; S. Jude 7); so that the cities need not necessarily have been situated in the middle of the valley, but on the sloping sides of the hills which confined the plain, from which they would still be appropriately denominated “cities of the plain.” (Reland, Palaestina, p. 255.) This is remarked in order to remove what has been regarded as a fundamental objection to the hypotheses of a late traveller, who claims to have recovered the sites of all the cities of the Pentapolis, which, as he maintains, are still marked by very considerable ruins of former habitations. Whatever value may be attached to the identification of the other four, there is little doubt that the site of Sodom is correctly fixed near the south-western extremity of the lake, where the modern native name Usdom or Esdom, containing all the radicals of the ancient name, is attached to a plain and a hill (otherwise called Khashm or Jebel-el-Milhh, i. e. the salt hill), which consequently has long been regarded as marking the site of that accursed city. This singular ridge has been several times explored and described by modern travellers, whose testimony is collected and confirmed by Dr. Robinson (Bibl. Res. vol. ii. p. 481--483); but it was reserved for the diligence or imagination of M. de Saulcy to discover the extensive débris of this ancient city, covering the small plain and mounds on the north and north-east of the salt-ridge, and extending along the bed of Wady Zuweirah (Voyage autour de la Mer Morte, vol. ii. pp. 71--74). On the other side of the question M. Van de Velde is the latest authority. (Syria and Palestine in 1851 and 1852, pp. 114, 115, note). Lieut. Lynch, of the American exploring expedition, has given a striking view of this salt mountain, illustrative of his description of the vicinity of Usdom. (Expedition to the Dead Sea, pp. 306--308.)


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