Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed

Gen 18:16-33    God reveals to Abraham that he is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness. Abraham pleads with God to save the few righteous inhabitants (including his nephew, Lot).

Gen 19:1-17    Two angels (messengers from God) arrive at Sodom. Lot insists that, for their own safety, they must stay overnight with him. Lot protects them from the wicked men of the city. The messengers warn Lot that God is going to destroy the city. They urge Lot and his family to "run to the mountains" during the night and "don't look back" (Genesis 19:17).

Gen 19:18-23    Lot can only run as far as a small town nearby, called Zoar. ('Zoar' sounds like the Hebrew for ‘small’.) (see 2 on Map 40) It was probably on the site of the modern town at Safi. Lot reaches Zoar at sunrise, and is saved from the cataclysm that follows shortly after.

Gen 19:24-25    In c.1830BC, burning sulphur” (Genesis 19:24) rains down on Sodom and Gomorrah and a volcanic eruption engulfs the cities of the plain.

Gen 19:26-29    Disobeying the angels’ instructions, Lot's wife looks back. She is overcome by the heat of the eruption and her corpse becomes a “pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26). Perhaps she hankered after the old life, paused too long in the city, and was overcome by the burning volcanic ash.


The Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea (also called the Salt Sea) lies at the lowest point of the Jordan Valley, 1378 feet / 420 metres below sea level, and is the lowest point on earth. Here, the intense heat of the sun evaporates much of the water, and the salt content builds up to become as much as twenty five per cent of the resulting brine.

Small pillars of salt are common, and any object lying in the water is soon encrusted with salt deposits. This may explain why Lot’s wife, overcome by burning volcanic ash, was turned into a "pillar of salt" (Genesis 19:26).


A salt-covered rock beside the Dead Sea

A salt-covered rock beside the Dead Sea  (xta11)

Today, visitors can bathe in the salty waters of the Dead Sea on the western shore at En Gedi, where the facilities provided for tourists include copious amounts of sulphurous mud, and showers of fresh water to wash away the salt and the mud. To the south east of the Dead Sea, the remains of a Byzantine church and a monastery built in memory of Lot have been excavated on a hillside above Zoar (modern-day Safi). The monastery was built around a cave where Byzantine Christians believed that Lot and his daughters sheltered during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.


Gen 19:30-38    Lot and his surviving daughters live in a cave near Zoar overlooking the Valley of Siddim (the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea). The Moabites and the Ammonites are descendents of his family.

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