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The Possible Inspiration Behind the Biblical Sodom

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer who is back in college once again. Science is one of his favorite topics.

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It’s true that we must not take the Bible too literally, especially the books found in the Old Testament. It was once said that the Scriptures are not science texts, but a collection of deep theological guides to morality. Hence it must not be treated as such, for good reasons. For one thing, beliefs, cultures, customs and traditions were different in the time period when the Bible was written. This must be taken into considerations, as there are stuffs back then that modern society might frown upon. Then, then are also the translations that might be misinterpreted, plus much more. In fact, taking the Book of Genesis as an example, one must dig deep into the real meaning of the story of the fall of man. On the consequences of two adults not taking responsibilities of their actions, and not focusing too much on talking snakes. That’s why major Christian religions have an army of Biblical scholars and theologians to help the flocks understand the scriptures, and Sunday service attendance is recommendable to study the Word of God. As wrong interpretations could lead to serious repercussions.

But digging into the rationality of the Scriptures actually made it more real than ever. The Bible is not a collection of myths, but is rooted in real history. The writers of the Bible never invented those stories. It could contain eyewitness reports of certain events that got passed from generations to generations.

And one story, the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah might be based from a frightening natural disaster that literally came from heaven.

The Tragedy of Sodom and Gomorrah

Depiction of John Martin of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Depiction of John Martin of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Firstly, let’s revisit the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. According to the Scriptures, they are two cities destroyed by God for their evil. They were described in Genesis 13:12 and 19:29, and it was in Sodom where Abraham’s nephew Lot lived with his households. But the excess of the cities prompted God to send two angels to destroy it, but not before being welcomed by Lot in his dwelling place. But a mob surrounded Lot’s house, and demanded him to surrender the visitors to them, for malicious motives. When the crowd threatened Lot, the angel blinded the crowd and took him and his family outside the city. God brought destructions to the cities through a rain of fire and brimstones. Lot and his family were saved, almost, because his wife looked at the ongoing destruction and turned into a pillar of salt.

The story speaks out against the violence of sexual abuses, seen on how the men approached the strangers with malice. They demanded that Lot must give them the visitors, and he was threatened with violence if he refused. A friend even suggested that striking the offenders blind has its meanings. That they must pay for their blindness they showed to their fellow men. It was also mentioned that the aside from being sexual predators, the inhabitants are arrogant, greedy and unconcerned. The story of the cities’ destruction also parallels the story of Noah’s flood, when God brought destruction to evil, and spared the few good men.

For the nonbelievers, a story of cities suffering from divine punishments is a stuff of fantasy and not reality. But this is the Bible we are talking about, and one possibility of its historicity could be found in an archeological site in Tall-el Hammam.

The City of Tall El Hammam

The site seen from afar.

The site seen from afar.

This is a place of interest for the scholars and believers. It lies in the eastern part of the lower Jordan Valley, and it holds the remains of settlements dating back in the various periods of Bronze and Iron Ages. But it also holds clues on its own tragic demise.

Upon examination of the city years ago, archeologist saw a dark, 5-foot-thick layers of burned and melted materials. This includes charcoal, ash, melted pottery and mudbricks. The said layer an indication that a tragedy occurred, a form of widespread destruction caused by intense heat. What’s more, there are materials called shocked quartz and tiny diamonoids in the area. Shocked quartz, which are fractured grains of sand only form at high pressure of 725,000 pounds per square inch. The same could be said on the diamonoids, which could form at an intense pressure and temperature. There are also human remains in the site, which include crushed and scattered fragments of bones. It seems that an intense force basically ripped the inhabitants to pieces.

No one was sure what caused it, as earthquakes and volcanoes never caused mudbricks and potteries to melt. Wars are also out of a question, as technologies back then never permitted one to come up with weapons of mass destruction. There is only one force of nature capable of wrecking a whole city and burning it into the ground with high temperature and pressure. And like the Biblical wrath of God, it also came from heaven.

Meteor Strike

The remnants of the Tunguska event.

The remnants of the Tunguska event.

It was 3600 years ago, when the Tall el-Hammam was a bustling metropolis of 8000 inhabitants. And suddenly, it disappeared in 1650 B.C.E. With other factors like war, earthquakes and volcanos eliminated, the only thing that could flatten such a city was a meteor. Strikes from space rocks are rare, but it happened. One of the most recent is the Tunguska event, which leveled an area of 2,150 km2, with an explosive force of 12 megaton.

But if a meteor could have caused such destruction, one might wonder why no crater was produced.

The Tunguska event holds the answer, where the space object never made an impact, but generated an airburst. An airburst occurred when a meteor, or similar space object exploded in mid-flight, as it went through the thickest part of the atmosphere. The Tunguska object was estimated to be around 50 to 80 meters, and it generate a vast fireball when it blew, causing the area below it to flatten.

And based on the burnt remains of the Tall El Hammam city, a similar even probably occurred.

We could picture out a scenario, where people were going about their businesses, when suddenly a meteor appeared and exploded in mid-air. Flattening the city with intense heat, force and pressure.

Relationship with The Biblical City

A sudden fireball seemingly coming from heaven and levelling a great city is a frightening and spectacular sight to behold. So much saw that eyewitness accounts might have inspired the great Biblical story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. A rain of fire and brimstone in the Bible seems to mirror the airburst of a meteor explosion. More interesting is the high concentration of salt in the area, possibly from the blast. Up to now, there is still an ongoing debate if the city is connected with any Biblical events. But one thing is for sure, the Bible is indeed no mythical collection, but based on actual historical events.

References

1. Gershon, Livia (22 September 2021). "Ancient City’s Destruction by Exploding Space Rock May Have Inspired Biblical Story of Sodom." Smithsonian Magazine.

2. Fernandez, Elizabeth (22 September 2021). "A Massive Meteor May Have Destroyed The Biblical City Of Sodom". Forbes.

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