Sodom & Gomorrah Revisited

It is no secret that I am not a fan of the latest archaeological project, (Tell el-Hamman), searching for Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, I am in direct opposition to it and its claim that the cities destroyed by God resided at the northern location.

Not only have I written against the claims of Dr. Collins but I have discussed this issue directly with him and some of his supporters when it all began and for a couple of years afterwards. I have yet to find one of their arguments compelling or convincing but I do find that they are misguided and mislead in their work promoting Tell el-Hamman as Sodom.

At the following link, you will find a page of articles written by Guest Authors and you will have to scroll down to the 13th and 14th articles on that page to find the ones dealing with Dr. Collins and his claims about Tell el-Hamman.

http://www.dakotascba.com/Guest-Authors.php

Those were written in response to his original publications (that are now harder to find since the link directly to them has been removed from the official website). Those original articles are found here:

http://www.biblicalresearchbulletin.com/Biblical_Archaeology.html

These original articles are where Dr. Collins states his motivation, his research and his reasoning for ignoring the evidence found in the south and heading off in his own direction to find a new Sodom location.

Now there are three excellent articles, one written by Dr. Bryant Wood, that go over the evidence found in the southern location, with one comparing the south to the north and one other theory. They are worth the time to read to get the whole picture of this issue:

http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/04/16/The-Discovery-of-the-Sin-Cities-of-Sodom-and-Gomorrah.aspx

http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48931527.html

http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/sodom-and-gomorrah.html#INV

They are extensive articles, thoroughly researched and contain a lot of valuable information.  The last one contains almost all of the scriptures referencing Sodom in the Bible, including the New Testament which provide the exact biblical wording and feel free to check them out using different translations, but be honest when doing so.

Dr. Collins has stated that in discussing the location of Sodom, people should stick to a strict reading of the passages (Not only in his articles did he mention this but also in discussions held at the former discussion board over at the Biblical Archaeology Society’s website). Yet when one compares what the scriptures says to how Dr. Collins ‘interprets’ and uses them,one would see a vast difference.

This is something that believers cannot afford to do if they want credibility or be listened to. They need to be honest in their use of scriptures and apply it to their work correctly.  One example:

Genesis 13:11“So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of Jordan and set out toward the east.” (Taken from the third link)

Now Dr. Collins and his supporters take that to mean that Lot headed due east and crossed the Jordan River but that is not necessarily the case. It could also mean heading in an easterly manner and swung southerly to avoid the danger of crossing the Jordan.

If one does their research, the Jordan River in Abraham’s time was not as it is today. The river was a lot more powerful and its current was swifter. The drain from human water needs today has reduced the Jordan to a very calm, placid river.

http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.kr/2011/02/jordan-river.html

With His livestock and other possessions it would not be a smart thing to cross a river with a swift current. The loss of livestock would have been too great. It would make sense for Lot to travel  around the Dea Sea and camp in the well watered area of pre-destruction Sodom area.

But the Bible does not tell us exactly what He did but nor does it tell us he crossed the Jordan river. So to use that verse as justification for claiming Tell el-Hamman as Sodom is wrong and very misleading. It is also not holding to Dr. Collins’ requirement of a strict reading of the text.

But this is par for the course when discussing Sodom’s location with him and his supporters.  Another example is the longevity of the destruction. By that I am referring to the length of time the area containing Sodom and the other cities was rendered useless and barren.

Dr. Collins has written on the main page of the Tell el-Hamman website that this destruction lasted 5-700 years:

Tall el-Hammam may provide such from its Middle Bronze Age occupation and demise, followed by its own five- to seven-century occupational hiatus. (http://tallelhammam.com/)

The problem with that claim is that the Bible has Sodom and its area destroyed from Abraham’s day to 100 AD, to cover the time the Bible was written, and then beyond that time as we do not see it renewed even today.

Biblically that is about 2,000 years, give or take a century or two, which means that Tell el-Hamman does not qualify as the biblical Sodom.  For the believer though, this means that they have a hard decision to make.

Should they do as Dr. Collins does and continue to mislead others and pursue their dream/objective or should they be humble & honest sacrificing their goal for what is right and true? The believer has to be honest because God is honest and this applies to all issues not just the location of a lost biblical city.

What good does it do a believer if they mishandled scriptures and misapply them? What kind of reputation will one get if they do it wrong in pursuit of selfish objectives? What impact for God will they make if they keep ‘interpreting’ scripture to fit their desires and not the truth?

Not one verse in scripture tells us that the destroyed area was renewed and re-populated thus if we are to stick to Dr. Collins’ requirement of a strict adherence to scripture then Tell el-Hamman fails to qualify as Sodom once again. The city is to be found in a land that has been permanently destroyed and has remained as an example for all people to learn from.

A third example of how not to use scripture when pursuing one’s desires comes from the main page of Tell el-Hamman’s website once again:

 Tall el-Hammam is the largest of these. Therefore, it would be unthinkable to ignore the likelihood that Tall el-Hammam (as well as Tall Nimrin, with its MB2
destruction and ensuing 500-year occupational hiatus) may be Sodom or Admah (with Tall Nimrin being the other).

Once again, the scriptures are silent about the size of Sodom and all descriptions made by Dr. Collins are pure assumptions. We have no clue as to how big or how important the city actually was. Saying that there was a gate indicates a well fortressed, large city is reading into the text information that is not there and wrong,  for even small, unimportant cities have walls and a gate and walls.

The believer has to be careful in what details they use to describe biblical sites for if the Bible doesn’t provide them then we will never know the exact size of the town or geographical area at the time the events took place in the biblical chronology.

To say it was a large important city is just a weak attempt to justify one’s decision to dig at that site and claim it is Sodom. Since the city was destroyed, it is also impossible to say how much of it actually remains today; further undermining any claim that the city ruins would indicate a large fortified urban area or the actual size of Sodom.

As active members of the community of Levantine archaeologists, the TeHEP team is quite aware of the prevailing sentiment among many in the discipline who feel that archaeology should not be used to “prove” components of biblical narrative (Main Page again)

This attitude presents us with a problem. For why are we digging then if not to prove some part of the biblical narrative as true or to provide evidence that the biblical narrative is true? Why waste the effort and expense if we are not going to use the evidence to support our beliefs and shore up our faith?

For example, the Bible uses the names of Abraham, Issac and Jacob in the Patriarchal era. Archaeology has shown that the Bible was correct. Those names were used at the exact time the Bible says those men were alive. Does that not point to the truthfulness of the Bible and prove its use of the names as true?

Of course it does and we can use archaeology to prove different parts of the Bible as true. Needless to say that if archaeology discovered that those names were not used in the patriarchal era, the unbelievers would most certainly use archaeology to prove the Bible was in error.  This double standard plagues those who believe in the Bible in all their attempts to support the Biblical record.

It is used by unbelievers to thwart the use of real evidence by believers in their defense of the Bible. We see it all the time. So yes, we can, to some extent, use archaeology to prove the Bible true, we do not care what the unbelievers want, we do what God wants. The one requirement is of course that we are honest about the evidence.

If rigorous scholarship and responsible, objective archaeology confirm a link between Tall el-Hammam and Sodom (again from the main page)

Whose idea of rigorous scholarship and definition of objective are we going to use? The secular world’s? No, for that is not unbiased or free of prejudice nor does it come to any answers. To say one is to be objective is basically removing the rudder that steers the boat.

Of course the unbelieving scholars want the believer to be ‘objective’ for that opens the door for their false ideas to come in and distort or hide the truth. The believer is to follow the Holy Spirit to the truth and those words from Jesus are not restricted to reading the biblical passages. It applies to archaeology, science, biology and all fields of endeavor, whether they be employment or research, etc.

The believer needs to do archaeology under the guidance of the Holy Spirit so they will reach the truth and not be lead astray by those archaeologists who do not believe and do not want the truth. Objectivity is not a biblical command to follow or tool to use.

This is why believers have to be careful when listening to ‘experts’, even those who claim tobe Christian because they may be following secular man’s rules and not God’s. Being honest is a biblical command to follow  and it is a tool believers are to use.

On the other hand, doing archaeology solely from a biblical perspective can mean missing the larger reality of Near Eastern cultural milieus. A biblical (hermeneutical) bias might possibly influence the interpretation of data which, ironically, could otherwise be used to illumine the biblical narrative itself. (from the main page)

Not really, though it is more of the same from the previous point made, one has to remember that digging in the Holy Land region one is digging in a biblical area. A biblical perspective is needed to discern between truth and error.

The secular perspective is not going to produce the truth because they do not want the truth. It has always seemed strange to me that people will question the Bible and its record since it is written by God who is infallible, cannot lie, and does not make mistakes YET accept a secular record without question written by people who are fallible, who do lie and who do make mistakes.

The above quote is very misleading and is an attitude that the believer cannot afford for they are seeking the truth not the appeasement of secularists who think differently. Let me provide an example:

For decades now secular scholars, Egyptologists and archaeologists have complained and pointed out that the Exodus could not have occurred and that the Israelites were not slaves in Egypt simply because the Egyptians records, that we do have,do not mention either.

Well we know that the ancient Egyptians altered their history to look better for future generations. It is a proven fact, and you can read RK Harrison’s book Old Testament Times to see this (that is but 1 reference to this history altering habit). If we were to be ‘objective’ then we would see that only the Bible records these situations and we could conclude that the Bible is in error.

If we wait for more records to be uncovered we may be waiting for a long time and die before knowing the truth. Ancient nations’ records were not 100% preserved and are just sitting in the dirt hoping that a lucky explorer will dig in the right spot to unearth them.

Many were destroyed and that means that it is possible that any Egyptian record mentioning those events are gone forever and will never come to light. To use the secular idea of objectivity and extra-biblical confirmation means that we will miss out on the truth.

This destructive fact is why God tells us to use faith and that faith pleases Him. We will not get all the physical evidence that the secular ist demands and even if we did who is to say that they will accept the evidence and not cry forgery, like they do with Josephus?

In conclusion, the lessons we learn from Dr. Collins’ misguided adventure are numerous. We need to be humble and honest in all that we do, not misusing scripture for our own ends but honestly applying them to all issues so that God can be glorified and souls saved.