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Q. What do you think really destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah? Is the biblical account true? What about other theories concerning extinction events in earth's history?
There is exciting, new research suggesting that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah may have resulted from an asteroid that crashed into earth on June 29, 3123 B.C. But, first let's review the background behind the story.
The story of Abram's nephew, Lot, who chose to live in Sodom, is told in Genesis 11-14 and in chapter 19. Lot is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 2:9, Luke 17:28-32, and in 2 Peter 2:7-8. Peter calls Lot a "righteous man" because "he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard" (2 Peter 2:8, ESV).
Ur in Iraq
Lot first lived in Ur of the Chaldeans (Iraq). Ur existed just about where the Euphrates River and Tigris River meet next to the Persian Gulf - probably in Iraq or maybe in modern Kuwait. When he was very young Lot lost his father. He was raised by his grandfather, Terah, and his uncle, Abram. Then he moved to Canaan with Abram (before Abram was renamed Abraham).
Sodom - Dead Sea Region
Finally, Lot chose to settle in Sodom. Sodom is thought to have existed in the southern tip of the Dead Sea - now covered in water. Although this area may have seemed like a good choice to Lot at the time, choosing this area to live in was self-serving. Abram, his uncle, had given Lot a choice of which lands to occupy. He chose green areas and left Abram land that seemed inhospitable to farming and grazing. It may have seemed an expedient choice at the time. But, selfishness never pays!
Lot may have held an important political position in Sodom because he was found at the "entrance" of the city - a place where prominent people discussed business matters and current events in daily life (Genesis 19:1).
Through an incestuous encounter Lot fathered Moab through which Ruth descended. So Lot plays an important role in the genealogy of Christ.
Spare Sodom for 10 good People
Before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and surrounding towns, God promised Abram he would spare Sodom if only 10 innocent people lived there (Genesis 18:32). But, the city was so wicked that not even 10 good men could be found. Angels came and took Lot, his wife, and daughters by the hand to assist them quickly out of the city. They were evacuated. Then the city and surrounding areas were quickly destroyed.
Evidence of Advanced Civilization
Archaeological evidence points to the existence of an advanced civilization in this area during Abraham's day. Furthermore, most believe that there was some kind of sudden and devastating destruction.
But what really happened?
Cuneiform Symbols Decoded
For 150 years scientists have been puzzled by writings on a clay tablet that was part of the remains of a library found in the ancient royal palace at Nineveh. (Yes, this is the same Nineveh where the prophet Jonah preached - it is a "real" place). This tablet is thought to be a copy of the notes of a Sumerian astronomer watching the night sky. The copy was made in about 700 B.C.
Ancient Tablet warns Asteroid Approaching
When scientists finally cracked the cuneiform symbols on the Planisphere tablet, it is believed to reveal the approach of an asteroid more than a half mile wide. The ancient astronomer says it is like a "white stone bowl approaching," "vigorously swept along." The relic itself looks like a large, round disc with star maps scratched on the surface.
Computers Recreate Scenario
Scientists used computers to recreate the night sky to see what the ancient astronomer observed on June 29 in the year 3123 B.C. Symbols on the round tablet recorded the clouds and constellations and their positions in the sky at this time. So the computer was able to use real data from ancient times.
Austrian Alps Crash
Mark Hempsall from Bristol University says that an asteroid probably crashed into the Austrian Alps on this date - creating supersonic shock waves.
"Debris consisting of up to two-thirds of the asteroid would have been hurled back along its route and a flash reaching temperatures of 400 Centigrade (752 Fahrenheit) would have been created, killing anyone in its path. About one million sq kilometers (386,000 square miles) would have been devastated and the impact would have been equivalent to more than 1,000 tons of TNT exploding."
20 Myths Record Disaster
Dr. Hempsall notes there are at last 20 ancient myths recording devastation of this type and scale, including the Old Testament's account of Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction. (Editor: In reading some of the other myths, the Old Testament story, in comparison, is likely the true account).
Dr. Hempsall and Alan Bond published their findings in a book, A Sumerian Observation of the Kofels Impact Event.
"Then the LORD rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain, wiping out all the people and every bit of vegetation. …Abraham got up early and… looked out across the plain toward Sodom and Gomorrah and watched as columns of smoke rose from the cities like smoke from a furnace" (Genesis 19:24-28, NLT).
Is this true? Did an asteroid crash into earth causing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?
We will never know exactly how it happened until the Lord returns. But, we may rest assured that the biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction is true - whether the result of volcanic eruption, an asteroid event, or nuclear weapons fired from outer space. That it happened is not in doubt. How it may have happened, is.
What we do know for sure is this:
"Sanctify them in the truth - your word is truth" (John 17:17).
"Forever, O LORD, your word
is firmly fixed in the heavens."
(Psalm 119:89, ESV)
2008. Clay tablet identified an asteroid that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. TimesOnline. March 31.http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article3649054.ece
2008. Researchers: Asteroid destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Fox News. Tuesday, April 01.http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,343674,00.html
Author Valorie Mays Emilio holds an M.A. in History from UCLA focusing upon early church history, and a V.O.M. Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
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