Stop, Look, And Listen To Sodom

by George F Spall

Our Jewish readers will know this yarn so I hope they will pardon its retelling, for the information of our Gentile friends. A tourist saw a local lad fishing in the Dead Sea. Curious to see what could be caught there, he sat down to watch. After thirty minutes of complete inactivity he asked the fisherman what he hoped to catch.

"Do you ever catch anything?" "Oh yes." "Many?" "A few." "How many?" "Some." "What?" "You watch."

The lad was so sparing of words that at length the tourist realized you get nothing for nothing, and not much more for a dollar, so he put down $10 and said, "Now tell me. Whatever do you catch in the Dead Sea? I'll bet you a tenner you don't catch anything."

"Oh but I do," came the reply as the fisherman picked up the money. "You're the third good catch today!"


But there is no need to write fiction about the Salt Sea. The truth is fascinating enough. Much could be said about that strange area of intensely salt and bitter water and about the dry and desolate hills, plateaux and plains that surround it.

Israel 's history mentions it before Isaac was born. It was the scene of the first war on record and that had resulted from the first rebellion against the first conqueror ever known -- Chedolaomer.

As early as the tenth chapter of Genesis the Torah mentions the Salt Sea. However, it is impossible to be sure if it was salty when Abraham first came to the district or if it became so as the result of the destruction of the whole region when Divine judgement fell upon it. Moses wrote the Book of Genesis as we have it today about five hundred years after that catastrophe, so when he called it the Salt Sea it could have been its name by that time, in spite of the millions of gallons of fresh water of the Jordan that pour into it at a point that is thirteen hundred feet below sea level. There is no southern outlet, at least since the time of Abraham.

The blistering heat just dries out the Dead Sea, and the minerals the Jordan brings to it are left behind in ever-increasing density. The area was desert when Moses led the twelve tribes up the eastern side of the Dead Sea and between it and the mountains of Edom.

But when Abraham first knew it, the land was fertile, green and lush, so much so that it supported a big population centred in no fewer than five cities. One of them, smaller than the others, was called Zohar. Its site is known today. Researchers estimate that the cemetery they found held 100,000 graves. The whole area was so rich that it carried, in addition to its local pastoral population, Abraham's over-large flocks and herds and his nephew Lot's as well.

Because of the rivalry between their cattlemen and drovers, Lot and Abraham separated. Lot settled near, and later in, the town of Sodom. Likely enough his wife and daughters preferred city life to the nomadic existence they had had, and their wealth was ample because of their large pastoral interests.

Abraham continued his pilgrim life-style; he was unwilling to risk his special relationship with God; he was unwilling to surrender his faith in the promises of God, for faith had made the covenant valid. The patriarch left Lot to the influences that surrounded him. He continued to live in a tent and move to and fro across the plains between Hebron and Beersheba.


The names Sodom and Gomorrah are well known even today. They are symbols – famous for what they represent, or should we say, infamous? We use the word 'sodom' as verbal shorthand to denote an abominable sin, and to recall a terrifying judgement. But today you can go to Sodom by road or rail, and one day a Jewish guide offered to take us into the desolation off the beaten track. We groaned along over bumps and ditches, going further into the arid sand and gibber country.

Alighting from the bus we slithered and slid down into a ravine, on into a tunnel, and through a succession of chalky caves, through Stygian darkness, helped only by a sputtering inch of brave candle, and confidence that the guide knew what he was about. The silence was so impressive it seemed audible. Certainly it spoke to me, and when at length we clambered out of the chalky gully and sat once again in the bus I could still hear it. It spoke of the days when for thousands of hectares in all directions the beauty and fertility of the land tempted the Elamites from between the Tigris and Euphrates six hundred miles away to invade it.

They put the five cities, the chiefs and the population under tribute, and the victims paid up for twelve years and then rebelled. When Elam came to enforce its demands Lot and his family were amongst those kidnapped as hostages. Travelling north we followed the route their captors used to take them away, the same route that Abraham and his trained men took on their rescue mission.


That road leads between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. Jerusalem is only about fifty miles away from where old Sodom stood. It is startling to realize that within a few hours' march of the Dead Sea, scene of so much iniquity, was the representative of the Holy One, Abraham's God, that mysterious Melchi zedek, the King-Priest. It was to be expected that the news of the invasion, and of the kidnapping and rapid counter-attack and rescue operation led by Abraham would have spread like wildfire.

The tired warriors, now hampered by the women and children, moved more slowly home. The king of Sodom had time to travel the fifty miles to Jerusalem with presents and tokens of esteem, and Melchi-zedek had time to establish contact with Abraham as he passed so close to the place where Melchi-zedek had his altar.


We may read about the foul beastliness of the total population of that area where Lot had chosen to live and which Abraham avoided (Genesis 13,14,18,19). "When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying 'Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.' So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, 'Escape for your life! Do not look behind nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains . . . .' Then Lot said to them, 'Please, no, my lords! Indeed now, your servant has found favour in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die.

"'See now this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.' And he said to him, 'See, I have favoured you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.'

"Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. So he overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

"And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD. Then he looked towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and towards all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace" (Genesis 19:15-28).

The Dead Sea and its surrounds are still there, mute messengers that for all their silence still shout their warning to a world that has gone unheeding for about four thousand years, and still does.


When you stand on top of the old fortress of Masada you are only at sea level, though it is thirteen hundred feet above the surrounding countryside. You gaze across at the blue Sea of Salt and realize that somewhere at the bottom of it are two cities. They are about twelve hundred feet below the surface, which is itself nearly thirteen hundred feet below sea level. As far as you can see there is only desert – barren, stark, dry and hot. What you can see came about after one night of the outpouring of God's wrath on deliberate sin. For it was deliberate. The knowledge of the Holy One centred in Jerusalem was only fifty miles away.

So much of the prediction that the Messiah made when He was here has come to pass that we are foolish indeed to ignore what He said about the mute warning that speaks loudly from the region round the Dead Sea. Speaking to His disciples when He was sending them out to minister He said: "Whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgement than for that city!" (Matthew 10:14,15).

And from the letter of Jude: " . . . as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality . . . are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."

The Lord promised there will never be another world-wide flood, but He has said that there IS to be flaming fire that shall consume the wicked, and the earth itself. Lot was rescued from the destruction that overtook that wicked world of his day. Similarly, there is to be an escape in the world-wide situation. "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36).