Sodom and Gomorrah

Everybody has heard for Sodom and Gomorrah. According to the Bible God destroyed those cities about 4.000 years ago. The Bible says: ?Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah - from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities - and also the vegetation in the land.? (Genesis 19:24-25) Did that destruction really occur?

There is a famous fortress on a hill close to the south side of the Dead Sea, named Masada (see figure). In 70 AD, it was a place of the last defense line in Jewish rebellion against Romans. In this picture we can see the area from the Masada plateau. Part of this area, of approximately 2 x 1,5 miles, is marked with red. It is very different from its surroundings in its appearance and types of rocks. The surrounding area is made up of large, flat surfaces with stones and gravel that are solid (see figure). But, the colored area is hilly, with vertical rock walls (see figure). It is covered with a thick layer of a heavy, fine-grained substance. One could speculate that there has been something like a town, with streets and houses.

The relics, which can be seen in various places in the area, are very interesting. We can see rows of stone blocks. Do they represent street pavements, house foundations or anything similar? In other places the relics are more like walls at the right angle (see figure). It is not so common in the natural rock formation.

The thing that is odd about the area is that there are large quantities of sulphur balls, which range from one inch in diameter to the size of a tennis ball (see figure). These sulphur balls are only spread within the area that looks different. They have melted into the rock and we can see how the sulphur has penetrated the rock at high temperature (see figure). When the sulphur passed through, the channel was sealed and, with the lack of oxygen, the fire of sulphur went out. The points of impact of the sulphur are marked like a 'mashine-gun fire' over the whole area.

The sulphur is also found in stone blocks (see figure). There is a yellow wall which was tested whether it was made of sulphur. When it was exposed to fire, it burned with a strong smell of sulphur while releasing an intense heat (see figure). A further indication that there used to be high temperatures in the area is the shape of rock, which seems to have been folded by great heat (see figure).

The heat caused changes in the mineral, and these can be seen as brown rings in the mineral around the sulphur ball (see figure). The sulphur ball has later encased in a shell, formed by the high temperature followed by cooling. The shells have been more resistant to erosion (see figure). If a shell gets broken, the sulphur ball can be seen clearly (see figure).

A writer of history, Josephus, makes an interesting, 1900 years old note. He says how beautiful it was before everything was burned up, and how rich the towns were in the area. Rich towns imply the existence of large buildings, temple, walls etc. Josephus described what had happened:
?Now this country is then so sadly burnt up, that nobody cares to come to it... It was of old a most happy land, both for the fruits it bore and the riches of its cities, although it be now all burnt up. It is related how for the impiety of its inhabitants, it was burnt by lightning; in consequence of which there are still the remainders of that divine fire; and the shadows of the five cities are still to be seen, as well as the ashes growing in their fruits, which fruits have a colour as if they were fit to be eaten: but if you pluck them with your hands, they will disolve into smoke and ashes.? (Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, book 4, chapter 8).

This description fits in very well with the appearance of the area. It is very easy to associate the sulphur balls with a yellow citrous fruit (see figure). Also, the relics of these towns can be seen as a shadow. In order to make shadow an object must be higher than its surroundings, and this is precisely how it looks on the place where these sulphur balls are located (see figure).

Samples have been collected from different places in this area in order to analyze the rock type and minerals. What do the analyses show? Samples from the outer area, which were not exposed to the intense heat, are mainly limestone or calcium carbonate. The mineralogist who was to analyze sulphur ball samples did not believe that it was sulphur, since this form of sulphur is not like the one normally found in nature. However, the analyses showed that it was a pure sulphur.

The mineral samples that came from the hot area, where the sulphur balls were, have been found to be gypsum or calcium sulphate. What is most likely to have happened in this place? We can see (in this diagram) that carbon dioxide is released from the limestone under intensive heat. At the same time the sulphur is oxidised to sulphur dioxide, which react with water to form sulphate. Calcium ion can then react with the sulphur ion and form calcium sulphate or gypsum - the dominant mineral in this area. This way, chemical analyses indicate that burning sulphur rained down on this limited area.

The occurence of sulphur cannot be compared with what is normally found in nature. If gases from springs or volcanoes condense, crusts of sulphur are often formed consisting of small crystals (see figure). Sulphur can also be found in crystalline form with crystals of bright yellow colour (see figure). Otherwise, sulphur is most commonly found in reaction products with other substances, for example as sulphides and sulphates, as pyrite or iron sulphide (see figure). Only on occasion, very small particles of solid sulphur have been found.

Then, what is the so-colled 'ash' found in the area? It is seen as an eroded material lying in drifts below all the raised parts (see figure). The ?ash? is very fine-grained. The color is grey with particles of a lighter tone. A faint smell of sulphur can be discerned. Chemical analysis shows that the 'ash' contains the same minerals as the solid matter of which the area consists, and that in the eroded material there is also a large amount of sulphur (about 4,5%).
If the analysis of sulphur content is representative of historical times, sulphur fell over the area in an amount corresponding to at least 5% of the amount of solid rock in the area. It was defenitely much more, since a large portion of the sulphur either reacted with calcium (forming gypsum, the dominating mineral in the area) or disappeared as gas (sulphur dioxide). Thus, the total sulphur exposure to the area was enormous.
All things considered, it can be said that the characteristics of the area and chemical analyses indicate that burning sulphur ?rained? down on the place.

Iron is a metal which occurs in nature as a reaction product with other substances (e.g. iron ore). If pure iron is found in nature it is almost always because of human activity. Melted metal has been found in the area. The figure shows a piece of metal, which is distinctive as it is pure iron oxidised in the outer parts (see figure). The piece of metal seems to have been exposed to a high temperature, and in a molten state has run over an edge and then set. This suggests human activity, before the rain of burning sulphur.

In the area, something which is probably pieces of a partly cremated skeleton, has been found (see figure). These parts probably represent pieces of the backbone (see figure), parts of the pelvis bone and parts of the femur bones (see figure). When a skeleton is heated to high temperatures the vertebrae and pelvis bones are those best preserved, while remaining parts of the skeleton break down into a dust or powder.
Analysis of the composition of minerals in these finds could give indication of whether they are skeletal parts. Analysis has been done of both these finds and of surrounding minerals, to discover if there was any difference in composition or simply a formation due to the substances around. These finds show the following:

There is a large amount of quartz (7.7 times more) and aluminum oxide (6.8 times more) in the surrounding minerals, in comparison with the presumed skeletal parts. Skeletons should have lower levels of those minerals. This result shows that the skeletal parts and the surroundings are most likely to be of different origins.
Surrounding substances have a much higher sulphur content (11 times more) than the presumed skeletal parts. This further confirms that these finds, which are probably skeletons, do not originate from surrounding substances.
Fluorine is an element found in nature, but above all in bones and teeth. The presumed skeletal parts have a high content of fluorine (2.16 times more) in comparison with the surrounding substances, which supports the hypothesis that they are skeletal parts.
Calcium is an important constituent of the skeleton, but also a main component of the limestone mineral found on this place. Analyses show that the presumed skeletal parts are closer to the expected value for skeleton than to the value in the surrounding minerals (see figure).
Also, analyses show that the magnesium content in the presumed skeletal parts is much lower than in the surrounding minerals, but very close to what is expected in the skeleton (see figure). This is a further indication that the presumed skeletal parts are skeletal indeed.

When we analyze all these facts, we can see that the biblical record about Sodom and Gommorah is scientifically true. This is very important for us because the Bible says that God will intervene in a similar way very soon:
"Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire, says the Lord Almighty." (Malachi 4:1) Our duty is to prepare for this event.

For more informations see:
The Exodus Case by Lennart Muller