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The Vale of Siddim – Location of Sodom and Gomorrah



January 7, 2006

The Vale of Siddim – Location of Sodom and Gomorrah

When I wrote my first book, “Tectonic Chaos”, I was sure of two things concerning the location of the Vale of Siddim, (1) It was near, or a part of, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and (2) It extended over on the eastern side of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea into what today is the country of Jordan. Knowing (1) and (2) to be true, I knew the long north to south oriented eastern side of the duel Jordan Rift Valley Fault went through the Vale of Siddim near Sodom and Gomorrah. I took the traditional, and most widely accepted, location of the Vale of Siddim as being on the southern end of the Dead Sea, with Sodom and Gomorrah being on the Jordanian side. But I was always bothered about locating it there because the Bible indicated that Lot settled on a “well watered plain” and, as a geologist and meteorologist, I knew it was not a “well watered” plain at the time Lot resided there. Geologically, I could not locate it precisely because the eastern branch rift valley fault extends from the Gulf of Aqabah along the entire length of the eastern side of the Dead Sea, and there are numerous salt domes from one end to the other. Wherever it was located on the Jordanian side, I knew there was a fault line extending downward to eventually reach hot liquid magma, which could act as a trigger mechanism to set off a gigantic explosion of sulfur, oil deposits and depressurized liquid salt, if a vertical shaft pike opened to bring magma in contact with sulfur depositions beneath the salt dome.

I wrote all of the preceding because I now believe traditional teachings of the Vale of Siddim being at the southern end of the Dead Sea were incorrect. It does not change what I believe about what happened at the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, because it was the Bible statement of slime pits existing in the Vale of Siddim that led me to my original conclusions. But I now accept that the Vale of Siddim extended from Jericho eastward across the northern edge of the Dead Sea into Jordan. The oil pockets, sulfur, and salt domes that previously existed above the magma along the eastern side of the Dead Sea fault would have been sufficient to produce the fiery holocaust the Bible presents.

I wrote “Tectonic Chaos” some 30 years ago after graduating from the Missionary Baptist Seminary and Arkansas Tech University, finishing it in the late seventies while doing post graduate work at ATU. I have since changed my mind about the location of the Vale of Siddin because of e-mail exchanges with Dr. John Melancon, an archeologist who used my “Geological Exposition of the Second Coming of Christ” video series to teach in his church. I believe he is correct in his placement of Sodom and Gomorrah. He is among those “eminent authorities” who maintain they were located at “the northern end of the Dead Sea,” as presented in the International Bible Encyclopedia. Dr. Melancon is currently part of a large archeological excavation team working in that area.

The International Bible Encyclopedia (I.B.E.) provides the following information about the Vale of Siddim.


“sid'-im, (`emeq ha-siddim; Septuagint he pharangx (or koilas) he haluke): The place mentioned in Gen. 14:3-8 as being the scene of encounter between Chedorlaomer and his allies with the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar. In 14:3 it is identified with the Salt Sea, and in 14:10 it is said to have been full of slime pits ("bitumen").

According to the traditional view, the Vale of Siddim was at the southern end of the Dead Sea. But in recent years a number of eminent authorities have maintained that it was at the northern end of the Dead Sea, in the vicinity of Jericho. Their argument has mainly been drawn from incidental references in the scene (Gen. 13:1-13) describing the parting of Lot and Abram, and again in the account of Moses' vision from Pisgah (Deut. 34:3).

In the account of Abram and Lot, it is said that from Bethel they saw "all the Plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah." The word here translated "plain" means "circle," and well describes the view which one has of the plain about Jericho from Bethel as he looks down the valley past Ai. But it seems to go beyond the text to assume that the Vale of Siddim was within that circle of vision, for it is said in Gen 13:12 simply that Lot dwelt "in the cities of the Plain, and moved his tent as far as Sodom." In the vision of Moses, likewise, we have a very general and condensed description, in which it is said that he was shown "the Plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm-trees, unto Zoar," which, as we learn from Gen 19:22, was not far from the Vale of Siddim. It is true that from the traditional site of Pisgah the south end of the Dead Sea could not be seen. But we are by no means sure that the traditional site of Pisgah is the true one, or that the import of this language should be restricted to the points which are actually within range of vision.”


I am including Chapter 13 from “Tectonic Chaos” as it was originally presented on our Web Site. I still believe the geological elements of the earth mingled to produce the catastrophic event in the Vale of Siddim, but I was wrong about where it was located on the fault. It was on the eastern Arabah fault, but on the northern, not the southern end of the Dead Sea. So please just shift the location of Sodom and Gomorrah to a position just northeast of the Dead Sea in Jordan when you view the diagrams referenced in Chapter 13.


Tectonic Chaos – Chapter 13 – Shell of Salt from a Jordan Rift

One of the greatest jokes in the Bible to unbelieving scientists has long been the account of Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt. However, in the running to and fro of man above the planet, across the planet, and in particular, below the planet’s surface, sufficient knowledge has come to light to understand the methodology God used to being the event to its final conclusion.

Daniel 12:4 – But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

Genesis 19:23-26 – The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. [24] Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; [25] And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. [26] But his wife looked back from behind him, and she BECAME a pillar of salt.

The “plain” to which the writer refers is the wide, flat rift valley fault at the southern end of the Dead Sea. Sodom and Gomorrah, before their obliteration, sat directly over the fault (F2) on the southeastern side of the Dead Sea shore (See Birth Pang Archive Figures 24 and 27). Examination of the geological substrata in this area is very interesting. The Bible gives a description which reflects that numerous shallow oil deposits existed in this zone prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 14:10 – And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.

The vale of Siddim (valley of the fields) was the territory south of the land tongue which protrudes into the Dead Sea from its eastern side (See Birth Pang Archive Figures 24 and 27). The great cataclysm which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah was followed by subsidence of all the vale of Siddim, and up until the last century it lay submerged beneath the southern end of the Dead Sea south of the land tongue of Lisan. The “slime pits” were bitumen or asphalt pits. The words for slime pits in Genesis 14:10 are the Hebrew words “chemar beer,” and represent a pit of bitumen that extended downward into the substrata of the earth. Asphalt is a brown to black bituminous substance that is obtained as a residue in petroleum refining. A great deal of the asphalt of ancient times came from the Dead Sea, which was also called Lacus Alphatites. Asphalt is a mixture of hydrocarbons, in part oxygenated, the softer types generating toward petroleum. When exposed to the air it hardens partly by oxidation and partly by evaporation. There was once a large build-up of this petroleum based bituminous material surrounding the area of Sodom and Gomorrah, because the writer states that it was “full of slime pits.” Even today an occasional chunk of asphalt will suddenly bob up to the top as a sulfur vent erupts on the sea floor of the Dead Sea. There are, to this day, large sulfur springs that deposit heavy loads of sulfur over the Dead Sea flats in this area. Here, in the hey-day of Sodom and Gomorrah, was a great subsurface powder keg of petroleum hydrocarbons and sulfur, just waiting for a giant match to ignite them. Another compound, sodium chloride, better known as salt, has always existed in the upper surface layers of this zone as vast block formations hundreds of feet thick. So, here is the disaster, waiting for the God who formed it, to ignite it with what he put beneath the layers of salt, sulfur, and petroleum based material – thick deposits of salt immediately under the surface, petroleum hydrocarbons boiling up through cracks in the salt layers, and sulfur springs rippling into the salt zone both vertically and horizontally. All this formation needed to trigger it was a vertical thrust of the igneous magma into the crack running through the Sodom-Gomorrah area (See Birth Pang Archive Figure 27). As you can see on Figure 27, a vast molten sea of magma underlies the earth’s outer crust, and it is closer to the earth’s surface in this area than in many other parts of the world. Numerous fumaroles occasionally release hot gasses and vapors to the surface from old volcanic vents that still extend deep into the underlying magma, bearing testimony that intense heat pockets exist just below the surface.

Zoar was not resting on top of the powder keg. When Lot entered the safety zone to which God had directed him, then God pulled his tectonic trigger and completely destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. I believe that God opened his Dead Sea Fault just enough to allow the fiery magma to push up through the vents of salt layers he had long saturated with sulfur and bitumen. This touched off a tremendous chain of explosions that roared through the entire vale of Siddim. The explosions weakened the upper crust and great fiery swirls of pyroclastic materials were blasted high into the heavens. The writer describes it vividly by stating, “brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.”

But what of Lot’s wife – how did she become a “pillar of salt?” First of all, she disobeyed God, and remained in the disaster zone – “But his wife looked back from behind him.” When Lot was safely inside Zoar, his wife was still standing in the danger zone “looking back.” This tells us why she became a pillar of salt – she disobeyed God! Now, let us explore how “she became a pillar of salt.” She observed the great vents of fire that went up into the heavens from the chain reaction, but before she could clear the danger zone a blanket of of pyroclastic material from the eruption rained down on her – and yes, you guessed it – the pyroclastic material was composed of hot, liquid, pryochemical salt. She actually “BECAME a pillar of salt,” exactly as the Word of God proclaims.

This sort of thing is not unheard of – pyroclastic materials of the local area covered the residents of Pompeii in 79 A.D. – They were actually encased, in perfect body form, by pyroclastic materials of the local area called “rapilli” that were thrown into the heavens by the eruption of Vesuvius. They became pillars of rapilli rather than pillars of salt. The Italian Florelli devised a method of making casts of the former residents by pouring plaster into the rapilli shell coverings. When the material rained down from heaven the residents of Pompeii were in the danger zone. I am convinced the same thing happened to Lot’s wife. The residents of Pompeii did not become “pillars of salt” only because the upper layers of the crust in their area were not composed of salt layers.

As the sulfur and petroleum based substances continue to burn both externally and internally, a great deal of the valley mass went up in smoke. Additionally, the salt blocks fused into more compressed strata and the limestone layers gradually shrank after the initial ignition by magma. This chain of events caused a further local subsidence of the graben valley floor. As it gradually sank below the level of the Dead Sea to the north of it, its murky water flowed slowly southward across the area like a great smothering blanket over the smoking valley, and much of what remains today of this great holocaust lies hidden beneath the shallow waters of the southern Dead Sea.

Please do not believe I am trying to “explain away” a miracle. God does as he wills with his own creation. I simple believe this is what God did. The sight that met Abraham’s view the morning after Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt, is a flawless description of a local opening of the tectonic plate along the Dead Sea Fault.

Genesis 19:26-28 – But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. [27] And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord: [28] And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.

I believe God opened the Dead Sea Fault in a small local area to cause the terrifying picture Abraham witnessed in the aftermath of the cataclysm. I am convinced that God will once again open this fault in the last 1260 days of the tribulation period. But this time it will not be local – the opening will stretch from the southern tip of the Dead Sea via the land of Idumea to the northern extension of the Red Sea into the Gulf of Eilat or Aqaba (See Birth Pang Archive Figure 23). I believe the prophet Isaiah saw this happening in his vision of destruction in Idumea during the tribulation period (See latter part of Chapter 11).

Isaiah 34:9,10 – And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. [10] It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.