We wonder: Are those Bible stories in the Old Testament really true?Especially the one about Sodom and Gomorrah?
Dr. Collins struggled with thoughts like those. Then, in 1996, he had a crisis of faith. The biblical account of Abraham and Lot was not matching the maps he held in his hand. He reread the biblical account and paid attention to the geographical clues. It suggested Abraham looked out over the Kikkar of Jordan. That would mean Sodom and Gomorrah were north and east of the Dead Sea.
Dr. Collins went on a quest for Sodom. He searched the area, narrowing the possibilities. Tall el-Hammam is one of the largest Bronze Age sites in the Middle East. It is the site of great destruction with a meter thick layer of ash.
The authors provide us with lots of back story before continuing with the account of the excavation. They look at the biblical story and a fictional tour of the area. They also cover the theories of Sodom's location.
There have been seven seasons of excavation. The site has massive walls, twelve feet thick and higher than three stories. The occupation was continuous for 7,000 years, until the abrupt stop. The destruction layer dates to the second half of the Middle Bronze Age. It is evidence of a violent end and then no habitation for 700 years.
A pottery fragment with a glass glaze was found. Testing showed it was formed by a burst of heat of 2,000 degrees.
Is the site Sodom? “If, as the Bible clearly indicates, Sodom was the largest city in the land of the Kikkar during the Bronze Age, then Tall el-Hammam is it, hands down.” (166) Reviewing aspects of the site, they write, “Each of the previous points links precisely with biblical descriptions about Sodom's size, wealth, prestige, fortifications, architecture, and complexity, it's a match in every possible way.” (173)
Nonetheless, there are some who do not agree with the site being identified as Sodom and the authors address the reasons that are offered.
The authors share the importance of this book. “If, in the cold reality of the twenty-first century, something long regarded as 'mythical' can be proven to be historically present in the very dirt of a massive mound in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, then would not intellectual honesty require that the Bible itself be given a fresh, new look as a true narrative representation on its own terms?” (243) Exactly.
Christians would benefit from reading this book and following the continuing excavation. See the website: http://www.tallelhammam.com/Tall_el_Hammam.html
Dr. Steven Collins is Executive Curator of the Museum of Archaeology and biblical History, Dean of the College of Archaeology and Biblical History at Trinity Southwest University, and Visiting Professor of Archaeology at Veritas Evangelical Seminary.
Latayne Scott is the author of 16 books including The Mormon Mirage. Find out more at http://latayne.com/.
Howard Books, 326 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.