And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew on the ground.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Overthrew.—This does not mean submerged, and the agent in the destruction was fire and not water. “The plain” (Heb., the Ciccar) still existed, and when Abraham saw it, was wrapped in smoke.Genesis 19:25. And he overthrew those cities, and all the inhabitants of them, the plain, and all that grew upon the ground — It was an utter ruin, and irreparable; that fruitful valley remains to this day a great lake, or dead sea. Travellers say it is about thirty miles long, and ten miles broad. It has no living creature in it: it is not moved by the wind: the smell of it is offensive: things do not easily sink in it. The Greeks call it Asphaltis, from a sort of pitch which it casts up. Jordan falls into it, and is lost there. It was a punishment that answered their sin. Burning lusts against nature were justly punished with this preternatural burning.Genesis 14:10. The district was liable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions from the earliest to the latest times. We read of an earthquake in the days of king Uzziah Amos 1:1. An earthquake in 1759 destroyed many thousands of persons in the valley of Baalbec. Josephus (De Bell. Jude 3.10, 7) reports that the Salt Sea sends up in many places black masses of asphalt, which are not unlike headless bulls in shape and size. After an earthquake in 1834, masses of asphalt were thrown up from the bottom, and in 1837 a similar cause was attended with similar effects.
The lake lies in the lowest part of the valley of the Jordan, and its surface is about thirteen hundred feet below the level of the sea. In such a hollow, exposed to the burning rays of an unclouded sun, its waters evaporate as much as it receives by the influx of the Jordan. Its present area is about forty-five miles by eight miles. A peninsula pushes into it from the east called the Lisan, or tongue, the north point of which is about twenty miles from the south end of the lake. North of this point the depth is from forty to two hundred and eighteen fathoms. This southern part of the lake seems to have been the original dale of Siddim, in which were the cities of the vale. The remarkable salt hills lying on the south of the lake are still called Khashm Usdum (Sodom). A tremendous storm, accompanied with flashes of lightning, and torrents of rain, impregnated with sulphur, descended upon the doomed cities.
From the injunction to Lot to "flee to the mountain," as well as from the nature of the soil, we may infer that at the same time with the awful conflagration there was a subsidence of the ground, so that the waters of the upper and original lake flowed in upon the former fertile and populous dale, and formed the shallow southern part of the present Salt Sea. In this pool of melting asphalt and sweltering, seething waters, the cities seem to have sunk forever, and left behind them no vestiges of their existence. Lot's wife lingering behind her husband, and looking back, contrary to the express command of the Lord, is caught in the sweeping tempest, and becomes a pillar of salt: so narrow was the escape of Lot. The dashing spray of the salt sulphurous rain seems to have suffocated her, and then encrusted her whole body. She may have burned to a cinder in the furious conflagration. She is a memorable example of the indignation and wrath that overtakes the halting and the backsliding.All the plain, to wit, where these cities and their territories lay, called the plain of Jordan, Genesis 13:10; all which then became, and to this day continues, to be a filthy lake, called the Dead Sea, because no fish lives in it.
and all the plain; the plain of Jordan, and the cities on it, all but Zoar; not all the five cities, as Josephus (i): Egesippus (k) and other authors mistake, only the four above mentioned. Strabo (l) speaks of thirteen cities being formerly upon this spot, of which Sodom was the metropolis:
and all the inhabitants of the cities; none were spared, all were destroyed, but Lot, his wife, and two daughters:
and that which grew upon the ground; the trees, herbs, and plants; these were all turned up by the earthquake, and burnt with fire from heaven: Tacitus, in his account of this conflagration, says,"the fields, which were formerly fruitful, and inhabited by many cities, were burnt up with lightning; and there are traces (he adds) yet remain; the earth itself looks torrid, and has lost its fruitful virtue; for whatsoever grows up of itself, or is sown and rises up in the plant or flower, or grows up to its usual species, becomes black and empty, and vanishes into ashes.''The place where those cities stood is now a lake, and is sometimes called the salt sea, Genesis 14:3; and sometimes the dead sea, because it is said, no creature can live in it; and sometimes called the Lake Asphaltites, from its bituminous and pitchy quality: though Reland (o) has attempted to confute the notion that the cities of Sodom, &c. stood where this lake now is: and the many things that have been reported of this lake and parts adjacent, by various historians, supposed to be of good credit, are by modern travellers exploded (p); as those of no living creature being bred in it; of bodies not sinking in it; and of birds being unable to fly over it; and of the cities appearing under water in a clear day; and of the apples of Sodom, which look beautiful to the eye, but when touched fall into ashes; many of which Josephus (q) himself relates: indeed, Ludovicus Vartomanus (r), a traveller in those parts in the beginning of the sixteenth century, says,"there yet remain the ruins of the destroyed city, as a witness of God's wrath; we may affirm, there are three cities, and each of them situated on the decline of three hills, and the ruins appear about the height of three or four cubits; there is yet seen, I scarce know what, something like blood, or rather like red wax mixed with earth:''and our countryman Mr. Sandys (s), though he questions some of the above things before related, especially concerning the apples, yet says,"not far from thence grows a tree whose fruit is like a green walnut, which he saw, and which they say never ripens.''This lake of Sodom, according to Josephus (t), is five hundred and eighty furlongs in length unto Zoar, and one hundred fifty broad; but, according to modern accounts, it is twenty four leagues in length, and six or seven in breadth (u); the Arabic geographer (w) says, it is sixty miles in length, and twelve in breadth; it is now called by the Arabs, Bahar Louth, Lot's lake.
(h) Geograph. l. 16. p. 526. (i) De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 4. (k) De excidio urb. l. 4. c. 18. (l) Ut supra. (Geograph. l. 16. p. 526.) (o) Palestina illustrata, tom. 1. l. 1. c. 38. p. 254, &c. (p) Vid. Universal History, vol. 2. p. 421, &c. See Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 1. p. 341. (q) De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 4. (r) Navigat. l. 1. c. 10. (s) Travels, l. 3. p. 110, 111. Ed. 5. (t) Ut supra. (De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 4.) (u) Universal History, ib. p. 424. See Egmont, &c. ib, p. 342. (w) Scherif Ibn Idris, apud Reland. ib. p. 249.And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)25. and he overthrew] The word used is the one regularly employed elsewhere in the O.T. where the overthrow of the cities is mentioned. Like the word mabbul for the Flood, so this word, “overthrow” (mahpêkah, “overturning”), used here and in Genesis 19:29, became the technical term for this catastrophe. It suggests an earthquake.
“The Korán frequently refers to Sodom and Gomorrah by the title of al mutafikât ‘the overturned’ (Sur. ix. 71, liii. 54, lxix. 9)” (Cheyne).Verse 25. - And he overthrew - literally, turned over, as a cake'; whence utterly destroyed (cf. Deuteronomy 29:23; κατέστρεψε, LXX.; subvertit, Vulgate). In Arabic "the overthrown' is a title applied, κατ ἐξοχὴν, to Sodom and Gomorrah (Gesenius). From the use of the expression καταστροφή (2 Peter 2:6), Wordsworth thinks an earthquake may have accompanied the burning - those cities, - that they were submerged as well as overthrown (Josephus) is a doubtful inference from Genesis 14:3 (vide infra, Ver. 28, on the site of cities of the plain). The archaic הָאל is again employed (cf. Genesis 19:8) - and all the plain, - kikkar, circle or district (Genesis 13:10) - and all the inhabitants of the cities, - a proof of their entire corruption (Genesis 18:32) - and that which grew upon the ground - literally, that which sprouts forth from the ground, the produce of the soil; thus converting "a fruitful land into barrenness for the wickedness of them that dwell therein" (Psalm 107:34). Genesis 13:10), but to flee to the mountains (afterwards called the mountains of Moab). In Genesis 19:17 we are struck by the change from the plural to the singular: "when they brought them forth, he said." To think of one of the two angels - the one, for example, who led the conversation - seems out of place, not only because Lot addressed him by the name of God, "Adonai" (Genesis 19:18), but also because the speaker attributed to himself the judgment upon the cities (Genesis 19:21, Genesis 19:22), which is described in Genesis 19:24 as executed by Jehovah. Yet there is nothing to indicate that Jehovah suddenly joined the angels. The only supposition that remains, therefore, is that Lot recognised in the two angels a manifestation of God, and so addressed them (Genesis 19:18) as Adonai (my Lord), and that the angel who spoke addressed him as the messenger of Jehovah in the name of God, without its following from this, that Jehovah was present in the two angels. Lot, instead of cheerfully obeying the commandment of the Lord, appealed to the great mercy shown to him in the preservation of his life, and to the impossibility of his escaping to the mountains, without the evil overtaking him, and entreated therefore that he might be allowed to take refuge in the small and neighbouring city, i.e., in Bela, which received the name of Zoar (Genesis 14:2) on account of Lot's calling it little. Zoar, the Σηγώρ of the lxx, and Segor of the crusaders, is hardly to be sought for on the peninsula which projects a long way into the southern half of the Dead Sea, in the Ghor of el Mezraa, as Irby and Robinson (Pal. iii. p. 481) suppose; it is much more probably to be found on the south-eastern point of the Dead Sea, in the Ghor of el Szaphia, at the opening of the Wady el Ahsa (vid., v. Raumer, Pal. p. 273, Anm. 14).
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