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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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First city of Pentapolis, the others being Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar, all situated in the vale of Siddim (Genesis 14:3), either in the present plain of Sabkhah or farther north, in the southern Seccudes between the peninsula of Al-Lisan and the Sabkhah.

—Biblical Data:

God had announced His determination to destroy these cities because of their wickedness, but promised Abraham to spare Sodom if as few as ten of its inhabitants should be found righteous (ib. 18:20-32). Abraham, however, failed to find even ten righteous in Sodom, and Yhwh thereupon rained fire and brimstone upon the entire Pentapolis and overthrew it (ib. 19:24-26). This event appears to have occurred in the twenty-second century B.C. According to the hypothesis of Blankenburg ("Entstehung und Gesch. des Todten, Meeres," Leipsic, 1896), the catastrophe was in the nature of a sudden sinkage of the valley of the Dead Sea, producing chasms which engulfed the cities. Whenever it happened, the disaster must have been terrible; and it produced such an impression that the Prophets often refer to Pentapolis or to Sodom in describing dire misfortunes (Isaiah 1:9, 13:19; Jeremiah 23:14, 49:18; Amos 4:11; Zephaniah 2:9). The destruction of these cities is described in similar terms by Josephus ("B. J." 4:8, § 4) and in the Koran (sura ). In the account of the battle of the kings of the vale of Siddim the names of those rulers are given as follows: "Bera of Sodom, Birsha of Gomorrah, Shinab of Admah, Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela or Zoar.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

The Talmud, like the Bible, ascribes the fate of Sodom and the other cities of Pentapolis to the wickedness of their inhabitants; and when the sins of the people of Jerusalem are enumerated, on the basis of Ezekiel 16:48-50, the attempt is made to show them less heinous than those of the inhabitants of Sodom (Sanh.104b). There were four judges in Sodom (ib. 109b), named respectively Shaḳḳarai ("liar"), Shaḳrarai ("habitual liar"), Zayyafa ("deceiver"), and Maẓle Dina ("perverter of the Law"). In Sodom every one who gave bread and water to the poor was condemned to death by fire (Yalḳ., Gen. 83). Two girls, one poor and the other rich, went to a well; and the former gave the latter her jug of water, receiving in return a vessel containing bread. When this became known, both were burned alive (ib.). In the Midrash (ib. 84) the judges are called Ḳaẓ Sheḳer (= "greatest liar"), Rab Sheḳer (= "master of lies"), Rab Nabal (= "master of turpitude "), Rab Masṭeh Din (= "chief perverter of the Law"), and Ḳelapandar (probably = "forger"). Pentapolis existed only fifty-two years; and during the last twenty-two of them God brought earthquakes and other misfortunes upon it that it might repent. It refused to do so, however, and was destroyed (ib. 83). The inhabitants of the cities of the plain worshiped the sun and the moon. If destruction had come upon them by day, they would have said that the moon would have helped them; if by night, they would have declared that the sun would have been their aid; wherefore they were destroyed early in the morning, when both the sun and the moon were shining. This happened on the sixteenth of Nisan.

According to the "Sefer ha-Yashar," a man entered Sodom riding on an ass, and as he had no lodging he was received by a resident of the place. On preparing to depart he missed his colored cover and the cord by which it had been tied to the animal's back. When he asked his host about the matter, he received the answer that he had only dreamed of a cover, but that the vision was of good omen, since the cover meant that he would possess large vineyards, and the cord indicated that his life would be prolonged. The stranger protested; but he was dragged before the tribunal and sentenced to pay four silver shekels. The names of the judges, according to this account, were: Sarak in Sodom, Sarkar in Gomorrah, Zabuak in Admah, and Manon in Zeboiim (ib. 24-27). For the other stories related in the "Sefer ha-Yashar" see ELIEZER (2) and LOT.

  • Sepp, Jerusalem und das Heilige Land, pp. 707, 813, Schaffhausen, 1873;
  • Cheyne, Encyc. Bibl.;
  • Herzog-Hauck, Real-Encyc. 14:1904, s. Palestine.
S. O.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Sodom'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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