And he overthrew those cities
Of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim: very probably at the same time that this fiery tempest was in the heavens, there was an earthquake which overthrew the cities; and so Strabo F8 makes the lake, which is now the place where they stood, to be owing to earthquakes and eruptions of fire, and of hot bituminous and sulphurous waters; and says nothing of fire from heaven, which yet Tacitus and Solinus do, being unacquainted with the sacred history:
and all the plain;
the plain of Jordan, and the cities on it, all but Zoar; not all the five cities, as Josephus F9: Egesippus F11 and other authors mistake, only the four above mentioned. Strabo F12 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 F15 has attempted to confute the notion that the cities of Sodom 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 F16; 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
F17 himself relates: indeed, Ludovicus Vartomanus F18, 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 F19, 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 F20, 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 F21; the Arabic geographer F23 says, it is sixty miles in length, and twelve in breadth; it is now called by the Arabs, Bahar Louth, Lot's lake.
F8 Geograph. l. 16. p. 526.
F9 De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 4.
F11 De excidio urb. l. 4. c. 18.
F12 Ut supra. (Geograph. l. 16. p. 526.)
F15 Palestina illustrata, tom. 1. l. 1. c. 38. p. 254
F16 Vid. Universal History, vol. 2. p. 421 See Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 1. p. 341.
F17 De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 4.
F18 Navigat. l. 1. c. 10.
F19 Travels, l. 3. p. 110, 111. Ed. 5.
F20 Ut supra. (De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 4.)
F21 Universal History, ib. p. 424. See Egmont ib, p. 342.
F23 Scherif Ibn Idris, apud Reland. ib. p. 249.