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Genesis 14:10

10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills.

Read Genesis 14:10 Using Other Translations

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.
Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country.
As it happened, the valley of the Dead Sea was filled with tar pits. And as the army of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into the tar pits, while the rest escaped into the mountains.

What does Genesis 14:10 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Genesis 14:10

And the vale of Siddim [was full of] slimepits
Or "wells" or "fountains of slime" or bitumen F19; a liquid of a pitchy nature, cast out of fountains, and which was used for a cement in buildings; such fountains were near Babylon, (See Gill on Genesis 11:3); so that this place was naturally prepared for what it was designed to be, a bituminous lake; and hence, when turned into one, it was called the lake Asphaltites, from this slime or bitumen, called by the Greeks "asphaltos". Brocardus F20 says, these pits or wells of bitumen are at this day on the shore of the lake, each of them having pyramids erect, which he saw with his own eyes; and such pits casting out bitumen, as fountains do water, have been found in other countries, as in Greece {u}. Now this vale being full of such pits, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah chose it to fight in, and here drew up in a line of battle, hoping that the enemy, being ignorant of them, would fall into them and perish, and their ranks be broke and fall into confusion; but as it often is, that the pit men dig and contrive for others they fall into themselves, so it was in this case: and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled:
the battle going hard against them, and they not able to stand before their enemies: and fell there,
or "into them" F23; the slimepits, or fountains of bitumen, into which they precipitately fell, and many perished; or of their own accord they threw themselves into them for their own safety, as some think; though the sense may be this, that there was a great slaughter of them made there, as the word is frequently used, see ( 1 Samuel 4:10 ) ; this is to be understood not of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah; for it is certain that they were preserved alive, at least the king of Sodom, for we hear of him afterwards, ( Genesis 14:17 Genesis 14:21 ) ; but of their soldiers: and they that remained fled to the mountain:
or mountains hard by, where Lot after went when Sodom was destroyed, ( Genesis 19:30 ) ; hither such fled that escaped the sword of the enemy, or perished not in the slimepits, judging it more safe to be there, than to be in their cities, which would fall into the hands of their enemies, and be plundered by them, and where they would be in danger of losing their lives.


FOOTNOTES:

F19 (rmh trab trab) "putei, putei bituminis", Vatablus, Piscator, Cartwright, Drusius, Schmidt; so Jarchi.
F20 Apud Adricom. Theatrum Terrae Sanct. p. 44.
F21 Aelian. Var. Hist. l. 13. c. 16.
F23 (hmv) "in eos", Cocceius.
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