Mount Sodom

The Biblical Narrative

Mount Sodom view
Mount Sodom view

Sodom's Depravity

"Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. And he said, 'Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.'


And they said, 'No, but we will spend the night in the open square.' 

But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.


Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.'


So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, 'Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.'


And they said, 'Stand back!' Then they said, 'This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.'

So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. 


But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door" (Genesis 19:1-12).

Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed

"Then the men said to Lot, 'Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place! For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.'


So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, 'Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!'

But to his sons-in-law, he seemed to be joking. 


When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, 'Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.' 


And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, 'Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.'


Then Lot said to them, 'Please, no, my lords! Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die. See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.' 


And he said to him, 'See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.'


Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.


But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt"   

(Genesis 19:12-26).

Geology of the Dead Sea Region

Dead Sea industrial area
Dead Sea industrial area

The Dead Sea is located within the intercontinental Syrian-African Rift, a 3,700 mile fault which stretches from the northern regions of Syria to the east. It began forming more than 25 million years ago, due to tectonic pressure of the continental plates. At that time, the Dead Sea basin was covered with ocean water which quickly evaporated due to the high temperatures in the region. As a result, salt accumulated at the bottom of the lake.


About 2 million years ago, a depression in the Dead Sea region was cut off from the ocean and a large lake formed. It is the saltiest lake on the earth, with a salinity around 33.7%.


Over time, the salt deposits reached large sizes, 3-3.7 miles deep, 5-7 miles wide and 24.8 miles long. Other types of minerals have also accumulated above the layers of salt which are harvested to make cosemetics and health preparations. 

Geology and Geography of Mount Sodom

Walking trail of Sodom Mount
Walking trail of Sodom Mount

Mount Sodom or Har Sedom (in Hebrew: הר סדום) is 6 miles long and 1 mile across.

It is located on the southwestern side of the Dead Sea, rising 500-800 feet above it. The mountain is 6 miles long and 1 mile across.  It is a giant salt plug, uniquely formed in a dry region. It is also mixed with other minerals. The water penetrates into the salt, forming large cavities. Mount Sodom is the result of salt accumulation on the surface. 


For centuries, the salt layers of Mount Sodom have melted and washed away, mixing with stones and created by the many cavities and channels that permeate the body of the mountain.

View from Sodom Mount
View from Sodom Mount

Location of Zoar

The city of Zoar was located on the southeastern side of the Dead Sea. According to the 19th chapter of Genesis, Lot took refuge in this city from disaster, and then came out of it with his two daughters and continued living with grief over the loss of his wife.

"Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave” (Genesis 19:30).


A possible location of Zoar is the site of the ruins of Tel Sheikh Isa, near the village of Safi. Zoar is also mentioned in the 13th chapter of the book of Genesis, in relation to the disagreement between Abram and Lot,

“And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other” (Genesis 13:10-11).


Zoar (also called Bela), appears again in Genesis 14 which records the battle between the four kings of Aram-Naharaim and the five kings of the Valley of the Dead Sea (also known as the Valley of Siddim or Salt Sea),

“And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea)” (Genesis 14:1-3). 

"Lot's Wife" Pillar

The pillar in the center of Sodom Mount is believed to be Lot's wife
The pillar in the center of Sodom Mount is believed to be Lot's wife

The Book of Genesis says that Lot and his family had been helped by the angels to flee the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah when God destroyed them. The angels warned them not to look back but Lot's wife could not resist. Because she could not contain her curiosity, she turned into a pillar of salt.

“The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26).


On Mount Sodom,  this depiction of "Lot's wife" was sculptured by nature and is just a pillar of salt.


In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus recalls the misfortune of Lot’s wife and tells His audience,

“Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.


In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:28-32).


Perhaps He wanted to teach his listeners not to look back into the past but look forward into the future?

Another view from Sodom Mount
Another view from Sodom Mount

Lot's Cave

Lot's cave at the base of Sodom Mount
Lot's cave at the base of Sodom Mount

"Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave” (Genesis 19:30).


Lot's cave is located in the central part of the mountain's base, below the rock known as "Lot's wife". Inside  the cave, there are  two "chimneys" which stand at the entrance of two tunnels formed due to the process of dissolving salt.  Near the  exit of the cave, the tunnels join into one.  Because of the danger of collapse, entry into the cave is not allowed. 

Lot's cave
Lot's cave