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I am currently writing a book about five ragged cities from bronze age middle east. The original account is found in the bible, Genesis chapter 19 makes reference to one of these cities called Sodom. The sage is universally known as Sodom and Gomorrah, and yet Gomorrah is rarely mentioned in biblical text. Sodom is the city that sets the stage for the entire epic. epicIt is Universally accepted that Sodom and Gomorrah with her neighboring cities were destroyed because of the inhabitants grave sexual appetite, namely homosexuality. Was this the case?
Uncertainty incited me to spend three years researching the reasons why the inhabitants of these five cities were condemned. Why would I do this? Because the story intrigued me. The story begins in the bible book of Genesis chapters 18 and 19 and to give it a fair chance I read ten different translations to catch an overall picture of the account. Within these two chapters there is no mention of homosexuality, in fact there is no mention of sex not even heterosexual by nature. So where does the stigma come from?
It seems to have been derived from a situation that developed outside of Lot’s house where an angry crowd of men had assembled. The account goes on to describe that all the men of Sodom had gathered and demanded that Lot submit his guests to them, these are the two male visitors that the bible refers to as angels. Lot pleads with the crowd addressing them as “brothers” and offers his two daughters as a substitute offering. The scriptures leave no doubt in your mind that the intentions of the inflamed crowd were unfavorable, but the account does not make clear what their intentions were exactly. Nowhere does the account suggest that this enraged crowd of men were ready to rape the two visitors residing at Lot’s house. Could something have been lost in translation?
Not really! The unique Hebrew and Aramaic text used the word “know” in this passage of scripture, Genesis 19 vs. 5 which reads; Calling out to Lot they said,’where are the men who came to you tonight? Send them out to us so that we can have intercourse with them. ’(NJB) Some translations consume the word “sex” Definition of the word “intercourse” according to the English Dictionary gives reference to,1 dealings or communication between individuals, groups,countries etc. 2 interchange of thoughts, feelings etc.
3 sexual relations or a sexual coupling, esp. coitus. As there are 3 definitions of the word “intercourse” we are left to decide for ourselves which meaning is intended as sited in Genesis 19 vs. 5? How can we be certain? Christian religions may prefer to hanker toward the third definition in order to condemn homosexuality within its church, while homosexual groups may select the first definition of the word, so who is correct?
The original Hebrew word used is translated “to know” in the English which does also give reference to intimacy and could be interpreted to mean sexual intimacy, but uncertainty in the word and its intended meaning still remains unanswered. Bible translations that directly use the word sex may be incorrect and have an harmful translation? So why did five ancient cities disappear in one day almost without a trace? To find out why, more than the bible needs to be consulted. While the bible is the main source of information, historical writings from other sources are also important as are physical evidence among the chard remains in the area of the modern day dead sea. This book investigates the facts along with possible scenarios.
An examination of the scriptures relating to this subject along with cross references is of first priority. What does the bible say? In order to keep within the context of the story consider first some background information involving the characters in the epic from chapter 11 of Genesis. Abram, Lot, Sarai Lots wife and two daughters. According to Genesis 11 vs 31 Terah (Abram’s father) took Abram out of Ur as the vs reads; Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law the wife of Abram, and made them leave Ur of the Chaldean to go to the land of Canaan. This verse gives us the impression that it was Abram’s father who instigated the proceed from Ur to the territory of Canaan.
However, later bible text gives us another motivating force behind this belief of leaving Ur of the Chaldean. Genesis Chapter 12:1-5 reads; Yahweh(God of ancient Hebrews or God Almighty)said to Abram, “Leave your country, your kindred and your father’s house for a country which I shall show you;and I shall make you a great nation,I shall bless you and make your name famous;you are to be a blessing! I shall bless those who bless you,and shall curse those who curse you,and all clans on earth will bless themselves by you. ” So Abram went as Yahweh told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had amassed and the people they had acquired in Haran.
They set off for the land of Canaan, and arrived there. Haran was in the area of the now modern southern Turkey. The land of Canaan was the situation we know now as Israel. Abram his family and all the people working for him remained in Haran for quite some time. A dream motivated Abram to pack up and leave for the land of Canaan. After days of traveling rough terrain on foot, (no doubt the women and children would have been mounted on animals as was the custom)they all finally arrived in the land of Canaan.
Abram pitched tent in the mountainous region east of Bethel. Then Abram made his way stage by stage to the Negeb. The Negeb, tract of land in southern Judah, was a plateau of moderate elevation. Although not well supplied with water, it afforded abundant pasture for cattle. Abram had accumulated much in the way of live-stock and this pasturage would have been welcome, but unfortunately at the time when Abram arrived, there was a severe famine in the country. Regardless of ground covered and time spent traveling, Abram decides to leave the area affected by the famine and move on down to Egypt.
This brings us to Genesis chapter 12:10-20. There was a famine in the country,and Abram went down to Egypt to stay there for a time,since the famine in the country was severe. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “Look, I know you are a elegant woman. When the Egyptians see you they will say, “That is his wife”, and they will ruin me but leave you alive. Therefore please tell them you are my sister, so that they may treat me well because of you and spare my life out of regard for you”. When Abram arrived in Egypt the Egyptians did indeed seek that the woman was very beautiful.
When Pharaoh’s officials saw her they sang her praises to Pharaoh and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s household. And Abram was very well treated because of her and received flocks, oxen, donkeys, men and women slaves (one of which will have been Hagar who later bore Abram a son) she-donkeys and camels. But Yahweh inflicted severe plagues on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram and said,”What is this you have done to me? Why did you not scream me she was your wife? Why did you say,’She is my sister,’so that I took her to be my wife?
Now, here is your wife. Take her and go! ” And Pharaoh gave his people orders about him; they sent him on his way with his wife and all his possessions. Previous to this God had said to Abram, “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you. ” Pharaoh had objective blessed Abram, and now he was being cursed by Abram’s God, Yahweh. Abram had agreed to enter into a covenant relationship with his God Yahweh.
This was very serious and not to be taken lightly as, all nations of the earth were to be blessed by means of Abram’s seed. Now Abram lies about his wifes true identity and encourages Sarai his wife to lie too. Pharaoh believed Sarai was Abram’s sister. Now Pharaoh is receiving a curse in the form of severe plagues, not a blessing as promised. Here are three possible scenarios: (1)God was angry that Abram lied rather than trust his God to keep him alive and fine. (after all anyone in a covenant with Yahweh is virtually indestructible) also Abram encouraged Sarai to lie too.
(2)Sarai in time will become pregnant with Isaac fathered by Abram. Isaac being heir to the direct bloodline leading to mankind’s Saviour. Pharaoh sleeping with Sarai will have infuriated God. (3)Sarai committed adultery with Abram’s permission. Abram willingly gave his wife to be Pharaoh’s wife and being paid very well in the process. It is very unlikely that God would affirm his wrath on Abram or Sarai who were both very valuable to Yahweh.
So Pharaoh took the rap. This entire spot could have been avoided if only Abram had told the truth. He had his God Yahweh backing him all the way, so why did he fear the Egyptians? 1From Egypt Abram returned to the Negeb with his wife and all he possessed, and Lot with him. 2Abram was very rich in livestock, silver and gold. 3By stages he went from the Negeb to Bethel, where he had first pitched his tent, between Bethel and Ai, 4at the place where he had formerly erected the altar.
There Abram invoked the name of Yahweh. 5Lot, who was traveling with Abram, had flocks and cattle of his own, and tents too. 6The land was not sufficient to accommodate them both at once, for they had too many possessions to be able to live together. 7Dispute broke out between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and those of Lot. (The Canaanites and Perizzites were living in the country at the time. ) 8Accordingly Abram said to Lot, “We do not want discord between us or between my herdsmen and yours, for we are kinsmen.
9Is not the whole land launch before you? Go in the opposite direction to me: if you recall the left, I shall go right; if you take the right, I shall go left. ” 10Looking round, Lot saw all the Jordan plain, irrigated everywhere (well watered for crops)– this was before Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah — like the garden of Yahweh or the land of Egypt, as far as Zoar. 11So Lot chose all the Jordan dead for himself and moved off eastwards. Thus they parted company: 12Abram settled in the land of Canaan; Lot settled among the cities of the plain, pitching his tents on the outskirts of Sodom. 13Now the people of Sodom were vicious and great sinners against Yahweh.
14Yahweh said to Abram after Lot had parted company from him, “Look all round from where you are, to north and south, to east and west, 15for all the land within sight I shall give to you and your descendants for ever. 16I shall make your descendants like the dust on the ground; when people succeed in counting the specks of dust on the ground, then they will be able to count your descendants too! 17On your feet! Travel the length and breadth of the country, for I mean to give it to you. ” 18So Abram moved his tent and went to settle at the Oak of Mamre, at Hebron, and there he built an altar to Yahweh. The Negeb was the scene for much of Abram’s wanderings a parched land with very little rainfall, traveling between Negeb and Bethel approximately a distance of 70 miles.
For Abram, Lot and all who traveled with them over rough and stony terrain, this would have been wearisome to say the least. Under these conditions tempers would have become frayed as an assembly caravan of thousands of men,women and children including livestock were almost constantly on the move in a barren land. As a result of these circumstances Abram suggested to Lot that their depart company and go there separate ways. The mountainous strip which stretched from east to west separating the baron land of the Negeb from the lush and humid land of the Canaanites is possibly where Abram and Lot agreed to part company, as their elevated position in this mountainous region gave themselves a birds eye view of what was on offer. Abram gives Lot first choice. As Lot gazes across the valley plain the scene must have been breathtaking as Lot’s eyes absorbed the beauty of a well watered and lush green landscape.
What Lot was looking at is compared to the garden of God and included the station accommodating the five cities along the coastline of the dead sea. (The original name for this sea is unknown but it is very unlikely that this sea would have been full of salt or sulphate at this time as the five cities had not yet been destroyed. Genesis 13:10. The now dead sea must have been fresh and drinkable at the time of Lot’s arrival) Lot chooses to move east toward the area of the five cities and Abram moves west to Hebron by the oak of Mamre. Lot takes his wife, daughters, servants, herdsman and livestock and pitches his tents in the state of Sodom, the largest and wealthiest of the five cities. On arrival Lot chooses not to move into the city immediately as the inhabitants are inhospitable to strangers, in fact the bible calls them vicious.
So Lot and his entourage continue to live in tents on the outskirts of Sodom and near the coastline of the sea, and so allowing refreshment for his people and livestock. The next closest city to where Lot was now stationed was Zoar, a very small city compared to Sodom. Lot chooses not to live there, maybe it had nothing to offer compared to Sodom. Lot wants to live in the city of Sodom. It is very spacious, very wealthy and has a lot to offer. However, one thing stands in Lot’s way, the inhabitants.
The Sodomites are a savage and vicious Canaanite nation who do not welcome strangers. How is Lot going to accumulate past them? He isn’t! There is one plan of entry into Sodom and that is to appease or reward the King of Sodom. Any lonely traveler wandering into the city of Sodom would be immediately arrested on ogle took before the King who would likely order an immediate death or thrown onto the streets to simply starve to death. Yes!
The inhabitants of Sodom were inhospitable. Lot needed to accumulate a way in. How was he going to appease the king? Lot was a wealthy man maybe he could have appeased the king with money,silver or gold. Lot had wandered with Abram for a long time acquiring wealth along the plot some of which had come from the Egyptians. Maybe Lot wanted to hold on to what he had and so acquire even more wealth?
Maybe this is the reason Lot chose Sodom? Geographically between Sodom and Zoar and in the low plain called Siddim near the slow sea lies an area of bitumen enriched soil (bitumen wells)and a marshland of reeds. Bitumen was a highly sort after substance in big demand from other nations. Used mainly as mortar between bricks in the building trade, builders from near and far would have come to this area of the dead sea in order to trade with these Canaanite nations. No wonder Sodom was a pretty and thriving city. Lot was no fool, he would have seen the potential for trade here and may have even discussed the state with his wife, who became very materialistic.
Based on historical facts here is a possible scenario: Realising the potential for trade, Lot decides to instruct his servants to initiate mining bitumen, being a natural substance of the land the Sodomites couldn’t accuse him of stealing. Although he could have been putting his and his servants lives in danger. A regular supply of bitumen to incoming traders would have created a regular income for Lot and his household. Bitumen was expensive so Lot becomes very, very wealthy. Within a short period of time Lot would have been able to buy a mansion within the city walls of Sodom. No wonder Lot, his wife and two daughters did not want to leave Sodom when the time arrived.
Lot’s main obstacle standing in his path from living in tents to living in Sodom, was Bera the king of Sodom. Bera was an evil man with no regard for the sanctity of life, having no patience for strangers with evil intentions in his heart he would not be willing to accept Lot or his household for residency in the city of Sodom. What was Lot thinking? Why did he want to live in this inhospitable city? When we take into consideration that the entire area surrounding Sodom was a paradise, and that Sodom was the largest and probably most beautiful of the five cities, then add to this the wealth and prosperity being readily available. No wonder Lot wanted a piece of Sodom, especially if he were being prompted by a nagging wife.
The bible account does not give specifics as to how Lot made the transition from living in tents to living in Sodom. The epic jumps from Lot pitching tents on the outskirts to Lot living at Sodom in Genesis chapter 14 at the time of the siege when Lot and his family were taken captive by the Babylonians. So we can only assume based on historical facts on how Lot got into Sodom without being killed. An educated guess tells me he must have bought his way in. It is very unlikely that Lot was ever really approved by the people of Sodom, tolerated at best and even then only because he was wealthy. Should Lot and his family ever fall victim to poverty, their would have been put outside the city walls and left to die.
The bible was written in such a scheme as to leave gaps in almost every story. With one author and forty writers over a period of approximately 3000 years, is it possible for this book to have a central theme? There is a central theme! Like any jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing you don’t get the full record. The story of Sodom has pieces missing, over the centuries this same epic is known throughout many different cultures as Sodom and Gomorrah and yet their were five cities in total and Gomorrah is rarely mentioned. The city of Sodom is the stage for Genesis chapter 19.
Why are parts of the story missing? Originally written in ancient Hebrew on papyrus parchment it was never going to survive earths natural corrosive elements, it was destined to return to the ground where it came from. Some papyrus writings have survived for thousands of years under definite conditions; for example, the dead sea scrolls. But even these show some corrosion causing a big chunk of the modern manuscript to be lost forever. Reading Genesis chapters 11 through 19 the chronicle jumps from one incident to another leaving unexplained passages. To illustrate; have you ever put a scratched DVD into the player and tried to retrieve the data written on it?
If the data on the disc is a movie, it will freeze a scene for a few seconds and then jump to another scene, annoying isn’t it? You haven’t got a clue as to what happened in between scenes. This leaves us with the task of filling the gaps in order to get the full picture. How can we accomplish this? Here are some tips: 1. Research the entire bible and look for cross references that pertain to the account in question.
2. Research history pertaining to the subject and characters, nations and geographical locations enthusiastic. 3. Study the work of ancient writers such as and the likes of Josephus of the first century who wrote concerning Sodom; “to this day you can still see the shadow remains of the five cities” (paraphrased) and that was 2000 years ago. 4. Ancient Hebrew writings and encyclopedias have information pertaining to Sodom not found in the bible.
5. Archaeological discoveries shed some light on the subject. 6. Visit the ruins and see for yourself what remains. Option six for example; If you were to visit the dead sea area today, you can directly pinpoint the exact spot where the city of Sodom stood. Among the remains stands a crumbled but unmistakable statue of a sphinx exactly 100 meters from what would have been the main entrance to the city.
The bible makes no mention of a sphinx. The traditional Canaanite double wall surrounding the city is still there to be seen. The wall is perfectly square in symmetry and was built out from the side of the mountain, offering maximum protection from their enemies. Also the sphinx at the entrance to the city is a symbol of protection. The city must have been heavenly to see in its day as it is still clear to see that the city was built with purpose. In the centre of the city remains lies the crumbling outline of a zikkurata symbol of temple like.
The bible makes no mention of a ziggurat but the evidence that one existed gives us a clue as to one of the reasons why God was so angry with the people of Sodom. The remains at Sodom teach us a lot about what we need to know in order to understand the story. For example; the evidence of a double high wall built from the side of a mountain tells us that the inhabitants of Sodom had enemies. The evidence of a sphinx tells us their were superstitious. The evidence of a ziggerat tells us they worshiped fraudulent deities and sun gods and that they offered human sacrifices to these gods including children. You don’t need to be a forensic scientist to work it out, the more you search among the ruins the more you learn.
The ruins even dispute us how the cities were destroyed with accuracies with respect to temperatures. Perfectly round balls of brimstone some the size of your fist embedded in rock. These balls of brimstone burned at such high temperatures they actually caused the rock to melt on impact. Estimated temperatures sterling of sustaining this impact are 4000 degrees Celsius. Scientists and archaeologists who have ran tests by burning a sample of rock their had taken from the site at Sodom, by placing a small sample on a metal spoon and igniting the sample, found that the spoon would melt like plastic as the sample burned with colours of blue, red and purple at temperatures of almost 4000 degrees Celsius. Scientific proof that the bible legend in Genesis chapter 19 of a hail of brimstone and sulphate is true.
Some scientists suggest that what happened to these five ancient cities may have been the result of a natural anxiety. The area was saturated with petroleum based bitumen making it a volatile station just waiting a spark of ignition. The cities were built using a mix of stone, baked bricks and bitumen as mortar. Highly flammable buildings. A slight movement in the earths tectonic plates could have caused an eruption of the earths moulting lava, spewing it thousands of feet into the air and coming back down on to the five cities in a hail of burning rock. While this theory is feasible it is not probable, as the destruction was selective.
Natural disasters are not selective but rather claim everything in their path. For anyone who finds it difficult to believe in the existence of a supreme being and yet the evidence of a spacious destructive force is available, this must be frustrating for them. These are the people who look to the earth and mother nature for the answers. The bible tells us that the destruction was selective, because Lot requested permission to flee to Zoar the smallest and nearest of the five cities. Zoar was marked for destruction, but survived because of Lot’s presence. This would not have been possible with a natural disaster.
To go with the natural disaster theory we would have to reject the bible account of Sodom. If we do this then we might as well reject the entire bible. According to the bible Lot was a righteous man, God fearing and just. It’s not for us to claim otherwise. Yet reading through the yarn of Lot he comes across as quite mercenary, seeking wealth and prosperity. Also some discrepancies arise where the bible is not clear about what happened.
For example; when Lot first arrives on the outskirts of Sodom he is living in tents with his wife, daughters and servants he also has herdsmen and livestock with him. Then the account jumps to Lot living in a house in Sodom with his wife and daughters only. What happened to Lot’s servants, herdsmen and livestock? Could he have perhaps sold them to Gera the king of Sodom? This is what could have happened: Lot rises early and leaves his tent, his wife and daughters still sleeping. Lot is now on route to the city gate main entrance to Sodom.
When he arrives near the area of the sphinx he sees two men standing in the entrance, these are Gera’s official princes who would normally serve in the capacity of security at the temple ziggurat. As Lot approaches the two guards cross spears to block his entrance, he is immediately in danger for his life. Lot speaks;”I have come to do business with the king! ” The two men escort Lot to the kings palace situated 200 meters in from the temple ziggurat which is positioned dead centre of the city. This is Lot’s first examine of the inner city and it’s structures. Climbing polished stone steps leading to the palace entrance Lot looks up to see enormous solid oak doors lined with gold, the sun is rising at this point causing the gold to glisten and catching Lot’s eyes.
The two guards open the doors and lead Lot to the foot of the kings throne, Lot is forced to his knees and his head pushed down, the two guards stand aside. Gera the king is seated in his throne which is over laid with gold and jewels, two pet panthers are seated either side at the feet of Gera. The king rises to his feet and stands proud and haughty, he looks down on Lot without even lowering his head. Gera speaks;”What is this? A lowly wanderer so bold as to contaminate my presence! ” Gera continues; “Rise to your feet and explain your business, this better be good news should you not die before sunset” Lot rises to his feet but remains looking down, Lot speaks; “My lord Gera, with respect I bring you an offer of trade.
All my possessions for residency in this city. ” Gera laughs mockingly at Lot, then without looking at Lot he speaks; “Tell me, how is it possible for the weak to relieve the strong? “ Lot spreads his palms before the king and speaks; “My lord Gera, I have in my possessions gold, silver,precious stones, men servants, maid servants, herdsmen and much livestock. I give them all to you except my wife and two daughters. ” Gera stands proud and uninterested until he hears the offer of people. The king lacks for nothing and the offer of gold, silver, and precious stones does nothing to excite him.
Gera is a control freak with vicious intentions so the offer of human lives appeals to him. What can you give a man who has everything? Friendly health and everlasting life! The more human life Gera has at his disposal the more he can appease the Gods, resulting in health, wealth and eternal life. Gera quickly makes his decision and calls the guards to attention, his instructions are precise; “Take this man into the city and give him the building of his choice, if the building has residents evict them and bring them to me. Then you must congregate 100 strong and capable men so as to invade the tents and bring the people to me, with the exception of his wife and two daughters.
The livestock will be slaughtered for food only horses and camels you will prick loose. As for anything that remains he can support”. The guards immediately escort Lot from the palace and take him into the city. Sodom is a magnificent city and very well protected. Built from the side of a mountain with very clever originate and purposely built to withstand anything, it was intended to last forever. The elevated position of the city stood proud and lofty like it’s king Gera.
The main entrance to the city facing the west coastline of the now dead sea. The small city named Zoar was positioned in the low dreary called Siddim and so was clearly visible from Sodom’s main entrance. Sodom is symmetrically square and surrounded by a double wall which proceeds from the side of the mountain. The double wall stands 100 meters high and runs 9 meters deep with a 3 meter gap running dead centre and so discouraging any attempts of attack from the enemy. The outer walls were built entirely of stone excavated from the side of the mountain. An opening in the wall created the main entrance to the city, a wide opening on the outer wall leading up steps to a narrow opening on the inner city wall, making it impossible for war horses, chariots or camels to gain access.
One hundred meters from the entrance stood a sphinx similar to the Egyptian sphinx while bearing the face of king Gera and the body of a panther. The sphinx is a symbol of protection for the city. Within the city walls and holding center place was the ziggurat a very mammoth structure stale in worship. This building was the temple of the Gods and sacrifices were offered during every period of the full moon. Humans were mostly sacrificed and would consist mainly of children or virgins, male and female offering quality flesh and blood. As part of the cities protection a watchtower is positioned 50 meters in from the entrance and standing 100 meters high.
Circular in shape with a vast perimeter at the base leading up to a narrow circumference at the top. The base of the watchtower featured small buildings providing homes for the watchmen and their families, thus allowing 24 hour survey lance. The watchmen on duty would have a spectacular concept from the top of the tower, seeing as far as the mountain range on the opposite side of the dumb sea, a clear view of the improper plain of Jordan and seeing as far as neighboring cities. On sight of any stranger or in particular approaching armed forces the watchman would blow the horn to alert the city and its king. The architecture of the city buildings were well planned with class distinction in mind. The wealthy living to the rear of the city close to the mountain and beneath the kings palace enjoyed maximum security.
Reduce from the mountain fascia these homes were built entirely from stone, grand buildings with many rooms and a two tear fabricate benefiting from hanging gardens to the roof,(similar to the famous hanging gardens of Babylon) More like a mansion than a house, I think it is superior to say that Lot would have chose one of these buildings to be his home, and Lot’s wife would have been happy with this decision. Directly above these very affluent buildings stood the kings palace. This building was magnificent to behold. Cut from the mountain fascia and built in stone its elevated position was the pinnacle of the city. The inner chambers of the palace were lined with oak and over layered with gold and silver, and the highly polished stone floor giving the accomplish of marble. The entrance to the palace featured solid oak doors with a gold lining, and either side of the palace doors stood two panthers carved in stone.
Descending from the palace doors and down to the next level were polished stone steps, approximately four meters wide. The most outstanding feature of this beautiful building were the well-watered hanging gardens with its variety of vegetation, including fruit-vines and fig trees. A constant supply of fresh spring drinking water from the mountain crag above, descending daily and flowing down to the hanging gardens of the palace. Sodom was a city in the heart of a paradise. Next level. On the same level as the affluent buildings although centre to the city stood a very large ziggurat for temple like, standing 100 meters high with sloping walls featuring steps on all four sides.
Built with a mixture of stone and baked clay bricks. Structured from the centre outwards and upwards, the steps and central staircase were built first using stone. Then the inner chambers and outer walls were built using bricks. The sacrificial stone slab top centre was the focal point of the structure. The inner chambers were made up of homes for the priesthood, chambers for temple prostitutes male and female, and cells housing human sacrificial offerings of virgins and children. The prisoners awaiting sacrifice were well fed and watered while the priesthood prepared for the next full moon.
Adjacent to the temple ziggurat and on either side were medium size buildings making up homes for the workers of the city. These are people who worked in the trade of their chosen profession; stonemasons, bricklayers, carpenters, workers in bronze, weavers of cloth etc. A middle class society in an primitive city, while enjoying the benefits and security of Sodom they were still subject to the kings orders ie; their children could be removed at any time for any reason and without query. Next level. Descending a few steps to first floor level and positioned 50 meters from the entrance to the city stands the watchtower also known as the gatehouse. A cluster of small buildings surrounded the tower gross, housing the watchmen.
Adjacent to these and on either side are more clusters of small buildings, housing the poor. These are the people who worked in the bitumen wells, made bricks with mud and straw and baked them in the midday sun, labourers and light bearers etc. Beyond these clusters of houses and in a central position stands the city well for drawing water. Lined up against the inner city walls adjacent to the entrance are the beggars. These are the people who have become too sick to work, no such thing as benefits, these people have been quarantined to the area just within the city walls and left to die. Included in this group would have been lonely wanderers that had drifted in, people in exile and any lost soul from various nations.
A mixed race of beggars lined the city walls, a pitiful scene for such a aesthetic city. Sodom was positioned in a well watered region of the Jordan, an observation Lot made when he viewed the area before deciding to settle there. An abundant supply of fresh water was never a problem for the Canaanites living in Sodom. However the king of Sodom even managed to poison that, metaphorically speaking. For himself and his palace parade original drinking water was supplied daily from the mountain springs, and channeled into vessels accordingly. The wealthy living beneath the palace also benefited from this same water source on a daily basis.
The mountain springs water supply was also channeled to the inhabitants of the temple ziggurat and adjacent buildings. As for the poor and the beggars this water source was cleave off from them. The poor and the needy could only draw contaminated water from the well, this water would probably carry gnat lava and other bugs causing stomach upset. The next alternative was a long walk down to the coastline of the dead sea, probably a better option than drinking from the well as the monotonous sea at this point in time was free from salt. (the destruction had not occurred so the water was obvious) The modern world takes for granted that when the sun goes down we are not going to be left in the dim, thanks to harnessing the power of electricity. The ancient world did not have this privilege.
Relying on natural luminaries such as the moonlight the ancients would have ambient light at night. Oil lamps were not in consume for another 2000 years. However, the Canaanites had much petroleum based flammable substance in bitumen at their disposal, they will have found a way to harness this for burning at night and giving light to the streets and houses of Sodom. For example: dried vines and reeds tightly interwoven and compact cut to one meter in length, with the tip dipped in bitumen, when lit would have made adequate torches for seeing at night. These would have been placed in strategic places throughout the city and used in houses. There is of course the danger of fires so extra care would have been necessary when using these torches.
Even with torch light throughout the city Sodom will have been dimly lit at night, and a foreboding scary station to be. It is not difficult to imagine the inferior crimes being committed on the streets of Sodom by night. Murder, rape, theft, prostitution, drunken street brawlers and other violent crimes from a rotten vicious society. Public burnings of individuals were common place and a favorite sport for the nightlife of Sodom. Torches would have burned for the duration of the night and by sunrise would be smoldering ambers ready to be extinguished. Someone or persons from among the poor community would call from house to house and collect the extinguished torches.
For a very small payment they would re-fuel the torches by dipping them in bitumen and re-deliver before sundown. This daily practice would reward the light bearer with barely enough to feed his family. Sodom was a prospering city but it’s inhabitants took great pleasure in the sufferings of others, although they didn’t conceal the fact and were proud of their status. Unlike the modern world who are just as wicked but hide under the veneer of equal rights and freedom of speech. 1When Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedor-Laomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of the Goiim, 2made war on Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar),3all the latter joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (now the Salt Sea). 4For twelve years they had been under the yoke of Chedor-Laomer, but in the thirteenth year they revolted.
5In the fourteenth year Chedor-Laomer arrived and the kings who had allied themselves with him. They defeated the Rephaim at Ashteroth-Carnaim, the Zuzim at Ham, the Emim in the Plain of Kiriathaim, 6the Horites in the mountainous district of Seir near El-Paran, which is on the edge of the desert. 7Wheeling round, they came to the Spring of Judgment (that is, Kadesh); they conquered all the territory of the Amalekites and also the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-Tamar. 8Then the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and engaged them in the Valley of Siddim: 9Chedor-Laomer king of Elam, Tidal king of the Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar: four kings against five. 10Now there were many bitumen wells in the Valley of Siddim, and in their flight the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell into them, while the rest fled into the hills. 11The conquerors seized all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and made off.
12They also took Lot (the nephew of Abram) and his possessions and made off; he had been living at Sodom. 13A survivor came to tell Abram, and Aner the Hebrew, who was living at the Oak of the Amorite Mamre, the brother of Eshcol; these were allies of Abram. 14When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he mustered his retainers born in his have household, numbering three hundred and eighteen, and gave chase as far as Dan. 15He and his retainers deployed against them under shroud of dark, defeated them and pursued them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16He recaptured all the goods as well as his kinsman Lot and his possessions, together with the women and people. 17When Abram returned from defeating Chedor-Laomer and the kings who had been on his side, the king of Sodom came to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the Valley of the King).
18Melchizedek king of Salem brought bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High. 19He pronounced this blessing: Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High for putting your enemies into your clutches. 20And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. 21The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and take the possessions for yourself. ” 22But Abram replied to the king of Sodom, “I swear by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth: 23not one thread, not one sandal strap, will I take of what is yours, for you to be able to say, “I made Abram rich.
” 24For myself, nothing — except what the troops have used up, and the share due to the men who came with me, Eshcol, Aner and Mamre; let them take their share. ” Four Babylonian kings against five Canaanite kings, at a glance the odds seem to be in the favour of the Canaanite kings and yet they lost. Why? Well for one thing three of the Canaanite kings immediately ran for the hills, cowards! But thats not why the Canaanites lost the battle. Bera the king of Sodom and Birsha the king of Gomorrah with a combined armed force of at best a few hundred men; charged forth into the low boring of the Jorden called Siddim by the south coast of the expressionless sea.
The area was saturated with bitumen pits, a supple boggy marshland, a death trap. Hardly a platform for fighting. Bera and Birsha clearly had no battle strategy whatsoever and barely enough common sense unprejudiced to keep them alive. They were easy pickings for the Babylonians who were trained warriors. The bible tells us their were four Babylonian kings. What it doesn’t tell us is the amount of armed forces that each king had at his disposal.
But history does tell us! Although ancient Babylon was still in it’s infancy at this point in time, it was nonetheless a powerful nation to be reckoned with. The Babylonians were great achievers having already built the great tower of babel in direct defiance to God the creator, we could say they were a bit above themselves. The first nation to artistically decorate bricks and glaze them resulting in beautiful and durable buildings. The famed hanging gardens of Babylon becoming one of the seven wonders of the world in time. Babylonian armed forces and war strategies were second to none, where ever they attacked they conquered and took the spoil.
The five Canaanite kings and they subjects did not stand a chance. Each Babylonian king would have as many as 30,000 soldiers at his disposal, thats a combined armed force of 120,000 soldiers armed to the teeth. When the five Canaanite kings saw this armed force on the horizon of the east coast mountainous range, all five should have ran to the hills. The arrogance and determination of Gera and Girsha could have cost them their lives. Considering the strategies of each Babylonian king being implemented on arrive. The first king would send in 10,000 lightly The second king would send in 10,000 with medium weight The third king would send in 10,000 heavily With war strategies of this kind being implemented to the full, the Canaanites of these five cities were nothing but cornered rats in comparison.
Then to run into bitumen wells, well how stupid can you collect! The Babylonian empire was thriving, so why the attack on the five cities of the Jordan plain? The five kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Bela (that is, Zoar) remained subject to the Babylonians for 12 years without a revolt, exchanging trade and business. Now in the 13th year the five kings form an alliance and decide that enough is enough, they want independence from Babylonian state rule and are prepared to go to war in order to succeed. This rebellion lead to five cities being under siege within the 14th year and resulted in everyone who remained within the city boundaries being taken captive, including Lot and his family. Much spoil was taken from all five cities leaving them destitute and laid bare.
The five cities were area like jewels in a crown along the west coastline of the dead sea in the beautiful Jordan valley, this was a sad result for a thriving community. Abram, the man who developed a pattern for not trusting God, all of a sudden becomes “trusting”. Why? Because of some bad news about his nephew Lot delivered to Abram by a survivor. This individual obviously original enough to know that Lot and Abram were kinsmen to go to this amount of trouble, traveling almost a hundred miles on foot over large terrain. What motivated such a journey for this individual?
Well, think about it from his perspective! He now finds himself alone and destitute. What were thriving bustling cities are now ghost towns and the uncouth plain is saturated with corpses. He knows that Lot was taken captive along with the rest and probably members of his contain family. He is now clutching at straws and remembers Abram, can Abram help he thinks? Without any alternatives he sets out on route to Hebron to the oaks of Mamre.
A journey taking three days, by the time the person reaches the oaks of Mamre the Babylonians are well on their device home to claim yet another victory. On hearing the news, Abram immediately decides to dwelling chase after Chedor-Laomer and the kings and their warriors numbering 120,000. Without hesitation and without fear Abram is prepared to take on a huge army, this is very unlike his track record. He gathers from his absorb household 318 men, the odds don’t look Abram’s allies are two Hebrew brothers by the names of Aner and Eshcol, another ally mentioned is the Amorite Mamre a total manpower numbering 322 including Abram. These men are prepared to set chase after a military force numbering 124,000 this includes the four kings. From a human point of understanding this is insanity!
Unless of course, you bring God into the equation which is what Abram obviously did, as the account goes on to instruct us that Abram conquered the Babylonian armies and chased them as far as Damascus. How did he do it? Abram was in a covenant relationship with his God Yahweh, this made Abram indestructible. Cross referencing in the bible tells us exactly what God would have done in this residence. Consider what happened here: 2 Kings 19:35 reads: “That same night the angel of Yahweh went out and struck down a hundred and eighty five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. In the early morning when it was time to get up, there they lay, so many corpses”.
Although this situation occurred in the future as far as Abram’s situation is concerned, the God of the ancient Hebrews never changes, His principles remain the same. So what we read in 2 Kings 19:35 gives us narrate insight as to how Yahweh deals with large armies who are threatening His people. In the case of the Assyrian’s God sent forth just one angel out of myriads, and like an assassin under the cover of night this supernatural creature killed 185,000 men, probably while they slept. Sennacherib the leader of this large army had no choice but to withdraw and return to Nineveh. The bible says simply, “So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there” (2 Kings 19:36) Now before all of this happened Abram is faced with a similar situation, approximately 1000 years earlier.
Abram is about to rescue Lot and return all of the spoil to rightful owners. Will Abram talk to his God about this? If he does and probably he did, then God only has to send one angel for Abram’s army to outnumber the Babylonians. And this is supernatural power at Abram’s disposal, so what looked bleak from a human stand point, now it looks bleak for the Babylonians. It is dusk when Abram and his henchmen arrive at a place called Dan. Patiently the men hide out in the hills waiting for nightfall, unlike Gera and Girsha, Abram has a battle strategy.
The Babylonians have set camp in the valley below. It is night and a few hours have passed since Abram’s arrival, sufficiently dim with just the glow from the moon resting on the tents, Abram decides it is time to make his move on Chedor-Laomer, the three kings and their men. Suddenly, out of the silent dead of night, Abram and his henchmen charge the tents from surrounding hillsides, screaming like a pack of demented rabid wolves and carrying only knives and spears, but the noise is enough to wake the monotonous. The Babylonians are startled from sleep, they run from their tents and without even looking back, keep running, in fact they run as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. Abram and his men pursued them for the entire distance. Hard to bear isn’t it?
One might ask! Hardened warriors and powerful men in such great numbers, running like frightened children. But, something spooked these men and terrified them half to death. What was it? The only explanation is supernatural intervention from God. Abram had a battle strategy which was good but it was still just a few hundred men.
Chedor-Laomer and his men, the three kings and their men, re-acted as though hundreds of thousands of vicious warriors were charging down the hillsides. One of Gods angels could have made them believe that there were hundreds of thousands of vicious warriors attacking them. Maybe the valley of Dan had broad acoustics and Abram and his men’s voices carried a hundred fold, giving a false illusion. But whatever the reason the Babylonians were frightened and ran for their lives. Abram wins the victory and with his men returns to Dan. On arrival he collects Lot, Lot’s family and all the people who were retained including women and children, he also gathers the spoils of war.
A celebration is in order and this takes place in the Valley of Shaveh (the valley of the king) Melchizedek king of Salem greets Abram on his arrival in Shaveh. Melchizedek is High Priest to the Most High God and blesses Abram over his victorious escapades and saying;”God Most High delivered your enemies to you” Abram in return gives Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods retrieved from Dan. All the people have gathered for this happy occasion, and while eating, drinking wine and the giving of thanks is under design, an unexpected visitor arrives, the Canaanite king of Sodom, Gera. Abram’s countenance falls on seeing Gera, with a fervent dislike for Canaanites and especially the king of Sodom, this party-pooper is not a welcome guest. Somehow Gera managed to survive the war, he also survived the bitumen wells having been stuck in them for some time. Gera has obviously heard the salubrious news and has come for his property and belongings, but after a brief encounter with Abram he immediately begins ordering his demands.
Gera says to Abram;”You can keep everything just give me the people” The dipping in tar has not dampened Gera’s ego, he is still demanding living souls as his possessions, unbelievable explain of self importance and arrogance. Abram without blinking immediately turns down Gera’s offer, except for his men, they can have their pick. This is where Genesis chapter 14 ends, it does not tell us what happens next. However, we know from later chapters that Abram returned to Hebron and Lot returned to Sodom. This is what could have happened after the war victory celebration: Abram tries to convince Lot not to return to Sodom, but rather to determine his own plot of land from the entire Jordan district to which Lot had chosen before separating from Abram. Why is Abram against living in Sodom?
All five cities are occupied by Canaanites which Abram has zero tolerance for. The Canaanites worship many Gods and Abram maintains a loathing for idolatry. Lot, Lot’s wife and daughters are Hebrews, mixing with Sodomites puts them in danger of loosing favour with their God Yahweh. Lot’s daughters are engaged to be married to two Canaanite men and mixed marriages have a tendency to be fraught with problems, Canaanite culture would infiltrate into the family. Abram is worried with all of these concerns. Why is Lot determined to live in Sodom?
Lot is a righteous man, just in heart and loyal to the true God, but very easy-going compared to Abram to the point of believing that the practices being carried out in Sodom will not affect him or his family. Foolish thinking! Lot’s wife is already becoming materialistic and Lot’s daughters are engaged to Canaanite men, they have already been affected. This is why Abram is passionate about Lot leaving Sodom, but to no avail as Lot is equally as passionate about Sodom. Abram and Lot part company for the second time and Lot returns to Sodom. Before leaving Abram delivers the Canaanite people, the woman and the children to Gera the king as requested.
Gera returns to Sodom with his tribal entourage of Canaanites. The coast back to Sodom is arduous for the people, especially for the woman and children but never-the-less optimistic about returning to their homes. As they reach the Jordan plain, the sky is almost black with so many birds of prey hovering over the carcasses of war victims, the rotting corpses of these men are littering the valley of Siddim. The women bellow as they pass through the area, quick-witted that among the corpses lie their boring husbands, fathers and brothers. Lot and his family have returned to Sodom and are busy rebuilding their lives. The Canaanites are re-occupying the five cities.
The king of Sodom sends out orders to his subjects, that there will be a human sacrifice scheduled in order to thank the Gods for their restoration. The woman is widowed due to the recent war in the valley of Siddim, all she has left is her sixteen year old daughter, her pride and joy. Since the death of her husband, the woman and her daughter have been allocated a house among the poor, in the area of the gatehouse reach the entrance of Sodom. The women are making plans to rebuild their lives in a whole new environment, sadly though, Gera the king has chosen the woman’s daughter to be sacrificed to the God’s, as a token of his appreciation. The morning of the sacrifice, a sunless morning for these women, Gera sends two of his palace guards to collect the girl. The guards storm the woman’s house and seize the girl, the woman falls to her knees and begs the guards for mercy.
With faces like flint and showing no emotion, the guards remove the girl and carry her to the ziggurat temple. In preparation for the evening sacrifice, the girl is stripped naked, bathed in incense oils and then dressed in a white robe. All she can do is sit in the temple chamber and wait her fate. The girl’s mother is beside herself with anguish, alone and afraid she knows she will never see her daughter again. Her cries ascend to the accurate God who is making an account of Sodom. The Night of the Full Moon.
The girl waits in her chambers and weeps. She has pleaded for her life since the morning of her arrest but without a sympathetic ear. Her mother has been denied access or visits. It is the day of sacrifice and tonight is the night of the full moon, full access to the deities. The priesthood prepares for an evening of worship. The girl is bathed and cleansed ready for sundown.
Gera the king is informed that everything is ready, he takes his most elevated seat on top of the temple overlooking the sacrificial slab. Four guards carry the girl above their heads and climb the ziggurat steps to the top, followed by the priesthood. Reaching the top of the temple the girl is stripped naked and laid on her encourage, all four limbs are tied to the four corners of the sacrificial slab and the girl is blind-folded. The priesthood congregate around the sacrifice and raise their palms to the heavens, offering repetitive chanting to their Gods. The king of Sodom rises to his feet while gesturing his arms for silence, an eerie silence consumes the temple. The king speaks in a loud order with palms raised to the heavens; “The Gods are smiling down upon us, we have found favour with them and they have blessed us by restoring our city from the hands of our enemies.
Blessed be El the God of heaven and earth for he has blessed us. I Gera, the king of Sodom, give an offering to El this night of the purest in flesh and blood. Here lies before me a virgin girl, untainted and clean. I am giving her life to the Gods. Let the sacrifice begin. ” Gera sits and remains seated throughout the sacrifice.
The priesthood surrounding the sacrifice regain chanting with their palms out stretched to the heavens. One of the guards approaches the sacrifice holding a knife in one hand and a vessel in the other. He aims the knife across the girl’s neck and severs the main artery causing the blood to squirt, he collects the girl’s blood in the vessel held in his other hand. The chanting stops as the guard hands the vessel of blood to the king of Sodom. Gera rises to his feet and holds the cup of blood high above his head, he speaks in a loud and sure voice;”A virgins blood symbolises everlasting life for those who drink it, I Gera, king of Sodom, I am forever. ” Gera lowers his arm holding the cup and drinks the blood still warm from the girl’s body.
The priesthood resume chanting while the guards bring newly heated vessels of bitumen. The shadowy substance pours with ease over the entirety of the girl’s body, which is then lit with a flaming torch. The girl’s body is now consumed by fire and this concludes the sacrifice. 1Some time later, the word of Yahweh came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram! I am your shield and shall give you a very great reward. 2″Lord Yahweh,” Abram replied, “What use are your gifts, as I am going on my way childless?
… Footnote [The remainder of the verse is unintelligible. ] 3Since you have given me no offspring,” Abram continued, “a member of my household will be my heir. ” 4Then Yahweh’s word came to him in reply, “Such a one will not be your heir; no, your heir will be the issue of your beget body. ” 5Then taking him outside, he said, “Contemplate up at the sky and count the stars if you can. Just so will your descendants be,” he told him. 6Abram assign his faith in Yahweh and this was reckoned to him as uprightness.
7He then said to him, “I am Yahweh who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldean to give you this country as your possession. ” 8″Lord Yahweh,” Abram replied, “how can I know that I shall possess it? ” 9He said to him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon. ” 10He brought him all these, split the animals down the middle and placed each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not divide. 11And whenever birds of prey swooped down on the carcases, Abram drove them off. 12Now, as the sun was on the point of setting, a trance fell on Abram, and a deep dark fear descended on him.
13Then Yahweh said to Abram, “Know this for clear, that your descendants will be exiles in a land not their gain, and be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. 14But I shall bring judgment on the nation that enslaves them and after this they will leave, with many possessions. 15For your fragment, you will join your ancestors in peace; you will be buried at a delighted old age. 16In the fourth generation they will come back here, for until then the iniquity of the Amorites will not have reached its full extent. ” 17When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passing between the animals’ pieces. 18That day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram in these terms: from the River of Egypt to the Great River, the River Euphrates, 19the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.
” Abram is in his tent resting around 5 pm, it is still daylight. Yahweh approaches Abram in a vision, asking him not to be skittish, an appropriate introduction. It was not fresh however, for ancient Hebrew Patriarchs to be spoken to by God at this time of day after a full day of activities, so Abram would not have been startled. As you read the conversation between Yahweh and Abram, notice how relaxed Abram is to the point of saying;”what excellent are your gifts when I continue to be childless” Abram’s attitude reflects a lack of appreciation and disrespect or so it seems, though apparently not so as the account reveals;”Abram put his faith in Yahweh and this was reckoned to him as uprightness. ” Abram was immersed in his relationship with his God Yahweh, they were so close it stretches beyond human imagination. As the conversation continues Yahweh bestows a promise upon Abram, that his children will become numerous and unable to be counted by human standards.
To illustrate God leads Abram outside the tent and asks him to look up into the sky;”count the stars if you can” he says. This is where we, the reader, can become confused. Why? It is still daylight and God is asking Abram to count stars! Assuming that this passage of scripture has been written in it’s just context, Abram could not have viewed stars before sunset, in fact it would need to be well after sunset and during the night. There is an intelligible explanation though, what we need to consider is this: Yahweh was leading Abram in a vision or “mental imagery” this means that everything that Abram saw during the vision was all in his beget mind and not real.
While Abram was being absorbed in this vision he probably never physically left the tent, but he saw it in his own mind. This means that, when Abram looked up into the sky he would have seen something dread entertaining, the stars of the universe will have appeared “crystal distinct” and humanly impossible to count. This vision sent directly from God to Abram’s mind would have been breathtaking. The universe that Abram mentally peered into would have been more magnificent than the images seen through the most advanced telescopes of the 21st century. Next, Abram says to Yahweh;”How can I be clear of your promise? ” God replies with instructions for Abram to gather certain animals and birds.
At this point Abram merges from his vision back to reality. He leaves his tent and continues to follow God’s instructions exactly. Previously Abram had built an alter to Yahweh near the oak of Mamre, this is considered to be sacred ground even to this day. Abram collects the appropriate animals and birds and after slaughtering them, places them strategically on the alter, chasing birds of prey while doing so. Abram sits reach the alter and waits, it is now that the sun begins to set. This brings us to Genesis 15 vs 12.
While Abram is sitting near the alter, he falls into a trance(he is spell-bound)this is supernatural activity and Abram is afraid. The bible account refers to Abram’s fear as a deep dark dread and while he is in this transfixed state, God relates to him and unfolds the future for the next 400 years, including the enslavement of the Hebrews and details of Abram’s death. I wonder, if Abram had not questioned the validity of God’s promise, could he have spared himself from this experience? Surely, Abram should have known if Yahweh makes a promise, it is infallible and agreeable for all eternity. The sun has set and it is now dark, Abram isn’t aware of this as he is level-headed in a trance. A smoking pot appears on the alter and a flaming torch passes through the carcasses of the animals and birds.
As this occurs Abram hears these words: from the River of Egypt to the Grand River, the River Euphrates, 19the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites. ” While Abram is still in a trance, Yahweh assures him that all of these tribes named will be removed from the land promised to Abram and his descendants. Included among the list of evictions are the Canaanites. This means that the five ancient cities namely Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Bela (that is Zoar) and occupied by the Canaanites, were all doomed anyway, regardless of their activities. God’s promise to Abram had sealed their fate. The bible does not tell us at which point Abram recovered from his trance but the account tells us that while Abram was transfixed, the covenant between Yahweh and Abram was validated on that day.
It is night and very dark when Abram regains consciousness of his steady surroundings, his eyes needing to adjust gradually to objects reach to him. The shadowy outline of the alter becomes almost visible as does the shadowy outline of the oak tree, black leaves rustle gently in the night breeze. As Abram steadies himself to his feet, the reality of fresh events comes flooding back to his memory. Overwhelmed in wonderment, Abram realises this was not unbiased a dream, he had not been sleeping but rather something incredible had just happened. What had just occurred was going to affect future generations for thousands of years to come. The responsibility that now rested on Abram’s shoulders was enormous, almost too grand for any man to carry.
In order to be successful what Abram needed to keep to the forefront of his mind was the very words spoken to him from God, when Yahweh said;”trust me! I am your shield” Abram was as good as indestructible! Once Abram realised his infallible position which was God appointed, he then needed to get to work. He needed to take possession of the land promised to him, and he needed to evict the people currently occupying this territory. While this in itself was an enormous task, Abram also had a domestic plight to deal with, his nephew Lot. Lot was a renegade compared to Abram and insisted in living among the Canaanites.
This created a problem as the Canaanites were to be “cut off” from the promised land. Abram had 400 years to complete his quest, but will he be successful? The Kenites were peace-makers, a humble tribe and very talented. An eviction order against them is nothing short of unjust. How is Abram going to deal with the Kenites? History reveals that the results were favourable for the Kenites as they chose to join ranks with the Hebrews, and they also worshiped the one true God, Yahweh.
Because of the alliance which existed between the Kenites and the Hebrews in biblical history, it seems reasonable to assume that Abram’s meeting with them will have been favourable too. And if they already worshiped Yahweh, why were they listed as alien residents in the promised land? The Kenites were known as a nomadic tribe self-sufficient and independent from other tribes, this means their occupancy in the promised land would likely be temporary. Because the Kenites showed such kindness to the Hebrews they were duly rewarded in time, as the promise to Abram included a blessing to any person, tribe or nation showing hospitality to Abram, provided their actions did not attempt to “block” the Divine Plan. For example:- Earlier when Abram was in Egypt, Pharaoh showed exceptional hospitality to Abram, but by taking Sarai into his harem, this was his downfall. Why?
Pharaoh’s actions threatened the Divine plan. Tiny is known about the Kenizzites other than their descendent’s and they are mentioned only a few times in the bible. The history associated with their name suggests that they were great hunters, with large physical stature and powerful. A coercive tribe occupying parts of the promised land with a close association to the Canaanites. An ancient tribe from the east, Arabs or Aramaic and occupying part of the promised land. Easton’s bible dictionary makes these comments:- Kadmonites Orientals, the name of a Canaanitish tribe which inhabited the north-eastern part of Palestine in the time of Abraham (Gen.
15:19). Probably they were identical with the “children of the east,” who inhabited the country between Palestine and the Euphrates One of the larger tribes occupying the promised land in the time of Abram. Eventually the Hittites extended their boundaries throughout Palestine and surrounding areas. This spacious tribe was held in greater importance and often associated with the Canaanites. A kinsman-ship existed between Abram and the Hittite tribe allowing them to mix with the Hebrews and eventually resulting in mixed marriages. Yahweh did not approve of mixed marriages as this could result in pure worship being infected with tribal and alien doctrine.
Abram on occasion appears to be too trusting when dealing with other tribes and yet at the same time standing steadfast and steady to his God Yahweh. The Perizzites were closely associated with the Canaanites in as much as they were tribal and a noteworthy influence in the promised land. God had promised to destroy them along with the Canaanites at the time when Abram entered Palestine. The Perizzites settled in the south of Palestine between Hor and Negeb, their lifestyle and influence posed a threat to the Hebrews. The Rephaim occupied all of the Jorden boring including the area by the dead sea close to the five ancient cities of Sodom. Rephaim meaning “giants” were men of wonderful stature; descendants of the Nephilim (fellers) the giants of prehistoric and preflood era mentioned in Genesis chapter six.
The Rephaim were said to be “powerful and numerous and enormous”,and considered to be like the Anakim, a prehistoric Canaanite tribe. In the fable of the war of the four kings the Rephaim are mentioned among the defeated. Enemies of the occupants of the five cities by the dumb sea, the Rephaim would war against these cities, this gives us a clue as to why these cities were built with such huge constructional size, so as to block entrance to these giants. The Rephaim occupied the Jordan valley before the arrival of the Canaanites; hence the entire area was historically known as the “valley of the Rephaim” or land of the giants. The descendants of the fourth son of Canaan. They perform part of the ancient inhabitants of Palestine.
The Amorites were position east of the Jorden at the time when Abram was claiming possession of the promised land. Interestingly Eshcol the Amorite, brother of Mamre and Aner. The three brothers were princes of the Amorites and allies of Abram, whom they supported in his expedition of Chedorleomer the Babylonian king. Some bible scholars refer to the Amorites and the Canaanites as one and the same, however as obsolete civilizations occupying parts of Palestine the bible clearly sets them apart during Abram’s eviction process. These early Amorite tribesmen would join ranks with the Hebrews, the princes of this tribe have already assisted Abram. This alliance which existed between them, secured their continued occupancy in the promised land.
The Canaanites occupied a large area of the promised land from the North West mountainous region down throughout the Jordan valley, and as far as the west sail of the dead sea, where they had built five momentous cities. As a nation and as tribes they were a particularly nasty and vicious race of human beings, practicing almost every vice known to man. They replicated the spoiled as personified in their many deities; they acted out every detail including fertility rituals, war, cancel, burning their maintain children, sexual deviations, superstitious cult practices etc. The Canaanites were famous for their building skills, erecting huge walls of fortification with double layers as much as ten feet thick. Having so many enemies was no doubt the inspiration unhurried building such immense structures. As a people the Canaanites were contaminating the promised land which was wrenching to vomit them out, and Gods patience was wearing thin.
Abram’s God Yahweh was giving every nation and tribe occupying the promised land, a chance to conform or be slit off. Only the Canaanites He didn’t give this option, not even a warning, they were marked for destruction. The history of the Girgashites is obscure. The exact location of these people in the promised land is perilous. Assyrian tablets with inscriptions of a similar tribe suggests that they may have occupied the West of the Jorden close to the Canaanites. The name suggests that these people were workers in clay and lived off the land, having no interest in anything intangible.
They did not believe in God or other deities and remained serene from other tribes. The Girgashites were marked for expulsion from the promised land unless they were to join ranks with the Hebrews, accepting Yahweh as their God. The Jebusites were a warlike tribe occupying the broad situation of Jebu, the unusual location of Jerusalem. In Rabbinical Literature: The Jebusites, who are identical with the Hittites, derived their name from the city of Jebus, the ancient Jerusalem, which they inhabited. Within their territory lay the cave of Machpelah, which Abraham wished to buy. But they said to him: “We know that God will give this country to your descendants.
Now, if you will make a covenant with us that Israel will not choose the city of Jebus against the will of its inhabitants, we will cede to you the cave and will give you a bill of sale. ” Abraham, who was very anxious to obtain this holy burial-place, thereupon made a covenant with the Jebusites, who engraved its contents on bronze. When the people of Israel came into the promised land they could not conquer Jebus because the bronze figures, with Abraham’s covenant engraved thereon, were standing in the center of the city. Abram, commissioned by God to drive out the Jebusites, is now doing business with them, the results of which have far reaching consequences. Of the ten tribes listed, few are allowed occupancy and only after reformation, some are driven out and most of these tribes are scheduled for destruction. Despite the seriousness of the station, Abram manages to blunder very early in his quest.
He forgets quickly the words of his God, Yahweh who said;”I am your shield” Abram’s liaison with the Jebusites was a serious mistake caused by his own anxious desire for his own possession. The decision Abram made on this occasion had a negative roll-on-effect for years to reach and giving the Jebusites the suitable right to squat, even as far down the line as Joshua. So even after 400 years were completed, the promised land still remained contaminated with alien residents and their cultural and religious influences. 1Abram’s wife Sarai had borne him no child, but she had an Egyptian slave-girl called Hagar. 2So Sarai said to Abram, “Listen, now! Since Yahweh has kept me from having children, go to my slave-girl.
Perhaps I shall get children through her. ” And Abram took Sarai’s advice. 3Thus, after Abram had lived in the land of Canaan for ten years, Sarai took Hagar her Egyptian slave-girl and gave her to Abram as his wife. 4He went to Hagar and she conceived. And once she knew she had conceived, her mistress counted for nothing in her eyes. 5Then Sarai said to Abram, “This outrage done to me is your fault!
It was I who keep my slave-girl into your arms but, now she knows that she has conceived, I count for nothing in her eyes. Yahweh contemplate between me and you! ” 6″Very well,” Abram said to Sarai, “your slave-girl is at your disposal. Treat her as you believe fit. ” Sarai accordingly treated her so badly that she ran away from her. 7The angel of Yahweh found her by a spring in the desert, the spring on the road to Shur.
8He said, “Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going? ” “I am running away from my mistress Sarai,” she replied. 9The angel of Yahweh said to her, “Go support to your mistress and submit to her. ” 10The angel of Yahweh further said to her, “I shall make your descendants too numerous to be counted. ” 11Then the angel of Yahweh said to her: Now, you have conceived and will bear a son, and you shall name him Ishmael, for Yahweh has heard your cries of distress. 12A wild donkey of a man he will be, his hand against every man, and every man’s hand against him, living his life in defiance of all his kinsmen.
13Hagar gave a name to Yahweh who had spoken to her, “You are El Roi,” by which she meant, “Did I not go on seeing here, after him who sees me? ” 14This is why the well is called the well of Lahai Roi; it is between Kadesh and Bered. 15Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave his son borne by Hagar the name Ishmael. 16Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. Eleven years have passed since Abram and Sarai were in Egypt, this is when Sarai was posing as Abram’s sister as she was taken into Pharaoh’s harem as his wife. Abram was furnished with many gifts from Pharaoh, including Pharaoh’s daughter, a young beautiful Egyptian slave-girl called Hagar, Pharaoh’s special gift to Abram.
This young girl was to help Abram’s every need, and Pharaoh had his wife. Abram was 75 years old at the time and this seemed like fair trade. Finally when Abram was discharged from Egypt due to Pharaoh’s misunderstanding with God, Hagar and Sarai left with him. They settled in Hebron by the oak at Mamre. Now the years have passed and Sarai remains childless, getting on in years she assumes she will never have a son or daughter, and she blames God for this. The ancient Hebrew culture thrived when blessed with many children, which is why it was commonly accepted for men to have more than one wife, sometimes numbering into thousands of women called concubines, they were profuse breeders.
Sarai’s bitterness is now becoming apparent as she is in her early seventies and past childbearing. It was not out of place for Sarai to offer another wife for Abram for the purpose of childbearing, and of obscene Abram agreed. Sarai chose Egyptian slave-girl Hagar to be Abram’s second wife, and as the myth tells us; on the first occasion Abram went to her she conceived, so Abram was fertile, it was Sarai who was infertile and this was the reason they had not been blessed with children. Hagar was a meek mannered woman who came from a household of royalty. Most probably the daughter of Pharaoh and yet sold into slavery, a raw deal for such a magnificent woman as she proved to be. Hagar’s background was that of one who served in the Egyptian monarchy, surrounded by wealth and power, she enjoyed the good health and prosperity brought to the Egyptians by the river Nile.
She witnessed the construction of elaborate burial tombs and saw the pyramids in all there glory. She lacked for nothing and was happy among her kinsmen. Now she finds herself in the clutches of an aged Hebrew, Abram. But why Hagar? The aged Sarai and wife of the old Patriarch exercised all authority over all of Abram’s maid-servants or female slaves, which were in great numbers and mixed bustle, and yet Sarai chose Hagar to be Abram’s second wife, even above another Hebrew woman. Hagar’s outstanding qualities, strength of character and attributes served her a position high among the slave-girl’s.
Not subject to daily mundane tasks but rather more privileged assignments; for example: working side-by-side with Sarai in the Patriarchs tent, baking the daily bread etc. When the three angel’s arrived by the oaks, Hagar would be chosen to wash their feet, a very privileged position by human standards. Also Hagar would be one of the leaders of song and dance during periods of recreation. Hagar was not fair another slave girl, she was very special. So when Sarai approached Abram about taking another wife for the purpose of childbearing, their was no question in Sarai’s mind as to who this would be, she simply said; “take Hagar”! Abram did not question Sarai’s choice either, just simply agreed.
This shows that Hagar was held in very high regard by both Abram and Sarai. Maybe this is why Hagar chose to stay with the Hebrews, as this new lifestyle was of a distinguished poorer quality compared with what she was used to. Hagar was an outstanding individual, and it is very clear why her sage is recorded in the bible. Hagar has conceived a son, and she now feels that her status in life has been upgraded, and quite rightly so. Hagar is carrying Abram’s son and as his wife, she is now equal to Sarai. Sarai however, has not grasped the rightness of the situation, she assumes that Hagar is above her station.
How did this situation develop? Hagar can no longer be expected to remain a slave-girl, but that’s not how Sarai sees it. So when Hagar approaches Sarai on equal terms, Sarai takes umbrage to it and flares up on a rampage, assuming Abram is in on the new terms and conditions. In Sarai’s mind Hagar is nothing but a surrogate-mother and should remain a slave-girl. With this thought in mind she verbally attacks Abram who is taken off guard. While Sarai’s shrill snarl is penetrating Abram’s head, he raises his hands as a gesture to level-headed the situation, he simply says to Sarai;”deal with Hagar as you see fit” In other words, she’s now in the hands of the Philistines, so to speak.
Still in a rage, Sarai returns to pregnant Hagar, never looks her in the eye, never calls her by name, just dishes out one injustice after another. Hagar did not deserve this! It is Sarai who is in the wrong and Abram did not want any part in it, even though his unborn child was interested. Hagar was now a pregnant woman who needed care and attention on a daily basis, not the stress of a venomous bitch on her case day and night. It is not known for how long Hagar endured Sarai’s embittered attacks, though the account reveals that Hagar did wing the situation eventually. Hagar had become the victim of a barren woman’s contempt, and Sarai’s bitterness was eroding her spirit, to the point that she was blaming her God Yahweh for her condition.
Sarai was the Queen mother of the nomadic Hebrew tribe, and no foreign maidservant was ever going to equal that. Embedded in Sarai’s mind was one licentious thought; Hagar is a slave and I own her unconditionally, her ovaries,womb and unborn child are mine, she is a means to an end. Everyone has a breaking point, Hagar runs away and heads for Egypt. Pregnant, scared and without food or water, Hagar runs and keeps running into the wilderness. Hagar’s journey takes her toward the Sinai Peninsula south west of the stupid sea, and into the wilderness of Shur. She followed the road to Shur, which was one of the trade routes passing through the Sinai Peninsula.
This is dangerous and lethal territory, a gigantic region and unforgiving. Hagar is alone and scared, she hides in crevasses at night finding protection from wild animals and that persistent howling wind. Tranquil without food or water, Hagar is growing very weary, her mettlesome determination to advance her home in Egypt is the only thing giving her strength. The journey continues and Hagar finally reaches a spring of water in the wilderness of Shur. Exhausted she sits and rests while taking a drink of water. Continuing to rest, Hagar lays back and closes her eyes reflecting upon her current place, she thinks about how much further she needs to travel before she reaches Egypt.
In fact she has already conquered two thirds of her journey under the most grueling of conditions. While resting Hagar hears a voice and it sounds close, it is soft, gentle and welcoming, it says;”Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going? ” Hagar opens her eyes and sits up, she looks all around to see who has approached, but their is no one there. Perplexed though unafraid, Hagar proceeds to retort by saying;”I am running away from my mistress Sarai” Hagar rises to her feet and continues to look around, imagining that someone may be hiding among the bushes, but she finds no one. The disclose continues to say;”Go back to your mistress and submit to her,I shall make your descendants too numerous to be counted. Now, you have conceived and will bear a son, and you shall name him Ishmael, for Yahweh has heard your cries of injure.
A wild donkey of a man he will be,his hand against every man, and every man’s hand against him, living his life in defiance of all his kinsmen. ” Suddenly it dawns on Hagar that she is talking to a celestial being, one who mediates between God and humans. This sudden revelation fills Hagar with excitement and joy, she now feels blessed and proves this by her comment when she said;”You are El Roi! ” Now revitalized and filled with hope and joy, Hagar retraces her steps wait on to the Hebrew settlement. On arrival she is greeted with mixed emotions from the tribe and Sarai is suspicious. Hagar tells her story to the tribe, how God approached her in the wilderness and reassured her.
Sarai scorns and mocks by saying;”how can a lowly slave-girl warrant a celestial encounter? ” As queen of the tribe Sarai does not want to have Hagar’s story. Abram on the other hand, listens with eager interest. Abram realises that God has intervened in the situation between Sarai and Hagar, and that his unborn son is significant within God’s purpose. Abram wakes up to the fact that he must take charge of this situation, and Hagar must be treated with respect as her status in the tribe has been upgraded. On the day Ishmael is born, Sarai takes no part in the delivery and simply orders maidservants to assist.
No sooner is the umbilical cord cut when Sarai enters the tent and removes Hagar’s new born baby. From this time forward, the only contact Hagar has with her baby is for breast-feeding, she is denied the essential time spent for close bonding. Ishmael is Sarai’s baby, Hagar’s modern dwelling does not exist as far as Sarai is concerned. Although Hagar is hurt and confused, she remembers what the celestial spirit said to her in the wilderness, when it said;”submit to your mistress! ” Hagar meditates on these words, and decides to continue conducting herself as a slave. Abram gets off lightly due to Hagar’s faithfulness.
Despite Hagar’s willingness to submit, the situation with Sarai does not improve but on the contrary gets worse. Sarai has been consumed with hatred for Hagar, which almost leads to murder. Hagar was never common into the Hebrew camp, she was tolerated at best. Her existence with them was a constant struggle and she never received the respect she deserved. She did eventually obtain away from the Hebrews and lived the rest of her life as a free woman. For the full story on Hagar read Genesis Chapters 16 and 21.