Biblical Archaeology Review 27:6, November/December 2001

The Rise and Fall of the Dead Sea

By Amos FrumkinYoel Elitzur

Genesis 14, one of the most puzzling episodes in the Bible, tells of a strange and unlikely war: Five petty kings, including the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, rebel against an overlord king, Chedorlaomer, and his three allies. The battlefield is described both as a valley and a sea (Genesis 14:3). It is somehow pocked with pits full of h\eµmar (probably slime—a sticky or slippery substance) into which the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fall during the battle (Genesis 14:10).1 We are also told that Abraham’s nephew, Lot, is captured, together with other residents and all the property of Sodom, and is spirited away by the forces of Chedorlaomer. Abraham, who is then called Abram, musters an army that pursues and defeats the overlord kings and safely returns all the captives, including Lot, to Sodom with their plundered possessions.

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