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NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE,
THE SITES OF THE DOOMED CITIES. THE discovery of the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrha, so long supposed to have been buried in the dark waters of the Dead Sea, would certainly constitute one of the most remarkable events in the history of research in Holy Land. No wonder that the report of such a discovery having been made should excite inquiry and arouse discussion. There are the Biblical scholars, who have their own version of the lost cities having been on the east side of the Dead Sea; there are the students of profane history, who remember nothing but that Josephus says that the doomed cities lie buried in the deep; there are the travellers and philosophers, who seek to explain phenomena by manifest physical changes, however difficult to interpret. All were more or less confounded at the discovery so triumphantly proclaimed of the long-lost Pentapolis. Still more interesting did the discussion become when another and a later traveller, following in the footsteps of the illusory discoverer, came forward to declare that there are no ruins whatsoever at the spot where they had been pronounced to exist! Never was there greater discrepancy in the statements of travellers! Which is in the right? What are the true bearings of the question? Is it possible so much difference of opinion can exist on a mere matter of fact? Such were the questions heard on every side, more especially from those unacquainted with all the difficulties besetting the inquiry, all the doubts pervading the subject, and the obscurities enveloping that which was in itself a miracle and a direct interference of Providence; obscurities so great as to admit of an almost inconceivable amount of difference of opinion, without implying on any side either disregard of truth, blindness to evidence, ignorance, inaptitude, or misrepresentation.
We learn from Holy Writ that Sodom and Gomorrha were situated in the vale of Siddim, which was very fertile and everywhere well watered -- like the Garden of the Lord; and these circumstances induced Lot to fix his abode there, notwithstanding the wickedness of the inhabitants.
There were three other cities in the same valley; viz., Admah, Zeboim, and Bala, which is Zoar; and they, as well as Sodom and Gomorrha, had each a separate king, corresponding to the Malik or Shaikh of our own times.
The valley was further remarkable for abounding in “slime pits.” This means sources of bitumen, for the word is the same as that which is applied to the cement used by the builders of Babylon, and we know that to have been bitumen or asphaltum.
The guilt of “the cities of the plain” beving brought down the signal judgment of Heaven, fire and brimstone are described as showering down
Sept.-VOL. CII. NO. ccccv.
upon them, and they were overthrown, as well as all the plain and all the inhabitants of those cities, and that which grew upon the ground.” When Abraham, early that same morning, from the neighbourhood of his distant camp, " looked towards Sodom and Gomorrha, and towards all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo! the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of the furnace."
It appears from the same records that Bala was doomed with the other cities to destruction, but that it was spared at the intercession of Lot as a place to which he might escape. The patriarch alleged the smallness of the city as a ground for asking this favour; and hence the place acquired the name of Zoar, or smallness."
This town is only again mentioned in Deuteronomy (xxxiv. 3), Isaiah (xv. 5), and Jeremiah (xlviii. 34), which passages indicate that it belonged to the Moabites, and was a place of some consequence. Eusebius and Jerome describe it as having, in their day, many inhabitants, and a Roman garrison (Onomasticon. s. v. Bala). Stephen of Byzantium calls it a large village and fortress. In the “ Écclesiastical Notitia” it is mentioned as the seat of a bishop of the Third Palestine, down to the centuries preceding the Crusades. "The “Imperial Notitia" make mention of Equites sagittarü indigene Zoare.
The Crusaders seem to have found this city under the name of Segor, or Segur, as in the Septuagint and the Vulgate; and they describe the place as pleasantly situated, with many palm-trees. (William of Tyre, x. 8.) Abulfeda repeatedly speaks of Zaghar as a place adjacent to the Dead Sea and the Ghūr (Tab. Syriæ, pp. 8, 9, 11, 148), and, indeed, calls the Dead Sea itself the Lake of Zūghar (xii. pp. 148, 156).
Eusebius and Jerome describe the Dead Sea as situated between Jericho and Zoar; whence Cellarius justly deduced that Jericho being to the north-westward, Zoar must be opposite, or to the south-eastward. Josephus (lib. iv. De Bello, cap. xxvii.) also speaks of the sea as extending to Zoar, in Arabia.
We find, then, from two passages in Holy Writ-viz., Isaiah, xv. 5, and Jeremiah, xlviii. 34-that Zoar was in Moab; and we know from the same authority that the Moabites had, after expelling the original inhabitants called Emims, possessed themselves, previous to the Exodus, of the region on the east of the Dead Sea and the Jordan, as far north as the river Jabbok. The northern portion of their territory- viz., that extending from the Jabbok to the Arnon-afterwards passed away into the hands of the Amorites. Hence, at the time of the Exodus, the valley and river Arnon constituted the northern boundary of Moab.
As the Hebrews advanced in order to take possession of Canaan they did not enter the proper territory of the Moabites, but conquered the kingdom of the Amorites (a Canaanitish tribe) which had formerly belonged to Moab; whence the western part, lying along the Jordan, frequently occurs under the name of plains of Moab.
The Hebrews, long tributary to the Moabites, threw off their yoke under Ehud, and the children of Moab were alternately tributary to, and independent of, the kings of Judea. At one time they formed a powerful confederacy with the Ammonites, Edomites, and others, and marched into Judea on the west side of the Dead Sea, encamping at En-gedi; but everything proves that their permanent country, subsequent to the occu