The story of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction is among the more well-known tales of the Old Testament. It is also included in the Qur’an (11:74–83 and 29:28–35) and is cited by Jesus as a clear example of God’s judgment against sin (Matthew 10:14–15).
For a long time, it was presumed that something like the great earthquake that rocked the region around 1900 BCE was the cause of the two cities’ destruction, turning it from a fertile land with plenty of fresh water into a barren waste. While this account never fit all that well with the biblical description, it at least offered a plausible explanation for what might have happened and why those who witnessed it could have passed down that account in the fashion we have today.
Recent research, however, offers another explanation.
A meteor may have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah
After fifteen years of excavations and study, archaeologist Christopher R. Moore and his team found evidence that, around 1650 BCE, a massive meteor burst through earth’s atmosphere near the ancient city of Tall el-Hammam—the location where Sodom and Gomorrah are commonly thought to have existed—and exploded 2.5 miles above the ground, raining fiery debris on the cities below.
The ensuing blast was roughly a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, and everything in its wake would have been instantly incinerated as air temperatures rose to more than 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit. The shockwave that followed a few seconds later raged at speeds of up to 740 miles per hour as deadly winds destroyed whatever the initial blast did not.
Ultimately, there’s no way to know this side of heaven if the meteor is what God used to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah or if it was something else entirely, but the plausibility of that scenario offers us an important reminder for how we should look at the Bible today.
Is the Bible true?
As Christians, we don’t need historical evidence to believe that the Bible is true (See Dr. Jim Denison’s “Why do we believe the Bible is actually the word of God?“) But that doesn’t mean it’s not welcome when it happens.
The meteor that very well could have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah is far from the only time history has backed up the Bible.
Daniel’s prophetic description of events in chapters 7–12, for example, is so accurate that it forms the primary reason many scholars today date the book to the second century BCE rather than when Scripture claims Daniel actually wrote it.
The Pool of Bethesda in John 5 was thought to be a myth until it was uncovered exactly where the Bible said it would be, and now it serves as a common stop on tours through Jerusalem.
Pontius Pilate was considered by many to be a fictional character until a Roman inscription documenting his office and life was discovered.
And that’s just to name a few examples.
The truth is that regardless of how many times history proves the Bible to be correct, there will always be enough gaps between what Scripture describes and our ability to prove it that those who want to doubt its veracity can find reasons to do so.
But just because holes in our understanding exist does not mean that the fault is with Scripture rather than us. When weighed against evidence to the contrary, the balance tips heavily in favor of the Bible’s veracity. Believing that God’s word is true is the most logical approach to take, even if arguments can be made to the contrary.
At the end of the day, though, what Abraham Lincoln once said of the Bible remains the best advice for us today: “Take all that you can of this book upon reason, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier man.”
Adopt that approach today, and you will learn just how right he was.