Table of Contents

Notes on Revelation

Lake of Fire

27th of Av
August 28, 2000

Rev 19:20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.

brimstone: sulfur (Webster's)

Sulphur is found at the present time in different parts of Palestine, but in the greatest abundance on the borders of the Dead Sea. "We picked up pieces," says Dr. Robinson (Bib. Res. 2.221), "as large as a walnut near the northern shore, and the Arabs said it was found in the sea near 'Ain el-Feshkhah in lumps as large as a man's fist: they find it in sufficient quantities to make from it their own gunpowder."

The pieces of sulphur, varying in size from a nutmeg to a small hen's egg, which travellers pick up on the shore of the Dead Sea, have, in all probability, been disintegrated from the adjacent limestone or volcanic rocks and washed up on the shores. Sulphur was much used by the Greeks and Romans in their religious purifications (Juv. 2.157; Pliny 35.15): hence the Greek word theion, lit. "the divine thing," was employed to express this substance. Sulphur is found nearly pure in different parts of the world, and generally in volcanic districts; it exists in combination with metals and in various sulphates; it is very combustible, and is used in the manufacture of gunpowder, matches, &c. (Dr. William Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, 1872)

Rev 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown:
lake of fire--his final doom: as "the bottomless pit" (#Re 20:1) was his temporary prison. (please see Azazel/Bottomless Pit).

Rev 20:14,15 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible:
There seems to be some allusion in the phrase used here, and in the preceding verse, and elsewhere in this book, to the lake Asphaltites, a sulphurous lake, where Sodom and Gomorrah stood, which the Jews call the salt sea, or the bituminous lake; and whatsoever was useless, or rejected, or abominable, or accursed, they used to say, to show their rejection and detestation of it, let it be cast into the sea of salt, or the bituminous lake; thus, for instance,

``any vessels that had on them the image of the sun, or of the moon, or of a dragon "let them cast them into the salt sea", or bituminous lake*.''

* T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 42. 2. Vid. ib. fol. 49. 1. &. 53. 1. & 71. 2. & Nazir, fol. 24. 2. & 26. 1, 2. Bava Metzia, fol. 52. 2. Temura, fol. 22. 2. & Meila, fol. 9. 2. & 10. 1.


Rev 6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Death and hell seem to be personified both in Rev 20:14 and here in Rev 6:8. Also, the beasts at the end of 6:8 could also mean the beasts of Revelation instead of just wild animals on the earth??

Rev 21:7,8 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.


Gen 14:3,10 All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim(07708), which is the salt sea....And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.

07708 sdym Siddiym sid-deem'
Siddim="field" or "plain"
1) valley where the Dead Sea is located

Siddim Valley. After the destruction, this area was submerged to become the Dead Sea. The name Siddim is from the root sadad (cf. Isa 28:24; Hosea 10:11), which is also the root of the word sadeh, a field (Radak). Hence, Onkelos translates it, "Field Valley," or "Valley of Fields." Targum Yonathan renders it, "Orchard Valley," but, since the word for orchard is pardes, it can also be rendered "Paradise Valley" (see Bereshith Rabbah 42). (The Living Torah, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan)

ALL THESE CAME AS ALLIES UNTO THE VALE OF SIDDIM (XIV, 3). This was called by three names: The vale of Siddim, the vale of Shaveh, and the vale of Succoth.2 Siddim signifies that oak trees (saddanim) grew there; again, that it was divided up into fields (sadim); and finally, that it suckled its children like breasts (shadayim). The vale of Shaveh: R. Berekiah and R. Helbo in the name of R. Samuel b. Nahman said: It was so called because there all the peoples of the world became unanimous (hushewu),3 felled cedars, erected a large dais for him [Abraham] and set him on top, while uttering praises before him, saying: ’ Hear us, my lord: thou art a prince of God among us; in the choice’, etc. (Gen. XXIII, 6). They said to him: ' Thou art king over us, thou art a god to us.’4 But he replied: ' The world does not lack its king and the world does not lack its God.’ ' Succoth,’ implies that it was overshadowed (me-sukak) with trees. R. Tanhuma said: These were the vine, fig, pomegranate, nut, almond, apple, and peach- trees.5 THE SAME IS THE SALT SEA. R. Aibu said: There was no sea there,6 but the rocky banks of the river [Jordan?] were broken through7 and a sea [lake] was formed, as it is written, He cutteth out channels among the rocks (Job XXVIII, 10). (Midrash Rabbah, Gen 42.5)

The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible:
Ver. 10. And the vale of Siddim [was full of] slimepits, &c.] Or "wells" or "fountains of slime" or bitumen; a liquid of a pitchy nature, cast out of fountains, and which was used for a cement in buildings; such fountains were near Babylon; so that this place was naturally prepared for what it was designed to be, a bituminous lake; and hence, when turned into one, it was called the lake Asphaltites, from this slime or bitumen, called by the Greeks "asphaltos". Brocardus says, these pits or wells of bitumen are at this day on the shore of the lake, each of them having pyramids erect, which he saw with his own eyes; and such pits casting out bitumen, as fountains do water, have been found in other countries, as in Greece. Now this vale being full of such pits, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah chose it to fight in, and here drew up in a line of battle, hoping that the enemy, being ignorant of them, would fall into them and perish, and their ranks be broke and fall into confusion; but as it often is, that the pit men dig and contrive for others they fall into themselves, so it was in this case.


BITUMEN (Heb. hemar and kofer; LXX), a black, flammable substance...It occurs in almost every part of the world...and is found in various natural forms: in pure form, as in the Dead Sea, where it floats and collects along the coast...The "pits" in the Valley of Siddim referred to in Genesis 14:10 were probably bitumen quarries. In Mesopotamia bitumen was used in building as a mortar which at the same time soaked into the porous bricks, making them stronger. Bitumen was employed too for waterproofing boats, for constructing model boats for cultic purposes, and for sealing water ducts and irrigation canals. It was used in this way to caulk Noah's ark (Gen. 6:14) and the basket which carried Moses (Ex. 2:3). (Encyclopaedia Judaica)

Num 16:1,3,32,33 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?...And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.

Dan 7:11 I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.

Isa 34:8-10 For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion. And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.


The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible:
Ver. 8. For [it is] the day of the Lord's vengeance, &c.] The time which he has appointed to take vengeance on antichrist, his 1260 days, or years; being up, in which he is to reign; these being expired, the time is come for the Lord to avenge the blood of his saints; see #Re 18:20 19:2:

[and] the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion; the church of God, which has been for many ages abused and injured by the antichristian powers, for which the Lord will have a controversy with them; he will appear in favour of his people, and plead the cause of Zion, and recompense their enemies for all the injuries they have done them; then they that have led into captivity shall go into captivity, and they that have killed with the sword shall be killed with it, #Re 13:10 this will be a time of double recompence; and therefore perhaps the word is used in the plural number; it will be the time of rewarding antichrist as he has rewarded others; and it will be the time of the dead, that they shall be judged, and rewards given to God's servants the prophets, #Re 18:6 11:18. The Targum is,

``the year of recompence, to take vengeance of judgment for the injury of Zion.''

Ver. 9. And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, &c.] The Septuagint render it, "the valleys"; the word signifying both rivers and valleys, most render it rivers or streams. The Targum is express,

``the rivers of Rome shall be turned into pitch; ''

by which may be meant the maritime places belonging to the Romish jurisdiction, the same on which the third vial will be poured, by which the rivers and fountains of waters will become blood; and which refers to this very time, when blood shall be given to the whore of Rome to drink, #Re 16:4-6. The allusion, in this and some following clauses, is to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; see #Jer 49:17,18:

and the dust thereof into brimstone; and so easily take fire:

and the land thereof shall become burning pitch: plainly pointing to the destruction of Rome by fire, #Re 17:16 18:8.

Ver. 10. It shall not be quenched night nor day, &c.] It will be long burning, and shall not be extinguished until it is utterly consumed. The burning of Rome will continue long, especially the smoke of it; the kings of the earth, and others, are represented as standing and looking at it, and lamenting for it, #Re 18:9,18:

the smoke thereof shall go up for ever; this very phrase is what will be used by the saints in their "allelujahs", at the burning of Rome, #Re 19:3 with which compare #Re 14:11:

from generation to generation it shall lie waste; the land shall be no more manured and cultivated, nor the city rebuilt; when Babylon is once fallen, it shall never be raised up again, but always remain desolate, #Re 18:2,21:

none shall pass through it for ever and ever; no inhabitant in it, nor traveller through it; it will be so horrible and terrible, as none will care to dwell there, yea, not so much as to travel through it; see #Jer 49:18.


Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, 1871, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown:
8. recompenses for the controversy of Zion--that is, the year when God will retaliate on those who have contended with Zion. Her controversy is His. Edom had thought to extend its borders by laying hold of its neighbor's lands and has instigated Babylon to cruelty towards fallen Judah (#Ps 137:7 Eze 36:5); therefore Edom shall suffer the same herself (#La 4:21,22). The final winding up of the controversy between God and all enemies of Him and His people is also foreshadowed (#Isa 61:2 63:4 66:14-16 Mal 4:1,3 2Th 1:7,8,9 Re 11:18 18:20 19:2).

9. Images from the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (#Ge 19:24-28; so #De 29:23 Jer 49:17,18).

10. It--The burning pitch, etc. (#Isa 34:9).

smoke...for ever--(#Re 14:11 18:18:19:3).

generation to generation--(#Mal 1:4).

none...pass through--Edom's original offense was: they would not let Israel pass through their land in peace to Canaan: God recompenses them in kind, no traveller shall pass through Edom. VOLNEY, the infidel, was forced to confirm the truth of this prophecy: "From the reports of the Arabs, southeast of the Dead Sea, within three days' journey are upwards of thirty ruined towns, absolutely deserted."

Isa 66:22-24 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

Matt 3:10-12 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Matt 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matt 13:40-42 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Matt 18:8,9 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

Matt 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Jude 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Rev 14:9-11 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Rev 20:14,15, Rev 21:1 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

Isa 66:22-24 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

Verse 24. ...The thought is that as often as they go out (from Jerusalem) they will see...The place of torment is evidently the valley of the sons of Hinnom, or Gehenna which lies south of Jerusalem, running in a southeasterly direction. (Please see Sheol/Hell/Gehenna) The worm that gnaws at the body does not die. It is said to be their worm, as though it is their own, belonging to them as their due. Likewise, their fire, which burns constantly in Gehenna to consume the refuse, burns these bodies but is not quenched. The result is that it is an abhorrence to all flesh that beholds it. Thus, the wicked ones of Israel are cast out and perish eternally, and the tragic and terrible consequences of transgression are brought before our eyes. (The Book of Isaiah, Edward J. Young)

The Dead Sea
A Naked Planet Special

"The Dead Sea is the physical embodiment of God's wrath on earth. For millennia its cursed shores were believed to be deadly; its gaping cliffs the gateway to hell.

"This God-forsaken reputation is supported by scientific fact. The Dead Sea is the deepest point on any continent lying 1,400 feet below the level of the oceans. In summer, temperatures can soar to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit and rainfall is practically unheard of. And pillars of salt really do line its shore. But what gives the Dead Sea its name is its greatest curse. Its waters are so toxic that all fish perish in it...

"Seventy miles from the Mediterranean, the Dead Sea lies at the bottom of an enormous trench on the boundary between Israel and Jordan. Its shore is only 12 miles from but over 4,000 feet below the city of Jerusalem. Fed from the north by the waters of the Jordan River, the Dead Sea is actually a 50 mile long salt lake divided into a deep northern basin and a shallower, paler blue southern basin. But there is no outlet and so trapped in a desert, the water rapidly evaporates to leave a mineral saturated soup ten times saltier than any ocean. Anything submerged in it will be covered in rock salt in a mater of days...

"These waters are deadly. If swallowed, the concentrated calcium and magnesium salts will dehydrate the gut and attack the central nervous system. If inhaled they will destroy lung tissue...a fact most bathers choose to ignore.

[Yasser Arafat received a hero's welcome in Gaza this afternoon [when returning from Camp David], after a similar greeting in Alexandria, Egypt. He told the Gaza throngs that he sticks by his plans to declare a Palestinian state on Sep. 13. "Whoever does not accept the fact that Jerusalem will be the capital of a Palestinian state," Arafat said, "can drink from the Dead Sea." (Arutz Sheva News Service, Wednesday, July 26, 2000 / Tammuz 23, 5760 )]

"Further to the south the climate becomes much hotter and the water a great deal shallower making the southern basin of the Dead Sea one vast evaporation pond. One effect of which is the creation of [these] bizarre salt formations. Each spring these 20 foot wide mushrooms of salt literally grow out of the sea. Within the briny waters, the rising temperature increases the evaporation rate boiling away the water to leave higher and higher concentrations of salt in the brine. Eventually there is more mineral than liquid an the salt begins to precipitate out into [these] peculiar rock-hard platforms.

"And rising above the Israeli banks of the southern basin is the most spectacular salt formation of all. This six mile long, 1/2 mile wide, 500 foot high ridge is pure rock salt. And it's named after the city legend says it buries, Mount Sodom...

Zvi Ben-Avraham
Geophysicist, Tel-Aviv University
"...I myself was a small place near Bethlehem, actually a small kibbutz between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. From my place one could see a stretch of the Dead Sea..."

"Geologists have discovered large pockets of gas trapped under the sediments [here] in the southern Dead Sea. If released into the atmosphere by an earthquake, it would take only a spark to ignite a giant inferno; a vast ball of flame raining down...

"The shores of the Dead Sea are collapsing [due to dropping level of the sea]. Over the past two years a totally new geological phenomenon has begun...sink holes up to 30 feet deep have been opening up without warning.

"Whether environmental, geological, historical or political, the entire history of the Dead Sea is marked by cataclysmic events.

The Dead Sea
Myth, History & Politics
Barbara Kreiger

Other names for the Dead Sea: Yam Ha-Melah (Salt Sea); Lake Asphaltites; Devil's Sea; Stinking Lake; The Overwhelmed; Sea of Zughar (Zoar); East Sea; Sea of Aravah; Sea of Sodom; Al Buhairah al Miyyatah (Dead Lake); Mare Mortuum (Dead Sea); Jewish Sea; Bahr el-Lut (Sea of Lot).

"The rain that falls on Jerusalem and surrounding hills runs a slippery course down to the valley. The Judean Mountains, composed of limestone, are fairly impervious to water. Most of the rain is not absorbed but slides down the slopes and pours into the lake in a quantity that now accounts for more than half of its replacement water. Jerusalem may be only 19 miles away from the Dead Sea, but its 3,000 foot elevation, coupled with the 1,300 foot depth of the Dead Sea depression, means that the winter floods are plunging well over 4,000 feet in the space of those 19 miles. It is not hard to imagine what has been happening in the region for thousands of years. The erosion of the eastern slopes of the Judean Hills has produced a network of canyons that lace the mountains' flank. If the Judean Desert is characterized by anything, it is by these deeply incised canyons that have been carved as the seasonal floods pound their way down to the lake."

"The Greeks called it Lake Asphaltites, after the asphalt that periodically came to the surface. The substance was prized for its water-proofing and medicinal applications and was bought by the ancient Egyptians for use in embalming. The Dead Sea was the region's primary source of the substance, and whoever controlled the lake became wealthy from the lucrative trade with Egypt. None were more successful in mining and marketing the asphalt than the Nabateans, who possessed most of the lake's east side by the second century BCE."

History's Mysteries
Sodom & Gomorrah
The History Channel

"Unearthed near the shores of the Dead Sea, the ruins of two ancient neighbors offer a tantalizing glimpse into the past. Bab edh-Dhra and Numehra have been the focus of decades of work by teams of dedicated archaeologists. These sister cities were suddenly destroyed at nearly the same moment in history, thousands of years before Christ. Could these cities be Sodom & Gomorrah?...

"Beginning in the early decades of the 20th century, the search for the ruins of the Biblical Sodom & Gomorrah has focused on the Dead Sea region in Jordan and Israel.

Dr. Carole Fontaine
Andover Newton Theological School
"The Bible repeatedly speaks of Sodom & Gomorrah as 'the cities of the plain' and scholars have gone about identifying that as the southeastern basin of the Dead Sea. And it would have to be in the south because further up along the Dead Sea we find that the cliffs come right to the edge of the Dead Sea so there is no place to settle."

[Some people believe the cities were located in the northern part of the Dead Sea because in Gen 13 Abram and Lot are in Bethel and are unable to see the southern part of it when Lot chooses the Sodom & Gomorrah area.]

There is extensive destruction evident at both sites and both cities were destroyed at the same time "according to carbon 14 dates, pottery and artifacts, and [the] general historical picture."

They are drilling for oil in the southwestern part of the Dead Sea according to I have listened to a couple of radio files at The Prophecy Club (08/00) where it is stated that a huge oil reserve is located there and that if pumping were to commence, it would drain all the Arab oilfields in the region. If this were to ignite, it would dwarf even the huge burning of oilfields in Kuwait that darkened the sun at midday as if it were night.

"There were … days when the smoke [plumes] 'hugged' the ground and turned the sunlit, bright day into a dark of night. [We] traveled the 'coastal highway,' from Kuwait City down to Saudi Arabia … and the petroleum-thickened air was so impregnated that we choked on oil while breathing through our doubled-up scarves … we were forced to stop and clear the raw petroleum off vehicle windshields and our goggles constantly. At [times] on the highway the … air was so thick our vehicle headlights could not penetrate the air further than 10-15 feet, and Marine escorts were needed to walk … ahead of the vehicles to keep us on the highway.

"[I] was in the center of the oil fires in Kuwait City with no capability of distinguishing the sun from the moon for the first 6 weeks after the liberation of Kuwait. [My] body was so oil and soot covered that a black watch band was camouflaged on [my] wrist. The scarf [I] wore around [my] face did not filter out the air borne debris. [My] spit looked like oil and when [I] sneezed [my] mucus looked like axle grease."

A number of troops reported significant short-term exposures to oil fire smoke, particulate matter and unburned oil. During these events, troops reported being soaked, at times with unburned oil.

In February 1991, Jackson spent three days outside Kuwait City, breathing smoky air. 'At high noon, it just turned pitch black with some lines of light on the horizon. When it was raining, it would be oil coming down.' Jackson said. … Months later, he (Jackson) said, he began coughing up oily mucus. When he returned home in March 1991 after three months in the gulf area, he had nagging coughing spells.

After this firefight (1st Marine Division in the Burgan oil field, February 25, 1991), the wind shifted and the billowing smoke from an estimated 500 burning oil wells settled over the battlefield. At high noon, troops in the 1st Marine Division could see only ten feet in any direction and had to read their maps with flashlights. The soot and oil covered their clothing and burned their throats.

(Oil Fires, Petroleum and Gulf War Illness, Craig F. Stead)

Quotes from different authors through the centuries on the Dead Sea area:

Josephus: "Together with the asphalt there arises a great deal of soot, smoke, and [gases] invisible to the sight, by which brass, silver, and everything shining, even gold is tarnished."

Lynch, 1848: "At one time today the sea assumed an aspect peculiarly somber...The great evaporation enveloped it in a thin, transparent vapor, its purple tinge contrasting strangely with the extraordinary color of the sea beneath and, where they blended in the distance, giving it the appearance of smoke from burning sulfur. It seemed a vast cauldron of metal, fused but motionless. In the afternoon of the same day it looked like molten lead. At night it had the exact hue of absinthe [or wormwood]."

Philo: "The fire is most difficult to extinguish, and creeps on pervading everything and smoldering. And a most evident proof of this is to be found in what is seen to this day: for the smoke which is still emitted, and the brimstone that men dig up there."

Diodorus Siculus: "The fire which burns beneath the ground and the stench render the inhabitants of the neighboring country sickly and very short lived." 2. [The Nabateans] "take the asphalt to Egypt and sell it for the embalming of the dead; for unless this is mixed with the other aromatic ingredients, the preservation of the bodies cannot be permanent."

Strabo said it was "a land of fires." 2. "The lake was formed by earthquakes and boiling outbursts of fire, and hot water impregnated with bitumen and brimstone [sulfur]." 3. The Dead Sea "abounds with asphaltus, which rises, not however at any regular season, in bubbles, like boiling water, from the middle of the deepest part. The surface is convex, and presents the appearance of a hillock. Together with the asphaltus, there ascends a great quantity of sooty vapour, not perceptible to the eye, which tarnishes copper, silver, and everything bright--even gold. The neighboring people know by the tarnishing of their vessels that the asphaltus is beginning to rise, and they prepare to collect it by means of rafts composed of reeds. The asphaltus is a clod of earth, liquefied by heat; the air forces it to the surface, where it spreads itself. It is again changed into so firm and solid a mass by cold water, such as water of the lake, that it requires cutting or chopping...It floats upon the water, which, as I have described, does not admit of diving or immersion, but lifts the person who goes into it...It is natural for these phenomena to take place in the middle of the lake, because the source of the fire is in the center, and the greater part of the asphaltus comes from thence. The bubbling up, however, of the asphaltus is irregular, because the motion of fire, like that of many other vapours, has no order perceptible to observers."

Volney 1787: "The south of Syria, that is, the hollow through which the Jordan flows, is a country of volcanoes: the bituminous and sulfurous sources of the Lake Asphaltis [the Dead Sea], the lava, the pumice stones thrown upon its banks, and the hot baths of Tiberius, demonstrate that this valley has been the seat of subterranean fire, which is not yet extinguished. Clouds of smoke are often observed to issue from the lake, and the new crevices to be formed upon its banks."

The Sea of Sodom

The bounds of Judea, on both sides, are the sea; the western bound is the Mediterranean,--the eastern, the Dead sea, or the sea of Sodom. This the Jewish writers every where call, which you may not so properly interpret here, "the salt sea," as "the bituminous sea." In which sense word for word, "Sodom's salt," but properly "Sodom's bitumen," doth very frequently occur among them. The use of it was in the holy incense. They mingled 'bitumen,' 'the amber of Jordan,' and [an herb known to few], with the spices that made that incense.

"The lake Asphaltitis is distant from Jerusalem three hundred furlongs":--about eight-and-thirty miles.

"It is extended in length five hundred and eighty furlongs"; seventy-two miles.--"In breadth a hundred and fifty furlongs"; eighteen miles.

Pliny speaks thus of it: "In length it is more than a hundred miles: in its greatest breadth, it makes five-and-twenty,--in its least, six." What agreement is there between these two? I suppose Josephus does not comprehend within his measure the tongue of the sea, of which mention is made, Joshua 15:2--and defines the breadth, as it was generally every where diffused. Concerning its distance from Jerusalem, Solinus also speaks: "In a long retreat from Jerusalem (saith he) a sad bay openeth itself; which that it was struck from heaven, the ground, black and dissolved into ashes, testifies. There were two towns there, one named Sodom, the other Gomorrha." But that distance was not directly southward, but by a very long declination eastward.

The Talmudists devote "to the sea of Sodom," any thing, that is destined to rejection and cursing, and that by no means is to be used.

"Let him devote the use of such a thing to the bituminous sea." "Let the price of an oblation for sin, the owner whereof is dead, depart into the salt sea."

"The proselyte Aquila divided the inheritance with his brother a Gentile, and devoted the use and benefit of it to the salt sea. Of three doctors one saith, That he devoted the moneys of idolatry into the salt sea." Hence is that allusion, Revelation 20:14, "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire."

It doth not please me, that Sodom, in the maps, is placed in the northern bounds of the Asphaltites; when it seems rather to be placed in the southern extremity of it. For,

I. The bounds of the land are thus defined by Moses, Genesis 10:19: "The borders of the Canaanites were from Sidon" (on the north) "unto Gaza" (on the south), "as thou goest forward, or until thou comest to Sodom." Are not the bounds here bent from Gaza to the farthest term opposite to it on the east?

II. Josephus, in the description of the Asphaltites, which we quoted a little above, hath these words: "The length of it is five hundred and eighty furlongs: and it is stretched out as far as Zoar of Arabia." Note, that the farthest coast of the extension of it southward, is to Zoar. But now Zoar was not far distant from Sodom, when Lot, with his company, got thither before the rising of the sun, Genesis 19:23. "It is written (say the Gemarists), 'The sun was risen upon the earth, when Lot entered into Sodom.'--Now Sodom was four miles from Zoar."

The maps show you Zoar and Lot's Cave in Judea, at the northern coast almost of the Asphaltites:--by what authority, I do not apprehend. The Talmudists, indeed, do mention a certain Zoar, which they also call, "The City of Palms."--"There is a story (say they) of some Levites, who travelled to Zoar, the city of palms: and one of them fell sick, whom they brought to an inn, and there he died." But I should sooner believe, that there were two Zoars, than I should believe, that the father of the Moabites were not conceived and born near Zoar of the land of Moab. See Isaiah 15:5.

Concerning the age of Sodom, when it perished, see the places in the margin, and weigh them well.

The Coast of the Asphaltites, The Essenes. En-gedi.

"On the western shore" (of the Asphaltites) "dwell the Essenes; whom persons, guilty of any crimes, fly from on every side. A nation it is that lives alone, and of all other nations in the whole world, most to be admired; they are without any woman; all lust banished, &c. Below these, was the town Engadda, the next to Jerusalem for fruitfulness, and groves of palm-trees, now another burying-place. From thence stands Massada, a castle in a rock, and this castle not far from the Asphaltites."

Solinus, Pliny's shadow, speaks the like things: "The Essenes possess the inner parts of Judea, which look to the west. The town Engadda lay beneath the Essenes; but it is now destroyed: but its glory for the famous groves, that are there, doth still endure: and in regard of its most lofty woods of palms, it hath received no disparagement either by age or war. The castle Massada is the bounds of Judea."

We are looking for the places, not the men:--we might otherwise begin the history of the Essenes from those words, Judges 1:16: "And the sons of the Kenite, Moses' father-in-law, went out of the city of palms, with the sons of Judah, into the deserts of Judah." From these we suppose came the Rechabites,--and from their stock, or example, the Essenes. Which if it be true, we make this an argument of the ill placing of En-gedi in the maps, being set too much towards the north, when it ought to have been placed towards the utmost southern coasts.

If the Essenes were the same with the Kenites in seat and place, and the Kenites dwelt beyond Arad southward, or indeed even with Arad, which is asserted in the text alleged,--and if below these were En-gedi, which is also asserted by the authors cited,--certainly, then, the maps have laid it a long way distant from its own proper place, too much northward. View them, and think of these things. To which we also add this:--

The southern borders of the land, Ezekiel 47:19 (the very same which are mentioned Numbers 34 and Joshua 15:2), are thus declared; "The southern coast southward from Tamar to the waters of Meribah in Cadesh," &c. But now Tamar and En-gedi are the same, 2 Chronicles 20:2. Nor have we any reason why we should seek another Tamar elsewhere. Certainly, the Chaldee paraphrast, and Rabbi Sol. Jarchi, and Kimchi following him, have rendered Tamar, in Ezekiel, Jericho. But upon what reason? For how, I beseech you, was it possible, that Jericho should be the bounds of the south land, when it was the utmost bounds of Judea northward? It was this, without all doubt, drove them to that version of the word, because Jericho is called the City of Palms,--and Tamar signifies a palm; since En-gedi would not give place to Jericho, one inch in regard of the glory of palm-groves.

Whether Tadmor, 1 Kings 9:18, be the same with this our Tamar,--and whether Tadmor in the Talmudists be the same with that Tadmor,--we leave to the reader to consider. We produce these few things concerning it, which are related by them--for the sake of such consideration:--

"They receive proselytes from those of Cardya and Tadmor. Rab. Abhu, in the name of R. Jochanan, saith, The tradition asserts, that the proselytes of Tadmor are fit to enter into the congregation." It was said a little before; "Haggai the prophet taught these three lessons:--The rival of a daughter" (of a priest) "may be married by a priest. The Moabites and Ammonites ought to tithe the poor's tithe the seventh year. And the proselytes of Tadmor are fit to enter into the congregation."

This story is recited, in the Jerusalem Misna: "Mary, of Tadmor, having part of the blood sprinkled upon her" (whereby she was to be purified), "heard in that very juncture of time, that her daughter was dead," &c. But the Babylonian calls her "of Tarmod."--"From the place Tarmud," saith the Gloss.--The 'Tarmudeans,' are said, by those of the Babylonian Talmud, to be certain poor people, who got themselves a livelihood by gathering up wood, and selling it.

R. Jochanan said, "Blessed is he, who shall see the destruction of Tadmor: for she communicated in the destruction of the first and second Temple. In the destruction of the first, she brought eighty thousand archers: and so she did, in the destruction of the second."

(Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, John Lightfoot)

Please see Azazel/Bottomless Pit
Please see Sheol/Hell/Gehenna


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