And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, see, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Lo, the smoke of the country (really, land) went up as the smoke of a furnace.—The substitution of the word country for land is confusing. It was the land of the Ciccar, just mentioned, which was in flames. As Abraham could see the Ciccar, it must have been at the northern end of the Dead Sea (see Note on Genesis 18:16); and as a violent conflagration was raging throughout it, the site of the cities could not have been submerged (see Note on Genesis 14:3). The violence of the fire is indicated by the last word, which is not the ordinary word for a furnace, but means a kiln, such as that used for burning chalk into lime, or for melting ores of metal.
and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace; after the fiery shower was over, and the cities burnt down, the smoke ascended toward heaven, as the smoke of mystical Babylon will do, Revelation 19:3; like the reek of a boiling cauldron; or, as Jarchi, like the smoke of a lime kiln always burning.And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)28. the smoke of the land] The word is one used especially in connexion with incense and sacrifice. It is not the usual word for smoke, but rather corresponds to our “reek” or, as Driver, “steam.” Travellers relate that, owing to rapid evaporation, there always appears a steamy mist rising up from the Dead Sea. Wis 10:6-7, “While the ungodly were perishing, wisdom delivered a righteous man, when he fled from the fire that descended out of heaven on Pentapolis. To whose wickedness a smoking waste still witnesseth … Yea and a disbelieving soul hath a memorial there, a pillar of salt still standing.”
a furnace] The word used in Exodus 9:8; Exodus 9:10; Exodus 19:18, “a furnace,” or “kiln,” for burning lime, or making bricks.
29 (P). when God destroyed, &c.] This verse contains P’s brief summary of the whole event. This will explain the repetition of the narrative, and the sudden substitution of “God” (Elohim) for “the Lord” (Jehovah). The expression “God remembered Abraham” would otherwise seem strange after the narrative in 18; but, as a matter of fact, the sentence probably followed after Genesis 13:12, with P’s account of the separation of Abram and Lot. For “destroyed” (shâḥath), cf. Genesis 6:13; Genesis 6:17, Genesis 9:11; Genesis 9:15 (P).Verse 28. - And he looked toward - literally, towards the face, or visible side (cf. Genesis 18:16 where the same phrase is employed to describe the act of the angels on leaving Mamre) - Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, or Jordan circle. The cities of the plain are commonly believed to have been situated at the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, The principal reasons assigned for this conclusion may be stated.
1. Josephus and Jerome, the one representing Jewish, and the other Christian, tradition, both speak of a Zoar as existing in that locality.
2. The difference of level between the northern and southern ends of the lake, the one according to Lynch being 1300 feet, and the other not more than 16 feet, seems to favor the idea that the latter is of recent formation, having been, in fact, submerged at the time of the overthrow of the cities.
3. A ridge of rock-salt on the west of the Yale of Salt is called by the name Jebel Usdum, in which a trace of the word Sodom is by some detected; and the pillars of salt that in that region have from time to time been detached from the salt cliffs have been designated by the name of Lot's wife (Bint Sheikh Lot).
4. The statement of Genesis 14:3 appears to imply that the Salt Sea now covers what was originally the vale of Siddim.
5. The expression "like the land of Egypt as thou comest to Zoar" (Genesis 13:10) is suggestive rather of the southern than of the northern extremity of the lake as the site of the Pentapolis. It may be added that this opinion has received the sanction of Robinson, Stanley, Porter, Thomson (The Land and the Book), and other eminent geographers. On the other hand, there are reasons for believing that the true site of the cities was at the north, and not the south, of the Dead Sea.
1. The circle of the Jordan was visible from the Bethel plateau (Genesis 13:10); the southern extremity of the Dead Sea is not.
2. From the heights above Hebron or Mature, though the actual circle is not visible, "yet the depression between the nearer hills and those of Gilead can be perceived, and Abraham could at once identify the locality whence the smoke arose," after Sodom's burning.
3. Chedorlaomer's route (Genesis 14:7-14) was from Kadesh to Hazezon-tamar, midway up the western shore of the Dead Sea, from Hazezon-tamar to the vale of Siddim, and from Siddim to Dan, the natural conclusion being that on reaching Hazezon-tamar he did not turn southward, but continued marching northwards.
4. Moses from Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:3) beheld"' the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar," which was certainly possible if Zoar was in the line of vision with the plain and the city of Jericho, but as certainly impossible if it was at the southern extremity of the lake This view has been advocated by Grove (Smith's 'Biblical Dictionary,' art. ZONE) and by Tristram ('Land of Israel,' pp. 354-358, and 'Land of Moab,' pp. 330-334), and has been adopted by Drew ('Imp.' 'Bible Dict.,' art. Sodom), Dykes ('Abraham, the Friend of God,' p. 185), and Inglis ('Genesis, p. 168). And beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a (literally, of the) furnace. Thus the appalling catastrophe proclaimed its reality to Abraham; to subsequent ages it stamped a witness of its severity
(1) upon the region itself, in the bleak and desolate aspect it has ever since possessed;
(2) upon the page of inspiration, being by subsequent Scripture writers constantly referred to as a standing, warning against incurring the Almighty s wrath (Deuteronomy 29:22; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18; Lamentations 4:6; Amos 4:11; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 1:7); and
(3) upon the course of ancient tradition, which it powerfully affected. Cf. Tacitus, 'Hist.,' 5:7: "Hand procul inde eampi, quos ferunt olim uberes, magnisque urbibus habitatos, fulminum jaetu arsisse; et manere vestigia; terramque ipsam specie torridam vim frugiferam perdidisse; nam cuncta atra et inania velut in cinerem vanescunt. Ego, sicut inelitas quondam urbes igne celesti flagrasse concesserim." For traditional notices of this event by Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Pliny, Ovid, &c. vide Rosenmüller (Scholia I. Genesis 19:25). Genesis 13:10), but to flee to the mountains (afterwards called the mountains of Moab). In Genesis 19:17 we are struck by the change from the plural to the singular: "when they brought them forth, he said." To think of one of the two angels - the one, for example, who led the conversation - seems out of place, not only because Lot addressed him by the name of God, "Adonai" (Genesis 19:18), but also because the speaker attributed to himself the judgment upon the cities (Genesis 19:21, Genesis 19:22), which is described in Genesis 19:24 as executed by Jehovah. Yet there is nothing to indicate that Jehovah suddenly joined the angels. The only supposition that remains, therefore, is that Lot recognised in the two angels a manifestation of God, and so addressed them (Genesis 19:18) as Adonai (my Lord), and that the angel who spoke addressed him as the messenger of Jehovah in the name of God, without its following from this, that Jehovah was present in the two angels. Lot, instead of cheerfully obeying the commandment of the Lord, appealed to the great mercy shown to him in the preservation of his life, and to the impossibility of his escaping to the mountains, without the evil overtaking him, and entreated therefore that he might be allowed to take refuge in the small and neighbouring city, i.e., in Bela, which received the name of Zoar (Genesis 14:2) on account of Lot's calling it little. Zoar, the Σηγώρ of the lxx, and Segor of the crusaders, is hardly to be sought for on the peninsula which projects a long way into the southern half of the Dead Sea, in the Ghor of el Mezraa, as Irby and Robinson (Pal. iii. p. 481) suppose; it is much more probably to be found on the south-eastern point of the Dead Sea, in the Ghor of el Szaphia, at the opening of the Wady el Ahsa (vid., v. Raumer, Pal. p. 273, Anm. 14).
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