Drawing from 1 Peter 3:15 and 2 Peter 1:16, Dr. Collins explains our calling as believers to offer factual evidence in favor of our faith and reminds us that the Bible is a book of history, as well as a record of spiritual truth. He also shares unpublished, unprecedented archaeological discoveries including the gateway of Sodom along the southern wall of the lower city.
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Greetings to our friends at Calvary Chapel Albuquerque and here we are at Biblical Sodom. And we're standing on the Western edge of the city looking back, this way you could see the upper city in the distance about a kilometer from here.
Tell el-Hammam spreads over a hundred acre site that dates from the Chalcolithic period through the Middle Bronze Age with another occupation during Iron Age II, about 700 years later. Walled City during the Middle of Bronze Age was massive encompassing 80 acres. It is 600 meters x 800 meters. The foundation of the wall is 4 meters thick, and would have been as much as 15 meters high with an outer sloping rampart 100 feet thick, constructed of tens of millions of mud bricks. The size of the walled enclosure means that was one of the most influential cities in the entire region during the Bronze Age.
The city was destroyed during the Middle Bronze Age and was not reoccupied until well into the Iron Age. The site consists of an upper city, a lower city, the megalithic field and the later Roman period Bath-house. The upper area has a large Iron Age gate complex. The height of the Iron Age walls would have been almost 9 meters and encloses 15 acres of land. The Iron Age city foundations cut into the earlier Bronze Age mud brick ramparts. Excavation has revealed the mud brick walls of the Bronze Age Palace located on the pinnacle of the upper Tell overlooking the entire Jordan Valley. From this point many other tells that were vassal sites can be seen. Every single rock was carried up by human hands for construction of the city.
The lower areas are revealing many different types of structures from many different time periods. Excavation of part of the lower Tell is uncovering a massive early Bronze Age City wall 6 meters thick. Several courses of the original mud brick are still attached to the top of the stone foundation. This wall would have been almost 50 meters high and encompassed and area of 80 acres several small gates have been discovered in the wall. On the inside of the massive wall the foundations are in partial mud brick walls where dwellings have been preserved through the millennia. Hundreds of thousands of pottery sherds have been discovered as the team excavates through the rubble of the destroyed civilization. Building foundations are discovered to have been built right on top of previously existing walls demonstrating that the Bronze Age City was continuously occupied for more than 2,000 years.
In the middle of a lower area a large Bronze Age temple complex has been discovered. Unfortunately much of the archaeological remains have been plowed up by local farmers who used the area for growing bananas. Foundations for walls, supporting pillars and altars are all that remain of the many structures in this area. Near the temple complex is a series of buildings that are probably in the Iron Age Celtic Center. It's built over Bronze Age administrative structures. Just below a warm spring that still gives water is a massive Roman and Byzantine reservoir with an associated Roman Bath. The structure is almost completely buried and measures 40 meters by 40 meters. This water reservoir could have been part of the City of Livius the capital of the Province of Perea during the time of Tiberius in the First Century C. E.
Water flowed into the city and surrounding agricultural fields by a system of reservoirs aqueducts and naturally flowing springs from surrounding hills. Up in the hills to the east of the
Tell, massive stone blocks and strange weather sandstone create an eerie landscape that was once a sacred place to honor the dead. The massive stone structures are called dolmens erected during the Bronze Age. No one is certain what their exact function was but excavation has revealed that they were not tombs but monuments for memorializing the dead. Undisturbed dolmens have only contained small amounts of pottery and other remains. Over 500 dolmens have been cataloged in the hills surrounding Tell el-Hummam. There were probably over 1,500 original monuments in the area. The pottery excavated is painstakingly catalogued and analyzed.
Each period of history is typified by certain pottery types. This is how the age of civilization is determined - by the pottery found in the context during excavation. Thousands of pottery shards are discovered during an excavation each season and each one has to be read cataloged and photographed. Tell el-Hammam along with many nearby sites has revealed a previously unknown city state civilization that was obviously a great regional power during the Bronze Age. (Phone ringing) I'd rather answer this -- Hi Gary.
(Indiana Jones theme)
Pastor Skip Heitzig: Man that was close but I guess that really keeps you on the ball, doesn't it? Well, listen I want to introduce you to somebody that I consider the real Indiana Jones. He's the archeologist par excellence. He's a good friend of mine; he's a professor at Trinity Southwest University. In fact, he's in charge of it, he's a lead archeologist over in Jordan in the dig of Sodom and he is speaking here tonight. So please give a warm welcome to Dr. Steven Collins, the real Indiana Jones.
Dr. Steven Collins: Thank you. I am going to kill him. Well, it's really good to be here tonight. I know that we've spoke on this subject time and time again over the last seven years of our excavations in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan just about 14 peak miles northeast of the Dead Sea. And we'll get a chance to look at that in just a minute briefly so you'll know where we are. But what I want to share with you tonight is really new stuff. What we're going to see tonight hasn't seen the light of day since Sodom was destroyed almost 4,000 years ago and wasn't uncovered until the end of February. So very, very recently, this is all new stuff. Almost everything we're going to see tonight was moving it's unpublished and in many ways it is unprecedented. So we're going to have a good time tonight. I want to start tonight by taking a little bit different track than I have normally.
Let's start with 1 Peter if you've got your Bible tonight. If you want to look at that we're going to go through a couple of Scripture passages together. In 1 Peter 3:15, the apostle gives us an indicator as to how we are to handle unbelievers. He says, "Always be prepared to give an answer to every one who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." As a Christian hopefully you've got the 'walk' and not just the 'talk'. And when people see it, they ask questions as to, "Why are you like that?" I hope that's a good thing. When people ask us about the hope that we hold within ourselves, we are commanded here by Peter to be ready to give answers, offer evidence. Let's look at this passage. The word in this particular translation is 'to give the reason for the hope that's within you'.
Now that word 'reason' is the Greek word 'apologia' and what it means is to offer factual evidence. It is actually a Greco-Roman legal term. It refers to evidence offered in a court of law in favor of a claim.
So what Peter is asking us to do is when someone asks you about the hope that's within you, always are you ready, be at the instant to offer evidence. You could even say offer proof that your faith is believable, that it isn't simply founded on faith but that it's founded on bedrock of fact. Now, let me look, it's like in 2 Peter. 2 Peter 1:16, - When someone wants to know why we believe what we believe, what kinds of things are we supposed to tell them? Here it is, we did not follow cleverly devised stories, cleverly invented tales when we told you about Jesus Christ. I'm cutting out a few words here because I want to get the essence of it. We didn't follow myths and fables when we talked to you about Jesus Christ but we were or eyewitness, very important word, we were eye witnesses. We didn't make this stuff up this is what really happened. Now if you read the introductions to most of the Gospels, particularly Luke and the book of Acts, which he also wrote, it states very specifically that Luke did an investigation, did some pretty good snooping around with the eyewitnesses of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. And he specifically, Luke specifically wrote what the facts were. And he tells Theofilus his buddy, "I'm writing all of these things so that you might know the exact truth about what has occurred, about what you've heard."
Now, I want to play off of this tonight. We do not follow cleverly invented stories when we talk about the Bible, when we talk about our faith. When we talk about the stories of Scripture, we are not talking about cleverly invented myths that somebody made up in order to prove some kind of spiritual or religious point. The Bible is, some people will disagree with me on this but I guess you have a right to be wrong, it's America. The Bible is first and foremost a book of history. You'll say, "Oh no, it's theological book. It's a book about spiritual truth." Well it does have a pretty good bunch of that in it, that's for sure. But the Bible, why I say the Bible is first and foremost a book of history, is simply that if the history in the Bible isn't true to begin with then how in the world could you possibly trust the spiritual perspective? If you can't trust the Bible in what you can see and can touch and can measure, how do you think we might be able to trust it in what we cannot see?
The great thing about the Bible to me is that God has never asked us to believe most of what's in that book by faith. It is presented not as if the resurrection of Jesus, let's just go to the big 'numero uno' miracle, right? The big one, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is not presented as a matter of faith. Now, we're called upon to have faith in Him but the event is presented as a simple straightforward perfectly physical matter of fact matter of history.
Now, we're going to talk about some archaeology tonight, what else would we talk about? We don't follow cleverly devised tales when we talk about things in the Old Testament, when it comes to talking about Sodom and Gomorrah. Somebody didn't make that up just to tell some kind of moralistic tale. This is real history and we're going to demonstrate that tonight hopefully in a powerful way.
I want to start by this so, because the Bible is a historical document, it gives us factual information about real people, real places, real things and real events. In the light of that any attempt to support Biblical faith with unfounded claims, stands hoaxes, wild speculations is an insult to Biblical truth because it is grounded in historical fact. Now why do I even bring that up? Because I speak across America a lot and invariably after some of these presentations that I do, I have quite a few people come up to me and say, "Oh, did you see this on the Internet? Have you heard; have you seen this video? Have you heard about this discovery? And it really hurts me to have to say, "Well in fact that's a hoax". There's so much out there, especially in the world of the internet, there's so much out there.
Folks just because it shows up on the internet, it does not mean it's true. Let me give you just a real quickie little catalogue, just briefly. Recent discoveries, supposedly supporting the Bible, here they are - pounce on your toes to bless your heart. Just go ahead and take your shoes off, the Spirit comes. Mt. Sinai in Arabia, completely unfounded, Egyptian chariot wheels found in the Red Sea it's a hoax. Ark of the Covenant found in a cave underneath Gordon's Calvary, heard that one? It's a scam. This just came up in the last couple of weeks, a blood channel from the Temple mount to the Kidron Valley, do you know where the blood of the sacrifices of the temple ran out? It's just a wild speculation; it has absolutely no basis in fact. By the way, the reason I know about this is because my good friend, Wayne, Ritmeyer and I were asked to investigate it. Wood from Noah's Ark found on Mount Ararat, by the way, this particular - the most recent version of this was perpetrated by local Turkish – I don't know what you call them, tribal members in the area who scammed the bunch of archaeologists from Korea and China and actually they went through a huge expense to come look at this thing up in Mt. Ararat.
These people actually hobbed this wood from the Black Sea that looked really old and they built this Ark looking thing up there, let it go through a full season of snow and in scandal, these people, it's been all over the Internet, and it is a complete hoax. Giants found in excavations around the world that's been really making the rounds lately. It's a complete uttered absolute hoax. Sodom and sulfur balls found near the Dead Sea below Masada, that one gets a lot of play. It's a complete scam. Now, I'll just say, watch out for these things because we don't need untruth. We don't need fabrications to support the historical authenticity of the Bible. We just don't need it. The Bible can stand up quite well on its own thank you with real scientific investigation.
There are a lot of legitimate factual and scientific avenues that demonstrate the historical accuracy of Scripture. Of course we're going to talk about Sodom tonight. I'm going to bring you into the excavation. But what I want to show you tonight is the point by point blow of the of the Scriptures regarding Sodom in the book of Genesis and specific archaeological discoveries within the last seven years, some of them within the last couple of months that verifies exactly what Scripture says.
What we're going to see is that these archaeological facts can prove almost everything said about Sodom in the book of Genesis. And one of the reasons why this is so important is simply because Sodom in the book of Genesis number one in the critical academic world is the most doubted book in the Bible.
If you're going to pick on a book that's full of myths and legends that's the one you pick on mostly. In the book of Genesis most scholars believe that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua are all fictitious for most scholars believe. So the book of Genesis really gets a bum rap here most of the time in the in the scholarly world. And the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is worse still, it's in the most doubted book in the most doubted part of the Bible stories – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And that particular story is the most doubted story in the patriarchal narratives. So if archaeology could demonstrate for us that not only did Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain exist but they were in exactly the right place according to the Bible. They were exactly in the right time according to the Bible, they have all the earmarks of all the right stuff according to the Bible and they were destroyed in a manner exactly as the Bible says they were destroyed, if all of that could somehow line up, I think that would be pretty powerful. If we can prove the most doubted part of the Bible is true, archaeologically what does that say about the rest of it?
So what we're doing here tonight picking on the worst-case scenario for archaeology. Can we really prove that this thing exists and that the events happened as the Bible says they happened? The answer to that question is 'yes'. Now let's just quickly look at the geography of Sodom and Gomorrah. I'm not going to go over this tonight; we've gone over this before many times, study the book of Genesis Chapter 13: 1-12, that will give you all the nuts and bolts were Sodom is located. But just in case you forgot - by the way there were scholars in the past who forgot to take the Bible seriously as a geographical document. But here's what I say about that, if in the past archaeologists and Bible scholars had taken the Sodom tales seriously, which they didn't. They would have discovered the civilization in the land of the Kikkar, or the plain a long time ago. But they didn't take the Bible seriously and no, they didn't locate city.
But we did and we did – we took the Bible seriously and we found it. Now here is where it's located, this is the north end of the Dead Sea. This is the Kikkar, the disk; this is what the Bible says as the land where Sodom and Gomorrah is located. It is called the plain of the Jordan. That phrase is the Kikkar, the disk of the Jordan. It is that alluvial plain north of the Dead Sea. Now this is where it is, the Bible says that when Lot lifted up his eyes from Bethel and Hai from there, he looked over and he saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered. The Kikkar, the Jordan was a great agricultural area and he looked toward Sodom and he traveled eastward from Bethel and Hai and pitched his tent as far sought. So there it is, exactly where the Bible says it should be located.
Some people have located in the Dead Sea region, say toward the southern half or even the south end of the Dead Sea but there is a severe problem with that. There's zero evidence for that, the Bible says it's not there, it is north of the Dead Sea. There are no cities and towns dating to the time of Abraham and Lot around the Dead Sea, in the Dead Sea valley proper. So this southern idea of Sodom strikes out in almost every category. Now that's the right place, the right place is northeast of the Dead Sea. The right time, let's just look at that briefly; the right time is the Middle Bronze Age. Abraham and Lot belong to that period of time we call the Middle Bronze Age that goes from 2000 B.C. down to about 1600 B.C. that's the time frame of the Middle Bronze Age and that's where the Bible puts Sodom and Gomorrah and its destruction.
Now, I'm not going to belabor that point but all that great historical scholars, Albright, today Kenneth Kitchen who wrote a masterful book that you should own on the reliability of the Old Testament. They all put Abraham in the Middle Bronze Age. This is the proper place for him. Genesis 10 mentions Sodom and Gomorrah and Admah and Zeboim, the cities of the plain. And Genesis 10 is the chapter in the Bible that gives us the table of nations but it also gives us the foundation of urban development. This is the time when great walled cities were being built throughout the Middle East, what we call the Fertile Crescent in Egypt and the Levine (ph) Mesopotamia. And so, Genesis 10 gives us a picture of this period of history, where the very first cities are being built. It mentions Babylon, Nineveh, Akad, other great cities of Mesopotamia but it also mentioned Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, the cities of the plain.
And so, not only do we have to have a site that dates to the time of Abraham and Lot but we have to have a city that goes back much further than that in time, back to the earliest development of cities or fortified cities and that is the Early Bronze Age. So let's go back and look at that. There's the Early Bronze Age, there's the Middle Bronze Age. Abraham and Lot belonged to the Middle Bronze Age. Genesis 10 - that belongs to the Early Bronze Age, to the time of the earliest building of the earliest cities. Now, let's look at some stuff. We're in the right place, Tell el-Hammam, our site in Jordan is at the right timeframe. But tonight I want to focus on the discoveries. What are we finding? What is there? And I will tell you that this season, particularly at the end of the season; say the last part of February was the most exciting couple of weeks that we've seen in seven years of excavation. Things started happening so fast and things were coming out in such a dramatic way that it was absolutely unbelievable and I'm so excited to be able to share some of this with you tonight. Now, we're just going to go through certain passages in the book of Genesis and see what the Bible has to say specifically about the city Sodom. What did it look like? What's it like?
There are some very good indicators about this city. In the 19th chapter of Genesis first verse, we see that Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. It is a city, it is a large city. Now, the city of Sodom, this is Dr. Leen Ritmeyer's recent reconstruction drawling of the city of Sodom during the Middle Bronze Age and you can see that there is an upper city to the right, to the left a larger encircling lower city and there are also many more little villages around it that we haven't included in this drawling yet. Now, just to look at it here's the north end of the Dead Sea. Everybody is familiar with Jericho, there's Jericho across the river. Also we have a site just to the north of us that is probably the seat of another, what we call city stage and then of course the area of Tell el-Hammam, Sodom is in this region now. Sodom probably controlled the entire Kikkar both sides of the river. It was that big and that powerful and during the time of Abraham, of course Jericho was not even mentioned in the Bible, not until the book of Joshua, even though we know it existed it was sort of just a satellite because frankly Tell el-Hammam was about 10 or 12 times larger than Jericho. So Jericho is king of a peanut out there on the Kikkar and really doesn't even come into play in the Abraham story. But this is where we'll locate it.
Now I've done a little bit of a doctrine of this photo to show you what we know. Now this little reconstruction of the southern city wall of the lower city of Sodom is actually 100% of what we're looking at here is confirmed in the archaeological excavations. This is based on the foundations, so what we're seeing here in the drawling is a little simple reconstruction based on the found stone foundations that are exposed through excavation or through tracing along the surface. You can see that there are a number of defensive towers and you can see toward the right-hand side the gateway of Sodom which by the way we have no idea that it was there until February 15th. So I want you to get a sense of how recent this is. I'm still shaking that dust out of my clothes from this.
Now we're going to look at gate in gory detail tonight but I just want you to get a sense of it. By the way, from the right-hand side, from the right-hand gate tower to the far tower on the left-hand side of the photograph is about 600 meters, that's really large. You might say, 'Well, you know, it's not as big as my neighborhood'. It is not as big by modern standards but by ancient standards this city is in the top 1% of size for all cities in Israel and Jordan during the ancient times. So we're looking at a city that is either the largest Bronze Age city in the southern Levine east of Jordan, or it's possibly the second largest city, we're kind of having a little battle with Hazor, which one was bigger in which periods. But they were both very large on the upper end of the scale.
Here's Leen Ritmeyer's drawing again. Now you can see that there are two, actually three excellent water sources very close to the site, on the north and on the south. It's surrounded by – they are not perennial rivers today because they are damned up. But in antiquity, they were perennially flowing streams. They ran all year round, probably even in the dry season in the summer and fall. And they had lots of water, not only that just a few kilometers to the west lays the great Jordan River. Plus there are about seven or eight springs on the site that constantly gush water. Some of them fresh cool water, some of them hot, iron-y, sulfur-y water, so they you know, get a good bath if they needed it.
Now, Genesis 19:1-2, remember we said, there was a gateway, first, before I get to the gateway, now, this is tied to the gateway but it mentions a square. Remember Lot sat on the gateway of Sodom, in the city of Sodom, but then there was a city square when the messengers of Yahweh, the angels came, they insisted that they stay in the square area. Well that means there's a plaza.
Now, in an ancient world there are gates and then there is usually a plaza on the inside of the gate and a plaza on the outside of the gate. So there's a city square on the outside and there's a city square on the inside of the gate. This is where commercial business is conducted. This is where Lot sat, by the way why was Lot sitting in the gate? He was sitting in the gate probably as a judge. Now remember he was a nomad. He and Abraham lived in tents, they ran flocks and herds. What's he doing buying a house and living in Sodom? Well, some of these ancient, what we might call Hebrew warlords as they were, because they had standing armies, they would often be wealthy enough as Lot certainly was, to purchase land inside of a major city with which they were associated at certain times of the year when they were there with their flocks and herds.
And so Lot obviously bought some real estate and maybe because he was a nomad himself he was sort of placed on the city Council to adjudicate problems with local Bedouin with local nomadic and semi-nomadic people. So maybe that's why Lot sat on the gate. They probably said and to him, "Lot, you understand these people. You deal with them for us." And maybe got a discount on his house, who knows, for performing a service but there was a plaza in Sodom. Well, guess what? As a result of the last two seasons excavations we have on earth the main inner and outer plazas at Sodom and here they are. Now, you can actually see both of them here. You can see the main city wall running diagonally right through the middle of the picture. If you'll look at some of the folks standing in the photo you will see the size of the walls and the thickness of the walls. You will see some of them with bricks, you will also see a square-ish tower right out there to the left and if I get my little curser to wake up, do you see it right here. See this tower. Here's the old Early Bronze city wall, here's the Middle Bronze city wall from the time of Abraham and what's interesting about that, is that, there is a plaza on the outside. Here's the plaza area, here are some bricks from the plaza area and right inside is a retaining wall. If you'll look at this wall right here, there's a retaining wall that divides the public area for the residential area to the right and against the city wall you can see that there is a place right here. See how nice and flat that is. That's a walking surface. That's part of the plaza. So, here we are in the archaeology, in the dirt, uncovering it from the Middle Bronze Age, from the time of Abraham, inside the gate and not only that there's a gate plaza.
So, here we're looking at a piece of architecture, an architectural feature actually mentioned in the Bible. Now, Genesis 19:1, Lot sat in the gateway. This is not Lot, this is Abdurahman, and he has grown up on the excavation of Tell el-Hammam. He was about maybe 8 or 9 years old – 10 when he started. Now, he's a quite strapping young man. He's also in charge of our tools on the site and you can see how he has been very all the – picks or the large tools, nice and neatly arranged for everybody to come in for the local Jordanian workers to come and pick up and use for the day. But what's interesting about this is he is just about sitting in the gateway of Sodom. It's right under that stool and we actually haven't excavated it yet in this picture.
Of course before you excavate, you've got to eat. This is Magluba – now, most of it is gone, and it was much prettier than this. My art photographer couldn't even get a good photograph of it this season before. The team just devoured it and then this is my very, very good friend who owns the mosque where we store our tools. This is Abu Akhmed, he's our site guard, and he takes care of things. In fact one day I got a little call from Abu Akhmed and his English is almost non-existent and my Arabic is worse. So we're talking on the phone and he says something about Chinese tourists, Chinese tourists and I said, "What about Chinese tourists?" So I couldn't understand what he was saying, so I said, "I'll call you back." So I called my associate Hussein Aljarah from the excavation and I said, "Please call Abu Ahmed is really upset, please call him and then call me back and let me know what in the world is going on". So he calls.
The minute Hussein calls me back, he said, "Abu Akhmed has a whole bus load of Chinese tourists cornered and he's throwing rocks at them." And that's not the first time. But he's very, very touchy about letting anybody up on the site. He kind of over does it a bit but Abu Akhmed he has a case. By the way, the first time I saw him, the very first time I walked up, the very first day of the excavation in 2005, I was walking up and Abu Akhmed was over here working on his garden. He ran sheep and banana fields and all kinds of stuff, quite wealthy by the standards of the area. And he's working over there in his garden and I'm walking up and he looks up at me and he says, "If you find the gold and you don't give it to me I will shoot you". And you have to take that just itty bitty bit seriously in that part of the Jordan Valley because we do call it the wild West and everybody is armed to the teeth and the even though guns are legal in Jordan except for shotguns for shooting doves but everybody is loaded down there.
So they're all packing, in fact I have to tell this little story. This was just from - just a few weeks ago. In fact it may have been this day when we were sitting there eating. Abu Akhmed was talking to me. He was so happy that day and so he was just talking about everything and there was a big black Hummer sitting right by the mosque. And he says, "That car belongs to my daughter." I said, "Oh, nice". By the way, in that culture and this happened to me, in fact it happened with Abu Akhmed. Last winter, two or three winters – We came out on a really cold day, wearing a really nice big overcoat all the way to the ground, right, nice stripes on the sleeves and I said, "Wow, Abu Akhmed looking good. I like that jacket." Guess who owns it now. Yeah, I got it. So you have to be really careful because that's – very much that Bedouin culture, you say you like it, you get it. So on purpose this day, I said, "Wow! I really like that car". It didn't work - rats.
Well anyway, the dominant clan in that part of the valley doesn't like government a lot. They don't like buying things like license plates for their cars or drivers licenses, or they don't like paperwork. So they don't, they don't carry a driver's license, they don't have plates on their vehicles. So he was telling me, "Oh my daughter, she was riding up in her big black hummer, she was riding up to Hammam and she got stopped right out there in the highway by policemen." By the way, two of his sons are policemen. And the policeman he said – he asked her for her driver's license and she had a 9mm Glock laying on the passenger's seat. She picked it up, just palmed it like this. And showed it to him, this is my license. "Thank you Ma'am, go right on your way". That's the way it works and the police know it in that part of the world. So we have a very interesting time, believe me. I was going to say, we could just tell stories, we got time. So the first time I saw Abu Akhmed, he said, "If you don't give me some of the gold you find, I will shoot you". Now, what's interesting about that is that, everybody in that area, everybody thinks we're digging for gold.
There's an Arabic tradition that when the Ottoman Turks left the area, when the British came in, that was before World War II, the end of the British mandate. When all that came down, it was said that the Ottomans buried their gold hoards all over Jordan. And so all the locals in Jordan are completely convinced that that's what archeology is all about. We're all there looking for gold. We must have maps; we must have secret information and everything. I will go to my little bank, I have an account there for the dig at the Housing Bank of Trade and Finance right there in Shunan or excavation. And the first time I walked in and sat down with the bank manager and as soon as Hussein mentioned, I'm an archeologist, he turns to me and he says, "Have you found the gold?"
A couple of years ago we went up and talked to the military commanders who had their base right up behind our site. And we went to two commanders at the two different parts of the base and each time, "Oh by the way, have you found the gold?" So it's just a universal story that we cannot get away from it. But no, we're not digging for gold; the real gold is the history that we excavate. Now, look at these yellowy mud bricks. By the way, these mud bricks are the top of what's left of the old Early Bronze Age, shall we say the old Genesis 10 city wall. It was basically torn down to this level and built over by much larger fortification as we'll see but this is the beginning of the excavation of this particular area. Now what we found against that wall, what I'm pointing to is a very clear line of demarcation between those yellowish mud bricks that I'm kneeling on in this photograph. And the brownish mud bricks in front of me and you can see the seam between those two laid mud brick types. What is in front of me is a Middle Bronze age addition using the foundation of the top of the old Early Bronze age city wall. I mean, why waste it, it's there, you use it. And so, that's what that is. But I want you to notice the width of that wall it is 3.10 meters, 10 feet thick.
There is the tower, do you see its foundation on the outer lower side has been extended. The stone foundation actually is fatter, why because that's the heavy downside or down slope side. But you can see that tower now, you really can't tell the size of it until you actually jump in the picture. You see the chamber and that chamber in the center there is surrounded by 10 foot thick walls. That tower is 37 feet by 46 feet on a side. It stood probably as much as 45 feet high. It's a huge, huge tower. It is, we didn't know it at the time, but by the time we got to the end of the season we knew, this is the left monumental gate tower of the main city gate at Sodom. This is it, you're looking at it.
Now, as you look down upon it, you can see the folks working on the same tower, you can see clearly the city wall foundation of the Middle Bronze Age and you can see the scope and the scale of what's happening here. Here's another look at it. Now what's interesting is the folks working on the right hand side of the picture, they don't know it yet, when this photo was taken they didn't know, they hoped but they didn't know, they were actually excavating the passage way of the main city gate. We have been looking for that thing for seven seasons. The first day I visited Tell el-Hammam a little over 10 years ago and we got there, remember based on following the Bible to the location, when I walked up on that site, the first thing that went on my wish list, the number one thing on my archaeological wish list was I've got to have the gateway of Sodom. I want to find the gate that Lot sat in, that's what I want.
Now, there are lots of things on that list. But that was number one and that thing had been eluding us for seven seasons. We couldn't find it. We have big sections cut out by bulldozers, by the militaries some 20 or 30 years ago, 40 years ago. We thought maybe it was in those places because it just eluded us we couldn't find it What's interesting is that it turns out to be located exactly where we had started our first trench on the lower tell, where we've been working for four seasons, we've been wheelbarrowing over it, walking over it, eating our lunches on it and it was there all along. So there it is, now - Dr. Leen Ritmeyer was certainly a very important part of this. He was called in because he is the world's leading expert on ancient architecture, ancient Bronze and Iron Age architecture. He has done the architectural reconstruction drawings for over 70 major excavations in Israel alone. He is the expert and so when Leen talks I listen, we just listen. When Leen gets going it is like a freight train. In four or five days he will have it all figured out and he will have drawings begun. Here he is bringing our team over and he is now lecturing. He's been there three days and in three days he has said, now if you'll measure from there to there, you will find the other side of the wall. Dig – Oh there it is, we found it. He says okay, if you'll measure you should find the other tower – measured it, found it.
And he just goes, "Symmetry, it's all about symmetry". I hadn't thought of that. So here's Leen after three days lecturing some members of our team on what this all does, how it works, what it looks like. It's fantastic, I stood back, I'm standing here, listening to the world's leading authority on ancient architecture describe our new gate, the gate I've been looking for since the beginning. And all of a sudden I realized what's happening, and I mean just tears just squirted out of my eyes inside of my sun glasses. I couldn't help it, it was just - it was one of those moments that – here it is Monumental City Gate, check. If Ritmeyer says it, I check it, I'd take it to the bank. Here we are conferring, that's Jordan's top archaeologist right there on the right. When Leen works, it comes in a flurry. Here's Leen and I, I love this picture, Leen and I standing in the gateway of Sodom.
By the way before we ever excavated this gate, Carol Cobbs the supervisor over the area asked Leen, "Leen, if we find the main city gate, how wide should it be?" Two meters, do you know what that gate width is? Two meters, now, this is the end of our little gate time. Can you see, I'm standing on the left, in the tower, do you see me? And Leen is standing in the gate, in the main city gate. Now, I'm going to punch a button and I'm going to give you a shadow version of what the gate complex looked like. And we're still going to be standing there. This will just give you aa sense of the scope of it. That's what the gate complex looks like. Now, this is my little doodling, Leen will do the official one at some point in time. But I just wanted to do this to give you a sense, you see Leen standing right in the main entryway, which would have been an arched mud brick gateway. So, this is the size based on the foot, this is precisely the size. By the way, I drew this right on the stones from the photographs. So this is exactly the proper scale. So that's what it looks like. Folks I'm so excited to say, "Welcome to the gateway of Sodom", there it is.
Well since Lot lived in the house, we're going to this really quickly but I'm going to take you through, now, I'm not saying that this is Lot's house. But there are some things about Lot's house that are very specific and here they are. They entered Lot's house, he prepared a meal - that got a kitchen. Men from every part of the city surrounded the house - that means it's got to be surrounded by alleyways, it's freestanding, right? And then Lot closed the door. Remember they were trying to get in the house, and Lot, they closed the door, it's got doors, it's got rooms, it's got a courtyard for cooking. They didn't cook inside, they had outside cooking. This may not be the house of Sodom probably isn't, but it looks like it. Here it is, right here there that's the outside wall, there some rooms, and there is the house. Now, we haven't excavated all of it yet but it has so far an alleyway or a street going all around it. It seems to be a freestanding complex.
Now look at this, here's the kitchen. It doesn't look much like a kitchen to me. Well, you've got a stone harf over here, a stone cutting slab over here on the right. You've got several little installations. Here is the excavator, my assistant director Gary Byers supervising this area and here you see the cutting stone. Here you see the harfs in the middle of the room. Here you see one of the grinding stones in the kitchen. Of course there are other grinding stones around, a little bit of the excavation. Here's a large pot sitting in the kitchen. Here's one of the small bowls with many, many vessels in the kitchen. And my favorite little kitchen implement, this is the handy-dandy roulette wheel you can roulette beautiful designs right across a flat breads, right across your tortillas and the there you go.
Now, let's get to the nitty-gritty, we'll close with this - The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Here it is, Yahweh rained down a conflagration and lightning, brimstone, no. Goprit means in this context lightning on Sodom and Gomorrah from Yahweh out of the heavens. He overthrew the cities, the entire Kikkar including all those living in the cities and also all the vegetation in the land. What does it look like, bone scattered, human bones everywhere bodies literally blown apart, skeletons ripped and torn, joins hyper-flexed, this guy was chard off at mid-femur, absolutely stunning stuff, and again, bones scattered everywhere. What do you find in the destruction of Sodom? Oh they played games, here's a gaming board of wheel from a wagon, a bead, a pair of - jewelry and implements of bronze, all found in the destruction. Of coarse seals come from tombs in the area we did probes, do you see the color of that there, the entire outer plaza area where we did these probes is completely covered huge area completely covered with a half meter of Cuban 20 inches of dark ash from the destruction of the city. That ash is lying right on the plaza; here I am just playing in the ash just giving you an idea about the piles of ash, the destruction of Sodom. I'll close with this, ash of Sodom, here it is. I can't open it because it's got to be analyzed, but you're welcome to see it afterwards.Let's go to God in prayer. Lord, we thank you for who you are. We thank you for the joy of confirming the reality of your Scriptures that what you tell us is true, the Old Testament and New Testament that ultimately and finally shines light on the identification of Jesus Christ the Son of God who gave his life on the cross for the sins of the world and rose from the dead that we might have life in his name we pray, Amen.