Sonia Halliday

Like a vast mirror, the still surface of the Dead Sea reflects the craggy cliffs along its shore. In the Bible it is called the Salt Sea. A unique body of water, located at the lowest point on earth, it is thought to be the setting of numerous events described in the Old Testament, most dramatically the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But the geology of this lifeless lake may hold the key to explaining another Biblical incident. Genesis 14 tells of the rebellion of five kings (including the rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah) against their overlord Chedorlaomer and three of his allies. The Bible describes the battlefield where this rebellion occurred as both a sea and a valley (Genesis 14:3), with slimy pits creating a hazard for the rebels (Genesis 14:10). How can a place be both a sea and a valley? Authors Amos Frumkin and Yoel Elitzur, in the accompanying article, explain that the answer lies in the ever-changing level of the Dead Sea.