The 2001 Translation Translator NotesNote

‘Tar pits’ or ‘slime pits?’

At Genesis 14:10, you will find that Bible translations vary in their descriptions of the type of pit that the kings of Sodom and GamorRah fell into, during their battle with AbraHam and his men.

Some Bibles (like the KJV) say it was a slime pit, while others say it was a pit of asphalt (bitumen). Surely, if they fell into a tar pit, it would be fatal? So how was the king of Sodom able to survive, as is indicated in verse 17?

Well, notice this explanation as found in The Geochemical Society Special Publications Volume 9, 2004, Pages 359г64:

‘The Dead Sea area has been associated with bitumen (= asphalt) for thousands of years.

For this reason, it has commonly been taken for granted that pits of bitumen existed in the Dead Sea area, and into which the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell after losing a battle in the vale of Siddim in the Dead Sea region (Genesis, 14:10).

‘However, physical evidence for the existence of such pits is practically non-existent. At times when the Dead Sea water level is low, as it is nowadays, large expanses of black mud covered with a carbonate crust are exposed along the coast of the lake. The black mud resembles asphalt in its shiny black color and sulfurous smell. It has been sometimes assumed that the mud contains asphalt, although this is not the case, and the color and smell are due to poorly crystallized iron surfides. The solid looking carbonate veneer is quite frail and it is easy to sink through it into the underlying black mud. Thus, the biblical description may be of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fleeing through the mud flats when the lake level was low, and sinking into the black sulfurous mud.’

So according to geologists, although the pits looked and smelled like asphalt, they were actually filled with a black slime that was covered by a crust into which it was easy for those kings to fall and become trapped (until someone came to pull them out).

Thus, we have another verification of the authenticity of the Bible book of Genesis.

This translation uses the word ‘slime’ instead of ‘tar’ or ‘asphalt,’ as such terms would give an inaccurate impression to the reader.

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