Dead Sea

From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [1]

This was anciently called the Sea of the Plain,   Deuteronomy 3:17;  Deuteronomy 4:49 , from its situation in the great hollow or plain of the Jordan; the Salt Sea,   Deuteronomy 3:17;  Joshua 15:5 , from the extreme saltness of its waters; and the East Sea,   Ezekiel 47:18;  Joel 2:20 , from its situation relative to Judea, and in contradistinction to the West Sea, or Mediterranean. It is likewise called by Josephus, and by the Greek and Latin writers generally, Lacus Asphaltites, from the bitumen found in it and the Dead Sea, its more frequent modern appellation, from a tradition, commonly though erroneously received, that no living creature could exist in its saline and sulphureous waters. It is at present known in Syria by the names of Almotanah and Bahar Loth: and occupies what may be considered as the southern extremity of the vale of Jordan; forming, in that direction, the western boundary to the Holy Land. The Dead Sea is about seventy miles in length, and twenty in breadth at its broadest part; having, like the Caspian, no visible communication with the ocean. Its depth seems to be altogether unknown; nor does it appear that a boat has ever navigated its surface. Toward its southern extremity, however, in a contracted part of the lake, is a ford, about six miles over, made use of by the Arabs: in the middle of which they report the water to be warm; indicating the presence of warm springs beneath. In general, toward the shore, it is shallow; and rises and falls with the seasons, and the quantity of water carried into it by seven streams, which fall into this their common receptacle, the chief of which is the Jordan.

The water now covering these ruins occupies what was formerly the vale of Siddim; a rich and fruitful valley, in which stood the five cities, called the cities of the plain, namely, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Bela or Zoar: the four first of which were destroyed, while the latter, being "a little city," was preserved at the intercession of Lot; to which he fled for refuge from the impending catastrophe, and where he remained in safety during its accomplishment.

The specific gravity of the waters of the Dead Sea is supposed to have been much exaggerated by the ancient writers, but their statements are now proved to be by no means very wide of the truth. Pliny says, that no living bodies would sink in it; and Strabo, that persons who went into it were borne up to their middle. Van Egmont and Heyman state, that, on swimming to some distance from the shore, they found themselves, to their great surprise, lifted up by the water. "When I had swam to some distance," says the latter, "I endeavoured to sink to the bottom, but could not; for the water kept me continually up, and would certainly have thrown me upon my face, had I not put forth all the strength I was master of, to keep myself in a perpendicular posture; so that I walked in the sea as if I had trod on firm ground, without having occasion to make any of the motions necessary in treading fresh water; and when I was swimming, I

was obliged to keep my legs the greatest part of the time out of the water. My fellow traveller was agreeably surprised to find that he could swim here, having never learned. But this proceeded from the gravity of the water, as this certainly does from the extraordinary quantity of salt in it."

Mr. Joliffe says, he found it very little more buoyant than other seas, but he did not go out of his depth. "The descent of the beach," he says, "is so gently gradual, that I must have waded above a hundred yards to get completely out of my depth, and the impatience of the Arabians would not allow of time sufficient for this." Captain Mangles says: "The water is as bitter and as buoyant as the people have reported. Those of our party who could not swim, floated on its surface like corks. On dipping the head in, the eyes smarted dreadfully." With regard to the agents employed in this catastrophe, there might seem reason to suppose that volcanic phenomena had some share in producing it; but Chateaubriand's remark is deserving of attention. "I cannot," he says, "coincide in opinion with those who suppose the Dead Sea to be the crater of a volcano. I have seen Vesuvius, Solfatara, Monte Nuovo in the lake of Fusino, the peak of the Azores, the Mamalif opposite to Carthage, the extinguished volcanoes of Auvergne; and remarked in all of them the same characters; that is to say, mountains excavated in the form of a tunnel, lava, and ashes, which exhibited incontestable proofs of the agency of fire." After noticing the very different shape and position of the Dead Sea, he adds: "Bitumen, warm springs, and phosphoric stones are found, it is true, in the mountains of Arabia; but then, the presence of hot springs, sulphur, and asphaltos is not sufficient to attest the anterior existence of a volcano." The learned Frenchman inclines to adopt the idea of Professors Michaelis and Busching, that Sodom and Gomorrah were built upon a mine of bitumen; that lightning kindled the combustible mass, and that the cities sunk in the subterraneous conflagration. M. Malte Brun ingeniously suggests, that the cities might themselves have been built of bituminous stones, and thus have been set in flames by the fire of heaven. We learn from the Mosaic account, that the vale of Siddim, which is now occupied by the Dead Sea, was full of "slime pits," or pits of bitumen. Pococke says: "It is observed, that the bitumen floats on the water, and comes ashore after windy weather; the Arabs gather it up, and it serves as pitch for all uses, goes into the composition of medicines, and is thought to have been a very great ingredient in the bitumen used in embalming the bodies in Egypt: it has been much used for cerecloths, and has an ill smell when burnt. It is probable that there are subterraneous fires, that throw up this bitumen at the bottom of the sea, where it may form itself into a mass, which may be broken by the motion of the water occasioned by high winds; and it is very remarkable, that the stone called the stone of Moses, found about two or three leagues from the sea, which burns like a coal, and turns only to a white stone, and not to ashes, has the same smell, when burnt, as this pitch; so that it is probable, a stratum of the stone under the Dead Sea is one part of the matter that feeds the subterraneous fires, and that this bitumen boils up out of it." To give force to this last conjecture, however, it would be requisite to ascertain, whether bitumen is capable of being detached from this stone, in a liquid state, by the action of fire. The stone in question is the black fetid limestone, used at Jerusalem in the manufacture of rosaries and amulets, and worn as a charm against the plague. The effluvia which it emits on friction, is owing to a strong impregnation of sulphuretted hydrogen. If the buildings were constructed of materials of this description, with quarries of which the neighbouring mountains abound, they would be easily susceptible of ignition by lightning. The Scriptural account, however, is explicit, that "the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from heaven;" which we may safely interpret as implying a shower of inflamed sulphur, or nitre. At the same time it is evident, that the whole plain underwent a simultaneous convulsion, which seems referable to the consequences of a bituminous explosion. In perfect accordance with this view of the catastrophe, we find the very materials, as it were, of this awful visitation still at hand in the neighbouring hills; from which they might have been poured down by the agency of thunder storms, directed by the hand of offended Heaven. Captains Irby and Mangles collected, on the southern coast, lumps of nitre and fine sulphur, from the size of a nutmeg up to that of a small hen's egg, which, it was evident from their situation, had been brought down by the rain: "their great deposit must be sought for," they say, "in the cliff." These cliffs then were probably swept by the lightnings, and their flaming masses poured in a deluge of fire upon the plain.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

Dead Sea . An inland lake 47 miles long and from 2¾ to 9 miles in breadth, which receives the waters of the Jordan. Its level is 1293 ft. below that of the Mediterranean, being the lowest body of water on the surface of the earth. It has no outlet, and the water received by it is all carried off by evaporation. In consequence, the waters of the Lake are impregnated with mineral substances to a remarkable degree; they yield 25 per cent. of salt, whereas the ocean yields but 4 to 6 per cent.

The modern name is of late origin (first used apparently by Pausanias) and refers to the total absence of life in its waters. It has no Scripture warrant; Hebrew writers speak of it as the ‘Salt Sea’ ( Genesis 14:8 ,   Numbers 34:3 ,   Joshua 15:5 etc.), the ‘sea of the Arabah’ (  Deuteronomy 3:17;   Deuteronomy 4:49 ), the ‘east or eastern sea’ (  Ezekiel 47:18 ,   Joel 2:20 ). In Arabic it is known as Bahr Lut , ‘the sea of Lot,’ a name which, however, is more probably due to the direct influence of the history as related in the Koran than to a survival of local tradition. Somewhere near the sea were Sodom and Gomorrah , but whether north or south of it is not settled; the one certain fact about their sites is that the popular belief that they are covered by the waters of the Lake is quite inadmissible.

The Dead Sea owes its origin to a fault or fracture produced in the surface of the region by the earth-movements whereby the land was here raised above the sea-level. This fault took place towards the end of the Eocene period; it extends along the whole Jordan valley from the Gulf of Akabah to Hermon; and it may be taken as fairly certain that the general appearance of the Lake has not radically altered during the whole time that the human race has existed in the world.

Round the border of the Lake are numerous small springs, some bursting actually under its waters, others forming lagoons of comparatively brackish water (as at ‘Ain Feshkhah on the western side). In these lagoons various specimens of small fish are to be found; but in the main body of the water itself life of any kind is impossible.

Recent observations tend to show that the surface of the Lake is slowly rising. An island that was a conspicuous feature at the N. end disappeared under the surface in 1892, and has never been seen since.

R. A. S. Macalister.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [3]

 Genesis 14:3 Numbers 34:12 Deuteronomy 3:17 Ezekiel 47:18 Joel 2:20 Ezekiel 47:8 Isaiah 1,292Jordan

The waters of the Dead Sea contain 24.6 per cent. of mineral salts, about seven times as much as in ordinary sea-water; thus they are unusually buoyant. Chloride of magnesium is most abundant; next to that chloride of sodium (common salt). But terraces of alluvial deposits in the deep valley of the Jordan show that formerly one great lake extended from the Waters of Merom to the foot of the watershed in the Arabah. The waters were then about 1,400 feet above the present level of the Dead Sea, or slightly above that of the Mediterranean, and at that time were much less salt.

Nothing living can exist in this sea. "The fish carried down by the Jordan at once die, nor can even mussels or corals live in it; but it is a fable that no bird can fly over it, or that there are no living creatures on its banks. Dr. Tristram found on the shores three kinds of kingfishers, gulls, ducks, and grebes, which he says live on the fish which enter the sea in shoals, and presently die. He collected one hundred and eighteen species of birds, some new to science, on the shores, or swimming or flying over the waters. The cane-brakes which fringe it at some parts are the homes of about forty species of mammalia, several of them animals unknown in England; and innumerable tropical or semi-tropical plants perfume the atmosphere wherever fresh water can reach. The climate is perfect and most delicious, and indeed there is perhaps no place in the world where a sanatorium could be established with so much prospect of benefit as at Ain Jidi (Engedi).", Geikie's Hours, etc.

Holman Bible Dictionary [4]

 Isaiah 1292  Isaiah 1300

The main source of water for the sea is the Jordan River, but other smaller rivers empty into the sea also. The Jordan River empties an average of six million tons of water every twenty-four hours into the sea. Despite this and the fact that the sea has no outlet, the surface does not rise more than ten to fifteen feet. The reason for this lies in the rapid evaporation of the water because of the heat and acidness of its location below sea level.

This plus other geographical factors gives it a salt content which is approximately five times the concentration of the ocean. This makes it one of the world's saltiest. It also causes a condition where no form of marine life can live even though some fish have reportedly been found in adjacent less salty pools. The surrounding land area can support vegetation and life, however. These features of the Dead Sea plus its location in an hot and arid area inspired the biblical writers to use it as an example of a life apart from the law of God.

Bob Sheffield

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [5]

One of Palestine’s most unusual geological features is the Dead Sea. It is part of a deep north-south valley that extends along the Jordan River as far as the Gulf of Aqabah (north-eastern arm of the Red Sea) to the south. The Dead Sea, which is the lowest part of this valley, has a water level approximately 400 metres below sea level. It is about seventy-five kilometres long and fifteen kilometres wide. People in ancient times gave it the names Salt Sea and Dead Sea because it was extremely salty and, so far as they could see, nothing could live in it ( Numbers 34:12;  Joshua 3:16; cf.  Ezekiel 47:8-9). (See also Palestine sub-heading ‘Jordan Valley and Dead Sea’.)

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [6]

The name in the Old Testament is never this, but "the Salt Sea" , "sea of the plain." (See Salt SEA.)

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

See Sea .

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Dead Sea. See Salt Sea.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [9]

See Salt Sea

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [10]

Called also the Salt Sea and 'the Asphalt Lake, a sea in Palestine, formed by the waters of the Jordan, 46 m. long, 10 m. broad, and in some parts 1300 ft. deep, while its surface is 1312 ft. below the level of the Mediterranean, just as much as Jerusalem is above it; has no outlet; its waters, owing to the great heat, evaporate rapidly, and are intensely salt; it is enclosed E. and W. by steep mountains, which often rise to a height of 6000 ft.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Dead Sea'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [12]

Dead Sea [SEA]