Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The destruction of Sodom by lightning bolt?

The destruction of Sodom, as the Torah tells us:

כד וַה', הִמְטִיר עַל-סְדֹם וְעַל-עֲמֹרָה--גָּפְרִית וָאֵשׁ: מֵאֵת ה', מִן-הַשָּׁמָיִם.24 Then the LORD caused to rain upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;

A fascinating explanation in Shadal, for the mechanism of the destruction of Sodom. Since the one in plaintext (here) obscures the names of the non-Jewish authorities he cites, and omits the Italian words which clarify his intentions. Therefore, I produce it below as an image and as plaintext.

כד] וה ' המטיר על סדום וגו' : דעת אחדים כי ירדה אש מן השמים והבעירה החמר והנפט שהיה מפוזר בקרקע הככר ההוא. ונקראה האש מן השמים גפרית, כי תניח אחריה ריח גפרית, וכן כתוב ימטר על רשעים פחים אש וגפרית (תהלים י"א ו'), ואבני אלגביש אש וגפרית אמטיר עליו (יחזקאל ל"ת כ"ב); ואולי האש שאחזה בחמר שהיה במעי הארץ גרם גם כן רעש ומפלה.

וענין מהפכת סדום הזכירוהו ג"כ סופרי העמים, עיין סטראבון ספר י"ג, טאציטוס (היסטוריות ספר ה' פרק ו') דיאודורוס סיקולוס ס' י"ט, פליניאוס ס' ה' פרק ט"ז ואחרים.

To translate:
"And Hashem rained on Sodom, etc." -- The opinion of Clericus and Rosenmuller is that fire descended from heaven (fulmina, Italian for lightning), and burned the tar and crude oil which is scattered in the ground of that plain. And the "fire from the heavens" {=the lightning} is called "sulfur" {brimstone} for it leaves after it the the odor of sulfur. And so is written {Tehillim 11:6}:

ו יַמְטֵר עַל-רְשָׁעִים, פַּחִים: אֵשׁ וְגָפְרִית, וְרוּחַ זִלְעָפוֹת--מְנָת כּוֹסָם.6 Upon the wicked He will cause to rain coals; fire and brimstone and burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.

כב וְנִשְׁפַּטְתִּי אִתּוֹ, בְּדֶבֶר וּבְדָם; וְגֶשֶׁם שׁוֹטֵף וְאַבְנֵי אֶלְגָּבִישׁ אֵשׁ וְגָפְרִית, אַמְטִיר עָלָיו וְעַל-אֲגַפָּיו, וְעַל-עַמִּים רַבִּים, אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ.22 And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will cause to rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many peoples that are with him, an overflowing shower, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.

and perhaps the fire {=lightning} seizing {and burning} the tar which is in the pools of the earth causes as well shaking and collapses.

And the matter of the overturning of Sodom is also mentioned by the gentile historians. See Strabon, book 16, Tacitus (Historiae, book 5, chapter 6), Diodorus Sicolus, book 19, Pliny book 5, chapter 16, Solinus chapter 16.

And Clericus saw as well a great comparison between this narrative and the story of Ovid (Metam. lib. 8. 616-724) in the matter of Philemon and Baucis, and says that that of Ovid was born from the overturning of Sodom.
I checked out the story of Philemon and Baucis, and there are interesting things to be gleaned from it. I plan on another post exploring this.

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