The Origins of the Dead Sea: A Geo-Biblical Exploration – Part I

Just 50 miles from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea is a deep scar in the face of the Earth.  Long known as the Valley of Siddam, the vale of salt, or the Jordan Valley, its most famous feature is the Dead Sea, which sits 1400 feet below the Mediterranean shore.  The exceptionally salty waters of the Dead Sea, along with an unusual climate, make the Dead Sea a truly unique place.  And, despite its depth, the Dead Sea lake surface continues to fall.

The Dead Sea shoreline.  White areas represent former shorelines of the recent past.  Further up on the mountain side you can see ancient shorelines from when the lake was much higher.
The Dead Sea shoreline. White areas represent former shorelines of the recent past. Further up on the mountain side you can see faint horizontal lines. These represent ancient shorelines from when the lake was much higher.

Just how low will the Dead Sea go?

Other fascinating questions arise just from the fact of the Dead Sea’s existence.  How low has it been?  Has the Dead Sea ever dried up completely?  What lies beneath the Dead Sea waters?  How did it form?  Has it always been “dead”?

And then there are the questions of its Biblical importance. What does the Bible tell us about the origins of the Dead Sea?  What exactly did Abraham and Lot see when they looked at the Valley of Siddam?  Where were Sodom and Gomorrah and how where they destroyed?

In a multi-part series, I want to explore these questions with you.  As you will see, the Dead Sea bears witness to the glory of God’s creation through its complexity, strangeness, and physical testimony. While the Bible accurately describes the Dead Sea, the Sea itself provides a tremendous amount of evidence that challenges the  fundamental assumptions a particular form of biblical literalism known as young earth creationism.    In fact, the combination of large amounts of physical evidence from the Dead Sea, along with written historical records, allows any theory of the earth’s age to be tested.

Throughout this series, it will be crucial for you to keep in mind that young-earth creationists believe that the geological features of the Earth are no more than 4500 years old. This means that, according to their model, the Dead Sea has to have had its origins in the recent past—no more than a few thousand years ago.   We shall see how well the evidence fits their model.

That number is in meters and is a couple of years old. The shoreline is currently about 427 meters below sea level.

For example, we know the Dead Sea is drying up today but when we ask how low it has been in the past we are going to find (Part VI) that there is compelling evidence that the Dead Sea has already experienced a period of complete desiccation.   We know from biblical evidence that this didn’t happened in the past 4000 years and so this extreme environmental event must have occurred prior to recorded history.  This proves to be a significant problem for a young earth model resulting in creationists contradicting one another as they attempt to place this event in history.

Likewise, in Part VII we will discover that disturbances in many fine sedimentary layers deposited under the Dead Sea serve as a remarkable record of past earthquakes in the Levant region.  We will see that many of these records can be directly tied to significant events recorded in the Bible.  Ironically, to accept the historical biblical events recorded in the sedimentary record requires acceptance of conventional dating techniques which also point to the great antiquity of the Dead Sea.  Creationists are faced with either denying the physical confirmatory evidence of biblically recorded earthquakes or ignoring the sedimentary record that doesn’t comport to their expectations.

A Further Look Ahead to the Dead Sea Series…

During this excursion into all things Dead Sea, I will seek address— and hopefully answer— the following specific questions.  If you are a Christian, an interested reader of the Bible, a lover of geology, or a reader of detective stories, you’ll want to stick around to find out the answers to these fascinating questions:

  • Was the Jordan Valley ever filled with one very large lake?
  • How has the history of the Dead Sea been reconstructed?
  • When did the Dead Sea dry up completely and how did that happen?
  • How long has the Dead Sea appeared the way it does today?
  • How did the Dead Sea come to be so far below sea level?
  • What is the future of the Dead Sea?
  • Why is the Sea of Galilee not salty when it is also below sea level?
  • Where were the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and what about the Biblical testimony of fire and brimstone at their destruction?
  • When Abraham and Lot looked down over the Jordan Valley where was the shore of the Dead Sea?
  • Can we correlate earthquakes recorded in the Bible and other near east literature with fractures and disturbances in sediments of the Dead Sea?
  • Is it feasible to find the origins of the Dead Sea in a recent global flood?
  • Where do Jericho and the Qumran caves – where the Dead Sea scrolls were found – fit into the timeline of the Dead Sea?

If you think of any other questions you would like to see addressed let me know and I will try to work them into future posts.

We will start our exploration of the origins of the Dead Sea by first describing the characteristics of the Dead Sea and of the Jordan Valley.
Dead Sea Landscape

3 thoughts on “The Origins of the Dead Sea: A Geo-Biblical Exploration – Part I

  1. Sounds exciting! I can already anticipate a major problem with the Dead Sea and YEC. Eagerly awaiting your next post.


    1. That is a good question. The whole area is a huge depression and below sea level. This must have been true around the time of Abraham and thus some sort of lake was there. Even then it would have been a salt-water lake. The streams feeding into it could have fresh and thus the land around it fertile. This is all fine and Sodom and Gomorrah could have been cities around this lake which were destroyed. Sodom and Gomorrah are no problem in an old earth scenario in which the Dead Sea formed over the past several hundred thousands years but the cities and the Dead Sea are hard to explain within the context of a recent global flood.


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