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Abraham and the Giants (Cont.)
Sodom and Gomorrah, at the southern tip of the Salt Sea, stood next in line. They quickly got ready to defend themselves, expecting the worst. But to their amazement the invaders passed them by. Pressing on southward into the rough mountain range of Seir, Chedorlaomer waged war instead against the giant Horites.20 He also conquered the Negev to eliminate any threat from that quarter. Having thus neutralized all the country round, he finally turned his attention upon the rebellious Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbors.
Giving up whatever security their fortified walls afforded them, "the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah and the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) came out," notes Moses; "and they arrayed for battle against them in the valley of Siddim, against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim and Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar--four kings against five."21
This bold strategy to meet the invaders in the open field was decided by the surrounding treacherous terrain. Many slime pits, dug to obtain pitch or mortar for building, transversed the area.22 While most English translations simply describe the Valley of Siddim as being "full of slime pits," the force of the original Hebrew language, according to Speiser, conveys to the reader a picture of "one bitumen pit after another." The locals were most familiar with the locations of these pits. The invaders were not. They were also accustomed to the foul-smelling, boiling waters on whose surface floated lumps of asphalt or bitumen the size of bulls. The enemy, they hoped, would be at least a little disconcerted by the unfamiliar terrain and terrible odor and afraid of falling into the boiling waters.
But the pits failed to deter the invaders. Indeed, they soon turned them to their own advantage. In the resulting warfare, many in the defenders' ranks saw death. Alarmed by the way the battle was progressing against them, the five local kings and their armies panicked and attempted to flee the field. The slime pits, however, made retreat difficult. In the confusion, two of the fleeing kings--and presumedly many men with them--fell into the tar pits. Those who escaped fled into the mountains.
For a time some scholars disbelieved this Genesis story, labeling it a fiction. But evidence dug up by archaeologists in recent years verifies that in Abraham's time a great destruction came upon the very places mentioned in Chedorlaomer's invasion. Dr. Nelson Glueck, whose work in this area extended from 1932 until 1947, when it was halted by the Israeli-Arab disturbances, reports that the highly developed civilization which flourished here during the Middle Bronze I period (c. 2100-1900 B.C.) came to an abrupt and savage end. This well-known archaeologist found that not only the cities mentioned in Genesis but also many villages--beginning with Ashtaroth-Karnaim and proceeding south through Transjordan and the Negev to Kadesh Barnea in the Sinai--were systematically gutted. "From southern Syria to central Sinai, their fury raged," he writes. "A punitive expedition developed into an orgy of annihilation. I found that every village in their path had been plundered and left in ruins, and the countryside laid waste. The population had been wiped out or led away into captivity. For hundreds of years thereafter, the entire area was like an abandoned cemetery, hideously unkept, with all its monuments shattered and strewn in pieces on the ground."23
Following their victory in the field, Chedorlaomer's warriors plundered Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities and took some of their principal inhabitants away captive. Among these were Lot and his family. To the king of Elam's great misfortune, however, one who had managed to escape from Sodom came and reported this news to Abraham. Lot's uncle at this time still lived in tents pitched near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite. Mamre was a brother of Eshcol and Aner. All three were Abraham's allies. When Abraham heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the three hundred and eighteen "trained men born in his household," and, being joined by the forces of Mamre, Eshcol, and Aner, he pursued the enemy as far as Dan.24 When the right opportunity presented itself, Abraham and his men came upon Chedorlaomer's camp in the dead of night, took the confused, frightened foe by surprise, put them to a rout, rescued Lot and his fellow captives, and recovered all Chedorlaomer's plundered goods. (See Argob's Sixty Cities of the Giants; also see Giants Who Became Gods; Gomarian Giants)
Following his land grabs in Asia Minor, Acmon and his tall subjects built at least two cities, Themicyra, on the southern shores of the Black Sea, and Acmonia, near the river Thermodon.
The first historians also declare that the Gomarian giants who followed Acmon into Asia Minor worshipped him as the "Most High" god, and in both Cappadocia and Phrygia they consecrated woods and groves to him. (See Giants Who Became Gods; Gomarian Giants.)
The city's name still survives today as Khirbet Anab, which is located about thirteen miles southwest of Hebron. (See Israel's Wars with the Giants)
Continues Graham: "When we find one after another, great stone cities, walled and unwalled, with stone gates, and so crowded together that it becomes almost a matter of wonder how all the people could have lived in so small a place; when we see houses built of such huge and massive stones that no force which can be brought against them in that country could ever batter them down; when we find rooms in these houses so large and lofty that many of them would be considered fine rooms in a palace in Europe; and, lastly, when we find some of these towns bearing the very names which cities in that very country bore before the Israelites came out of Egypt, I think we cannot help feeling the strongest conviction that we have before us the cities of the Rephaim of which we read in the Book of Deuteronomy."26
Another traveler to this area, professor J. L. Porter, agrees with Graham that giants built these cities. "Moses," he writes, "makes special mention of the strong cities of Bashan, and speaks of their high walls and gates. He tells us, too, in the same connection, that Bashan was called the land of the giants (or Rephaim, Deut. iii. 13), leaving us to conclude that the cities were built by giants. Now the houses of Kerioth and other towns in Bashan appear to be just such dwellings as a race of giants would build. The walls, the roofs, but especially the ponderous gates, doors, and bars, are in every way characteristic of a period when architecture was in its infancy, when giants were masons, and when strength and security were the grand requisites. I measured a door in Kerioth: it was nine feet high, four and a half feet wide, and ten inches thick,--one solid slab of stone. I saw the folding gates of another town in the mountains still larger and heavier. Time produces little effect on such buildings as these. The heavy stone slabs of the roofs resting on the massive walls make the structure as firm as if built of solid masonry; and the black basalt used is almost as hard as iron. There can scarcely be a doubt, therefore, that these are the very cities erected and inhabited by the Rephaim, the aboriginal occupants of Bashan."27 (See Beit Jibrim; Rephaim Giants; Sihon's and Og's Overthrow)