Reference: Siddim, Vale Of
valley of the broad plains, "which is the salt sea" (Ge 14:3,8,10), between Engedi and the cities of the plain, at the south end of the Dead Sea. It was "full of slime-pits" (R.V., "bitumen pits"). Here Chedorlaomer and the confederate kings overthrew the kings of Sodom and the cities of the plain. God afterwards, on account of their wickedness, "overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities;" and the smoke of their destruction "went up as the smoke of a furnace" (Ge 19:24-28), and was visible from Mamre, where Abraham dwelt.
Some, however, contend that the "cities of the plain" were somewhere at the north of the Dead Sea. (See Sodom.)
The scene of the defeat of the five Canaaoite kings by Amraphel and his three allies (Ge 14:8 ff.). It is described as full of 'slime pits' or bitumen wells, i.e. holes in the ground from which there issued petroleum, which, when exposed to the air, hardened into solid bitumen. In the rout of the five kings by the four, these holes proved disastrous to the forces of the former, hampering them in their efforts to escape (Ge 14:10). The battlefield is doubtless thought of as being in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, where bitumen is still abundant, masses of it, which have been detached from the bottom, being often found floating on the surface after shocks of earthquake; and the Vale of Siddim is expressly identified in Ge 14:3 with the Dead Sea by the explanatory insertion, 'the same is the Salt Sea.' If by this is meant that the vale was co-extensive with the Dead Sea, the statement must be erroneous, for the greater part of the Dead Sea (the N. half of which has in places a depth of 1300 feet) is the remains of an inland sea which existed 'long before the appearance of man on the earth,' and consequently long before the age of Abraham. But it is possible that the Vale of Siddim is intended to be identified with only a portion of the Dead Sea; and those who consider Sodom and the other four 'cities of the plain' to have been situated at the S. end of the Dead Sea (where the morass of es-Sebkha now is) have taken the site of Siddim to be the southern portion of the Sea itself, which is very shallow and may once have been dry ground that has been covered by water through subsidence (cf. art. 'Siddim' in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible). By other observers, however, the shallows at the southern extremity of the lake are thought to be the result of elevation rather than of submersion; and if Sodom and the other four cities associated with it were situated at its N. end, a barren plain, in its N.W. corner, may have been the scene of the engagement recorded in Ge 14.
G. W. Wade.