Bitumen is doubtless denoted by the Heb. term חֵמָר, chemar' (Auth. Vers. "slime," only occurs in Ge 11:3; Ge 14:10; Ex 2:3), so called from its boiling up as an earth-resin from subterranean fountains not far from Babylon, also anciently in the vale of Siddim, and occasionally from the bottom of the Dead Sea, which is thence called Lacus Asphaltitesthe lake of bitumen. There are two or three kinds, but each have nearly the same component parts. It is usually of a blackish or brown hue, and hardens more or less on exposure to the air. In its most fluid state it forms naphtha; when of the consistence of oil, it becomes petroleum; at the next stage of induration it becomes elastic bitumen ; then malha; and so on until it becomes a compact mass, and is then called asphaltum. All these substances are remarkable for their inflammable character; the bituminous oils are of late extensively used for illumination and lubrication, that naturally produced being commonly called " petroleum," while that manufactured from this is termed "kerosene." Neither the inventions of art nor the researches of science have discovered any other substance so well adapted to exclude water and to repel the injuries of worms as the mineral pitch or bitumen. According to Ge 11:3, bitumen was used instead of lime or cement for the building of the tower of Babel. Hit, the ancient Is, upon the Euphrates, says Mr. Ainsworth, "has been celebrated from all antiquity for its never failing fountains of bitumen, and they furnished the imperishable mortar of the Babylonian structures" (Researches, p. 89). Prof. Robinson, in 1838, examined the shores of the Dead Sea. He says: " In the same plain were slime-pits, that is to say, wells of bitumen or asphaltum, the Hebrew word being the same as the word used in describing the building of the walls of Babylon, which we know were cemented with bitumen (Ge 14:10; Ge 11:3). These pits or fountains appear to have been of considerable extent. The valley in which they were situated is indeed called Siddim; but it is said to have been adjacent to the salt sea, and it contained -Sodom and Gomorrah (Ge 14:2-3,10-12). The streams that anciently watered the plain remain to attest the accuracy of the sacred historian, but the pits of asphaltum are no longer to be seen. Did they disappear in consequence of the catastrophe of the plain?" (Bib. Researches, ii, 603). In ancient times bitumen was a valuable article of commerce, and found a ready market in Egypt, where it was used in large quantities for embalming the dead; it was also occasionally employed as a substitute for stone. The Egyptians, according to Pliny, made use of bitumen in making water-tight the small boats of platted papyrus-reed which are commonly used on the Nile: the same is done at this day to the Geiser (or Gopher) boats of the Euphrates, and the asphaltic coracles of the Tigris. The little reed-boat in which the mother of Moses exposed her child on the Nile (Ex 2:3) was made tight with pitch of this kind. There are also remarkable bituminous wells along the Upper Jordan, three miles west of Hasbeiya (Thomson, Land and Book, i, 335). SEE ASPHALTUM.

Bible concordance for BITUMEN.

Definition of bit

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.