Siddim, Vale of
Sid'dim, Vale Of (Heb. E'mek has - Siddim'. עֵמֶק חִשַּׂדַּי; Sept. ἡ φάραγξ ἡ ἁλυκή, and η κοιλὰς ἡ ἁλυκή; Vulg. Vallis Silvestris), a place mentioned in Ge 14:3; Ge 8:10 as the scene of the encounter between Chedorlaomer and the five confederate kings of the plain of the Dead Sea. Following we give the Scriptural and archeological information on this subject.
1. The Name. — The word Siddim appears' to be from the root שָׂדִד, sadd, "to be straight or level." The singular שֵׂד or שַׂדָּה would thus signify "a level field;" and the phrase Emek Siddim (שָׂדַּים), "the valley of fields." Prof. Stanley conjectures (Sin. and Pal.) that Siddim is connected with שָׂדִה, sadeh, "a field," and that the signification of the name was thus directly the "valley of the fields," so called from the high state of cultivation in which it was maintained before the destruction of Sodom and the other cities. Gesenius expresses his conviction (by inference from the Arabic sad, "an obstacle") that the real meaning of the words Emek has-Siddim is "a plain cut up by stony channels which render it difficult of transit;" and with this agree Furst (Handwb. ii, 411 b) and Kalisch (Genesis, p. 355). Perhaps more accurately the word may in this sense be derived from שָׂדִד, saddd, "to harrow." See Kalisch, loc cit., who, however, disapproves of such a derivation, and adheres to that of Gesenius.
The following are the equivalents of the name given in the ancient versions: Samar. Vers., מישר חלקיה; Onkelos, מֵישִׁר חִקלִיָּא; Saadias, merjel-
hakul; Peshito, umeka di-sedumea; Aquila, κοιλάς τῶν περιπεδίνων; Symm. and Theod., κοιλὰς τῶν ἀλσῶν (=אשרה); Josephus, Φρέατα ἀσφάλτου; Jerome (Qu'cest. in Genesis), Vallis Salinaruam. The authors of the Sept. probably thought that the' clause "which is the Salt Sea" was explanatory of the word Siddim, which they therefore rendered η ἁλυκή. Or perhaps they may have read הרשי instead of השדים; and ἁλυκή may be an error for ἀλσικός = ἀλσώδης, "wooded ;" a view corroborated by the Vulgate, which has silvestris; and. by the reading of Symmachus and Theodotion, τῶν ἀλσῶν.
2. Topographical Indications. — The word rendered " vale" is in Hebrew עֵמֶק, eanek, which means a low or sunken tract of land. - SEE VALLEY. It was probably a section of the Arabah somewhat lower than the rest; perhaps resembling the plain of Sabkah at the southern end of the Dead Sea. It-was "full of bitumen-pits;" or, as the Hebrew idiom expresses it, it was "wells, wells of bitumen" (בארת בארת חמר). They are so numerous as to stud its whole surface (Ge 14:10). It was the battle-field on which the king of Sodom .and his allies were vanquished. It seems probable, though it is not stated, that Sodom and Gomorrah were situated in the vale. Be this as it may, the vale was included in the general destruction when "the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord in heaven" (Ge 19:24).
But the most remarkable fact regarding the vale of Siddim is that stated in Ge 14:3, "it is the Salt Sea" (הוּא יָם הִמֶּלִח). The meaning of these words cannot be mistaken; and we have no more ground for questioning their genuineness than for questioning the genuineness of any other passage in Genesis. There is abundant evidence that the book as it now stands was the production of Moses. He may have embodied in it authentic documents handed down from a remoter age, arranging and supplementing them as he deemed necessary. But his additions would, be as authoritative as the documents themselves. Until we can prove from clear evidence that the clause was interpolated by an uninspired writer, we must regard it as an integral part of the Mosaic record, and we must believe that the vale of Siddim was submerged.
3. Probable Identification. — If we, understand, therefore, the latter clause of ver. 3 to designate a part. of what was afterwards known as " the Salt Sea," then we must agree with Dr. Robinson and others in identifying the Valley of Siddim with the enclosed plain which intervenes between the south end of the lake and the range of heights which terminate the Ghor and commence the Wady Arabah. This is a district in many respects suitable. In the ditches and drains of the Sabkah are the impassable channels of Gesenius. In the thickly wooded Ghores-Safieh are ample conditions for the fertility of Prof. Stanley. The general aspect and formation of the plain answer fully to the idea of an enmek. The most careful explorations of recent travellers have not brought to light a single fact calculated to overthrow this view. On the contrary, the following results of scientific research go far to establish it. At the present day there are no bitumen-pits in the plains around the Dead Sea, and time could not have effaced them had they remained above water. It has been ascertained, from masses of bitumen frequently thrown to the surface, that there must be wells of bitumen in the bed of the sea towards its southern end. Traces of what appears to have been " a shower of sulphur" have been discovered recently on the south-west shore; and with it are layers and lumps of bitumen calcified by heat. The section of the Dead Sea south of el-Lisan has been found to be very shallow-only a few feet, and in places only a few inches of water covering a flat, slimy plain-whereas the whole northern section is a deep and regularly formed basin. These facts would seem at least to suggest that that section of the Dead Sea which is south of 'the peninsula covers the region which was called in Lot's time "the vale of Siddim." Josephus states this view emphatically. His words (Ant. i. 9) are, "They encamped in the valley called-the Wells of Asphalt; for at that time there were wells in that spot; but now that the city of the Sodomites has disappeared, that valley has become a lake which is called Asphaltites." See also Strabo, 16:764. SEE SALT SEA; SEE SODOM.