The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
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Sulfur in a solid state. It is found in Palestine, in the region along the banks of the Jordan and around the Dead Sea, both in combination with other elements and in its pure state. In the latter condition it is still employed medicinally for skin-diseases by the wandering Arab tribes, who make further use of it in the preparation of gunpowder. Brimstone is also found in the hot springs that line both shores of the Dead Sea. In one of these springs (at Callirrhoe), Herod took baths in the hope of finding a cure for his ailment (Josephus, "Ant." xvii. 6). Besides these two sources there was still a third which was known in Bible times. The two passages in Isaiah (xxx. 33, xxxiv. 9) point clearly to sulfur produced by volcanic eruptions. Sulfur is very inflammable; and this accounts for the fact that it is nearly always mentioned in connection with fire (Gen. xix. 24; Deut. xxix. 23; Ps. xi. 6; Ez. xxxviii. 22).

Biblical writers do not refer to the useful qualities of brimstone; whenever it is mentioned it is always as an instrument of God in exacting the penalty from the wicked (besides the above passages see Job xviii. 15); and this idea is continued in the New Testament (Rev. xiv. 10, xix. 20, xx. 10). This may be due in a measure to the recollection of the traditions of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; the large quantities of brimstone found in the region suggesting it as the agent of destruction.

J. Jr. G. B. L.
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