In one of the most beautiful passages of a beautiful book, God says:

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender. —Hosea 11:8 (ESV)

(I've already asked two questions on Hosea's use of places—on 4:15 and 6:9.)

So where were Admah and Zeboiim? What does it mean to be made like them?

4 Answers 4


This sermon by Brett Mahlen (which I strongly recommend and exhort you to listen to) has an excellent discussion of this, and is the basis of my answer.

Where Were They?

Admah and Zeboiim were the little towns outside of Sodom and Gomorroh, which were burned up with the larger cities when the sulfury fire of God fell from heaven in judgment on them (Mahlen; Deuteronomy 29:23; see also Genesis 10:19; 14:2, 8).

Made Like Them

God utterly annihilated them in the flame. But if this is the only significance of mentioning them, why doesn't Hosea say "Sodom and Gomorrah," the more well-known locations? These towns are not mentioned nearly as often as Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible—the above list of verses is complete, with the possible addition of 13:18. Not only are these names unfamiliar to us, but it is unlikely that they were well known to Hosea's listeners (Mahlen).

To be made like Admah and treated like Zeboiim is not only to pass out of existence but out of memory. In the riches of his grace it is abhorrent to the Most High God to drop his people into the flames of the memory hole, as they deserve.


Addendum to Kazark:

There is an alliteration in the Hebrew. Each of the first four lines starts with the letter aleph. Each of the last words in each line have an aleph, in the first syllable of "Ephraim" and "Adamah" (lines 1 and 3), and in the last syllable of "Israel" and "Zeboiim" (lines 2 and 4). This would not work with "Sodom" and "Gamorrah".

As the OT was transmitted primarily by memorization in the time of Hosea, these place names would be familiar to anyone having what was then considered an education. Nowadays you can get an "education" without familiarity with the classical texts.


It seems there is a different nuance here. In the Genesis account of the destruction of Sodom, when YHVH meets with Abraham and reveals his plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he makes no mention of Admah or Zeboiim. The outcry to which he is responding seems to relate specifically to Sodom and Gomorrah only.

This is not to say that Admah and Zeboiim were righteous, only that whatever their level of wickedness they got caught up in the destruction of the two extremely wicked cities with which they shared a valley.

I have to agree with Eli Rosencruft that the "out of memory" explanation is not the best understanding. Deuteronomy 29 is perhaps the best counterpoint here. Moses, generations after Abraham, in reviewing YHVH's covenant with the people of Israel specifically mentions Admah and Zeboiim.

It is possible the message is better understood as YHVH saying to his people, "Be careful. You see yourselves as separate and different from these wicked nations that surround you. BUT you have chosen to become more like them ("to dwell in the same valley", so to speak) and can, consequently, be destroyed in the same way they are destroyed.

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Is it a mere coincidence that the two wives of Lamech are Adah and Zillah?

Genesis 4:19 ¶ And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.

When there are two things, one represents the earthly and the other represents the heavenly. Admah means red earth, Zeboiim is plural for Tsebiy meaning beautiful. Adah means red earth by way of riddle (Adma is the same as Adam which is the same as Adah-im), Zillah means shade (which is like the sunrise and sunset or the reconciliation of Holiness and Grace in SP). Should there be any doubt of this loose connection, she is also the mother of Naamah meaning 'loveliness'.

The two things are two aspects of one thing; the bride of Christ as represented by Israel and the church, and more esoterically by the earthly people of God and the heavenly people of God in glory. This theme of a dual-natured bride is represented by the prostitute/virgin theme.

Nearly all the prominent women of the Bible participate in this theme in riddle:

  • Rebekkah was a virgin who was 'took/married' by the servant and 'uncovered' with him.
  • Leah sneaked into Jacob's wedding tent while Rachel remains the virgin.
  • Gomer is a prostitute who names her first child "God sows"
  • Tamar plays the harlot but is more honorable than Judah.
  • Even Mary is the virgin whose name means rebellious and is suspected of adultery.
  • many more

The cities Admah and Zeboiim represent the bride of Christ.

More than that, they represent the bride of Christ when he comes in power:

Re 17:10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, [and] the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.

Compare the seven generations of Cain to the ten generations of Seth:


  • Enoch
  • Irad
  • Mehujael
  • Methusael
  • Lamech
  • Jabal - Jubal & TubalCain


  • Enos

  • Cainan
  • Mahalaleel
  • Enoch
  • Jared
  • Methusalah
  • Lamech
  • Noah
  • Shem, Ham, Japheth

Notable points:

  1. The word 'lived' is repeated many times in the genealogy of Seth. It is absent from the genealogy of Cain. The seven generations of Cain 'did not live' they died.
  2. Of the seven generations of Cain, two names also appear in that of Seth; Enoch and Lamech.
  3. Enoch in Seth's line walked with God, so he did not die.
  4. Lamech means power. Since Christ has not come in power yet, Lamech is the 'one to come' in the riddle of Rev 17. Cain's genealogy fits the riddle of Rev 17.

Of the seven generations five are past (died), one is (Enoch lives) and one is to come (in power).

Therefore, the two cities representing the bride of Christ, represent the bride at the time of his coming in power.

Further resolving the riddle using the genealogies reveals the identity of the beast. But that is another question.

Hos 11.9 I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.

Though his bride is a prostitute, he will not destroy her when he comes in power because he loves the virgin.

  • Sensus Plenior is the only hermeneutic which uses the Bible alone to solve this riddle of Revelation.
    – Bob Jones
    Jun 2, 2012 at 14:39
  • 2
    I looked up several of the name meanings. But I ran into trouble on Adah. I get ornament as the meaning of her name. This answer is interesting and thought provoking. Unfortunately, it creates more problems than it solves for me. Most likely that's because I can't get on the Sensus Plenior wavelength. Jun 2, 2012 at 16:32
  • @Jon Sorry Adma is the same as Adam which is the same as Adah-im (a plural of Adah). Vowels are loosely connected in puns.
    – Bob Jones
    Jun 2, 2012 at 19:33

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