Calotropis procera. Photographer: Adoscam (2020). License: CC BY-SA 4.0. Image cropped.
Fruit of the Calotropis proceraPhotographer: Adoscam. License: CC BY-SA 4.0 (cropped).

What is…
the Vine of Sodom

This phrases appearrs only in Deuteronomy 32:32.

For their vine is from the vine of Sodom,
And from the fields of Gomorrah;
Their grapes are grapes of poison,
Their clusters, bitter. —Deuteronomy 32:32 NASB

Moses refers here to people of Israel who are utterly corrupt, bringing forth only bitter fruit.

Assuming that this verse refers to an actual fruit in the area of Sodom, some suppose that it is the 'osher (Calotropis procera) of the Arabs, which abounds in the Dead Sea. It grows from Jordan to southern Egypt. Its fruit, though beautiful to the eye, is exceedingly bitter to taste. Modern names for its fruit include “apples of Sodom,” “Sodom apple,” and “Dead Sea apple.”

Josephus, the Roman-Jewish historian mentions this fruit, calling it the Sodom apple.

Citrullus colocynthis fruits.  • Photographer: H. Zell • License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. • Image cropped.
Citrullus colocynthis fruits Photographer: H. Zell (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Another possible bruit is the colocynth (Citrullus colocynthis) which is also visually attractive but bitter. The plant is viney and is called “Vine of Sodom,” as well as “bitter apple,” “bitter cucumber,” “desert gourd,” “wild gourd,” and “egusi.”

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Article Version: September 29, 2021