THE GOLD OF THAT LAND: Biblical Minerals & Rocks  



52.     quicksands

Greek: surtis, shoal sands. Acts 27:17.

Probable Identification: shallow, shifting sand bars in Syrtis Major, the bay of Sirte on the Libyan coast between Tripoli and Cyrenaica. Sailors in St. Paul's time dreaded running aground on them as much as being cast upon rocks.

        Quicksand in modern usage is a bed of wet, loose sand that traps anyone who falls into it. The saturated sand appears indistinguishable from adjacent firm sand but liquefies when stepped on. Quicksands of this type may occur as pockets in sand flats on coastal beaches, estuaries, or along rivers. They have the reputation of sucking their victims under, though victims should not sink completely because the density of the human body is approximately the same as liquefied quicksand. Panic and encumbrances account for the fatal difference.

The coastal plain of Sharon between Joppa and Mount Carmel had many fearsome quicksands in biblical times. These were mixtures of sand, mud, and organic matter in boggy places.

         The gravel-strewn surfaces of stony hammadas also conceal deep pockets of fine dust, called fech-fech in Arabic, which can trap unwary vehicles, just like quicksand.

        "Sin is the pit into which we have fallen, but it is too deep for us to escape. It is the quicksand into which we have foolishly blundered but from which we cannot extricate ourselves. It is the death we have entered but from which we cannot restore ourselves to life."


Actemeier, Paul, 1985. Romans. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 60.

Khaldoun, A., E. Eiser, G. H. Wegdam & Daniel Bonn, 2005. Rheology: Liquefaction of quicksand under stress. Nature: 437, 635.


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