Its fruit is green and about the size of an apple, and it is pleasant to look at, but when it is ripe it bursts, scattering its feather-like seeds which are then carried by the wind.
Their vine comes from the vine of Sodom
and from the fields of Gomorrah.
Their grapes are filled with poison,
and their clusters with bitterness. (Dt. 32:32)
The “vine of Sodom” and the fields of Gomorrah, which appear in this quote from Deuteronomy, under the Hebrew terms gephen Sedom, later translated in the Greek Septuagint as ámpelos Sodomon, and in the Vulgate as vinea Sodomorum, may well refer to the Sodom apple or giant milkweed, a well-known plant whose scientific name is Calotropis procera, and which had nothing to do with the real vine.
In fact, it was a member of the Asclepiadaceae family that is relatively common from the Sea of Galilee, along the Jordan river to the Dead Sea (just to the south of which had stood the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah) and the Gulf of Acaba, although it can also be found in several other dry regions throughout North Africa, where it actually originated.
Its fruit is green and about the size of an apple, and it is pleasant to look at, but when it is ripe it bursts, scattering its feather-like seeds which are then carried by the wind, and which Flavius Josephus likened to “dust and ashes”. Hence it is also popularly known as “silk cotton”. The sap of the plant is poisonous, as it contains latex and other chemical substances that can burn the skin, which is why the Berbers and Bedouins used it to burn warts. Its latex contains enzymes which are used in the biotechnological industry to develop drugs to combat different types of cancer.
The quote from Deuteronomy which refers to the vine of Sodom (Dt. 32:32-33), appears in the context of the impotence of the idols compared with the God of Israel. The pagan gods were a characteristic feature of primitive societies whose immoral practices are clearly exemplified in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Biblical text states that, just as sin the fields of Gomorrah, where the rituals of these idolatrous religions where acted out, with their sexual orgies and fertility rites, there grew poisonous fruit like the grapes of Sodom, so the people who participated in such immoral religious festivals were doomed to die as if they had drunk the poison of serpents. And that was the main reason why God allowed Israel to fall into the hands of its enemies.