Those of you who have read the previous article about Mount Gerizim will be familiar with many of the Bible verses about Mount Ebal. For instance Deuteronomy 11:29: “When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.”
Mount Ebal is the less fertile of the two mountains in the middle of Canaan, now the West Bank territory. It is slightly higher than Mount Gerizim at 3080 feet, which is 60 feet above sea level. Primarily formed of limestone, the slopes contain several caverns that may once have been quarries. Towards the bottom are several tombs but it is not known to whom they belong.
When the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, Moses explained that Mount Ebal was to be used for curses and Gerizim for blessings. This may be on account of the difference in soil qualities. Later, the Israelites were instructed to build an altar upon the mountain: “And when you have crossed the Jordan, set up these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with plaster.” (Deuteronomy 27:4) Further instructions told them to make peace offerings on the altar, eat there, and write the words of the law – the Pentateuch - on the stone.
Immediately after the instructions for the altar have been received, the Israelites are told to split into two groups. One group was to go to Mount Gerizim and pronounce blessings, and the other to remain on Mount Ebal and pronounce curses. “And these tribes shall stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali.” (Deuteronomy 27:13) There has been no logical explanation agreed upon for the choice of tribes, however, one suggestion is that this was the most equal split in terms of the number of people in each tribe as recorded in the book of Numbers.
The curses pronounced on Mount Ebal were the following:
After the Battle of Ai in the book of Joshua, Joshua renews the covenant at Mount Ebal.
Over time, archaeologists have made many discoveries upon the slopes of Mount Ebal. Known to locals as el Burnat (the Hat), a stone heap resembling an amphitheatre was discovered during the 20thcentury. Pieces of pottery were found among the heap dating from 1220-1000 BC. Further excavations found a walled structure with no windows and doors that was full of stone, ash and burnt animal bones. The archaeologist in charge of the excavation believed the structure to be the remains of Joshua’s altar. Others argue that it could be an Assyrian altar since it does not fit with the Biblical account, which says Joshua’s altar faces Mount Gerizim, whereas these remains are on the opposite side.
A third suggestion for the ruins is a simple farmhouse or guard tower. Nevertheless, if anyone wishes to visit the site, particularly the Israelis, they must liaise with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and be escorted by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to ensure their safety. Plans were proposed to make Mount Ebal a tourist destination but as of yet, nothing has come to fruition.
“When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.” (Deuteronomy 11:29)
The two mountains mentioned in the above verse can be found in the city of Nablus (previously Shechem) in Israel. I will focus on the first mountain, Mount Gerizim, and look at the second in another article. Mount Gerizim is one of the highest mountains in the landlocked territory of West Bank, which is bordered by Jordan and Israel. The mountain reaches 2890 feet, which is 230 feet above sea level. According to Samaritan tradition, Mount Gerizim was considered to be both the oldest and highest mountain in the world.
The Samaritans continue to regard Mount Gerizim as the location chosen by God for a holy temple. The Jews, on the other hand, regard Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to be the true location. In John 4, Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman at a well. She does not understand why Jesus, a Jew, is talking to her and points out their differences. In verse 20 she states, “Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Passover is still celebrated by the Samaritans on the slopes of Mount Gerizim. They also consider it the location of the “Binding of Isaac” – the place Abraham almost sacrificed his son.
The first time Mount Gerizim is mentioned in the Bible (Deuteronomy 11:29) corresponds with the Israelites’ entry into Canaan. Moses instructs them to celebrate their arrival with a ceremony of blessings on Mount Gerizim and a ceremony of cursing on Mount Ebal. It is thought these two mountains were chosen for this purpose because they stood at the centre of the land. Mount Gerizim had plenty of fertile land, whereas Mount Ebal had a barren and rugged face.
In Deuteronomy 27, the Israelites were split into their tribes. Half were to remain on Mount Gerizim and the rest on Mount Ebal. Verse 12 states, “When you have crossed the Jordan, these tribes shall stand on MountGerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin.” There has been no agreement amongst scholars as to the significance of the separation of the tribes.
Mount Gerizim next appears in the book of Joshua. After the Battle of Ai, Joshua built an altar on the mountain and the Israelites came forth with offerings and blessings.
The mountain also has some significance in the book of Judges. Jotham, the youngest of Gideon’s 70 sons was dismayed to discover that his brother Abimelek had been crowned king. When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, “Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you.” (Judges 9:7) Jotham metaphorically uses trees to explain that the people of Shechem have made a poor decision. He believes they have revolted against his father’s family and warns them that if they have acted dishonourably, God will punish them. As we see later in the chapter, God stirred up animosity between the king and the people. King Abimelek, in an attempt to regain his favour by force, ends up being killed by a woman.
An argument between the Jews and Samaritans about the true location of God’s chosen holy place has been going on since the 5thcentury BC. The Babylonian exile had ended and the Persian Period begun, during which the Samaritans built a temple upon Mount Gerizim. A Jewish High Priest later destroyed the temple: either John Hyrcanus or Simeon the Just. Nonetheless, the Samaritans continued to worship on the mountain.
Later, the Christian Roman Empire banned the Samaritans from worshipping on Mount Gerizim and built a church on the summit in 475 AD. Emperor Justinian I made Samaritanism illegal, which led Julianus ben Sabar, a messianic leader, to lead a pro-Samaritan revolt, capturing the majority of Samaria and destroying churches. Unfortunately, Justinian’s armies eventually got the upper hand and the surviving Samaritans were either exiled or enslaved.
Ruins of Justinian’s church can still be seen at the top of Mount Gerizim. Archaeologists believe the architects used portions of the old Samaritan temple for the foundations of the structure. Today there is neither a church nor a Samaritan temple on the mountain; however, Samaritans are safe to worship there.
Just for fun, here are some of the major differences between Jews and Samaritans:
What a pleasure it was to take part in the very first joint service between Gateway Community Church and ourselves at Gants Hill. From 11 am, we held our usual hour-long service in the traditional Harvest style, with over 60 people attending, many who were from Gateway. The service was followed by a shared lunch where everybody intermingled and then an hours service in the tradition of Gateway, which was shortened from the normal length of service for our benefit.
It was an uplifting, exciting and hopeful occasion. Pastor Horace and I are keen not only for further shared services but also for the sharing of resources, and ideas that will benefit the local community.
I am grateful to Gateway for everything they did to make this day a success. I am also grateful to my congregation at Gants Hill who dressed the church beautifully and set up the hall for lunch. I do not doubt that there will be many positive outcomes.
All the food from the Harvest Table will go to Mill Grove residential community in South Woodford.
Mount Hermon features predominantly in the book of Joshua, however, today it is not considered an individual mountain but rather a mountain cluster. Also known as “Mountain of the Sheik”, Mount Hermon can be found at the southern end of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range, straddling the border of Lebanon and Syria. At 9,232 feet above sea level, it is the highest point in Syria and is home to the highest manned UN position in the world: Hotel Hermon.
The Bible mostly refers to Mount Hermon in terms of location and territory. It is first mentioned in Deuteronomy 3:8 in which Moses describes the land the Israelites took after the defeat of King Og of Bashan. “So at that time we took from these two kings of the Amorites the territory east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge as far as Mount Hermon.”
In the book of Joshua, Mount Hermon is mentioned five times. It is referenced in the records of the lands Joshua captured from other rulers. After defeating the northern kings, Joshua took the land “from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and put them to death.” (Joshua 11:17) The list of all kings the Israelites defeated can be found in the following chapter:
Joshua 13 records all the lands that the Lord promised the Israelites will capture. These include “the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath” (Joshua 13:5) and “It also included Gilead, the territory of the people of Geshur and Maakah, all of Mount Hermon and all Bashan as far as Salekah.” (Joshua 13:11)
The final time Mount Hermon is mentioned is in 1 Chronicles 5, which states the lands belonging to the half-tribe of Manasseh. Interestingly, Mount Hermon is used in brackets to indicate that “Senir” is another name for the mountain. This is the name the Amorites gave Mount Hermon, which means “snow mountain”.
The Hermon range covers approximately 270 square miles, 27 of which are still under Israeli control. Most of the mountain cluster known as Mount Hermon falls in the Israeli area. During the winter and spring, heavy snow falls in the mountains and at least three peaks keep their snowy cover all year round. The snow that does melt feeds into springs at the base of the mountain, merging into rivers that eventually flow out into the River Jordan.
In Hebrew, Mount Hermon comes from the Semitic root “hrm”, which means “taboo “ or “consecrated”. In Arabic, however, it means “sacred enclosure.” Not including the Bible, one of the earliest references to Mount Hermon can be found in the Mesopotamian poem The Epic of Gilgamesh. “The ground split open with the heels of their feet, as they whirled around in circles Mt. Hermon and Lebanon split.”
Whilst Mount Hermon is only mentioned a handful of times in the Bible, references to the surrounding area and its habitants feature more frequently. Take, for example, Psalm 42:6, “O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar,” and Psalm 133:3, “As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”
In the apocryphal book of Enoch, Mount Hermon is the place where the fallen angels known as “Watcher” descended to Earth. “Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. 6. And they were in all two hundred; who descended ⌈in the days⌉of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it.” They swore they would take wives among the daughters of men and share the punishment of their sins.
Controversial opinions suggest Mount Hermon was actually Mount Sinai, however, the geographical descriptions do not fit. Another debatable idea is New Testament scholar R. T. France’s belief that Mount Hermon is a possible location for the Transfiguration of Jesus.
The Amorites believed the summit was the location of the Palace of Ba’al. The remains of a temple, Qasr Antar, sit on the summit, which is believed to be the highest temple of the ancient world. Inscribed on a piece of limestone is a verse about a “Holy God” which scholars believe could be a reference to Ba’al.
Mount Hermon has seen its fair share of war due to the Arab-Israeli conflict. During the Six-Day War of 1967, the Syrian portion of Mount Herman was captured by Israel. Syria regained their territory during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Due to the ongoing Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011, Mount Hermon continues to be the site of fighting, particularly by Islamist rebel factions.
Despite the conflict, it is possible to visit Mount Hermon if you wish, particularly if you enjoy skiing. Mount Hermon is the location of the only Israeli ski resort. It has a wide range of ski trails for all levels of expertise and also offers the opportunity to take part in activities such as sledging and Nordic skiing. Just think, you could be skiing where the Israelites once walked!
“The whole Israelite community set out from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah.Get Aaron and his son Eleazar and take them up Mount Hor. Remove Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar, for Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will die there.” Moses did as the Lord commanded: They went up Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community.” (Numbers 20:22-27, NIV)
Mentioned only a few times, Mount Hor is famous for being the death place of Aaron the high priest, brother of Moses. Numbers 20 tells us that Aaron will not see the Promised Land but will die on the mountain the Israelites have reached. In Numbers 33, “At the Lord’s command Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor, where he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor.” (Numbers 33:38-39)
In the following chapter, the Israelites are told of their new home. God pointed out the borders of their land with Mount Hor being one of the visible dividing lines.“For your northern boundary, run a line from the Mediterranean Sea to Mount Hor and from Mount Hor to Lebo Hamath.” (Number 34:7-8) This, however, is a different Mount Hor!
In the Bible, the first Mount Hor, the site of Aaron’s death, is “near the border of Edom”, however, its exact location today is the subject of great debate. According to the Romano-Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus (37-100AD), the twin-peaked mountain Jebel Nebi Harun, which means “Mountain of the Prophet Aaron” in Arabic, is the true location. At a height of 4780 feet, the mountain is situated in the Edomite Mountains in Petra, Jordan. Also known as Jabal Hārūn, a shrine has been built at the summit, which claims to cover the grave of Aaron. Although Aaron and Moses are important to the Jewish faith, Jordanian authorities have ruled that the Tomb of Aaron may only be used as a mosque; therefore, Jewish pilgrims are not welcome.
As mentioned, the second Mount Hor is the defining boundary of the Land of Israel. Traditionally, this has been associated with the Nur mountain range in Turkey. Originally called the Amanus Range, Jewish writers in circa 60AD were the first to make this association. As a result, they also claimed this to be the boundary of the Land of Israel, or Greater Israel as it is sometimes called. Israel was once a much large area than it is today.
The Nur Mountains translate into English as “Mountains of Holy Light”. The highest point is Bozdağ Dağı, which reaches a height of 7350 feet.
The location of both of the mountains is constantly challenged. There is no way to determine the exact locations, however, in the case of Aaron’s Mountain, the Edomite range in Petra continues to be the most popular choice. The ancient city of Petra was lost for hundreds of years, only to be discovered during archaeological digs in the 19thcentury. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, Petra contains the remains of Roman and Byzantine ruins, suggesting it has a long and varied history.
Aaron was not the only Biblical figure to be buried at Mount Hor. Whilst his resting place lies at the top of the mountain, his sister Miriam rests somewhere nearby. According to the Bible, Miriam died not long before Aaron and was buried in a high place. Logically, the Israelites would not have travelled very far if Aaron’s death occurred shortly afterwards, therefore, it makes sense that scholars believe they are both buried in the same vicinity. Tradition states that Miriam is buried below the Ad Deir Monastery in Petra.
Before the Israelites arrived at Mount Hor, the Edomites were already living in the area. Later, in the 5thcentury BC, a group of Arabian nomads arrived in Petra, possibly escaping from the Babylonian invasion. They made the land their home and benefited from the overland trade routes leading to the Red Sea. Later, the land was taken over by the Romans, however, as a predominantly Muslim city, its importance waned when the Roman Empire converted to Christianity. Eventually, the city was abandoned and buried.
Today, Petra is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Middle East and the most visited Biblical location in Jordan. The grounds are extensive and Mount Hor, or Jabal Hārūn, is a two-mile hike from the visitor’s centre. Whether or not this is the true location of Aaron’s resting place, it is treated as such by Jewish, Christian and Muslim people alike.
An interesting meeting was held at Vine Church on 28th September with representatives from Vine (Ilford), Barking, Wanstead, Gants Hill and Grange Park.
After devotions, each church had an opportunity to deliver their news. Gants Hill is selling the Old Hall and this was going to plan. Vine mentioned their holiday club, their multi-faith pilot's group and an upcoming shared harvest supper with the local methodist church. Redbridge council had communicated with them concerning extreme Right-Wing activity in the area.
Barking had a "make lunch" for children during the school holiday who would normally have school dinners. This was considered a good opportunity to meet their neighbours. They are working closely with King's Church and some of the congregation have transferred their membership to the URC.
Wanstead had a successful Macmillan Coffee Morning, Harvest and shared lunch, and a jumble sale. They are now preparing for their Christmas Bazaar and an elder's away day.
Grange Park organised a successful trip to Bournemouth, which was open to all members of the ELG. They are currently preparing to bring new people into membership.
Joe Amoah was given an excellent send-off as he starts his vocation in ministry studying at Westminster College.
Regarding the vacancy, the URC manse has had a quotation of £140,000 to bring the Manse up to standard rejected. A rethink by David Skipp has reduced the cost the £35,000, which will now be presented to the Resources Committee. Also, 129 Fyfield, the manse of Shahbaz is being sold and the hope is that Synod will provide Shahbaz with new accommodation.
The ELG Special Fund has opened a bank account and a request for donations will be sent to all churches. The purpose of the fund is to help finance projects, such as funding a youth worker and other community projects.
Barking URC requested funding to repair their roof and drainage following their quinquennial. The meeting supported that Barking request £16,879 from the resources committee for the improvements but also ask for a higher figure to cover the whole cost of the major repairs and drawdown as appropriate.
Claude, the pastor of Seven Kings Baptist/URC, is to present a paper requesting their need of a fulltime church worker. This is to be taken to the Resources Committee via the Discipleship Committee.
Next year, it has been proposed that members of the ELG go on Bradwell Prilgimage on the first Saturday in July. Grace from Wanstead is going to prepare a paper for us with all the advantages of going.
Francis spoke about the Inside Outside initiative, open to Thames North, Southern, Eastern and Wessex Synods. This will be held at Vine URC on 26th October, 10-4 to discuss climate change, diversity and growing poverty.
Wanstead, on 1st December, will be hosting the ELG Christmas service. The evening schedule is 5 pm refreshments, 6 pm service.
Youth Assembly is to be held on 24th-26th January and members of the ELG are considering how to offer support.
We were reminded that Synod is to be held on 9th October and that the next ELG meeting is 23rd November, hopefully, hosted by Grange Park.
When I was minister at Chadwell Heath URC, things that I suggested suddenly happened. I mentioned we need a garden in the car park, and within two weeks, a space for the flowers and plants was created. I asked that the minister’s room be turned into a place where people could pray, and it was converted into a warm space. And so it was, in October, that I said, “I really don’t like Halloween. I don’t like the idea, I don’t like trick-or-treating, and I don’t like the whole concept of zombies and blood and gore. What I want is an alternative Halloween.” Three weeks later, and alternative Halloween party with fireworks and children dressing up as princesses and … Food was laid on and many children and adults enjoyed a very happy, wholesome evening.
What I learnt was that you can’t say I want to stop something unless you have something ready to fill the gap. World Vision, invites us to help them sponsor 1,000 girls by International day of the girl on 11th October. This is just one of their many campaigns to end poverty. If we are willing to give, we can help them reach their goal.
For more information, visit their website: https://www.worldvision.org.uk/our-work/empowering-girls/1000-girls/
Mount Sinai, also known as Moses Mountain, is recorded in the Bible as the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments. “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” (Exodus 34:29, NIV) In today’s world, there is a Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, which many consider being the location of the Biblical Mount Sinai. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to prove this.
The Sinai Peninsula is located in Egypt between the Mediterranean and Red Sea. With an area of 23,000 square miles and a population of 6000, people, the peninsula makes up 6% of Egypt’s total landmass. Mount Sinai has an elevation of 2,285 m (7,497 ft), however, it is not the highest mountain in the region. Its neighbouring mountain, Mount Catherine, is the highest peak in Egypt at 2,629 m (8,625 ft).
The history of the name Sinai is a little obscure. Some people believe the mountain only earned that name because it was believed to be the Biblical mountain. Others suggest it may have derived from an ancient Mesopotamian moon-god called Sīn.
Moses is a prophet in Judaism, Christianity and Islam; therefore, the mountain is sacred for thousands of people. Jewish tradition claims that not only did God reveal the Decalogue, but He also revealed the entire corpus of biblical text and interpretation to Moses on Mount Sinai.
During the 6thcentury AD, a monastery was constructed by order of the Emperor Justinian at the foot of Mount Sinai. Officially called the Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai, it is also known as Saint Catherine’s Monastery, named after Catherine of Alexandria – Saint Catherine of the Wheel. It is the oldest working Christian monastery in the world, inhabited by a few monks of the autonomous Orthodox Church. It contains a library of ancient biblical manuscripts, some of which have helped scholars reconstruct the text of the Bible. This includes the Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest known manuscript of the Christian Bible dating from the 4thcentury AD; however, this book now resides in the British Museum.
Mount Sinai first appears in the Bible in Exodus 19. “On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel …” (verses 1-3, NIV) God created a covenant with Moses; if the people of Israel fully obey Him, God promises they will be his most treasured nation.
The mountain is given its name, Mount Sinai, in verse 11 and is mentioned a further three times in the chapter. In chapter 24, Moses stayed on the top of Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights whilst God gave him His written and verbal laws. These laws are written in greater detail in the book of Leviticus. God gave instructions for burnt offerings (Leviticus 7), the Sabbath (Lev. 25), punishment for disobedience (Lev. 26) and tithing (Lev. 27) amongst other things. In the New Testament, Stephen tells the Sanhedrin of Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai.
Numbers 3 provides an account of the family of Aaron and Moses at the time that God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai. The tribe of Levi was presented to Aaron to assist him. In Numbers 28, God commands the Israelites to present to Him daily food offerings, which include two lambs, grain and oil. “This is the regular burnt offering instituted at Mount Sinai as a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord.” (Numbers 28:6, NIV)
In Nehemiah 9, the Israelites remembered the laws and regulations that God gave them on Mount Sinai. Repenting of their sins, they fasted, wore sackcloth and put dust on their heads.
There is only one reference to Mount Sinai in the Bible that is not connected to Moses. In Galatians 4, Paul expresses his concern for the Galatians. He uses the wife and concubine of the prophet Abraham as an analogy for their current predicament. “These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” (Galatians 4:24-26, NIV)
Being the location of the origin of the Ten Commandments makes Mount Sinai one of the most important in the Bible. It is a shame that the true location cannot be agreed upon. Different scholars contest the route the Israelites took; therefore, any number of mountains could be the true location. Suggested mountains include:
Which mountain was the resting place of Noah’s ark? If you answered “Mount Ararat”, you are wrong. The Bible never specifically refers to Mount Ararat. “And on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.” (Genesis 8:4, NIV) The wording of this verse implies the ark came to rest on mountains in an area called Ararat.
Ararat is mentioned again in 2 Kings 19:37 (NIV): “One day, while he was worshipping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.” Jerusalem was delivered from the Assyrians after the death of Sennacherib, the king of Assyria. Isaiah had predicted his death and his murderers fled to the land of Ararat. Note there is no mention of a mountain. Isaiah 37:38 records the same incident.
In Jeremiah 51:27 (NIV), Ararat is one of the kingdoms summoned to destroy Babylon. “Lift up a banner in the land! Blow the trumpet among the nations! Prepare the nations for battle against her; summon against her these kingdoms: Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz. Appoint a commander against her; send up horses like a swarm of locusts.” Again, no mountain.
Although the Bible never uses the term “Mount Ararat”, it does exist. Comprised of two volcanic cones: Greater Ararat and Little Ararat, Mount Ararat is a snow-capped dormant mountain in the extreme east of Turkey, bordered by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran.
Ararat is the Greek for the Hebrew Urartu, which was a kingdom that existed in the 9th– 6thcenturies BC in what is now Armenia. Archaeological excavations, oral history and written records have provided evidence that the two volcanoes that make up the mountain have erupted several times, the last being on 2ndJuly 1840. Possibly occurring as a result of an earthquake, the eruption killed up to 10,000 people in the region, flattening an entire village and destroying the Armenian monastery of St Jacob.
Bible scholars agree that Ararat is the equivalent of the Urartu and that the word referred to the wider region rather than a specific mountain. Nevertheless, Mount Ararat has become the traditional resting place of Noah’s ark. Armenian’s began to associate the mountain with the ark’s landing place in the 11thcentury AD. Greater Ararat is the highest peak in Turkey at 5,173 m (16,854 ft). Being the highest peak, it would have been the first mountain to appear above the floodwaters; therefore, many assume the ark would have had a greater chance of landing there.
Due to this traditional belief, many archaeological expeditions have taken place on the mountain in search of the ark. Some believe there may still be pieces of the ark hidden under the snow that now perpetually covers it. Over 200 people from more than 20 countries claimed to have seen the ark on Mount Ararat since 1856. The museum of Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia supposedly owns a fragment of the ark.
Medieval Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi (410-90) wrote in his History of Armenia that Noah and his family first settled in Armenia before moving to Babylon. Noah’s son Japheth returned to the area around Mount Ararat and established the roots of the Armenian nation. Many Armenians still consider Japheth their founding father and, since 1918, Mount Ararat has been depicted on the Armenian coat of arms.
Since 1923, Mount Ararat has belonged to Turkey; however, it was originally within the Armenian borders. After the Armenian Holocaust in 1915, when the Ottoman Empire exterminated 1.5 million Armenians, Ararat came to represent the destruction of the native population. Not only did millions lose their lives, but Armenia also lost its beloved Biblical mountain. Some Armenian political parties continue to contest the Turkey-Armenia border.
In literature, Mount Ararat is written about more than any other named mountain. William Wordsworth, for example, imagined seeing the ark on the mountain in his poem Sky-prospect. Unfortunately, it is impossible to prove whether Noah’s ark landed on Mount Ararat or somewhere within the surrounding area, however, most Christian teachings continue to believe this was the ark’s final destination.
There are at least forty different mountains mentioned in the Bible. Some appear several times and others only once. The majority of these are written about in the Old Testament and have helped scholars to map out the locations of Biblical characters, towns and cities. To most of us, however, the names of these mountains mean very little. Borderlines change and mountains become part of different regions; they get renamed. Rock falls, volcanoes, and erosion may have changed the shape or obliterated some of the Biblical mountains. So, where are these mountains today? Do they still exist? Let’s have a look.
One of the first mountains written about in the Bible is Mount Seir. “And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness.” (Genesis 14:6, KJV) The Horites were the aboriginal inhabitants of the area during the life of Abraham. Elparan was a city and harbour by the Red Sea.
The next we hear about Mount Seir is in Genesis 36:8-9 where “Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom. And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir:”
One thing we need to be aware of is the Hebrew Bible mentions “Mount Seir” and the “land of Seir.” We can assume the mountain is in the geographical region of Seir, south of the Dead Sea. Mount Seir was named after Seir the Horite, whose offspring inhabited the area. We also know from Genesis 36 that Esau, the son of Isaac, made Seir his home.
Mount Seir still exists today, however, it is known by its Arabic name, Jibāl ash-Sharāh. Rather than being a single mountain, the name Mount Seir refers to a mountainous region stretching from the Dead Sea, which lies between Jordan and Israel, and the Gulf of Aqaba, at the northern tip of the Red Sea. Deuteronomy 1:2 tells us that there was an eleven-day journey between Horeb (also known as Sinai) via Mount Seir to Kadeshbarnea, on the border of Canaan.
The next notable mentions of Mount Seir are written in 1 and 2 Chronicles:
1 Chronicles 4 contains a list of the sons and descendants of Simeon and the places they inhabited. Verse 42 tells us that some of them went to mount Seir, which is where the Simeonites lived after annihilating the remainder of the Amalekites, who had escaped there. The Amalekites were one of the Biblical enemies of Israel and had been defeated in a previous battle.
Later, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 20, the people living in Seir, the Edomites, joined the Ammonites (a Semitic-speaking nation on the east of the River Jordan) and Moabites (a nation in Jordan) to fight against Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah. As verses 22-23 record, God intervened, causing the Edomites, Ammonites and Moabites to destroy each other instead of the king.
Since Mount Seir is also a mountainous region, some versions of the Bible use the name as an alternative for Edom, i.e. the land of the Edomites. The prophet Ezekiel mentions Mount Seir four times in a record of one of his visions from God. In Ezekiel 35:2-3 (KJV), God tells the prophet to “set thy face against mount Seir, and prophesy against it” and say, “O mount Seir, I am against thee, and I will stretch out mine hand against thee, and I will make thee most desolate.”The Edomites “had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword” (35:5), therefore, God is punishing them by making them desolate.We do not hear what becomes of Mount Seir after this.
Earlier in the Bible, Joshua 24:4 (KJV) mentioned Mount Seir: “and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.” There is also another verse in the book about mount Seir; however, it appears to be in a completely different location. Confusing!Joshua 15 speaks of a Mount Seir in the northern region of Judah near a city called Hebron, which is now in the south of Jerusalem. Today, this mountain can be found near the modern town of Sa’ir in the west of the Palestinian territories. Could the reference to Mount Seir be an error due to its similarity to Sa’ir? We will never know for sure.
Just for fun, I have found a list of all the reasons for Seir/Edom’s destruction:
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon