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!
We are happy for you to use any material found here, however, please acknowledge the source: www.gantshillurc.co.uk
Rev'd Martin Wheadon