Mount Hermon

Place name meaning, “devoted mountain.” Site of sanctuary of Baal and northern boundary of Israel. The name Hermon was called Sarion (Sirion) by the Sidonians (Phoenicians) (Deut. 3:9; Ps. 29:6) and Sanir (Senir) by the Amorites (Deut. 3:9). Both appellations signify “breast plate,” evidently because of the mountain’s rounded snow-covered tip, that gleaned and shone in the sunlight. The latter name appears twice in the Old Testament, seemingly as the name of a peak adjacent to Hermon (1 Chron. 5:23; Song of Sol. 4:8). It is also called Sion (Deut. 4:48), probably on account of its height. Once it is called “Hermons.” KJV mistakenly renders this as “the Hermonites” (Ps. 42:6). This is probably a reference to the triple summits of the mountain.

The Talmud and ancient Arab scholars called it Jebel el-Sheikh (“gray-haired mountain”) or Jebel el-Thalj (“mountain of snow”). Variations of Sarion and Sanir appear in the Egyptian Execration Texts of the nineteenth century B.C., in Assyrian cuneiform on the Black Obelisk of Salmanasar III (Saniru), and in Ugaritic literature in a treaty between the Amorites and Hittites dating around 1350 B.C.

The Hermon range is known by two names. Its highest peak is known as Qas ar Antar (“Fortress of Antar”), the black hero of Arab legend. It is also called “mountain of the chief” in reference to the tenth century founder of the Druze religion, Sheikh ed-Derazi, who coming from Egypt, retired to Mt. Hermon.

The Hermon range is the southern spur of the Anti-lebanon chain of mountains which runs parallel to the Lebanon range being separated from it by the valley of Beqaa. Hermon, being 9,100 feet above sea level, is the highest mountain in Syria. It can be seen from as far away as the Dead Sea—120 miles. The range is approximately 28 miles in length and reaches a width of 15 miles.

Its peak is covered with snow two-thirds of the year. Water from its melting snow flows into the rivers of the Hauran and provides the principal source for the Jordan River. Although Hermon receives about 60 inches of precipitation (dew, snow, rain) per year, practically no vegetation grows above the snow line, where there is an almost complete absence of soil. Below it, the mountain slopes are covered with trees and vineyards. Wolves, leopards, and Syrian bears live in its forests. The biblical record praises: the dew of Hermon (Ps. 133:3), its lions (Song of Sol. 4:8) and its cypresses (Ezek. 27:5).

From times immemorial Hermon has been a sacred mountain. Its very name is perhaps an allusion to this fact. The term Mount Baalhermon (Judg. 3:3) indicates that a local Baal was worshiped there. Hermon is famous for heavy dew (Ps. 133:3), which is a well-known symbol for vegetation deities. Hermon is alluded to as a sacred mountain in the treaty between the Hittites and the Amorites.

The mount was used as a cultic place in later periods. Greek inscriptions describe the local god of Hermon. During the Roman period, it was a religious center. Small temples were built on its slopes. Both Eusebius and Jerome mention a temple on its summit. Enoch 6:6 (a book of the apocrypha) mentions that Hermon is the place where wicked angels alighted in the days of Jared. Its name is explained as referring to the oath which they had to swear upon it.

The mount is significant for four reasons. (1) It was the northern border of the Amorite kingdom (Deut. 3:8; 4:48). (2) It marked the northern limits of Joshua’s victorious campaigns (Josh. 11:17; 12:1; 13:5). (3) It has always been regarded as a sacred mountain. (4) Some scholars believe the transfiguration of Jesus occurred on Hermon.

Gary Baldwin

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
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