Mount Hermon is a mountain mentioned several times in the Bible. It is located in the southern Anti-Lebanon range, straddling the borders of Syria and Lebanon. The Bible associates Mount Hermon with a few key events and attributes:
1. Physical Attributes
Mount Hermon is described as a tall mountain, with its summit reaching 9,232 feet above sea level. The Book of Psalms refers to Mount Hermon as having abundant precipitation and lush vegetation: “The north and the south, you have created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name. You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted. For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted. For our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.” (Psalm 89:12-18)
The dew of Mount Hermon was also known for its life-giving properties: “As the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133:3)
2. Border Between Israelite Tribes
When the Promised Land was divided amongst the 12 tribes of Israel after the Exodus, Mount Hermon marked the northern border of the territories belonging to the half-tribe of Manasseh: “And Moses gave an inheritance to the half-tribe of Manasseh. It was allotted to the half-tribe of the people of Manasseh according to their clans. Their region extended from Mahanaim, through all Bashan, the whole kingdom of Og king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair, which are in Bashan, sixty cities, and half Gilead, and Ashtaroth, and Edrei, the cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan. To the sons of Machir the son of Manasseh, that is, to half of the sons of Machir according to their clans, Moses gave an inheritance. For Machir took a wife from the Huppites and the Shuppites, and his sister’s name was Maacah. And Maacah bare to Machir a son, and he called his name Peresh; and the name of his brother was Sheresh; and his sons were Ulam and Rakem. And this is the inheritance of the sons of Gilead according to their clans: To the Reubenites and the Gadites the territory north of the valley of the Arnon, with the cities there, and half the land of the Ammonites, as far as Aroer, which is before Rabbah, and from Heshbon to Ramath-mizpeh and Betonim, and from Mahanaim to the territory of Lidbir and Beth-nimrah and Succoth and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdom of Sihon king of Heshbon, having the Jordan as its border, to the lower end of the Sea of Chinnereth, north of the Arnon. This is the inheritance of the sons of Gad according to their cities, with their villages. And Moses gave an inheritance to the half-tribe of Manasseh; it was allotted to the half-tribe of the people of Manasseh according to their clans: Their region extended from Mahanaim, through all Bashan, the whole kingdom of Og king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair, which are in Bashan, sixty cities, and half Gilead, and Ashtaroth, and Edrei, the cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan. To the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, he gave Gilead. And to the Reubenites and the Gadites he gave the territory north of the valley of the Arnon, with the cities there, as far as Mount Hermon.” (Joshua 13:29-32)
3. Location of Transfiguration
The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ transfiguration mention that this miraculous event took place on a high mountain. Based on the geographical descriptions, many Bible scholars believe this “high mountain” was Mount Hermon:
“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.” (Matthew 17:1-3)
“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.” (Mark 9:2-3)
“Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” (Luke 9:28-29)
4. Association with False Gods
In Old Testament times, the Canaanite inhabitants of the region revered Mount Hermon as a sacred site. The mountain was considered the dwelling place of the false god Baal. The cult of Baal involved idolatrous and immoral practices:
“They abandoned the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.” (Judges 2:13)
“Nevertheless, the people would not listen to the voice of their fathers, for it was the will of the Lord to destroy them. When the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.” (Judges 2:19-22)
“They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.” (Judges 2:11-13)
So Mount Hermon’s association with Baal-worship and idolatry made it symbolic of the spiritual adultery of Israel when they turned away from the true God. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Ezekiel all rebuked Israel for their idolatrous practices involving Baal on Mount Hermon.
5. Comparison to Mount Zion
Mount Hermon is sometimes contrasted with Mount Zion in the Bible. Mount Zion represented the city of God, Jerusalem, and was associated with the worship of Yahweh. Meanwhile, Mount Hermon represented the dwelling place of Baal:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:21-31)
6. Source of the Jordan River
Mount Hermon contains the headwaters of the Jordan River, which originates from melting snow near the mountain’s summit. The Jordan River then flows south through the Jordan Valley towards the Dead Sea. This makes Mount Hermon geographically and hydrologically significant in the Bible lands.
“At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and killed its king with the sword, for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. And they struck with the sword all who were in it, devoting them to destruction; there was none left that breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire. And all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua captured, and struck them with the edge of the sword, devoting them to destruction, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. But none of the cities that stood on mounds did Israel burn, except Hazor alone; that Joshua burned. And all the spoil of these cities and the livestock, the people of Israel took for their plunder. But every person they struck with the edge of the sword until they had destroyed them, and they did not leave any who breathed. Just as the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses. So Joshua took all that land, the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of Goshen and the lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, as far as Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. And he captured all their kings and struck them and put them to death.” (Joshua 11:10-17)
7. Strategic Military Importance
Due to its height and location, Mount Hermon served as a strategic military site in ancient times. Armies could station lookouts on the mountain to watch for approaching enemies. Conquering Mount Hermon was also key to controlling trade routes and accessing water sources.
During the conquest of Canaan, the Israelites had to battle against the Amorites and other groups stationed on Mount Hermon to fully take possession of the Promised Land. In later centuries, the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans would also struggle to control this critical peak. Even in modern times, Mount Hermon’s fields were strategic battle sites during World War I and the Arab-Israeli wars.
8. Mentioned in Extra-Biblical Literature
In addition to being frequently mentioned in the Bible, Mount Hermon is referenced in other ancient Near Eastern literature.
The Egyptian^ manuscripts known as the Amarna Letters, dating to the 14th century BC, refer to Mount Hermon as the source of wood for Egypt. The letters indicate the Egyptian pharaohs sent expeditions to cut down and transport cedar timber from Mount Hermon back to Egypt.
Writings from first millennium BC cultures also demonstrate awareness of Mount Hermon as the southern edge of the ancient Near East’s northern regions. Various references to the mountain can be found in Assyrian, Aramaic, and Persian documents.
In summary, Mount Hermon was a prominent geographic feature playing an important role in the biblical accounts and regional history. The mountain marked tribal borders, hosted key events, served as a symbolic reference point, contributed to the local water supply, stood as a lookout point and military high ground, and earned mentions across various ancient writings. Through repeated scriptural references and extra-biblical acknowledgments, Mount Hermon established itself as a notable landmark in the biblical landscape.