one of the highest peaks in the southern Anti-Lebanon range, rising some 5,146 m (8,300 ft.) above sea level. To the west and southwest is a magnificent panorama across southern Lebanon and northern Israel; to the northwest, a view to well beyond Damascus; and to the south a view of the whole of the Upper Jordan Valley. The upper peaks are covered with snow much of the year, making Mt. Hermon a notable landmark. The lower slopes are thick with oak, pine, and fruit trees of various kinds. The prominence, natural beauty, and fertility of Mt. Hermon are often praised in the Hebrew Bible, as well as by classical authors.
The name, not known from ancient Near Eastern sources outside the Bible, derives from the common Semitic ḥrm, which in Hebrew and Arabic denotes something that is “taboo,” that is, set apart or consecrated, as for instance a sacred place.
In the Hebrew Bible, in addition to references to its beauty and sanctity, Mt. Hermon is often referred to as a prominent natural boundary or as marking the northern borders of the territory claimed by Israel east of the Jordan River. The Bible alludes to other names, such as Senir, which occurs in Assyrian texts; or Sirion, which is attested in the Egyptian Execration texts and at Ugarit. Both names occur in Tal-mudic texts, and Josephus (Antiq. 5.3.1) uses the name Mt. Lebanon. Later Arabic names are Jebel esh-Sheikh, “mountain of the sheikh”; and Jebel eth- Thalj, “mountain of snow.”
The cultic associations of Mt. Hermon are easily understood in light of its majesty and the frequent association of ancient Near Eastern deities with mountains. The Hebrew Bible alludes to shrines there to Baal-Gad and Baal-Hermon, as well perhaps as to the Israelite deity (cf. Jos. 11:17; 1 Chr. 5:23; Ps. 89:12). More than twenty temples and sanctuaries have been located around Mt. Hermon, including a large Roman temple on the highest peak, known as Qaṣr esh-Shabib, with a large enclosure wall and a Greek inscription to the “Greatest and Holiest God.”
- Aharoni, Yohanan. The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography. Philadelphia, 1967.
- Arav, Rami. “Hermon, Mount.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 3, pp. 158–160. New York, 1992.
- Dar, Shim῾on. “The Temples of Mount Hermon and Its Environs.” In Abstracts of a Conference on Greece and Rome in Eretz Israel (in Hebrew). Haifa, 1985.
William G. Dever