What is Hermon?
(prominent summit, peak, or perhaps from a root signifying "unapproachable" or "holy;" by the Sidonians Sirion, "to glitter," and by the Amorites Shenir, and by the Hebrews Sion, Deut 4:48; Ps 133:3), the high southern part of Anti-Libanus, about 40 miles east of north of the Sea of Galilee, and 30 miles south of west of Damascus, and now called Jebelesk-Sheikh, or "the chief mountain." It has three peaks or summits, hence called "the Herinons;" incorrectly rendered "the Hermonites," Ps 42:6. Hermon was the northern limit of the territory of Israel beyond the Jordan, Deut 3:8; Deut 4:48; Josh 11:3, 1 Kgs 11:17; Acts 13:11. Hermon and Tabor are the representatives of all the mountains of the Promised Land, Ps 89:12; Ps 42:6; Ps 133:3. Some of the names of Hermon may refer to different peaks of the mountain, Deut 3:9; Song 4:8; 1 Chr 5:23. Hermon rises to an elevation of 9000 feet above the Mediterranean. The top is partially crowned with snow, or rather ice, during the whole year, which, however, lies only in the ravines, and thus presents at a distance the appearance of radiant stripes around and below the summit. The high ridge Jebel-ed-Duhy, on the north of the valley of Jezreel, is sometimes called the Little Hermon, but Jebel-esh-Sheikh is the true and only Hermon of the Scriptures. See cut p. 371. Physical Features. -- Schaff calls Hermon "the Mont Blanc of Palestine." The mountain constitutes a part of the great Anti-Lebanon range, running from northeast to south-west for over 30 miles. Its rock-formation is hard limestone, covered at places with soft chalk, while basalt appears in some-spurs. The top of the mountain may be described as consisting of three peaks or summits, of which two are approximately north and south, about 400 yards apart, and of almost equal height, being joined by a flat plateau depressed in the middle. The third peak, 600 yards to the west, is about 100 feet lower, and divided by a valley-head from the former. This is called El Mutabkhiyat, "place of cooking." The two principal peaks are each 9053 feet above the level of the sea and 11,000 feet above the Ghor or Jordan depression. No ruins are found, except on the southern peak, where is a hollow bounded by an oval enclosure of stones well hewn. At its southern end is a sacellum, or temple, nearly destroyed. -- See Our Work in Palestine, p. 245. In winter the snow extends down the mountain-side for about 5000 feet; it melts as summer advances, until in September only a little is left in the crevices and shaded hollows. In November the snow begins to cover the mountain again. Hence the best time for the ascent is from June to early autumn. Bears are frequently seen on Mount Hermon, and foxes, wolves, and various kinds of game abound. Porter describes the sides and top of Hermon as the acme of barren desolation; but Tristram, visiting it at a different season, found "many boreal forms of life both in fauna and flora," and from Hermon added 50 species to his catalogue of plants. -- See Tristram, Land of Israel, p. 613. The view from the summit is one of vast extent, embracing a great part of the Holy Land, "which lies far below, spread out like a gigantic relief-map." The traveller may look down upon Sidon, Tyre, the Mediterranean, Mount Carmel, Gerizim, the hills about Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, Gilead and Nebo, the Jordan Valley, Gennesaret, Damascus, Lebanon, etc. Bible History. -- Mount Hermon was a great landmark to the Israelites, as it marked their north-eastern boundary. Deut 3:8; Josh 12:1. Joshua extended his conquest nearly to that point. Josh 11:17. The Hebrews extolled its majestic height, Ps 89:12, and its copious dew, Ps 133:4. Modern travellers note the abundant dews, which drench everything, and from which tents afford small protection. These abundant dews are accounted for by the fact that in the daytime the hot air comes streaming up the Ghor from Lake Huleh, while Hermon arrests the moisture and deposits it congealed at night. Hermon is not mentioned in the N.T., but it is probably the site of the transfiguration of Christ, Matt 17; Mark 9, and answers the description of "a high mountain apart." Conder notes it as a curious observation that "on the summit of Hermon there is often a sudden accumulation of cloud, as quickly again dispersed, often visible when the remainder of the atmosphere is perfectly clear. . . . We cannot fail to be reminded in this phenomenon of 'the cloud that overshadowed' the apostles." Caesarea Philippi, where Christ was just before the transfiguration, is at the foot of Hermon, and there are several retired places on the mountain-side where it might well have occurred. It fits into the points of the narrative in the Gospels far better than Tabor, where the monastic tradition (Greek and Latin) locates this wonderful event. See Tabor.