MOUNTAINS: harim. Masculine noun. (Strong’s 2022).
Root: הַר (singular: har).
Sounds like: hareem
This week I find myself in the beautiful town of Jasper Alberta for a library conference, so it seemed apt to choose the word mountains… because WOW these mountains are amazing!
Jasper is a place of mountains… glorious, awe-inspiring, “look-way-up!” mountains. And being here has helped me fully grasp why God would choose to connect with humanity from atop these great summits. Is there anything more grand, anything lifted higher, anything closer to the heavens and more awe-inspiring than a mountain?
I drove around Jasper for a few days with a friend with my jaw pretty much on the floor the whole time. I probably took 1000 pictures, but they don’t quite capture the awe of standing in the midst of them.
The Bible is full of mountains: Mount Ararat, Mount Carmel, Mount Gerizim, Mount Gilboa, Mount Hermon, Mount Horeb, Mount Moriah, Mount Sinai, Mount Tabor, Mount of Olives and Mount Zion… just to name a few.
Mountains have a special connection to God. It is the place where YHWH is consistently seated to connect with His creation.
It was on a Mountain (Horeb) that God spoke to Moses through a burning bush and announced that He would rescue His people from Egyptian slavery. On that same mountain He also shared His personal name, YHWH, with Moses [Exodus 3] so He could be more relatable to the people.
It was on a mountain (Sinai) that Moses received the stone tablets outlining the key principles of good living that YHWH provided [Exodus 24], commonly known as the ten commandments.
It was from a mountain that YHWH came down on the third day to make His presence known among the people:
Exodus 19: 10-11, 16-17
YHWH also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day YHWH will come down on Mount Sinai [Har Sinai] in the sight of all the people.”…
…So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain [ha-har] and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain [ha-har].
It is not surprising that Yeshua (Jesus) made his resurrected presence to Mary on the third day in Jerusalem by Mount Zion [Luke 24:6-8]. YHWH does amazing things from His dwelling place on the mountains, and mountains, in turn, reply to YHWH in worship:
YHWH: “So will My Word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; The mountains [hey-harim] and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
The Word, which was at the beginning of creation, was sent out to accomplish YHWH’s desire… and when that day would come the mountains would shout out in joy! John identifies the Word as the long-awaited Messiah:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
All things coming into being was the impetus of creation and mountains stood tall from the beginning.
Mountains in Creation
Mountains were understood as old… long-standing, ancient summits which existed from the earliest moments of creation. A prayer of Moses uses mountains as an indicator of just how long YHWH has been the God of all creation:
A prayer of Moses, the man of God:
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains [harim] were born, or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
Mountains are often seen as the centre-pieces of creation from which rivers flow and valleys host and nourish God’s creatures:
He established the earth upon its foundations, so that it will not totter forever and ever.
You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters were standing above the mountains [harim]. At Your rebuke they fled; At the sound of Your thunder they hurried away.
The mountains [harim] rose; the valleys sank down to the place which You established for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass over, so that they will not return to cover the earth.
He sends forth springs in the valleys; they flow between the mountains [harim]; they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they lift up their voices among the branches. He waters the mountains [harim] from His upper chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of His works.
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man’s heart glad, so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart.
The trees of YHWH drink their fill, the cedars of Lebanon which He planted, where the birds build their nests, and the stork, whose home is the fir trees.
The high mountains [harim] are for the wild goats; the cliffs are a refuge for the shephanim [unknown creature].
He made the moon for the seasons; the sun knows the place of its setting. You appoint darkness and it becomes night, in which all the beasts of the forest prowl about. The young lions roar after their prey and seek their food from God. When the sun rises they withdraw and lie down in their dens.
Man goes forth to his work and to his labor until evening.
O YHWH, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions.
Mountains- The “Dwelling Place” of YHWH
But in all of all those aspects of creation, it was on a mountain that YHWH chose to dwell:
Why do you look with envy, O mountains [harim] with many peaks, at the mountain [ha-har] which God has desired for His abode? Surely YHWH will dwell there forever. The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness.
You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men, even among the rebellious also, that YHWH God may dwell there. Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation.
This idea of God dwelling on a mountain, a place where heaven and earth collide, where YHWH mingles with the land of humans and animals, helps explain why He is often referred to as “the Most High”. As a mountain dweller YHWH is at the highest peak… higher than any god or man can reach!
The priest-king Melchizedek, in the valley of Shaveh, between the mountains, was one of the first to verbally describe YHWH as Most High:
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram, of God Most High possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Even the arch-enemy of YHWH recognized the importance of reigning from a mountaintop. Lucifer (in Hebrew, “heh’lehl”), “the shining one” also tried to rule from atop a mountain in his effort to supplant YHWH:
“How you have fallen from heaven, O shining one, son of the morning [heh’lehl, ben shahar] ! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations.
But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly [be-har mow’ed] in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
Lucifer recognized that he could never be the Most High, he could only be like the Most High, and to do that he would have to be at the top peak, above the stars and over the clouds. It should be no surprise to us that when Lucifer tested Yeshua, he took him to a mountaintop:
Again, the devil took Him [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”
Of course it was a ridiculous suggestion; the kingdoms of the world weren’t Satan’s to give away. But he also missed the point on another level. It wasn’t about possessing the world and reigning from above. YHWH never wanted to be so set apart that He was not still connected to His creation. He wanted His feet planted on the mountain; He wanted to be in reach of His people.
Even the grumpy prophet Jonah recognized that at his lowest point, in the belly of a fish within the depths of the ocean, he was as far away as possible from the God who dwelt in the mountains, but yet YHWH reached out and saved him:
Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains [harim]. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but You have brought up my life from the pit, O YHWH my God.
Whereas Jonah was at the roots of the mountain, at the base of the ocean, YHWH was at the peak. He was a long way off from God, but he was not unreachable. YHWH made a covenant promise to save, not just Jonah, but all His people. He would send a Messiah, a Redeemer:
Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain [har kad’shi]. I will surely tell of the decree of YHWH.” He said to Me, “You are My Son. Today I have begotten You.”
This, Son of God, YHWH’s promised Messianic King would dwell in Zion, God’s holy mountain:
Psalm 48:1-3, 9-14
Great is YHWH, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, His holy mountain [har kad’shon].
Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion [har Zion] in the far north, the city of the great King. God, in her [Zion’s] palaces, has made Himself known as a stronghold…
…We have thought on Your lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of Your temple. As is Your name, O God, so is Your praise to the ends of the earth; your right hand is full of righteousness.
Let Mount Zion [har Zion] be glad; let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of Your judgments. Walk about Zion and go around her; Count her towers; Consider her ramparts; Go through her palaces, that you may tell it to the next generation. For such is God, Our God forever and ever; He will guide us until [to] death.
Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, was consistently referred to as eternal and forever throughout Scripture:
A Song of Ascents. Those who trust in YHWH are as Mount Zion [ke-har Zion], which cannot be moved but abides forever.
As the mountains [harim] surround Jerusalem, so YHWH surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.
Not only does God dwell there but this forever mountain becomes the inherited dwelling place of His people:
Exodus 15 17-18 (Moses Song of Victory)
“You will bring them and plant them in the mountain [be-har] of Your inheritance, the place, O YHWH, which You have made for Your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. YHWH shall reign forever and ever.”
Jerusalem, sitting on Mount Zion, was the chosen, forever-and-ever, dwelling place of YHWH, and it was the inherited dwelling place of His people as well.
The Emotions of Mountains
In keeping with Hebrew literature, all created things emit emotions and become active participants in God’s will, including mountains. They appeared to physically react to God:
YHWH reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad. Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
Fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries round about. His lightnings lit up the world; the earth saw and trembled. The mountains [harim] melted like wax at the presence of YHWH, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the peoples have seen His glory.
Mountains sometimes are represented as manifestation of God’s emotions:
The cords of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon YHWH, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.
Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains [harim] were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry.
The mountains may tremble and shake in response to God, but they also sing:
Shout joyfully to YHWH, all the earth; break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.
Sing praises to YHWH with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout joyfully before the King, YHWH.
Let the sea roar and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains [harim] sing together for joy!
Mount of Olives
God wanted to remain connected to His creation. He never wanted to be separated from them. He may reside in heaven but He also planted His feet firmly within this earth. The prophets Zechariah spoke of a future day when YHWH would stand on the Mount of Olives:
In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives [Har ha-zetim] will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain [ha-har] will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. You will flee by the valley of My mountains [haray], for the valley of the mountains [harim] will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then YHWH, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!
The prophet Nahum rejoiced over the day when the one who brings good news would plant His feet on the mountain and announce peace:
Behold, on the mountains [hey-harim] the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace!
Celebrate your feasts, O Judah; Pay your vows. For never again will the wicked one pass through you; He is cut off completely.
Yeshua (Jesus) stood many times on Mount of Olives but the most significant time would be his trip to the Mount directly following the Passover supper, which he shared with his disciples. The meal, commonly referred to as The Last Supper, was followed with the singing of a hymn, or psalm:
After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’ “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”
And so Judas betrayed Yeshua in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. From there he was taken across the Kidron Valley and ascended up Mount Zion to Jerusalem to face his execution. This mountain was also known as the mountain in the land Moriah, (or Mount Moriah). It was the same set of mountain ranges where another execution almost took place, centuries earlier.
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains [hey-harim] of which I will tell you.”
Abraham agreed to offer the life of his son, Isaac, but YHWH stopped him and provided a ram to be sacrificed in Isaac’s place:
Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of YHWH called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The YHWH Will Provide [YHWH yireh/Jehovah Jirah] , as it is said to this day, “In the mount of YHWH it will be provided.”
This mountain in Moriah, often regarded as Mount Moriah, became what is known today as Mount Zion, the place where Jerusalem rests. It is the Mountain that Abraham named, YHWH will Provide, and it’s exactly where YHWH DID provide Yeshua as the sacrificial ram (male lamb).
At the very end of John chapter 7 the Pharisees argued about whether Jesus was a prophet or the awaited Messiah. The debate never resolved and everyone went home. The next sentence immediately reads: But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives (John 8:1). This was “home” to Yeshua… It was where he went to connect with his Father and where he prayed his most agonizing prayers. It should be no surprise that home to him was on a mountain. It was from this earthly home that Yeshua descended to his home in the heavens:
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.
Yeshua died, but he came back. He came back to the mountain one last time before He returned to the place of His Father. He became the sacrificial lamb that YHWH ordained him to be from the beginning, and saved humanity from the finality of death. It was YHWH’s announced plan from the beginning and Yeshua made it happen.
After the fall, YHWH had a plan to save His people and the plan was executed perfectly but painfully. The one sinless human was pinned up to a cross on a mountain-side to be a sacrifice for all the sin-filled humans that ever existed. It was the price that had to be paid, but we didn’t have to pay it.
Shout for joy, O heavens, for YHWH has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, o forest, and every tree in it; for YHWH has redeemed Jacob and in Israel He shows forth His glory.
As I sit surrounded by these jaw-dropping mountains I can’t help but think the overwhelming grandeur of YHWH. It now makes perfect sense that a mountain, reaching up to the heights of stars, would be where God-space gently crashed into earth-space. From a mountaintop He lived, He died, and He saved the world!
Next week: Temple