Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Hermon

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[From the Hebrew meaning "sacred (mountain)"; Septuagint, Aermon]

A group of mountains forming the southern extremity of Anti-Lebanon, and marking on the east of the Jordan the northern boundary of Israel. The primitive name among the Sidonians was Siryon, and by the Amorrhites the most prominent part of the group was called Sanir (Deut., iii, 9), corresponding to the Sa-ni-ru of the cuneiform inscriptions. These varying forms all signify a cuirass or coat of armour, and were probably applied to one or other of the peaks, either on account of its shape, or because its snow-clad heights shone in the sunlight after the manner of a polished shield. The name sometimes occurs in the plural form Hermonim, doubtless because the range has three conspicuous peaks. In the Talmud and in the Targums Hermon is designated the "mountain of snow", and the same appellation is used by the old Arab geographers. The modern name is Jebel-esh-Sheikh, "mountain of the sheikh or chief", because in the tenth century A.D. Hermon became the centre of the Druse religion, viz. when its founder, Sheikh-ed-Derazi retired thither from Egypt. It is sometimes called the Great Hermon to distinguish it from the Small Hermon situated on the east of the plain of Esdrelon, between Thabor and Gelboe, and so named through an erroneous interpretation of Ps. lxxxviii [Hebrew, lxxxix], 13.

The geological formation of the range is calcareous with occasional veins of basalt. Hermon is noted as offering the most striking piece of mountain scenery in Palestine. The view from the summit is also magnificent, embracing the Lebanon and the plain of Damascus. It is at the foot of Hermon that the River Jordan takes its rise. The highest peak, which is covered with snow until late in summer, rises to a height of 9200 feet above the level of the Mediterranean. On the summit of one of the peaks is to be seen an extensive mass of ruins, probably the remains of an early pagan sanctuary dedicated to Baal, whence the designation Baal-Hermon, applied to the mountain in two Biblical passages (Judges, iii, 3; I Par., v, 23).

In the Old Testament, Hermon is hardly mentioned except as the northern boundary of Palestine. Poetical allusions occur in the Psalms (v.g. Ps. lxxxviii [Hebrew, lxxxix], 13) and in the Canticle of Canticles, iv, 8. In Ps. cxxxii [Hebrew, cxxxiii], 3, the happiness of brotherly love is compared to the "dew of Hermon, which descendeth upon mount Sion". In which connection it may be noted that in no other locality of Palestine is the dew so heavy and abundant as in the vicinity of this mountain group. Some scholars think it probable that Hermon is the "high mountain" near Caesarea Philippi which was the scene of the Transfiguration (Matthew, xvii, 1; Mark, ix) and which by Luke, ix, 28, is called simply "a mountain".

LEGENDRE in VIG., Dict. de la Bible, s.v.; CONDER in HAST., Dictionary of the Bible, s.v.; GUERIN, Galilee, II, 292; VAN DER VELDE, Reise durch Syrien und Palestina, I (Leipzig, 1855), 97.

James F. Driscoll.