A landmass projecting conspicuously higher than hills in that area. The distinction between hills and mountains is relative. In an area of low hills a mountain may be only a few hundred feet higher than the surrounding landscape, while in more mountainous regions the lesser summits may also be called hills, even though much higher than an isolated mountain like the 562-m (1,844 ft) Mount Tabor.
The Hebrew word har may refer to individual mountains, including Mount Sinai, Mount Gerizim, Mount Ebal, Mount Gilboa, and Mount Zion. (Ex 19:11; De 11:29; 1Sa 31:8; Isa 4:5) It may also refer to mountain ranges like that of Ararat (Ge 8:4) and to entire elevated regions like the mountainous regions of Ephraim (Jos 17:15), Naphtali (Jos 20:7), and Gilead (De 3:12), as well as to those regions anciently occupied by the Amorites and Ammonites. (De 1:7, 20; 2:37) The Aramaic word tur (Da 2:35) designates a mountain, as does the Greek word oʹros.
Mountains of Palestine. Palestine on the whole is a rather mountainous land, though it possesses few impressive peaks. West of the Jordan River there are the mountains of Judah in the south, including Mount Moriah, Mount Zion, and the Mount of Olives. (2Ch 3:1; Ps 48:2; Mr 13:3) The central section of this range extends NE to Mount Gilboa (1Sa 31:1) and contains the mountains of Ephraim and Samaria, with the historic peaks of Gerizim and Ebal. (Jos 19:50; De 11:29) To the NNW the Mount Carmel Range juts out into the Mediterranean Sea.
East of the Rift Valley are the plateaus of Edom and Moab (2Ch 20:10) and the high cliffs along the eastern side of the Dead Sea, including Mount Nebo from which Moses viewed the Promised Land, as well as the tableland E of the Jordan Valley, which averages about 600 m (2,000 ft) in elevation. (De 3:10; 34:1-3; Jos 13:8, 9; 20:8) This mountainous region continues northward to meet the Anti-Lebanon Range, with its majestic Mount Hermon, the highest peak in the entire Palestinian region.
Value of Mountains. Mountains influence the climate and rainfall; they collect the water and channel it down to the rivers or hold it in underground reservoirs that feed springs in the valleys below. (De 8:7) Their slopes have supported trees (2Ch 2:16, 18), vineyards, and various crops. (Ps 72:16; Pr 27:25; Isa 7:23-25; Jer 31:5) Their higher elevations have served as threshing floors. (Isa 17:13) Mountains have accorded natural protection from invading armies (Ps 125:2); they have offered refuge and storage places in time of danger (Ge 19:17, 30; Jg 6:2; Mt 24:16; compare Re 6:15) and shelter for wildlife. (Ps 50:10, 11; 104:18; Isa 18:6) They have provided sites for cities. (Mt 5:14) Mining operations have yielded useful ores. (De 8:9) Also, valuable building stones have been quarried from mountains.
Jehovah’s Possession. All mountains belong to Jehovah God by reason of his being their Former. (Ps 95:4; Am 4:13) However, the words “mountain of Jehovah” or ‘of God’ often apply in a special way to mountains where Jehovah revealed his presence. These include Mount Sinai or Horeb (Ex 3:1; Nu 10:33) and the mountain associated with Jehovah’s sanctuary.
Figurative and Prophetic Use. Sometimes the term “mountain” applies to the soil, vegetation, and trees on the mountain’s surface. (Compare Ps 83:14.) Of Jehovah, the psalmist says: “He touches the mountains, and they smoke.” (Ps 104:32; 144:5, 6) This may point to the fact that lightning can set mountain forests on fire, thereby causing a mountain to smoke. The effects of a severe storm appear to be described when the Bible speaks of mountains ‘melting’ or ‘flowing away.’ (Jg 5:5; Ps 97:5) Heavy rains produce streams and raging torrents that wash the soil away, as if melting it. Similarly, the expression of Jehovah’s anger against the nations was foretold to result in such slaughter that the blood of the slain would melt the mountains, that is, wash the soil away. (Isa 34:1-3) For mountains to “drip with sweet wine” means that the vineyards occupying their slopes would produce abundantly.
At Mount Sinai the revelation of Jehovah’s presence was attended by such physical manifestations as lightning, smoke, and fire. Also the mountain trembled. (Ex 19:16-18; 20:18; De 9:15) It appears that this and other physical phenomena provide the basis for figurative expressions found elsewhere in the Bible. (Compare Isa 64:1-3.) The trembling of Mount Sinai evidently is referred to under the figure of ‘mountains skipping about like rams.’ (Ps 114:4, 6) ‘Setting the foundations of mountains ablaze’ perhaps alludes to volcanic activity (De 32:22), and the ‘foundations of the mountains becoming agitated’ refers to their shaking, possibly caused by an earthquake.
Represent governments. In Biblical symbolism mountains can represent kingdoms or ruling governments. (Da 2:35, 44, 45; compare Isa 41:15; Re 17:9-11, 18.) Babylon, by her military conquests, brought other lands to ruin and is, therefore, called a “ruinous mountain.” (Jer 51:24, 25) A psalm relating Jehovah’s activities against warring men depicts him as being “enveloped with light, more majestic than the mountains of prey.” (Ps 76:4) “The mountains of prey” may represent aggressive kingdoms. (Compare Na 2:11-13.) Regarding Jehovah, David said: “You have made my mountain to stand in strength,” probably meaning that Jehovah had exalted David’s kingdom and firmly established it. (Ps 30:7; compare 2Sa 5:12.) The fact that mountains may represent kingdoms aids one in understanding the significance of what is described at Revelation 8:8 as “something like a great mountain burning with fire.” Its resemblance to a burning mountain would suggest that it is associated with a form of rulership having a destructive nature like fire.
The prophecy of Daniel indicated that God’s Kingdom, after crushing the other kingdoms, would become a large mountain and fill the whole earth. (Da 2:34, 35, 44, 45) This meant that it would extend its blessed rule over the entire earth. Wrote the psalmist: “Let the mountains carry peace to the people, also the hills, through righteousness.” (Ps 72:3) In harmony with this psalm, the blessings that are spoken of in connection with God’s mountain, such as Jehovah’s banquet for all the peoples, would be experienced on earth.
Associated with worship. Mount Zion became a holy mountain when David brought the sacred Ark to the tent that he had pitched there. (2Sa 6:12, 17) As the Ark was associated with Jehovah’s presence and David had evidently acted at divine direction (De 12:5), this meant that Jehovah had chosen Mount Zion as his place of dwelling. With reference to this choosing, David wrote: “The mountainous region of Bashan is a mountain of God [that is, created by God]; the mountainous region of Bashan is a mountain of peaks. Why do you, O you mountains of peaks, keep watching enviously the mountain that God has desired for himself to dwell in? Even Jehovah himself will reside there forever. . . . Jehovah himself has come from Sinai [where he first revealed his presence to the entire nation of Israel] into the holy place.” (Ps 68:15-17) The mountainous region of Bashan may be identified with Mount Hauran (Jebel ed Druz), and this mountain range may be meant by the words the “mountain of God” and the “mountain of peaks.” Although Mount Hauran towers far above Mount Zion, Jehovah chose the less conspicuous location for his place of dwelling.
After the temple was built on Mount Moriah, the term “Zion” came to include the temple site, and therefore Zion remained God’s holy mountain. (Isa 8:18; 18:7; 24:23; Joe 3:17) Since Jehovah’s temple was located at Jerusalem, the city itself was also called his “holy mountain.” (Isa 66:20; Da 9:16, 20) It may be with reference to facing the mountains of Jerusalem when praying that the psalmist said: “I shall raise my eyes to the mountains. From where will my help come? My help is from Jehovah.”
The prophecy of Isaiah 2:2, 3 and that of Micah 4:1, 2 pointed to the time when “the mountain of the house of Jehovah” would “become firmly established above the top of the mountains” and be “lifted up above the hills,” with people of many nations streaming to it. The fact that “the mountain of the house of Jehovah” was to be above mountains and hills would point to the exalted position of true worship, for mountains and hills in ancient times served as sites for idolatrous worship and for sanctuaries of false gods.
In a typical fulfillment, between 29 and 70 C.E., during the final part of the days of the Jewish system of things, Jehovah’s worship was exalted above the lofty elevation that pagan nations gave to their false gods. The King, Jesus Christ, made “a breakthrough” in elevating the true worship, and he was followed, first by a remnant of the nation of Israel and then by people from all nations. (Isa 2:2; Mic 2:13; Ac 10:34, 35) In an antitypical fulfillment, in the final part of the days of this system of things, Jehovah’s worship has been elevated heaven high. The King, Jesus Christ, has led the remnant of spiritual Israel to pure worship, and they have been followed by a great crowd out of all nations.
Obstacles. At times mountains represent obstacles. For example, the obstacles that stood in the way of Israel’s returning from Babylonian exile and those that later prevented progress in the temple rebuilding work were compared to mountains. (Isa 40:1-4; Zec 4:7) Faith can move similar mountainous obstacles and, if it be God’s will, even literal mountains.
Stability, permanence, or loftiness. Stability and permanence are ascribed to the mountains. (Isa 54:10; Hab 3:6; compare Ps 46:2.) Therefore, when the psalmist spoke of Jehovah’s righteousness as being like “mountains of God” (Ps 36:6) he may have meant that Jehovah’s righteousness is immovable. Or, since mountains are lofty, this may point to the fact that God’s righteousness by far transcends that of man. (Compare Isa 55:8, 9.) In connection with the outpouring of the seventh bowl of God’s anger, Revelation 16:20 says: “Mountains were not found.” This suggests that not even things as lofty as mountains would escape the outpouring of God’s anger.
The mountains rejoice and praise Jehovah. When Jehovah turns his favorable attention to his people, this has a good effect upon the land. Cultivated and cared for, mountain slopes cease to have an unkept appearance, as if mourning in a state of desolation or plague. Therefore, figuratively, the mountains “cry out joyfully” and their beauty and productivity praise Jehovah.