Land masses projecting conspicuously higher than hills are called mountains. However, 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 lanscape, while in more mountainous regions the lesser summits may also be called hills, even though much higher than an isolated mountain like the 1,843-foot (562-meter) Mount Tabor.—Judg. 4:6.
The Hebrew word har refers not only to individual mountains, including Mount Sinai, Mount Gerizim, Mount Ebal, Mount Gilboa and Mount Zion (Ex. 19:11; Deut. 11:29; 1 Sam. 31:8; Isa. 4:5), but also to mountain ranges like that of Ararat (Gen. 8:4), and to entire elevated regions like the mountainous regions of Ephraim (Josh. 17:15), Naphtali (Josh. 20:7), Gilead (Deut. 3:12), and those regions anciently occupied by the Amorites and Ammonites. (Deut. 1:7, 20; 2:37) The related Hebrew word ha·rarʹ (Jer. 17:3) and the Aramaic word tur (Dan. 2:35) also designate mountains.
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 S, including Mount Moriah, Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives. (2 Chron. 3:1; Ps. 48:2; Mark 13:3) The central section of this range extends NE to Mount Gilboa (1 Sam. 31:1) and contains the mountains of Ephraim and Samaria, with the historic peaks of Gerizim and Ebal. (Josh. 19:50; Deut. 11:29) To the N-NW the Mount Carmel spur juts out into the Mediterranean Sea.—Jer. 46:18.
East of the Rift Valley are the plateaus of Edom and Moab (2 Chron. 20:10), the high cliffs along the eastern side of the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo, from which Moses viewed the Promised Land, and the tableland E of the Jordan Valley, which averages about 2,000 feet (610 meters) in elevation. (Deut. 3:10; 34:1-3; Josh. 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.—Song of Sol. 4:8.
VALUE OF MOUNTAINS
Mountains influence the climate and rainfall, collect the water and channel it down to the rivers, or hold it in underground reservoirs that feed springs in the valleys below. (Deut. 8:7) Their slopes have supported trees (2 Chron. 2:16, 18), vineyards, and various crops. (Ps. 72:16; Prov. 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), offered refuge and storage places in time of danger (Gen. 19:17, 30; Judg. 6:2; Matt. 24:16; compare Revelation 6:15) and shelter for wildlife. (Ps. 50:10, 11; 104:18; Isa. 18:6) They have provided sites for cities. (Matt. 5:14) Mining operations have yielded useful ores. (Deut. 8:9) Also, valuable building stones have been quarried from mountains.—1 Ki. 5:15-17.
All mountains belong to Jehovah God by reason of his being their Former. (Ps. 95:4; Amos 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; Num. 10:33) and the mountain associated with Jehovah’s sanctuary.—Ps. 24:3.
FIGURATIVE AND PROPHETIC USE
Sometimes the term ‘mountain’ applies to the soil, vegetation and trees on the mountain’s surface. (Compare Psalm 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.’ (Judg. 5:5; Ps. 97:5) Heavy rains produce streams and raging torrents that wash the soil away, as if melting it. Similarily, 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.—Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13.
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; Deut. 9:15) It appears that this and other physical phenomena provide the basis for figurative expressions found elsewhere in the Bible. (Compare Isaiah 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 (Deut. 32:22), and the ‘foundations of the mountains becoming agitated’ refers to their shaking, possibly caused by an earthquake.—Ps. 18:7.
In Biblical symbolism mountains can represent kingdoms or ruling governments. (Dan. 2:35, 44, 45; compare Isaiah 41:15; Revelation 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 Nahum 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 2 Samuel 5:12.) The fact that mountains may represent kingdoms aids 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 violent nature like fire.
The prophecy of Daniel indicated that God’s kingdom, after crushing all other kingdoms, would become a large mountain and fill the whole earth. (Dan. 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.—Isa. 25:6; see also Isaiah 11:9; 65:25.
Associated with worship
Mount Zion became a holy mountain when David brought the sacred Ark to the tent that he had pitched there. (2 Sam. 6:12, 17) As the Ark represented Jehovah’s presence and David had evidently acted at divine direction (Deut. 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 said to reach its crest in Mount Hermon and, therefore, this mountain may be meant by the words the “mountain of God” and the “mountain of peaks.” Although Mount Hermon 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; Joel 3:17) Since Jehovah’s temple was located at Jerusalem, the city itself was also called his “holy mountain.” (Isa. 66:20; Dan. 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.”—Ps. 121:1, 2; compare Psalm 3:4; 1 Ki. 8:30, 44, 45; Daniel 6:10.
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. There is no evidence that such a thing ever took place in connection with the literal temple at Jerusalem. But there is evidence of a fulfillment upon the Christian congregation of spiritual Israel, which is associated with the spiritual temple of Jehovah God. The invitation to become part of spiritual Israel began to be extended to non-Jews in the year 36 C.E. (Acts 10:34, 35; compare 1 Peter 2:9, 10.) Those who accepted that invitation “approached a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb. 12:22) Therefore the “mountain of the house of Jehovah” must be heavenly Mount Zion, the location for God’s spiritual temple. (Compare 1 Peter 2:4-10.) 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 anciently served as sites for idolatrous worship and for sanctuaries of false deities.—Deut. 12:2; Jer. 3:6; Ezek. 18:6, 11, 15; Hos. 4:13.
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; Zech. 4:7) Faith can move similar mountainous obstacles and, if it be God’s will, even literal mountains.—Matt. 17:20; 21:21; Mark 11:23; 1 Cor. 13:2.
Stability, permanence or loftiness
Stability and permanence are ascribed to the mountains. (Isa. 54:10; Hab. 3:6; compare Psalm 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 Isaiah 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.—Compare Jeremiah 4:23-26.
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.—Ps. 98:8; 148:7-9; compare Isaiah 44:23; 49:13; 55:12, 13; Ezekiel 36:1-12.