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Mountains in the Bible
As we analyse the meaning of the numerous utterances dealing with mountains and uplands, taking into account their varied contexts and oriental symbolism, we can notice a great variety of connotations among them. There are very few fragments in the Bible concerning their economic significance or exploitation of their natural resources. In this respect, we find an exception in a poetic description of mining activity in Job, e.g. “People assault the flinty rock with their hands and lay bare the roots of the mountains. They tunnel through the rock; their eyes see all its treasures. They dam up the sources of the rivers and bring hidden things to light” [Job 28:1–11]. On the other hand, the mountains are often mentioned in the context of a refuge in times of danger. Another important aspect is also their religious and cult-related role in the history of Israel. The mountains were associated with Yahweh’s theophanies, with messages for Israel. Both in the Old and in the New Testament they were places of the people’s encounter with the sacred, of special impact of God’s power and of intense prayer. Yet mountain tops and uplands were also places where sacrifices were offered to old Canaanite gods and other foreign deities, and where even temples were erected in their honour, which made Yahweh very angry. Some mountains were even apotheosised; their power and everlasting nature became proverbial, especially in the case of Zion: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever” [Psalm 125:1]. The situation is the reverse in eschatological times, when mountains and rocks become symbols of horror and overwhelming panic for the immoral who will then call “to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’” [Rev. 6:16, Hos 10:8, 23:30]. Yet the last mention of a mountain in the Bible is joyful, full of optimism and saving hope, when the author of the Revelation is carried by an angel “to a mountain great and high,” and is shown “the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” for His chosen ones [Rev. 21:10 ff].
As an analysis of Biblical texts shows, mountains are a unique segment of the creation. They are powerful, unshakable and beautiful. They are not demonised. They do not signify a descent into a Hades, they do not serve as abode for demons; on the contrary, they are a place where God’s glory is revealed, they are created by the Lord, who is above them and has full power over them. They are created for man, who, climbing them, feels that he is leaving below something of his mundanity, that he is coming closer to the sacred, to the Lord.